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Fit or Fatigue? How to train your riders for success

Fitness in PCM 2006

Most experienced players of PCM 2006 realize how important fitness is to the performance of the riders on your team.  In stage races, a moderately good rider (i.e. average stat level of 74 or 75) who is in peak form can compete with and even defeat riders of the caliber of Valverde, Basso and Ullrich who are not as fit.  Thus, a good working knowledge of the mechanics of the game regarding fitness and meticulous planning of your key riders’ season is essential for success in career mode.  The fitness calculator I developed is a useful tool to predict your rider’s fitness and fatigue levels during the season which makes it easier to plan for success!

The guide is in 3 parts, the first illustrating the basics of fitness and fatigue and some general rules for how these values change.  The second is an in-depth tutorial on the use of the Excel fitness calculator.  And the third are some suggested training regimens and interesting observations that come out of the predictions.

I would also mention that some of the concepts may be a bit complicated for some readers.  I am a scientist by profession and so it’s hard to keep this out of the discussion of fitness (which is very math-oriented).  If you are the type of player who just wants to play and have fun, then go to it!  But if you have more of an analytical mind and want to learn more about the inner-workings of the game to help make your team stronger, then you might find the following article to be of use. Happy Cycling!


Section A
Fitness: The Basics

Training Fitness:  The game features two types of fitness: training (which you control) and racing (which you do not).  Training fitness ranges from 0 to 80 and the rate at which training fitness rises or falls is set by your training %.  You have the option of setting this level yourself or having the AI do it for you.  You can think of the training % level as the maximum training fitness level your rider will achieve.  So if you set him to 40%, eventually, his training fitness level will rise (or fall) to some value in the 40s.  If you set him to 70%, he’ll lock his TF level to a value in the 70s.  Also be aware that your riders train at the same level regardless of if they are racing.  This is somewhat counterintuitive since one would assume that riders who are racing aren’t training at the same time.  In PCM 2006, they are. Also, the type of trainer you use (mythical, regional, etc.) has no bearing on how training fitness changes.  Trainers are only there to help you increase your stats, not help you gain training fitness.

Racing Fitness:  Racing fitness begins as a value between 0 and 10.  As your rider races more and more, the maximum value increases up to 20.  The racing fitness level increases with every race at a rate determined by your training fitness level (yes, it is confusing).  The racing maximum begins to decrease after your rider has raced for 40 days.

Total Fitness and Performance:  The total fitness level is the sum of the training and racing fitness levels.  Total fitness determines your rider’s performance.  I do not know how the game calculates the effect of total fitness on performance.  I had thought at one point that the total fitness represented a modifying % which was used to calculate your riders’ actual stats.  Thus, a rider with a mountain stat of 70 at 80% total fitness would have an effective mountain level of 70*0.8=56.  Frankly, I think this is wrong but as far as I can tell, there is no way to know.  Suffice it to say that the higher the total fitness, the better your rider will perform!


The season is long and riders get tired out as the season progresses.  PCM simulates this by assigning a fatigue level to each rider.  Again, complicated rules govern how fatigue rises (and falls).  The level of fatigue is translated into a graphical status bar which extends as the fatigue grows.  Once your fatigue level gets above 2500, then the maximum training fitness your rider can achieve goes from 80 to 78.  More fatigue results in a progressive lowering of this maximum down to a nadir of 60. 

The primary source of fatigue is the level of your training fitness. Riders above 65 training fitness begin to develop fatigue and the rate of increase goes up alarmingly as your rider goes from 65 to 80.  Also, the training % you set can also add to fatigue even for training fitness levels below 65.  This can be avoided easily (see below).  Other minor sources of fatigue include pre-season training camps and winning stages!  I do not understand the factors that govern these sources of fatigue but their contribution is minor.

The factors that govern the fitness and fatigue levels apply equally to all riders.  This is another counterintuitive part of the game.  Thus, the 18 year old newbie will gain training fitness and fatigue at the same rate as a seasoned veteran.  I find this unrealistic but it does make it easier to predict changes in fitness and fatigue since individual factors of a rider do not need to be considered.

The rates of change of fitness and fatigue

Two very industrious gamers, AlyssaFan and Eyolfur, used different converters and an inordinate amount of time to work out the rate at which training fitness, racing fitness and fatigue change under different conditions.  Summarizing their superb work here is beyond the scope of this article.  However, several “take home” points can be concisely summarized below:

1) Riders with training fitness levels below 40 will have their training fitness level increase at the same rate regardless of if you set your training % to 60% or 100%.  The difference is that the riders at 100% will develop fatigue whereas the riders at 60% will not.

2) For training fitness levels between 40 and 65, no fatigue is generated under any training % level. However, the rate of rise of training fitness is fastest when the training level is set to 100%.

3) At training fitness of 65 and above, the riders will incur fatigue.  The higher the training fitness level, the faster fatigue will accumulate.  The training fitness rises at the same rate when training is set at 90% or 100% until they get to 70, the difference being that the riders generate more fatigue when set at 100%.  

4) Once the TF of the riders gets to 70, then the training fitness rises faster when training is set to 100% relative to 90%.  Fatigue is generated equally at both settings.

5) Fatigue does not begin to decrease until your training fitness is below 40. Generally, the lower the training fitness, the faster the rate of fatigue decrease.

These different training behaviors immediately suggests a training program to maximize the rate at which the riders fitness increases while at the same time minimizing fatigue.  My goals in the early part of the season are to get the riders up to 65 TF with no fatigue and also get a few races under the belts of all the riders so that their racing fitness maximum has increased a bit (this is usually one of the February stage races, ie. 5-6 days).  At that point, you can then decide when to boost each riders’ training fitness up to higher levels so that he peaks at the race you want. 

The fitness calculator is the tool I developed to predict when the riders will be ready. I got tired of guessing when the riders would peak and, since the rules behind the changes in fitness were evident from the fine work of Eyofur and AlyssaFan, it was a straightforward matter to translate this information into an Excel-based tool. The next section will provide detailed information (with examples) as to how to use the tool.
Section B:  The Fitness Calculator and How to Use it.

The fitness calculator is divided into 4 sections for calculating training, race and total fitness as well as fatigue.  I will describe its use through examples of training regimens that I use routinely.  All examples are from the “lite” version of calculator.  This contains columns only for 0, 60,70,80,90,100% training levels.  These are training settings that I use most of the time.  The “complete” worksheet will enable you to predict changes in training fitness at all training % levels.
For example, say that you are at the beginning of a season and you want to get your riders in shape for Paris-Nice, the first event of the CTT season.  Riders start at different training fitness levels but for this example, we’ll take a guy starting at 25 on January 1st.  What is the fastest way to get him to full training fitness (80) while generating the minimum in fatigue?  Let’s find out:

 Phase 1:  Training Fitness (0-40 range).
Typically I’ll set the rider at 60% in this phase.  It generates zero fatigue and it gets him up to 40 at the same rate as if he were at 100% (which would generate fatigue).  So I would put the riders starting training fitness (25) into the first row of the training fitness section in the “60%” section.  Also, put in the starting date (1/1/06) in the green “day” column (ignore the red “day” column for now).  Now I read down the “day” column and see that it takes 18 days to get to 40 in training fitness (see example at left).  That’s when the next phase begins.  Also note the increase in training fitness is the same if you set the level at 100%. 

 Phase 2: Training Fitness (40-65) range.
In this range, you want to get your rider up to 65 as fast as possible.  Since we are at January 18th, first type in “1/18/06” into cell A3 in the Day column (the date format for this spreadsheet is mm/dd/yyyy).  To compare the rate of increase in fitness at 60 or 100% training, type in “40” for both the 60% and 100% columns.  You should get a screen like the one at right.  Read down the 100% column until you get to “65”.  Then read to the left to the “day” column and see what day you are on (in this example it would be the 19th of the following month i.e. February 19th). As you can see, now it does make a difference whether you are set at 60 or 100%.  At 100%, you’ll get to the magic level of 65 in training fitness by February 19th.  However, if the training is set at 60%, then you won’t get there until mid-April.  That ain’t good!  However, in both cases, you won’t develop fatigue since you are in the “safe” 40-65 range.

Phase 3:  Training fitness (65-70) and fatigue
So now we’re at February 19th with a rider at 65.  The next goal is to get him to 70 but we also have to monitor his fatigue level.  First, set the day column to “2/19”.  Then set the starting level for the 90% and 100% at 65.  Look down the column to see how the training fitness changes: as you can see, there is no difference.  Also, you get to 70 training fitness around February 27th (see below).

 Now look over in the fatigue section of the spreadsheet.  Make sure you have the starting green “day” at 2/19 and set the starting values for fatigue in the 90 and 100% sections to zero.  This is what you should see (at left).  At February 27th, training at 100% gives you a slight increase in fatigue (ends at 128) relative to training at 90% (ends at 78).  A small difference but completely unnecessary given that your training fitness is going up at the same rate regardless of whether you are at 90% or 100% training level.

Phase 4:  Training fitness (65-80)
Are we going to get our man up to 80 training fitness by Paris-Nice?  No way Jose!  But let’s see how long it takes.  Go back to the training fitness section.  Put in “2/27” for the day column.  Then 70 for both the 90% and 100% columns.  Then put in “2/27”: for the green “day” column in the fatigue section and put the appropriate fatigue levels in for the 90 and 100% columns (these levels are 78 (90%) and 128 (100%).  I’ve made a split screen between training fitness and fatigue so you can see the two together:

So if you keep the training at 90%, your rider won’t achieve total greatness (TF=80) until he gets to March 19th.  If the training is at 100%, the rider will be at full power by March 14th or so.  Not in time for Paris-Nice, unfortunately.
In terms of fatigue, you can see that if you keep him at 90% the whole way, then he’ll be at 1045 by the time he gets to full strength.  That’s more than a third of the way to 2500, the level where his training fitness maximum begins to decrease.  Not so good.  If you keep him at 100%, then he’ll be at 870 by the time he peaks out.  Better.  And if you train him properly the whole time, then his fatigue at peak fitness should be 820 (I’ll let you figure out how to calculate that).

 How long can he go?
The final aspect of this tutorial will be to consider what would happen if we kept the rider at 80 indefinitely (this could be done by keeping his training % at 80 or above).  How long would he last before his training fitness maximum began to decrease?  Answer:  just read down the 100% column in the fatigue section.  This is what you should see:
(Note: I cheated a bit and set the day to March 14th and the fatigue to 820 which is the fatigue level on the first day the rider achieved maximum fitness).

So by reading down the 100% column, you can see that the rider gets to the dreaded 2500 level around April 4th or so.  At that time, his training fitness would decrease immediately to 78 and for the rest of his season, he would continue going downhill.

How could you have gotten your rider to maximum fitness in time for Paris-Nice?  The answer of course is training camps!

Racing Fitness

This part of the calculator is much easier to use.  To predict how your race fitness will change with time, merely put in the first day that you start racing in the green “day” column.  Then put in the starting race fitness for the rider on that day.  Make sure that the training fitness corresponds correctly to the current TF level of the rider since this parameter affects how quickly race fitness increases.  Here is a hypothetical example using the values above for the Paris-Nice race (which goes from March 5-12):

Note:  I’ve put in 73 for training fitness for each training level from 60-100%.  You can see the effect on race fitness which increases slower for the 100% training fitness level and faster for the lower training level. This is because race fitness increases more slowly for fit riders (again, a bit counterintuitive).  The point here is that by the end of Paris-Nice, your rider should have a race fitness of around 13 (if he’s set at 100%).  This would result in a total fitness level of 91.  Probably not good enough to win unless your rider is one of the big boys!  Also, if your race fitness maximum is below the calculated values, obviously you won’t get up to where you’d like.  That’s why it’s important to race your guys in February!

How do I get my guys back down to Earth?
Obviously, you don’t keep riders at 100% training all the time.  How fast will it take to get back down to the ‘safe’ training fitness level of 65?  To find the answer, just type in the date in the green “day” column in the training fitness section, and then your current training fitness level in the 0% column.  Read down and you’ll get your answer.

 What are the red day columns for?

These columns calculate dates backward.  It can be quite useful.  Say for example that you want your top GC man to peak at the first mountain stage in the Tour de France (and let’s say that this falls on Bastille Day, July 14th).  Now you would calculate things backward!  Set up the spreadsheet as before but think backwards through the phases I’ve outlined above.  Set the first cell under 100% to 70. Then, in the red “day” column, type in “7/14” in the same row where the rider peaks to 80.  Then read backwards to determine when you should set your rider to 100%.  This tells you that on June 29th, your rider should be at 70 training fitness and that on this day, you should increase him to 100% training in order for him to peak on Bastille Day. 

For the previous phase (65-70), you would do the same thing in the 90% column.  It should look like this when you are done:

So as you can see by reading back, on June 21st, you should set your rider (who is at 65 in training fitness) to 90%. 
Now you’ve got a training program!  So to get Francisco Mancebo ready to crush the field on the first mountain finish of the Tour de France, you would get him to 65 by June 21st.  Then set him to 90% until he reaches 70 (which should happen around June 29th). Then set him at 100%.  He should be at peak training fitness by July 14th.
Certainly I realize that this tool is complicated and you need to have a fair working knowledge of Excel to get used to it.  My suggestion would be just to play with it and see if it works for you.  If not, you can always take your chances and let the AI train for you or do it your own way.  The object of the game is to enjoy it in the way that works best for you!

Section C:  Hypothetical Models and Examples

In this final section, I show some modeled data to answer some of the age-old questions like, “Can a guy peak for 2 of the grand tours in the same season?” or “How long does it take for fatigue to reduce down to acceptable levels?”  I’ll show some simplified models and share some of the conclusions with you.

Test Case 1: 
Can Ivan Basso peak for both the Giro and the Tour de France

As I’m sure most of you know, Ivan Basso’s stated goal for next season (in the real world) is to win both the Giro and Tour.  While I have no doubt that he’s capable of it in real life, the question would be whether he could peak in both Tours on PCM 2006.  Let’s find out:
The assumptions I’ll make is that for both tours, the main mountain stages do not occur until the second week of the race.  This may or may not be true for a given year in PCM2006 since the stages change every year.  But if this were the case, then we would want Ivan to peak in the Giro around May 13th and in the Tour around July 8th.  We’ll get him up to training fitness of 80 in both cases and we’ll not concern ourselves with race fitness in this example (although in the real game, it would be an issue). 

 Giro: So using the same training regimen outlined above, we would need to get Ivan up to training fitness of 65 by around April 20th. At that point we would set him to 90% training.  He should reach training fitness of 70 by about April 28th.  Then we would set him to 100% and he should peak at about May 13th at which point he would remain at full power until the end of the Giro (May 28th).  Let’s take a look at his fatigue throughout this period:
I know it’s confusing but look carefully.  The green day column at left shows the days where the rider is as 90% (April 20th-28th). By the time he reaches training fitness of 70, Ivan’s fatigue will be around 78 (highlighted in gray in the 90% column).  Then I put that level at the start of the 100% column, set the righthand green day column to 4/28/06 and read down.  The gray value (820) shows the fatigue on May 13th (when Ivan peaks).  And at the bottom is Ivan’s fatigue at the end of the Giro (2095).  That doesn’t bode well for the TdF!  He only has 400 fatigue points before his training fatigue maximum will decrease.

TdF:  If the same training regimen is implemented for Basso in preparation for the TdF, then his fatigue would roughly double to something north of 4000 by the end of the Tour.  This would result in a decrease in his training fitness maximum to 72, at best. Thus, it is unrealistic to assume that you can get two full training peaks for Basso using this regimen.

Obviously, other training regimens are possible.  For example, I’ve played around with the notion of just getting the rider up to 75 in training fitness and keeping it at that level throughout the stage race.  You save a surprising amount of fatigue this way but it is unclear to me whether I can defeat the big riders with a good rider at 95 total fitness. Just have to try it!

Test Case 2: 
Getting rid of fatigue during the course of a season

How feasible is it to actually lower a rider’s fatigue level during a season?  Again, the fatigue calculator can give us some answers.  For example, one can take a hypothetical case of a rider at 2500 fatigue (when max training fitness starts to drop) and then can look at how long it takes for his fatigue to drop to zero after setting his training level to 0%.  The following graph shows this with a rider starting off at different training fitness levels.  As can be seen, a rider with training fitness of zero will take 40 days before his fatigue is back to zero.  On the other hand, a rider at 80 training fitness (a more relevant example) will take almost 3 months.  Keep in mind also that once the fatigue is back to zero, you also have to take the time to train the rider back up to useful levels (because his training fitness will be in the pits in order to get his fatigue down).  This adds another couple of months to the whole process.

Test Case 3: 
Setting rider training fitness at something less than full blast

The last thing I’ll put out there is the notion of not training your main GC contender through the roof.  The following graph shows the development of fatigue for a rider who maintains his training fitness at different levels between 70 and 80. For example, a rider whose training fitness is maintained at 70 does not develop relevant levels of fatigue over 100 days.  A rider maintained at 76 (green line) experiences a drop in maximum training fitness after 40 days and a drop to a maximum of 64 after about 85 days.  A rider who is worked like a mule at 80 training fitness (orange line) will experience a drop in TFMax after only 20 days!  That gives him one grand Tour per year. 
In the present season for my team (AG2r), I tried bumping up Popovich to 75 for Paris-Nice.  He won easily on Hard Mode in 2008.  So for the gifted riders, it may not be necessary to ever boost them up to 80 training fitness.  This will certainly extend their useful life over the season.

Conclusion and Perspective:

If you’ve made it through this, you’re probably a scientist or someone who likes to work with numbers.  Using the fitness calculator and applying it to your team takes a fair amount of familiarity with Excel and an interest in working through the variables.  It does not give me tons of joy to plan through each and every rider over the course of a season to make sure that they peak at the right times and make it through safely (I’d rather be racing).  It takes LOTS of planning, an aspect to all of this that I haven’t even mentioned since the subject of planning deserves a separate article.  But at least for me, with a weak team like AG2r, I really needed to optimize the performance of my top riders.  AG2r starts with really one legitimate GC contender, Francisco Mancebo.  So for such a weak team, I needed all the help I could get.  Using the training info, I was able to win the CTT tour my first year with AG2r and also win the individual title with Mancebo (who finished 2nd in both the TdF and the Vuelta).  So I think that figuring out this stuff can really pay dividends.

Well, that’s it.  Enjoy the guide, the calculator and most of all, enjoy the game!  Happy Cycling!


#1 | Donkey on 14. December 2006 18:10
Jesus fucking christ. THAT is a damn long guide Pfft
#2 | puman on 23. March 2007 12:21
Think I`ll sort the training out the hard way: trying and failing

#3 | larsjrg on 09. July 2007 12:33
magnificent guide, teory says you can keep a rider on 64 with 50 %,60%, then get him to 80 fitness within 25-27 days. nice. And you can do this twice a year without reaching the 2500 fatigue level, lovely Smile

I suppose it is the same in pcm2007
#4 | KateO on 05. November 2010 06:29
If I’m going to be a rider, I would love to experience riding my way top to Mt. Everest. It’s quite impossible but I love adventure. Thanks anyway for this article I learned a lot. Hopefully, you can give us more updates. Good day!
#5 | kaan333 on 11. September 2012 10:17
#6 | jiony512 on 09. January 2013 02:41
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#7 | gayle44 on 17. April 2013 08:40
Hi.It's a valuable information
#8 | Kahn19 on 26. July 2013 12:47
Hey, thanks for a great guide, however I can't see the pictures from the article as they don't load. Tried changing my browser from Internet Explorer to Firefox but the problem still persists. Wondered if you help me with this problem or reupload the images as the fitness calculator download links have expired and I cannot find any others and I'd like to plan for my riders on PCM12. Thanks! Smile
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