In today’s Queen stage, we captured a lot of power meter data! This 133mile stage in which the riders traveled from Gunnison to Aspen, Colorado went over two MASSIVE mountain passes, each topping out at over 12,000 feet. The amazing cyclists that allowed us to capture their data had a different tactic in the stage and this made for some really interesting comparisons between their data.
Caleb Fairly of the HTC –Highroad team, had a strategy of energy conservation for the stage which was to have plenty of energy for the Independence pass climb and finish as close to the front as possible in Aspen. Caleb did a great job in conserving his energy, but the race was harder than he would have liked in the first 20 minutes, but he had no choice than to ride the wheels and stay in the peloton. These first 20 minutes were actually his Peak 20 minutes of the entire stage, highlighting the fact that he spent most of the stage conserving his efforts and then how the extreme elevation impacted his wattage numbers up the final Independence pass. In the final 4.5 miles of Independence pass, he averaged 4.0 watts per kilogram, which was a solid climb for him and a big energy expenditure. He finished in 72nd place, 8:48 down on the winner.
Chris Butler of the BMC team was another rider that we downloaded his race file into TrainingPeaks WKO+ software for analysis. Chris is a very strong climber and talented cyclist. His strategy for the day was to get to Independence pass fresh and strong and then climb with the best to make it over the top within sight of the front group. Chris conserved energy just like Caleb did, but when he got to the final 4.5 miles up Independence pass, he cracked out an impressive 4.8 watts per kilogram and was only 20 seconds down on the second group over the top. Unfortunately, he couldn’t quite make contact on the descent and lost 3:55 for a 49th place on the stage. He spent his effort on that last climb, but he didn’t quite have the watts to make it!
We contrast those two amazing files with an even more incredible file from Rory Sutherland of United HealthCare team who finished with the yellow jersey group, in 23rd place, and only 45 seconds back on the stage winner. Rory had the same tactic as Chris Butler (save as much energy as possible before the final climb) , but Rory was able to put out more power during that final 4.5 miles up Independence pass. Rory held an incredible 5.5 w/kg for 3:43 when the attacks started in order to make the front split of top climbers. He then held 5.1 w/kg for the remaining climb to make the 2nd group just behind the very top 5 riders. Rory’s energy output was very calculated and controlled and he has been racing at higher altitudes for many years now, so knows just how to handle the climbing. Rory’s wattage numbers are truly incredible when you consider that he was riding above 10,000’ elevation and riding strongly with some of the best climbers in the world!
Finally we have an even more incredible file by Jeremy Powers of the Jelly Belly Team whose tactic was to get in the breakaway and stay in it for as long as possible. He rode in the breakaway for over 100miles today, burned 4200kJ while in the break and scored 317 Training Stress Score Points. Jeremy spent a ton of energy in the breakaway today, but that was his job to get as much publicity for his Jelly Belly sponsor as he could. An interesting part of his climb up Cottonwood pass was that when he went over 9000’, it was like an internal governor turned on and he was heavily affected by the altitude. His power went from averaging around 300 watts, to averaging 260 watts. Fortunately for him, all the rest of his breakaway companions were similarly impacted and he stayed in the break over the massive climb. While an incredible cyclist, Jeremy knew that he couldn’t out climb the likes of Levi Leipheimer and Cadel Evans, so a breakaway was his only chance in for a win. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough today and Jeremy lost 19:36 to the winner and finished in 117th place on the stage. Heck of a power file though!
Even though all of these riders were in the same race, each expended their energy a little differently and this had a dramatic impact in their stage finish. How each of us decide to pace our energy expenditure, the tactic we employ in a race, a gran fondo or just the local criterium, will have an incredible impact on the outcome of our finish. Bicycle racing is not about who can spend the most energy or create the biggest watts, but it’s about crossing the finish line in first place. Utilizing your power meter and using cutting edge software like TrainingPeaks can help you determine the best tactic to employ in your events.