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An Insight Into The Recovery Techniques Of Elite Road Cyclists

18 Aug 2014
Randall Cooper
While watching this year's Tour de France you probably wonder how the riders are able to get out of bed and ride 5 hours day after day. The following recovery protocols undertaken by cyclists post stage help reduce the effects of fatigue, improve performance, and help reduce the incidence of injury.


Compression garments improve venous return, thus accelerating the recovery process and reducing swelling in the limbs. Compression garments are practical and can be worn around the house after races and training sessions and can even be worn to bed if tolerated.

Another form of compression used is a pneumatic device (Recovery pumpTM). This device consists of a sleeve that is worn on both legs and a small compressor that applies a high-grade compression (80mmhg) and is best applied for 20-60 minutes. The use of PCD’s have been shown to impact a number of recovery and adaptive markers, as well as aiding sleep and reducing snoring.


Massage provides a number of benefits, both physical and psychological. Providing relaxation and reduced muscle tone as well as a time to “switch off” mentally. Massage can also help maintain or increased joint range of motion, which may reduce the risk of injury.

Cold Water Immersion and Contrast Therapy:

Cold water immersion not only provides the benefit of compression but also has the added advantage of influencing body temperature. Consequently, this is often best utilised in hot conditions either soon after the completion of the stage or later in the evening after massage.

Cold water immersion can be performed wherever possible (bathtub, pool, creek) and you should look to get as much of your body submerged in 12-20 degrees for 10-20 min (which can be broken up into shorter plunges of any duration). 

Where there are no facilities to plunge, it can be worthwhile to utilise contrast therapy. This involves alternating the temperature of the shower from hot to cold each minute for 5-10 min (Always finishing with cold).


Sleep is an important component of recovery. However it is important to recognise that the body can still function well and performance is not compromised following minor sleep disturbances.

To help ensure you are optimizing your sleep:

  • Create a good pre sleep routine. A good pre sleep routine should start approximately 30mins before bedtime and is enhanced by maintaining regular sleep and wake up times. 
  • Keep the room dark, quiet, and at a good temperature (19-21ºC is best). If you are sleeping in a different bed, bringing your own pillow from home may help in providing a good sleep environment.
  • Relaxation techniques, such as stretching or immersion in a cool bath or shower, before bedtime maybe helpful.
  • The use of visual stimulates (TV, computer, phone etc…) one hour before sleep is highly discouraged as is the ingestion of caffeine and other stimulates at dinner and before bedtime.
  • The use of sleeping tablets is not recommended. In addition to the very significant negative long-term effects of these drugs, the primary reason they are discouraged is that they typically result in very poor quality sleep. You are likely to obtain greater benefit from 6 hours of natural sleep, then 10 hours of induced sleep.

These protocols can be easily implemented after a race or training session to help reduce muscle soreness and fatigue and help you to continue to perform on a regular basis.

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