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Mind games for cyclists in Rio

Wednesday, 03 August 2016

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With just days until the road cycling events kick off at the Rio Olympics, new research has found that at least part of what separates the best cyclists in the world from the rest is all in the mind.

Researchers, including Dr Paolo Menaspà from ECU’s School of Medical and Health Sciences, tested 11 professional and 9 recreational cyclists to see how mental fatigue impacted on their racing ability.

The participants were required to complete a computerised cognitive task designed to induce mental fatigue then cycle in a simulated time trial.

The researchers found that the professional cyclists’ times did not change after completing the cognitive task.

The recreational cyclists however, performed significantly worse on the simulated time trial after becoming mentally fatigued compared to their previous times.

Willpower to win

Dr Menaspà said the professional cyclists also performed better on a test which measured inhibitory control, or willpower.

“This suggests that being able to resist mental fatigue is an important part of what separates professional from recreational cyclists. This characteristic is likely to be common in all top-level endurance athletes.” he said.

“Greater resistance to mental fatigue and improved inhibitory control may enable an endurance athlete to continue racing strongly in the later stages of a long race, which could be the difference between winning or not winning a medal in Rio.”

The Road Race event at the Rio Olympics will be held on 6 and 7 August.

Superior Inhibitory Control and Resistance to Mental Fatigue in Professional Road Cyclists was published in the journal PLOS One.

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