To identify relevant physiological, mechanical, and strength indices to improve the evaluation of elite mountain bike riders competing in the current Cross-Country Olympic (XCO) format.
Considering the evolution of the XCO race format over the last decade, the present testing protocol adopted a battery of complementary laboratory cycling tests: a maximal aerobic consumption, a force-velocity test, and a multi-short-sprint test. A group of 33 elite-level XCO riders completed the entire testing protocol and at least 5 international competitions.
Very large correlations were found between the XCO performance and maximal aerobic power output (r = .78; P < .05), power at the second ventilation threshold (r = .83; P < .05), maximal pedaling force (r = .77; P < .05), and maximum power in the sixth sprint (r = .87; P < .05) of the multi-short-sprint test. A multiple regression model revealed that the normalized XCO performance was predicted at 89.2% (F3,29 = 89.507; r = .95; P < .001) by maximum power in the sixth sprint (β = 0.602; P < .001), maximal pedaling rate (β = 0.309; P < .001), and relative maximal aerobic power output (β = 0.329; P < .001).
Confirming our expectations, the current XCO performance was highly correlated with a series of physiological and mechanical parameters reflecting the high level of acyclic and intermittent solicitation of both aerobic and anaerobic metabolic pathways and the required qualities of maximal force and velocity.
The combination of physiological, mechanical, and strength characteristics may thus improve the prediction of elite XCO cyclists’ performance. It seems of interest to evaluate the ability to repeatedly produce brief intensive efforts with short active recovery periods.