The distribution of pace adopted by cyclists during a cross-country mountain bike World Championships

Document Type

Journal Article




Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science


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




This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Sports Science on 25/03/2013 as: Abbiss, C. , Ross, M. L., Garvican, L., Ross, N., Pottgiesser, T., Gregory, J., & Martin, D. (2013). The distribution of pace adopted by cyclists during a cross-country mountain bike World Championships. Journal of Sports Science, 31(7), 787-794. Available online here


The purpose of this study was to examine the distribution of pace self-selected by cyclists of varying ability, biological age and sex performing in a mountain bike World Championship event. Data were collected on cyclists performing in the Elite Male (ELITEmale; n = 75), Elite Female (ELITEfemale; n = 50), Under 23 Male (U23male; n = 62), Under 23 Female (U23female; n = 34), Junior Male (JNRmale; n = 71) and Junior Female (JNRfemale; n = 30) categories of the 2009 UCI Cross-Country Mountain Bike World Championships. Split times were recorded for the top, middle and bottom 20% of all finishers of each category. Timing splits were positioned to separate the course into technical and non-technical, uphill, downhill and rolling/flat sections. Compared with bottom performers, top performers in all male categories (ELITEmale, U23male, JNRmale) maintained a more even pace over the event as evidenced by a significantly lower standard deviation and range in average lap speed. Top performers, males, and ELITEmale athletes spent a lower percentage of overall race time on technical uphill sections of the course, compared with middle and bottom placed finishers, females, and JNRmale athletes, respectively. Better male performers adopt a more even distribution of pace throughout cross-country mountain events. Performance of lower placed finishers, females and JNRmale athletes may be improved by enhancing technical uphill cycling ability.