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Giro d'Italia 2003 - First Week

04 Jun 2003

Old… washed up… depressed… internal team problems?

None of the above, in my opinion.

This isn’t the first time that Super Mario has shown difficulty in the first stages of the Giro d’Italia, but it’s clear that this year something is definitely wrong.

In climbs, and especially in sprints, Cipo appears pretty unexplosive, slow, almost weighed down. I can’t rule out the possibility of a physical problem of some kind, but knowing him as I do and having had the good luck to be able to work closely with him for several years, I can remember that Cipollini has in the past gone a bit overboard with his training in the months leading up to the start of the Giro.

I dare advance the hypothesis that he didn’t pay enough attention to his fast-twitch muscle fibers (sue fibre
muscolari veloci), while emphasizing long distance work, perhaps even slightly exaggerating the total training volumes.

Therefore, along with a slight amount of over-training fatigue, it could be that Mario didn’t work enough on his sprint training.

I remind you that the “recruitment” of fast-twitch fibers is not relative to the speed of muscle contraction, but to the tension of the fibers themselves. In other words, in order to work on fast fibers it’s not enough just to pedal fast - you have to subject the muscles to high tension or high force spikes.

High force spikes can be more easily obtained at low pedal rhythms: for example, at 50 rpm, at a charge of 400 watts (which for Super Mario corresponds to medium intensity), the muscle fibers are subjected to a force spike of about 80 kg at each pedal stroke To reach such force spikes at a pedal rate of 100 rpm, you have push down with a charge of about 800 watts, an intensity which is obviously difficult to sustain for any length of time.

Alternating short bursts of about 1 minute at low rpm with bursts of 2-3 minutes at the same intensity but at high rpm (100-110), transfers the recruitment of the fast fibers to sprint rhythms. In this way one develops a higher and improved capacity to activate a high percentage of such fibers, indispensable to the explosiveness that Cipollini lacked in the last few days.

I’m convinced that if Mario were able to go through these recruitment exercises during some of the upcoming stages, in the climbs ridden at not too high intensity, he could profit from them in the remaining sprints of this 86th Giro d’Italia. 

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