If all goes to plan, big future predicted for junior world champion Oskar Svendsen
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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

If all goes to plan, big future predicted for junior world champion Oskar Svendsen

by Shane Stokes at 9:18 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Physiologist gives confirmation of huge VO2 max; power comparable to young Hushovd and Boasson Hagen

Oskar SvendsenFollowing in the wheel tracks of previous junior time trial world champions such as Fabian Cancellara, Marcel Kittel and Taylor Phinney, Oskar Svendsen’s gold medal winning-ride last week in the Netherlands has marked him out as a major prospect for Norwegian cycling.

He earned himself a rainbow jersey when he beat the Slovenian Matej Mohoric and the German Maximilian Schachmann in the junior TT. However there was already a compelling reason to watch the progress of the 18 year old; specifically, an astronomical lab test reading which marks out his VO2 Max as reportedly the highest ever recorded.

VO2 max, or maximal oxygen uptake, is a measure of the body’s ability to transport and use oxygen during incremental exercise, and is be one strong indicator of both fitness and also an individual’s physical talent. Five time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain reportedly had a VO2 max of 88 ml/kg/min, five points higher than Lance Armstrong and far, far above that of a regular male. Greg LeMond’s reading is even bigger, with 93 ml/kg/min.

However a test carried out recently on Svendsen at the University of Lillehammer saw the young Norwegian rider max out at a sensational 97.5 ml/kg/min, believed to be the highest ever recorded.

That plus his world title point to what could be a very big future, something which the sport scientist who carried out the test agrees with.

“We do not specifically comment on individual test results. However, in the present case, the test subject himself and his trainer Espen Bakken, whom we have an excellent cooperation with, told media about the results and they allowed us to comment on this specific test,” the physiologist Joar Hansen told VeloNation.

“This measurement of 97.5 ml/kg/min in VO2max is extremely high. It is very seldom we measure VO2max above 85 ml/kg/min. That being said, when we take into consideration Oskar`s previous test results, this high measurement is actually not that surprizing.”

Hansen said that Svendsen has a bank of data showing the extent of his ability and how it has progressed. “At the Exercise Physiology Lab in Lillehammer University College, we have a three year history with frequent tests of this very talented young rider,” he explained. “During the past years he has achieved a steady development of both VO2max, power output associated with VO2max, and power output at lactate threshold.”

Those other parameters are crucial, and he scores very well there too. “He has an enormous potential,” Hansen continued. “Without being too specific, his power output on our calibrated test ergometer at an lactate concentration of 4 mmol is above 400 Watts.”

Svendsen was sick in the lead up to the worlds, and so his performance could in theory have been more clear cut if his preparation had been ideal.

Being just 18 years of age he likely needs a couple of years to progress before stepping up to the next level. He is currently part of the Merida-NTG mountainbike team and Lillehammer Cykle Klubb and Hansen states he is being looked after well there.

However he’ll already be on the radar of World Tour teams who will doubtlessly fight for his signature when the time is right to do so.

“There is no doubt that this talented rider can achieve amazing performance in the future,” predicted Hansen, before expressing caution. “However, there is still a far way to go and many obstacles to tackle. That being said, he has an excellent team surrounding him, and with this good support around himself, he can go all the way.

Former pro Steffen Kjærgaard, who is currently director of sport for the Norwegian Cycling Federation, is another who is excited by the prospect. He cautions against basing everything on VO2 max, but states that other factors are also very promising.

“There is no doubt that Oskar is a rare talent, but not only because of the oxygen uptake,” he told Dn.no. “Threshold Watt measurements made on him show results on a par with or better than both Thor Hushovd and Edvald Boasson Hagen when they were the same age. That gives a far better indication of talent.”

Providing everything goes to plan and the rider progresses as expected, Hansen believes that Svendsen could go on to the biggest targets in cycling. “With time he has the potential to aim for the overall in the Grand Tours,” he told VeloNation.

After strong stage-winning performances by Hushovd and Boasson Hagen in recent years, the notion of potentially having an overall contender is something that Norwegian cycling will embrace. It's very premature for fans there to start visualising yellow jerseys, but given the physiological predictors and the physical performances to date, his is a name worth watching out for in the years to come.


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