Comparison of the hematological profile of elite road cyclists during the 2010 and 2012 GiroBio ten-day stage races and relationships with final ranking

PLoS One. 2013 Apr 30;8(4):e63092. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0063092. Print 2013.

Abstract

Cycling stage races are strenuous endurance events during which exercise-induced variations in hematological parameters are consistently observed. However, specific literature on such changes is scarce and published data have been derived from small samples of athletes. The aims of this study were: (1) to determine the hematological response to middle-term strenuous endurance; and (2) to determine whether a relationship exists between the athlete-specific hematological profile and final placement in a cycling stage race. The study population was male professional cyclists (n = 253) competing in the 2010 (n = 144) and 2012 (n = 109) GiroBio 10-day stage races. Blood draws taken before the start of the race, at mid-race, and at end-race were performed in strict compliance with academic and anti-doping pre-analytical warnings. Blood chemistry included white blood cell, red blood cell, hemoglobin concentration, hematocrit, mean corpuscular volume (MCV), mean hemoglobin content (MCH), mean corpuscular hemoglobin content (MCHC), platelets, and reticulocyte relative and absolute counts. Compared to baseline values, erythrocyte, hemoglobin, hematocrit, MCHC, platelet and reticulocyte counts were all consistently lower at mid-race, but returned to normal by race-end, while leukocytes were increased in the final phase. MCV increased during both events. MCH increased in the first part to then return to baseline in the 2012 race. The calculated OFF-score consistently decreased in the first half of the race before increasing, but remained lower than the baseline value. The trends of variation in hematological parameters were substantially similar in both events. There was an inverse, albeit weak, relationship between placement and erythrocyte, platelet, hemoglobin, hematocrit and OFF-score values in the 2010, but not in the 2012 race. In conclusion, the data confirm that, in this large series of elite road cyclists, the strenuous effort a rider sustains during a stage race induces appreciable changes in the hematological profile.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletes*
  • Bicycling*
  • Blood Chemical Analysis*
  • Hematologic Tests*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Young Adult

Grant support

This research was supported by the Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri – Dipartimento per le politiche giovanili e le attività sportive. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.