Dr Iñigo San Millán And The Power of Mitochondrial Function In Zone Training

In itself, cycling is a great fitness activity. The benefits to your body, as described in a previous Bike Hacks piece, span from increasing joint mobility to losing weight and relieving stress. Getting out on the road or down a dirt track on two wheels is undoubtedly a healthy and beneficial activity, but some people like to take it to the extreme.

At the highest end of the sport, racers, coaches, and scientists have homed in on the most minute details to try to find the edge. Right now, with the proof in the yellow jersey, Dr Inigo San Millán is the talk of the sport.

Proving The Power of San Millán’s Focus


Every year, the Tour de France is held up as the ultimate test in road cycling, with new routes and arduous climbs added each year. Having started on the 1st of July this year, Stage One got underway in neighbouring Spain, as the BBC stage guide denotes.

It ran 182km around Bilbao and then went on towards Vitoria-Gasteiz for Stage 2. Over the 24 days, riders will cover over 3,300km or over 2,000 miles, and few can work out who’s going to win the all-important general classification by the time the race arrives in Paris.

Last year, the 109th Tour de France set off from Copenhagen in Denmark, and quite fittingly, Dane rider Jonas Vingegaard took the general classification for the first time in his career and also added the mountain classification for good measure. This snapped a potential hat-trick for Tadej Pogačar, who had won the last two under the tutelage of Dr San Millán.

For 2023, it’s anyone’s guess who will win. As of 30 June, at the odds Betway is offering, Vingegaard and Pogačar are neck-and-neck at 23/20 to be the general classification winner this year.

It’s truly remarkable that two cyclists on different teams would come in exactly even in the odds, especially in modern cycling, where we’ve seen Team Sky (Team Ineos, the Ineos Grenadiers) pick a cyclist and run them to the top without dispute.

Still, with a Bike Hacks-approved adaptable tyre brand like Continental, on his Colnago V4R, coupled with Enve wheels and a Shimano Dura-Ace groupset, many are seeing the Dr San Millán-trained Pogačar as being the narrow pick, especially because of the buzz around the doctor’s training methods and focus.

Looking On A Mitochondrial Level

Zone 2 has become the buzzword of cycling ever since the methods crafted by Dr San Millán helped power Tadej Pogačar to dominance in professional road cycling and, particularly, the yellow jersey. Essentially, Zone 2 is the name given to an intensity level in which you’re burning the most amount of fat possible.

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    With the way that it focuses on what would be perceived as relatively low-effort runs, Zone 2 training can be a great fit for anyone using the Bike Hacks guide to incorporating biking into a fitness routine.

    Discussing the physiology of race season with FastTalkLabs, Dr San Millán explains that you need to build a strong base in the form of a Zone 2 at the cellular level, which comes from strong mitochondrial functionality. You want to avoid prolonged use of fast-twitch muscle fibres as they create lactate which comes with hydrogen ions, which then decreases the pH of the muscle, interfering with its functionality. As a result, he says that you need to target high-level lactate clearance capacity.

    To achieve this, you need to level up the mitochondria efficiency in the slow-twitch muscle fibres, which have the highest level of mitochondria function as it is. Being efficient in this area means that throughout a race, they’re clearing more and more lactate and the associated hydrogen ions, and in return, your fast-twitch will be able to go harder for longer when the big push is called for.

    Becoming economical and efficient in this way requires training at the lower intensity of the so-called Zone 2 before you hit the intensity, which would become anaerobic exercise.

    For Pogačar, on his climbing drills, Zone 2 is hitting between 65 and 75 per cent of his maximum heart rate and between 76 and 90 per cent of his functional threshold power. These percentages will be different for everyone. As a professional cyclist, his FTP percentage can go to over 120 per cent when he hits Zone 5.

    What’s key is that he can hit that top zone for extended periods because of the amount of maintenance he puts into his established Zone 2 base.

    It’s in the high-intensity time trials and the climbs that races are truly won, and with the backing of Dr San Millán’s science, the Slovenian always has more than enough in the tank to go full throttle when these sectors come around.

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    Dr Iñigo San Millán And The Power of Mitochondrial Function In Zone Training — Bike Hacks