This is an add on to the bush43 “All you need to know” post and your post titled: Doping expert levels charges against Contador
Let me preface this by saying I am not a professional physiologist, but this is what I’ve gathered through my graduate studies.
The following info may help you calculate if someone is performing super human feats.
Let’s use Contador as an example. What kind of VO2 would be required to climb at his speed? This is a pretty straight forward calculation if we know watts generated.
I am sure Discovery has this info, but it is not something readily shared. In fact, did you notice on VS. when they showed a rider’s SRM info, they usually showed altitude in the spot reserved for Watts? And we never were shown this info for a winning rider, let’s say someone solo on the last climb.
A while back Vaughters estimated Lance’s wattage up the final climb at the end of a 5+ hrs. race and it was published in Cycle Sport. Does anyone have access to this? He had to take elevation gained, wind resistance, rolling resistance and rider body/bike weight in to consideration.
In the case of Contador, let’s estimate his weight at 136 lbs, and his wattage on a winning final climb ride to be 6.43 W/kg = 400W . This is based off a training value of Basso used to recon. the Alp Duez TT in the documentary “Overcoming” 450 Watts at ~154 lbs = 6.43 W/kg.
We’ll also have to estimate a mechanical efficiency. Lance displayed a very high value of 23% the year he won his first TdF at age 28. Since Contador is younger let’s assume an efficiency on par with Lance’s at 24 yrs of age at 22%, which is still pretty high from what I’ve seen in the lab.
Coyle E.F., Improved muscular efficiency displayed as Tour de France champion matures, Journal of Applied Physiology, 98: 2191-2196, 2005.
With a mechanical efficiency value of 22% it would require ~13 ml O2 per Watt produced. So now the calculation begins. In order to produce 400 Watts it would require 400 X 13 ml O2 = 5200 mls O2. Divide this by Kg body wt. ( 136 lbs / 2.2 lbs / Kg = 61.8) and we get a Vo2 of 84.14 ml O2 / Kg body wt. / minute. The value of 400 Watts was based off of Basso’s training, so if for example Contador maintained 450 Watts his Vo2 value would rise to 94.66 ml O2 / kg / min.
The highest male Vo2 Max I can find on the net is 94 ml O2 / Kg / min. for a cross country skier. There are a few caveats here.
1. Exercises that recruit more muscle groups (e.g. running and cross country skiing) will elicit higher Vo2 values.
2. Vo2 max intensities are not sustainable. Anaerobic threshold (AT) is, and in the most highly trained athtletes, the AT is ~85-90% of Vo2 max. So if you add 10-15% to Contador’s 84.14 ml O2/kg/ min. value, you get 92.55 and 96.71 respectively….and remember, this is all based on a 400 Watt ave., we really need to know what Contador’s ave. on the final climbs was. I would guess it was high than the same W / Kg as a Basso training run.
3.. As exercise duration increases, Vo2 Max will likely decrease for two reasons:
a) Cardiac Drift: as a subject sweats, blood volume will decrease therefore decreasing stroke volume per heart bt. (it takes more beats to generate the same cardiac output).
b) As body core temperature rises, more blood will be re-distributed to the skin for cooling, lowering the amount of oxygen carrying blood available to working muscles to produce force (e.g. Watts).
The point here is, if a rider can maintain a Vo2 value which correlates to a Vo2 max value over 90 ml/kg/min on the last climb of the day, his lab value would undoubtedly be higher.
Typical Vo2 max test protocols are designed to reach the Vo2 max in 12-18 min. These are graduated ramp test. They are not preceded by 5 hrs of strenuous exercise. As muscles fatigue, a field not well understood, the ability of the muscles to generate force is reduced. This reduction in force generation would be linear to a reduction in Vo2. This effect would also likely be more pronounced after a few weeks of racing.
Here are some known lab values:
Carlos Lopes: 85.1
Grete Weitz: 73.5
Matt Carpenter: 92
Miguel Indurain: 88
Greg LeMond: 92.5 (treadmill – running)