Analysing a cycling grand tour: Can we monitor fatigue with intensity or load ratios?

J Sports Sci. 2018 Jun;36(12):1385-1391. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2017.1388669. Epub 2017 Oct 10.


This study evaluated the changes in ratios of different intensity (rating of perceived exertion; RPE, heart rate; HR, power output; PO) and load measures (session-RPE; sRPE, individualized TRIMP; iTRIMP, Training Stress Score™; TSS) in professional cyclists. RPE, PO and HR data was collected from twelve professional cyclists (VO2max 75 ± 6 ml∙min∙kg-1) during a two-week baseline training period and during two cycling Grand Tours. Subjective:objective intensity (RPE:HR, RPE:PO) and load (sRPE:iTRIMP, sRPE:TSS) ratios and external:internal intensity (PO:HR) and load (TSS:iTRIMP) ratios were calculated for every session. Moderate to large increases in the RPE:HR, RPE:PO and sRPE:TSS ratios (d = 0.79-1.79) and small increases in the PO:HR and sRPE:iTRIMP ratio (d = 0.21-0.41) were observed during Grand Tours compared to baseline training data. Differences in the TSS:iTRIMP ratio were trivial to small (d = 0.03-0.27). Small to moderate week-to-week changes (d = 0.21-0.63) in the PO:HR, RPE:PO, RPE:HR, TSS:iTRIMP, sRPE:iTRIMP and sRPE:TSS were observed during the Grand Tour. Concluding, this study shows the value of using ratios of intensity and load measures in monitoring cyclists. Increases in ratios could reflect progressive fatigue that is not readily detected by changes in solitary intensity/load measures.

Keywords: Training load; cycling; endurance; heart rate; power output.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bicycling / physiology*
  • Fatigue / diagnosis*
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Monitoring, Physiologic*
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Physical Exertion*