Distribution of power output when establishing a breakaway in cycling

Document Type

Journal Article


Human Kinetics


Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science


School of Exercise and Health Sciences / Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research




Abbiss, C. , Menaspa, P. , Villerius, V., & Martin, D. (2013). Distribution of power output when establishing a breakaway in cycling. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 8(4), 452-455. Available here


A number of laboratory-based performance tests have been designed to mimic the dynamic and stochastic nature of road cycling. However, the distribution of power output and thus physical demands of high-intensity surges performed to establish a breakaway during actual competitive road cycling are unclear. Review of data from professional road-cycling events has indicated that numerous short-duration (5-15 s), high-intensity (∼9.5-14 W/kg) surges are typically observed in the 5-10 min before athletes' establishing a breakaway (ie, riding away from a group of cyclists). After this initial high-intensity effort, power output declined but remained high (∼450-500 W) for a further 30 s to 5 min, depending on race dynamics (ie, the response of the chase group). Due to the significant influence competitors have on pacing strategies, it is difficult for laboratory-based performance tests to precisely replicate this aspect of mass-start competitive road cycling. Further research examining the distribution of power output during competitive road racing is needed to refine laboratory-based simulated stochastic performance trials and better understand the factors important to the success of a breakaway.