This study aims to describe the intensity and load demands of different stage types within a cycling Grand Tour. Nine professional cyclists, whom are all part of the same World-Tour professional cycling team, participated in this investigation. Competition data were collected during the 2016 Giro d'Italia. Stages within the Grand Tour were classified into four categories: flat stages (FLAT), semi-mountainous stages (SMT), mountain stages (MT) and individual time trials (TT). Exercise intensity, measured with different heart rate and power output based variables, was highest in the TT compared to other stage types. During TT's the main proportion of time was spent at the high-intensity zone, whilst the main proportion of time was spent at low intensity for the mass start stage types (FLAT, SMT, MT). Exercise load, quantified using Training Stress Score and Training Impulse, was highest in the mass start stage types with exercise load being highest in MT (329, 359 AU) followed by SMT (280, 311 AU) and FLAT (217, 298 AU). Substantial between-stage type differences were observed in maximal mean power outputs over different durations. FLAT and SMT were characterised by higher short-duration maximal power outputs (5-30 s for FLAT, 30 s-2 min for SMT) whilst TT and MT are characterised by high longer duration maximal power outputs (>10 min). The results of this study contribute to the growing body of evidence on the physical demands of stage types within a cycling Grand Tour.
Keywords: cycling; heart rate; performance; power output; training.