I sometimes get asked the reason professional cyclists don’t seem to need to follow the same rules for rest and recovery as us mere mortals.
As always several factors come into play when discussing training and racing routines. One of the first considerations has to be the difference between the trained and untrained athlete.
On the transition from untrained state to trained state the body will be undergoing physiological changes at the metabolic level. Increased hormonal and endocrine activity will stimulate many of the changes and the body needs time to react to these changes and establish new levels of strength and fitness accordingly. Some of the most important considerations are building up of new muscle fibres, which requires protein from the diet, and strengthening bones, tendons and cartilage, also requiring sufficient dietary nutrients.
Once training has produced the stimulus for change the body has to rest to allow the actual change to occur.
However, the trained athlete will be more concerned with maintenance of previous training benefits as opposed to continually expecting to increase strength and endurance. The phenomena of peaking is about maximising performance at specific times and if rest and recovery afterwards is not allowed the athlete will suffer from overtraining symptoms and potential burnout.
So; professionals that are riding every day will have already passed through the majority of the development stages and be more concerned with fine-tuning techniques and tactics. Team leaders will be tweaking their fitness to peak at planned times. All of them will be paying attention to their workloads to avoid burnout. Remember, what would nearly kill us mortals could be a recovery ride for Sir Brad and his mates. Even in the Tour De France, they ride every day, but they are not all racing to their limits every day!