Road gradient and cycling power: An observational study in male professional cyclists

Published:October 06, 2022DOI:



      To investigate the influence of road gradient on cycling power output in male professional cyclists, and to determine whether cyclist typology (i.e., flat or climbing specialist) moderates this influence.


      Observational study.


      Ninety-eight professional cyclists (27 ± 6 years; 53 flat and 45 climbing specialists). We collected power output data during both training sessions and competitions over 10 years (2013–2022). We determined the maximal mean power values attained for efforts lasting 1, 5, 10 and 20 min, during both level cycling and uphill cycling (average slope< or ≥5 %, respectively), as well as the average road gradients on which cyclists attained their maximal mean power.


      Maximal mean power values were higher during uphill cycling than during level cycling for all effort durations (difference ranging between 0.4 and 3.6 %, all p < 0.003). This finding was confirmed for flat and uphill specialists separately (p < 0.003 for both), with a similar increase in maximal mean power values between level cycling and uphill cycling in the two typologies except for longer efforts (≥10 min), in which maximal mean power values tended to increase more in climbers. Participants attained maximal mean power at an average slope of 6.0–7.3 %, with no differences between effort durations or cyclist typologies.


      Professional cyclists attain higher maximal mean power values on steep than on level road gradients regardless of their typology, with an average gradient of 6–7 % appearing optimal (or at least the most common) for achieving the highest maximal mean power values.


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