# How does my VO2 compare to pro cyclists?

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#### Le breton

Going back to the original question, how good is VO2 max = 65
and looking at the info on the Polar website, we see that for age category 18-24, the mean VO2 max is 47 ml, with a standard deviation of about 10 ml, ie roughly 68% of the sample fall between 37 and 57ml.

Let's assume than we have a normal distribution with mean 47 and s.d =10.

Then we we will get

> 47 ml 50%
> 57 ml 16%
> 67 ml 2.5%
> 77 ml 0.15%
> 87 ml 0.003%
> 97 ml 0.0000?%
I don't have a table handy, I'll come back later.

Anyway, to know wheher or not the distribution is normal is really a arduous task, not only do you need to define your sample population, but then you need to measure a good 100 000 people.

So Craig1985, you are in the top 2-3%.

I hope people will improve on what I wrote, which is just a sort of draft. If you take those figures at face value and say that you need a VO2 max of > 77 ml to become a pro cyclist, it means that in a country where 400 000 boys are born every year ( France for ex.) about 600 have the potential to become pro cyclists.

#### Le breton

Le breton said:
Going back to the original question, how good is VO2 max = 65
and looking at the info on the Polar website, we see that for age category 18-24, the mean VO2 max is 47 ml, with a standard deviation of about 10 ml, ie roughly 68% of the sample fall between 37 and 57ml.

Let's assume than we have a normal distribution with mean 47 and s.d =10.

Then we we will get

> 47 ml 50%
> 57 ml 16%
> 67 ml 2.5%
> 77 ml 0.15%
> 87 ml 0.003%
> 97 ml 0.0000?%
I don't have a table handy, I'll come back later.

Anyway, to know wheher or not the distribution is normal is really a arduous task, not only do you need to define your sample population, but then you need to measure a good 100 000 people.

So Craig1985, you are in the top 2-3%.

I hope people will improve on what I wrote, which is just a sort of draft. If you take those figures at face value and say that you need a VO2 max of > 77 ml to become a pro cyclist, it means that in a country where 400 000 boys are born every year ( France for ex.) about 600 have the potential to become pro cyclists.
Sorry:,
I made a mistake reading the Polar data. The Standard deviation is in fact 6 not 10, which changes considerably the %ages
> 47 ml 50%
> 57 ml 16%
> 67 ml 2.5%
> 77 ml 0.15%
> 87 ml 0.003%

becomes
> 47 ml 50%
> 53 ml 16%
> 59 ml 2.5%
> 65 ml 0.15%
> 71 ml 0.003%

But, I have to look at it again, really carefully this time.

Sorry

#### Fester

Le breton said:
Going back to the original question, how good is VO2 max = 65
and looking at the info on the Polar website, we see that for age category 18-24, the mean VO2 max is 47 ml, with a standard deviation of about 10 ml, ie roughly 68% of the sample fall between 37 and 57ml.

Let's assume than we have a normal distribution with mean 47 and s.d =10.

Then we we will get

> 47 ml 50%
> 57 ml 16%
> 67 ml 2.5%
> 77 ml 0.15%
> 87 ml 0.003%
> 97 ml 0.0000?%
I don't have a table handy, I'll come back later.

Anyway, to know wheher or not the distribution is normal is really a arduous task, not only do you need to define your sample population, but then you need to measure a good 100 000 people.

So Craig1985, you are in the top 2-3%.

I hope people will improve on what I wrote, which is just a sort of draft. If you take those figures at face value and say that you need a VO2 max of > 77 ml to become a pro cyclist, it means that in a country where 400 000 boys are born every year ( France for ex.) about 600 have the potential to become pro cyclists.
It would be impossible to test 100 000, but you might get 100 000 to run a mile (thinking of school sport days and the like). In fact I bet the East European's have this data from those talent tests they had.

#### Walkman

maltiv said:
Edvald Boasson Hagen measured 87 at 20 years, not sure how high it is now.

I think that I have read somewhere that it is easier for XC skiers to get a high VO2 max because they use their entire body. For example both Petter Northug (arguably the best XC skier in the world) and Sjur Røthe (talent with no results as of yet) have measured VO2 max of 90+, and almost all skiers with results are at around 85, which is exceptional in cycling.
Wow, that's pretty good but I am a little sceptical about cyclist who has such high VO2 Max since, as you say, it's easier for XC-skiers to reach a higher VO2 Max because they use more muscles when tested.

maltiv said:
Concerning Dæhlie's number, it is just absurdly high considering that it was measured in the off-season, which I guess increases the probability of him being clean during the test, but it also means that while competing he must have had a VO2 max of more than 100!
As I stated earlier, I am not convinced that Bjørn Dæhlie's results are accurate and if we look att the blood values from the top skiers of the 90's not many of them would be authorized to start today. I read somewhere that valus just below 200 were quite frequent and if I am not totally lost I think Pantani har 201 or something wich gives a hint of what might have been going on. I am just saying.

#### Walkman

Tyler'sTwin said:
It was 92 according to the man himself.
Interesting, when did he said that or did you read it somewhere?

#### Le breton

Walkman said:
........

if we look att the blood values from the top skiers of the 90's not many of them would be authorized to start today. I read somewhere that valus just below 200 were quite frequent and if I am not totally lost I think Pantani har 201 or something wich gives a hint of what might have been going on. I am just saying.
Would you mind rephrasing that so that it makes sense? And if you realize you can't ...do whatever.

#### JibberJim

Le breton said:
becomes
> 47 ml 50%
> 53 ml 16%
> 59 ml 2.5%
> 65 ml 0.15%
> 71 ml 0.003%
This is possibly true (although I doubt it's normally distributed, since there's lots of reasons why the top end is exaggerated that doesn't exist at the lower end) But you're not really comparing fair things.

The average number contains an awful lot of untrained people, yet the number quoted by the OP is in a trained individual, and presumably he only really cares what other trained individuals would do as we don't compete against the untrained.

So you really need to be looking at data for trained people.

#### Walkman

Le breton said:
Would you mind rephrasing that so that it makes sense? And if you realize you can't ...do whatever.
Not sure if you are critizing me or whatever but I was in a rush so I translated the text directly wich made it pretty bad.

I was referring to the HB when I wrote "blood values". Many top XC-skiers had a HB just under 200 and with the rules that is today they hadn't been allowed to start. Furthermore I have read somewhere that Pantani had a HB of 201 and if these two pieces of information is correct then it is very likely that many top XC-skiers blood doped during the 90's. I am not saying that Björn Dählie doped just stating what I have read.

#### Le breton

Walkman said:
...

I was referring to the HB when I wrote "blood values". Many top XC-skiers had a HB just under 200 and with the rules that is today they hadn't been allowed to start. Furthermore I have read somewhere that Pantani had a HB of 201 and if these two pieces of information is correct then it is very likely that many top XC-skiers blood doped during the 90's. I am not saying that Björn Dählie doped just stating what I have read.
Thanks for trying but if HB means Hb, ie hemoglobin, the typical values are around 13-15 g/l as far as I know.
No idea what 200 corresponds to, no unit given.

Also, other topic, I am really not at all convinced by your explanation of why cyclists should have a lower VO2 max, you said :
but I am a little sceptical about cyclist who has such high VO2 Max since, as you say, it's easier for XC-skiers to reach a higher VO2 Max because they use more muscles when tested.

#### Walkman

Le breton said:
Thanks for trying but if HB means Hb, ie hemoglobin, the typical values are around 13-15 g/l as far as I know.
No idea what 200 corresponds to, no unit given.
My bad! I was talking about grams per litre insted of grams per decilitre wich I guess you was referring to? So the equivalent would be to have almost 20 g/dl wich, most certain, indicates doping.

Le breton said:
Also, other topic, I am really not at all convinced by your explanation of why cyclists should have a lower VO2 max, you said :
but I am a little sceptical about cyclist who has such high VO2 Max since, as you say, it's easier for XC-skiers to reach a higher VO2 Max because they use more muscles when tested.
I don't remember the exact explanation but I heard it from a person who works with XC-skiing and I have read the same thing on this forums a couple of times. Not sure why, but XC-skiers tend to have a generally higher VO2 Max than other endurance athletes. I thougth it was because they use more muscles than cyclist when they are tested but that might be wrong so feel free to correct me.

#### acoggan

JibberJim said:
This is possibly true (although I doubt it's normally distributed, since there's lots of reasons why the top end is exaggerated that doesn't exist at the lower end) But you're not really comparing fair things.

The average number contains an awful lot of untrained people, yet the number quoted by the OP is in a trained individual, and presumably he only really cares what other trained individuals would do as we don't compete against the untrained.

So you really need to be looking at data for trained people.
+1

The other tidbit I might add: population values for VO2max are pretty well-established. This one study alone, for example, included data from almost 2,000 subjects:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3949654

#### acoggan

Walkman said:
I am a little sceptical about cyclist who has such high VO2 Max since, as you say, it's easier for XC-skiers to reach a higher VO2 Max because they use more muscles when tested.
Since VO2max is primarily limited by the central circulation, you would expect VO2max to be independent of exercise mode provided the mode of exercise recruited/vasodilated enough muscle to exceed the heart's ability to generate pressure/flow ("The challenge to the heart during maximal exercise is to maintain the highest possible cardiac output against the lowest possible peripheral resistance" - Loring Rowell).

Indeed, this is the case: when differences in body size are taken into consideration via allometric scaling, the highest VO2max values found among runners, cyclists, XC skiers, and rowers are all quite comparable (cf. the chapter on allometric scaling in Astrand's textbook).

#### blutto

acoggan said:
...measured at just over 1800 m altitude.
....curious about the significance of your statement....or put another way does altitude play a part in the numbers produced in VO2 tests...and if it does, are test scores normalized in some way to produce a level playing field, so that results can be meaningfully compared...

Cheers

blutto

#### acoggan

Le breton said:
> 47 ml 50%
> 53 ml 16%
> 59 ml 2.5%
> 65 ml 0.15%
> 71 ml 0.003%
So to put this in context/fan the flames a little bit (this thread is in The Clinic, although I'm not sure why):

According to Coyle's paper, everybody's favorite whipping boy Lance Armstrong had a VO2max of 67 mL/min/kg after training at a moderate intensity for only 3.5 out of the 8 mo immediately following his surgeries/chemotherapy, and essentially not at all in the 2 mo prior to the VO2max test. Based on his highly-cited detraining study, Coyle goes on to predict that Armstrong's VO2max would stabilize at 61-63 mL/min/kg should he cease training entirely for an extended period of time. Prodigous talent, or residual benefit of doping (or both)?

#### acoggan

blutto said:
....curious about the significance of your statement....or put another way does altitude play a part in the numbers produced in VO2 tests...and if it does, are test scores normalized in some way to produce a level playing field, so that results can be meaningfully compared...

Cheers

blutto
Due to the reduced pO2 in inspired air, VO2max decreases with altitude. Although interindividual differences exist, on average you would expect VO2max measured at 1800 m altitude to be ~10% lower than measured at sea level (more if you are completely unacclimatized, less if you are well-acclimatized).

Applied to Armstrong, this means that 1) his VO2max at sea level is (was) significantly higher than the 82-84 mL/min/kg value given in that 1996 Scientific American article, and/or 2) he is less affected by altitude than average. Unfortunately, the only way of really determining which it is would to measure his VO2max at sea level (at/near the same time, ideally using the same equipment). In other words, no post-hoc correction of the data is really possible.

Note that this physiological effect is different from the changes in measured gas volumes that result from variations in barometric pressure, which are taken into consideration in calculation of the data (i.e., gas volumes are expressed as STPD or, occasionally for respiratory volumes, BTPS).

#### BotanyBay

I once participated in a medical study where they used elite athletes to help gather data for being able to predict cardiac thresholds by (eventually) using lesser levels of exertion. Apparently too many people were dropping dead on the treadmills when they came in for their annual cardiac stress tests.

Anyhow, they tested our VO2 max and lactate levels several times over the course of many weeks. I was stunned to see that my own VO2 max varied wildly from week to week. Slacking-of on the training seriously affected it (in my case). I even got kicked-out of the study for not keeping my own fitness up. One week I could do 20 minutes on the ergometer and the next I was lucky to do 16.

People here keep talking as if an athlete has this "certain number" that (more or less) sticks with them. I can say (from personal experience) that this is not true and you shouldn't even bother measuring it unless you're at (or near) your peak physical condition. Anything less and you've just pi\$\$ed-away your money.

#### blutto

acoggan said:
Statistically speaking, there is no difference in VO2max when cyclists are tested on ergometers vs. a treadmill. On average, though, the mode-specific values tend to be slightly higher (IOW, the treadmill result is really a VO2peak).
...apologize in advance for asking questions that have been answered as I was preparing this post...though further discussion on this topic would be most welcome...

...don't want to seem impatient but I am as I said earlier I am very curious about the various things that would impact the scores produces by VO2Max tests... this curiosity is peaked by the tendency on this forum to use test scores as an absolute number but to me this simple reliance on a number does not seem to take into account the context within which the test is applied...

...for instance you stated that there is no statistical difference between ergometer and treadmill testing yet we have the following quote that shows what to someone who simply looks at just the final result is a significant difference...now I'm not saying or implying that this quote contradicts what you have said but I'm curious why the following tests produced the results they did...was it just the inappropriate pace in the treadmill test or were other factors in play...or put another, how many ways are there to grossly affect a test result....temp?...humidity?...altitude?....
-------------------------------------------------------------------
By luck-of-the-draw, it was on a cycle ergometer, and my VO2max was measured as being 5.2 L/min, or 81 mL/min/kg. (A value, BTW, I achieved on multiple subsequent occasions in various laboratories.)

A week later, I did my treadmill test, and the investigators decided that since my VO2max was so high, I should run at a very high pace, one appropriate for a runner with normal running economy, but one totally inappropriate for a cyclist with abnormally low running economy. Needless to say, I only lasted a little over 4 min, with my VO2 peaking out in the low 70s...
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Cheers

blutto

#### blutto

acoggan said:
Due to the reduced pO2 in inspired air, VO2max decreases with altitude. Although interindividual differences exist, on average you would expect VO2max measured at 1800 m altitude to be ~10% lower than measured at sea level (more if you are completely unacclimatized, less if you are well-acclimatized).

Applied to Armstrong, this means that 1) his VO2max at sea level is (was) significantly higher than the 82-84 mL/min/kg value given in that 1996 Scientific American article, and/or 2) he is less affected by altitude than average. Unfortunately, the only way of really determining which it is would to measure his VO2max at sea level (at/near the same time, ideally using the same equipment). In other words, no post-hoc correction of the data is really possible.

Note that this physiological effect is different from the changes in measured gas volumes that result from variations in barometric pressure, which are taken into consideration in calculation of the data (i.e., gas volumes are expressed as STPD or, occasionally for respiratory volumes, BTPS).
...would appear that if the above is a reasonable extrapolation of the LA test that is usually bandied about this forum some reassessment of base assumptions about LA's GT potential may be in order...just a thought...

Cheers

blutto

#### Walkman

acoggan said:
Due to the reduced pO2 in inspired air, VO2max decreases with altitude. Although interindividual differences exist, on average you would expect VO2max measured at 1800 m altitude to be ~10% lower than measured at sea level (more if you are completely unacclimatized, less if you are well-acclimatized).
Does it exist some kind of formula to describe how your VO2 Max changes at diffrent altitudes?

I know this might be a bit off topic but since this probably could be related to you VO2 Max I decided to post in this thread. Does it exist some sorts of number regarding pro riders ability to ride at a certain heart rate? I mean, for how long could a pro ride at, let's say, 95 percent of maximum heart rate? 90 percent?

How about you guys, for how long can you be at 90-90 percent of maximal heart rate without totally cracking afterwards?

#### acoggan

BotanyBay said:
I once participated in a medical study where they used elite athletes to help gather data for being able to predict cardiac thresholds by (eventually) using lesser levels of exertion. Apparently too many people were dropping dead on the treadmills when they came in for their annual cardiac stress tests.

Anyhow, they tested our VO2 max and lactate levels several times over the course of many weeks. I was stunned to see that my own VO2 max varied wildly from week to week. Slacking-of on the training seriously affected it (in my case). I even got kicked-out of the study for not keeping my own fitness up. One week I could do 20 minutes on the ergometer and the next I was lucky to do 16.

People here keep talking as if an athlete has this "certain number" that (more or less) sticks with them. I can say (from personal experience) that this is not true and you shouldn't even bother measuring it unless you're at (or near) your peak physical condition. Anything less and you've just pi\$\$ed-away your money.
FWIW, when subjects maintain a constant training load the test-retest reproducibility of VO2max is on the order of ~2%, with most of that variability being of biological origin.

OTOH, as you point out VO2max can change quite rapidly in response to (large) changes in training frequency/duration/intensity...for example, in one study of untrained individuals we induced a 10% increase in just 10 d.

#### acoggan

blutto said:
I am very curious about the various things that would impact the scores produces by VO2Max tests... this curiosity is peaked by the tendency on this forum to use test scores as an absolute number but to me this simple reliance on a number does not seem to take into account the context within which the test is applied...

...for instance you stated that there is no statistical difference between ergometer and treadmill testing yet we have the following quote that shows what to someone who simply looks at just the final result is a significant difference...now I'm not saying or implying that this quote contradicts what you have said but I'm curious why the following tests produced the results they did...was it just the inappropriate pace in the treadmill test or were other factors in play...or put another, how many ways are there to grossly affect a test result....temp?...humidity?...altitude?....
-------------------------------------------------------------------
By luck-of-the-draw, it was on a cycle ergometer, and my VO2max was measured as being 5.2 L/min, or 81 mL/min/kg. (A value, BTW, I achieved on multiple subsequent occasions in various laboratories.)

A week later, I did my treadmill test, and the investigators decided that since my VO2max was so high, I should run at a very high pace, one appropriate for a runner with normal running economy, but one totally inappropriate for a cyclist with abnormally low running economy. Needless to say, I only lasted a little over 4 min, with my VO2 peaking out in the low 70s...
------------------------------------------------------------------------
The distinction that needs to be drawn here is between a valid measurement of VO2max (classically defined by a absolute or relative plateau in VO2 with respect to demand) and measurement of VO2peak.

In the case of my tests described above, only the cycle ergometer test elicted my true VO2max...the speed of the treadmill test was far too high for me, such that my legs fatigued prematurely, preventing me from achieving VO2max. However, I have done numerous (i.e., dozens) treadmill tests using a much lower speed (and hence a higher grade), and consistent with conventional understanding/knowledge in the field of exercise physiology* the highest VO2 I can achieve under such conditions is the same as when cycling.

*Then there is Tim Noakes' widely-discredited central governor theory, which is completely inconsistent with the results of numerous studies...but I won't go there.

#### Le breton

Walkman said:
Thank you! I have to say that I find this subject very interesting. I would absolutely love to go to La Paz (3640 meter above sea level) and train, imagine doing that for a year or so and the go down and race at sea level!
Having lived and have to train in La Paz (bottom at 3100m, top- El Alto - at 4100m at a time when it was far less polluted than now ( I visited last May, it's quite bad), at a time also when there was only one paved road of more than 10 km after El Alto, I can tell you that training there was always hard. 3 hrs training rides on the altiplano at 4000-4100m were just murder, would go back home completely wiped out. Occasionnally, with my balloon tyres, I would ride to La Cumbre (4583meters, not paved then) or Chacaltaya (5230m- a jeep road for the last 5km where a wrong choice of trajectory among the rocks could bring you to a standstill).

Then I went to Buenos Aires and entered a race, I was dropped from the pack. Could not breathe!!! Used to 10% humidity I could not cope with the high humidity there.

But 10 days later I entered a stage race at intermediate altitude, around 2000 m in Northern Argentina and performed rather well.

The benefits of a high Hct don't last that long, maybe 4 weeks. Remember that you can't work nearly as hard at high altitude, so it really is not the best training terrain.

It would be better to train in Alamogordo (1400m) and live in Cloudcroft (2600m, New Mexico)

#### Le breton

acoggan said:
Due to the reduced pO2 in inspired air, VO2max decreases with altitude. Although interindividual differences exist, on average you would expect VO2max measured at 1800 m altitude to be ~10% lower than measured at sea level (more if you are completely unacclimatized, less if you are well-acclimatized).

Applied to Armstrong, this means that 1) his VO2max at sea level is (was) significantly higher than the 82-84 mL/min/kg value given in that 1996 Scientific American article, and/or 2) he is less affected by altitude than average.
you would expect VO2max measured at 1800 m altitude to be ~10% lower than measured at sea level

If that were the case I would have to make a sizeable upward correction to the estimated 94 ml/mn.kg obtained for the Alpe d'Huez climb, ending at about 1845m.