Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Training - Wattage and the Pros Revisited

I saw this the today, a post leadout from GMF. To recap, the article mentions that pros have a certain watt/kilogram of body weight output. And although the output is phenomenal for the period of time it takes to, say, climb L'Alpe D'Huez, the output is reasonable when you look at shorter time frames. The writer uses a local landmark, Bear Mountain, which has a decent climb somewhere on the course.

The article states it's probable that most racers could put down some Floyd wattage for a minute. I've said that before but the article does it better. He relates it to Category/Time - like "I am a one minute Pro, five minute Cat 2, and a 30 minute Cat 3". It certainly beats my "Wow, Floyd did 400 watts for an hour and I can do it for a minute."

After my miserable Prospect race (it was semi successful in that I got dropped due to stupidity, not fitness), I reviewed some of the things that could affect my next race. One thing I haven't done recently is weigh myself (I was using the scale to weigh car things - exhaust components, wheels, tires - among other things) so I reclaimed the scale and stood on it.

178 pounds.

For the record I'm 5'7" so 178 is, to be polite, heavy. As a side note Tiger, the adolescent cat who was padding along next to me, weighs about 10 pounds. Tiger, contrary to his food gathering human, is a lean, mean fighting machine.

In metric I weigh about 81 Kg, slightly higher than I was in California in February. To get the 6 watts/Kg mentioned in that article (I'm discounting 7 w/Kg as too "dope-y"), I'd have to maintain 484 watts for the 50 minutes or whatever for Col de Really Hard Climb.

At Prospect my one minute peak average was 431 watts (Floyd, baby!), my five minute peak average 251 (err...). I have a hard time maintaining about 220 for 10 minutes (that's the highest 10 minute peak I've recorded since April 20), and my friend Gene says he TT's at 250-270. So I think I'm a 220 watt kind of guy.

That translates to about 2.7 watts/Kg.

Yikes, right? A long way off from a Pro Tour rider. It doesn't even garner a mention in the article. I guess I should race Cat 5's on the road. Actually I know I should since I've been caught and passed by the 5's in races.

I checked out this chart. And according to that, my current watts/kilo is classified "Untrained to Fair".

Untrained?! Fair?!

Obviously Cat 5 level. Even when I use my 5 minute peak, 251 watts, I barely break 3 w/Kg at 3.09 w/Kg. I guess when people ask if I train I should answer in the negative now.

"No, I'm not in shape. I hover between Untrained and Fair in level of fitness."

My best years ever were in the early to mid 90's. I had a rocking sprint, rode all the time, and weighed, for a bit, a flyweight 135. I was even strong - sprinting the best I ever sprinted. If my steady state wattage was similar (reasonable assumption), my power to weight ratio would be 3.55 watts/Kg, 4.1 w/Kg if I used my 5 minute peak wattage. That's still below Cat 4 level at Bear Mountain. Having never finished Bear Mountain (in fact getting dropped on the first climb on the first lap) that's not surprising. That power chart mentioned before? It ranks me as a bottom to mid-level Cat 4.

And that's if I lose over 40 pounds! More than two bikes worth of weight!

To be fair, I might be 30 or 40 watts better than I state. But that's not the magnitude of power I need to bridge the ability gap - I'd need something like 250 more watts to do a steady 480+ watts to climb with the boys in the Tour right now. That's twice my output. Fit a second, weight-free me on the bike and that's what it takes to ride with the pros. A tandem bike with no weight, aero, or drag penalty. And I'd be equal to one good pro.

That's incredible.

One thing I haven't seen in these equations is the weight of the bike and gear. Figure the clothing and helmets are pretty close in weight, they probably weigh about one kilo (500g for shoes, 250g helmet, figure 250g for shorts and a jersey). Bikes have to weigh 6.8 kilos. So we should add 7.8 kilos to all the racers weights to calculate climbing efficiency.

What's the significance?

Well proportionally speaking, a light rider will carry "more bike" than a heavier rider. A feather weight 57 kilo rider will add over 13% of his bodyweight by getting dressed and clipping into his pedals. That burly 81 kilo sprinter? Less than 10%. Factor in water and stuff and you'll see that a climber who climbs solely on weight will lose some of his perceived advantage simply because they weigh so little. A more powerful but heavier rider will not be as penalized, and significantly for the stage races, will be able to time trial the flats better.

This is why someone like Rasmussen failed to podium (and has apparently given up trying). He trades weight for strength. A less flyweight rider like Landis has the power to time trial and can haul his slightly heavier body up as quickly as he needs. The Saunier-Duval doctor notes that most Tour racers are over 69 kilos (152 pounds). It takes a bit of power and the resulting mass to make it through the fast opening stages.

Oh, the one good thing about that power chart? Even at my bloated weight and counting my non-optimal sprint (1385 watts), my effort (17.1 w/Kg) ranks at the top of the 3's. I imagine I was putting out a lot more power to top out 46 mph at 135 pounds, but given the same power as my dismal parking lot sprint at the office, my "nice" weight would have put me at the top of the Div 1-2 Pro level.

Now that's more like it. Or as Austin Powers would say, "Yeah, baby!"

So anyway, in reality, based on the charts and the Bear Mountain blurb, I should be groveling in pain during any race that doesn't have hills. If they have hills the Bear Mountain guy says I'll be groveling right off the back. On the chance I make it to the finish, and if I race smart, the chart says I should try and cash in my sprint card to get a place. Based on my peak power, I should place well.

I hate it when it takes me 20+ years to figure stuff out and someone who doesn't even know me says "This is how it'll be." And they're right.

Now I have a new goal. I want to see if I can do a 5 minute effort that gets me a little more distant from the "Untrained" category.

I mean, really, that's simply unacceptable.




Steve Zimmerman said...

The great thing about your power profile is that competitive cycling in the United States is absolutely, totally geared toward people like you.

I weigh 165 pounds and can average 240 watts for 5 freaking hours. I did it just yesterday in fact. But my 5 second sprint power tops out at about 1100 watts.

So in a short race, all someone like you has to do is stay in my draft until the last 200 meters and you win EVERY TIME.

In a longer race--or a race with a sustained climb--I might be able to drop a sprint specialist like you but not in a 45 minute crit.

Aki said...

I never thought of it that way but I have to agree with you, at least in the Cat 3-5 races. Since I normally can't hang in the 1/2/3 races I've stopped doing them.

A rider with your power should be able to make life difficult for the others. And if you have a couple teammates working with you it'll help a lot.

We'll see what happens in two weekends at my next race.