This study aimed to investigate the involvement of cerebral oxygenation in limitation of maximal exercise. We hypothesized that O2 supplementation improves physical performance in relation to its effect on cerebral oxygenation during exercise. Eight untrained men (age 27 ± 6 years; VO2max 45 ± 8 ml min-1 kg-1) performed two randomized exhaustive ramp exercises on a cycle ergometer (1 W/3 s) under normoxia and hyperoxia (FIO2 = 0.3). Cerebral ($Δ$COx) and muscular ($Δ$MOx) oxygenation responses to exercise were monitored using near-infrared spectroscopy. Power outputs corresponding to maximal exercise intensity, to threshold of $Δ$COx decline (ThCOx) and to the respiratory compensation point (RCP) were determined. Power output W max = 302 ± 20 vs. 319 ± 28 W) and arterial O 2 saturation estimated by pulse oximetry (SpO2 = 95.7 ± 0.9 vs. 97.0 ± 0.5 %) at maximal exercise were increased by hyperoxia (P < 0.05). However, the $Δ$MOx response during exercise was not significantly modified with hyperoxia. RCP (259 ± 17 vs. 281 ± 25 W) and ThCOx (259 ± 23 vs. 288 ± 30 W) were, however, improved (P < 0.05) with hyperoxia and the ThCOx shift was related to the (Wmax improvement with hyperoxia (r = 0.71, P < 0.05). The relationship between the change in cerebral oxygenation response to exercise and the performance improvement with hyperoxia supports that cerebral oxygenation is limiting the exercise performance in healthy young subjects. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.