Ambient Temperature and Field-Based Cycling Performance: Insights From Male and Female Professional Cyclists

Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2022 Mar 28;17(7):1025-1029. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.2021-0508. Print 2022 Jul 1.


Purpose: Ambient temperature affects endurance exercise performance. However, most research has been conducted in a laboratory-based setting, and whether there are sex-specific trends remains unclear. The present study aimed to analyze the influence of ambient temperature on cycling performance in male and female professional cyclists using field-based data collected during both training and racing.

Methods: A total of 74 cyclists (48 male and 26 female; age 29 [5] y, 8 [5] y of experience in the professional category) were included in the analyses. We registered the participants' record power profile using data from both training and competitions over 8 years (2013-2020; 8 [5] seasons per cyclist). We analyzed their mean maximal power (MMP) values attained for efforts lasting 5 seconds, 30 seconds, 5 minutes, and 20 minutes at ambient temperatures ranging from <5°C to >35°C.

Results: A significant influence of ambient temperature on MMP values was found in male and female cyclists (P < .001 for both), with no significant differences between sexes (P = .512). Cyclists attained the highest MMP values at temperate conditions (10-30°C in males and 5-25°C in females), whereas an impairment in performance was found at colder and hotter temperatures, particularly for the more extreme conditions (performance impairment at <5°C and >35°C of -18% to -9% and -16% to -9%, respectively).

Conclusions: Ambient temperature influences field-based cycling performance, following a reverse U-shaped relationship, with the highest MMP values attained in the range of ∼10°C to 25°C and with no major differences between sexes.

Keywords: cold; elite; endurance; exercise; heat; power profile.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bicycling*
  • Body Temperature
  • Body Temperature Regulation*
  • Female
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Temperature