Dr. Andre La Gerche – How Exercise Impacts the Heart

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Dr. Andre La Gerche – How Exercise Impacts the Heart

Rapha presents Life in the Peloton

Are the best pro cyclists simply born that way – if so, is it Mum or Dad whose genetics have the biggest impact? What would happen to riders if Grand Tours were six weeks long? Dr Andre La Gerche is a sports cardiologist whose work with top athletes – including many pro cyclists, gives us answers to these questions. 

I talked to Dr La Gerche here in Melbourne for the latest episode of the pod and got to ask the important questions about the heart and performance, as well as, for good measure, clarifying his position on choosing training or beers (never both!) 

I first met Dr Andre La Gerche while doing my UCI pre-season E.C.G testing with Team GreenEdge in 2013. Even though most pro riders don’t really know what exactly cardiologists are looking for when they do these tests, I think all riders agree that its not a bad idea to get the old ticker checked out before heading off to do sixty-five race days in the World Tour… 

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I hated doing the E.C.G testing, but the heart is what makes the athlete and is also (very occasionally) what breaks the athlete. For that reason I wanted to get Dr La Gerche on the pod to delve a little deeper into what it is that (literally) makes us tick. 

Through his work as Head of Clinical Research at Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Dr La Gerche has worked closely with numerous high level athletes including many professional cyclists. He also has a 2h 29’ marathon to his name, which I think you’ll agree qualifies him as pretty athletically gifted himself!

We had a fascinating conversation that touched on the influence of genetics in sport, physiological development, as well as what actually happens in a heart during exercise, the not-so-obvious effects of fatigue on the heart, and of course how and why this is relevant in the peloton. 

Having put an exceptional load of stress on my body for the past twenty years, I also asked about what happens to a trained heart when – like I just have – you retire. Will my heart simply go back to normal, or is it true that a pro athlete needs to ‘de-train’ their heart? We talk about the risks of overloading the heart for all cyclists as well as the obvious benefits of, and tips for, training the heart in the right way. 

Dr La Gerche’s enthusiasm and knowledge around the workings of the heart made it a really interesting chat for me, we covered many more topics around the heart and I even had a crack at saying ventricular tachycardia… I’ll let you guys judge how well that went! 

Enjoy this episode, and make sure you stay tuned for a very special Talking Luft next week with none other than the big classics man George Hincapie.

Cheers,

Mitch

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Show Notes

Episode breakdown:

0:00min to 1:30 – Episode Intro

1:30min to 2:42 – Intro to Dr Andre La Gerche 

2:42min to 51:20 – Episode with Dr. Andre La Gerche

51:20min to end – Outro and next episode preview

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This episode is brought to you by Rapha, makers of the world’s finest cycling clothing & accessories and the worlds largest cycling club, RCC. Find out more about Rapha: their kit, their club, their events and awesome clubhouses at rapha.cc.

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Theme Music

The theme music for Life in the Peloton was composed by Pete Shelley, who was lead singer of the punk band Buzzcocks. It was commissioned by the production company behind Channel 4’s coverage of the Tour de France in the 1980s and was used as the theme music for the nightly highlights show. Pete died in December 2018. We were given permission by Pete’s widow and his manager to continue using the music for the theme tune to Life in the Peloton. To hear more about the music, listen to the Andre Greipel episode of Life in the Peloton.

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