Modifiable Variables Influencing Cycling Performance in Senior Athletes

Document Type


Publication Date



Physical Therapy


Competitive aging cyclists are a growing population. Physical performance measures known to associate with success in cycling competitions have yet to be investigated for the older athlete. Purpose: The purpose of this study is to determine variables from the Senior Athlete Fitness Exam (SAFE) that relate to superior performance for competitive aging cyclists. Methods: Cyclists competing in the National Senior Games from 2013- 2019 participated in the SAFE, a health screen measuring cardiovascular risk, flexibility, strength, and balance. Subjects included 132 participants (63 males and 69 females) ages 50-88 (mean age=67, SD=9.10) competing in 5K, 10K, 20K, and 40K cycling races. Data was analyzed using SPSS 25. A Pearson correlation identified relationships between variables from the SAFE and race times. Significant correlations of r >0.25 were classified as meaningful and were analyzed via stepwise regression to determine ideal models to predict success. Alpha was set at p<0.05. Results: Many variables within the SAFE were significantly correlated to performance in cycling events though differences existed by gender. For male cyclists, success in the 5K was predicted by single leg balance and usual gait speed (r2=.557,p=.027); for 10K single leg balance was the best predictor (r2=.526,p<.001); for 20K BMI and grip strength (r2=.405,p=.004) were most predictive; and for 40K usual gait speed, single leg balance, and grip strength (r2=.513,p=.007) were best. For female cyclists, the models for 5K utilized cardiovascular exercise volume (r2=.380,p=.015); for 10K usual gait speed and cardiovascular exercise volume (r2=.471,p=.026) were most predictive; for 20K Five Times Sit-to-Stand Test was the best predictor (r2=.544,p=.009); and the 40K revealed no significant predictive models. Discussion/Conclusion: Within the SAFE, multiple physical performance measures are significantly predictive of success in competitive aging cyclists. Cyclists may consider paying more attention to cardiovascular exercise volume, balance, power, and strength in their training regimens.

First Advisor

Becca Jordre

Second Advisor

Adam Ladwig

Research Area

Physical Therapy

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