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Exploring the performance reserve: Effect of different magnitudes of power output deception on 4,000 m cycling time-trial performance

Stone, Mark R.; Thomas, Kevin; Wilkinson, Michael; Stevenson, Emma; St. Clair Gibson, Alan; Jones, Andrew M.; Thompson, Kevin G.


Mark R. Stone

Kevin Thomas

Michael Wilkinson

Emma Stevenson

Andrew M. Jones

Kevin G. Thompson


Gordon Fisher


Purpose The aim of the present study was to investigate whether a magnitude of deception of 5% in power output would lead to a greater reduction in the amount of time taken for participants to complete a 4000 m cycling TT than a magnitude of deception of 2% in power output, which we have previously shown can lead to a small change in 4000 m cycling TT performance.

Methods Ten trained male cyclists completed four, 4000 m cycling TTs. The first served as a habituation and the second as a baseline for future trials. During trials three and four participants raced against a pacer which was set, in a randomized order, at a mean power output equal to 2% (+2% TT) or 5% (+5% TT) higher than their baseline performance. However participants were misled into believing that the power output of the pacer was an accurate representation of their baseline performance on both occasions. Cardiorespiratory responses were recorded throughout each TT, and used to estimate energy contribution from aerobic and anaerobic metabolism.

Results Participants were able to finish the +2% TT in a significantly shorter duration than at baseline (p = 0.01), with the difference in performance likely attributable to a greater anaerobic contribution to total power output (p = 0.06). There was no difference in performance between the +5% TT and +2% TT or baseline trials.

Conclusions Results suggest that a performance reserve is conserved, involving anaerobic energy contribution, which can be utilised given a belief that the exercise will be sustainable however there is an upper limit to how much deception can be tolerated. These findings have implications for performance enhancement in athletes and for our understanding of the nature of fatigue during high-intensity exercise.


Stone, M. R., Thomas, K., Wilkinson, M., Stevenson, E., St. Clair Gibson, A., Jones, A. M., & Thompson, K. G. (in press). Exploring the performance reserve: Effect of different magnitudes of power output deception on 4,000 m cycling time-trial performance. PLoS ONE, 12(3), Article e0173120.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 15, 2017
Online Publication Date Mar 9, 2017
Deposit Date Jan 27, 2021
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Journal PLOS ONE
Print ISSN 1932-6203
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Issue 3
Article Number e0173120
Public URL
Publisher URL


Published article (1.3 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
Copyright: © 2017 Stone et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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