How Does Altitude Affect Cycling Performance?

How Does Altitude Affect Cycling Performance?


How do athletes deal with lower available oxygen levels at higher elevations?

Ride a bike in any mountain range and at a certain point you’ll get above an elevation where the concentration of oxygen begins to decrease compared to sea level. The Colle Delle Agnello, the highest point of this year’s Giro D’Italia at 2744m, has 25% less oxygen concentration. What does this mean for the riders? They will be breathing harder and producing more lactic acid, and depending on the individual, power outputs can drop markedly. It’s become increasingly common for teams to spend time in high altitude areas like Colorado, Andorra and Tenerife to help their bodies acclimatise to riding in thin air.

Simon and Matt did some testing in the state of the art altitude chamber at the University of Kent to see how their bodies were affected by the reduced available oxygen.