Monday, October 23, 2006

it's tactics, stupid

So today I get a feeder mail (those are emails that seed blog entries). Apparently Floyd gained most of his time on that infamous stage on the descents. The output on the climbs, while substantial, were not "phenomenal".

The Link

So Dr Allen Kim (Floyd's doctor and the one that loves to quote PowerTap numbers, PowerTap being one of Saris's products) says that at 390 watts Floyd gained time on the peloton. At 380, he'd stay even. At 370, he loses time. According to the article, he gained time on only two climbs. The intial one, the Col de Saises, where he attacked, and the third one, the Col de Columbiere. The other three climbs he rode under 380 watts and lost time.

He also poured about 55 bottles of cold water on his head during his break. It's something that improves everyone's performance on a hot day. I didn't know how till I read the article. Blood is used to cool the body as well as carry oxygen. I guess it's like coolant. So if you're overheating your blood is busy bringing heat energy to your skin surface and not as concerned about feeding those oxygen-deprived muscles. Pouring ice cold water on your body will keep your body cooler (the blood at the surface can dump a lot more heat energy per unit of blood) and free up some vital blood for oxygen carrying duties. Floyd had the luxury of doing this during his break since he was alone. His chasers couldn't and so lost some of those precious blood cells to heat-moving duty.

They don't say what wattage he gained but it would be a messy but simple experiment - ride a trainer at your threshold, note wattage and heart rate, and dump some cold water on your head. See what happens to power for a given heart rate. My reverse experiment is the "don't drink water and put the big fan just out of reach" type, where I overheat because I don't feel like climbing off my trainer. I typically saw a 50+ watt difference when I would turn the fan on and drink some cool liquids.

Okay, fine. It seems pretty scientific. Okay. Fine. Just one thing.

As I mentioned before, I have a Cyclops Electronic Trainer. It's the floor-anchored version of the PowerTap hub. And until it started smoking like mad, I really liked using it. Got it a couple years ago when I was desperately trying to get in shape. I figured relative wattage would be a good thing to know when training. And it worked. I compared some notes (threshold wattage, max wattage, etc) with a few sources - a few tests I did on a friend's MG Technogym (ha and you thought it was just a team!), old Velodyne info, a couple threshold tests done at a training center, and a friend of mine that has an SRM. My wattages seemed reasonable.

I used to do 1 minute, max power intervals on my trainer. I found that, with really loud music, a big fan, a lot of psyc-up deep breaths, I could just barely sustain 400 watts for a minute. My form nose-dived in the last 15 seconds - if I was on the road, I would have ended up in a ditch. They were so taxing mentally I rarely did them since it took me a while to recover from that. Like a month.

Floyd, on the other hand, sustains that 400-ish watt figure for 30 or 40 minutes at a time. With a few bottles of ice cold water, some electrolytes, and a whole lotta people yelling and screaming at him from the side of the road.


Maybe I'll put down a tarp tonight and see how that ice cold water thing works.


Rich said...

MG Technogym is just a team. Technogym is the trainer/treadmill company and MG is, well, another sponsoring company. They're an Italian clothing company. Check out their site here.
On the power issue, I don't mean to disrespect your abilities, Aki, (you can still whup me in a sprint any day) but you know what it's like to try to hold onto the wheel of a fast Cat 1 on the flats of a Floyd Bennett Field race. And that's a local amateur racer. I wouldn't put it past a Tour racer to be able to sustain an output like Folyd's in the mountains as stated in Lim's article. (Remember a few years ago when that Italian doctor tested the hotshot NY pro (whose name escapes me)and his power output was in the "dilettante" range? Basically, a recreational level racer in Europe)Pros in Europe are from another species - even before you add the dope. That doesn't mean they're not taking something to make them go from merely superhuman to supernatural.

Aki said...

I should have posted something to the effect that the wattage is a pro thing, versus someone who is not a pro, i.e. me. It's not a doping thing - in fact, I think that the power output (at least the wattage value) is well within a talented racer's grasp. The time the wattage is sustained could be considered suspect but it doesn't seem like it would be. I can sustain my threshold for a long time, it's just increasing it which is a problem.

Speaking of problems, I can't hang onto someone doing under 400 watts (according to Tim Unkert's interesting power graphs, taken off of a PowerTap, found here:
Having sat on his wheel and getting ridden right off of it, it's an obvious lesson on wattage, training, genetics, and why I'm not a pro.