Thursday, May 21, 2009

Smooth 'n Creamy

Looking at Marco Pinotti's cadence from his winning TT in the 2008 Giro, it's clear he was focussed on maintaining a steady pedal speed between 95 and 105rpm. His power output is steady, slightly increasing from beginning to end.

Pinotti makes use of what I'll call the stasis principle: that is, constant efforts are easier than modulated efforts--the kind of herky-jerky madness found in MABRA races. While maximizing modulation is effective in training, smoothing out modulation--achieving stasis--is ideal in a race for maximizing your power and minimizing energy expenditure.

That's why Greenbelt is a difficult race.

Stasis: On Tuesday night I found a relatively steady place to ride and averaged about 275w for about almost an hour. Hard, but not killer hard.

Modulation: At Greenbelt, I averaged 265w. During a 15 minute breakaway, one of my hardest efforts in a long time, I managed slightly over 300w--depressingly puny wattage, and below my best 20 minute effort.

Why was Greenbelt harder, though I put out less watts than I had the night before on a training ride?

Because it was a modulated effort. Greenbelt is on the side of a hill, one with 400w climbs and 100w descents. My 15 minute breakaway was hard, and even though it was steadier than riding in the pack, it was still a 200w swing in effort from one side of the hill to the other.

While local champ Peter Cannell urges us to use stasis in training, the more common refrain is wingate sprints, intervals < 10 minutes, and highly modulated training.

I'm no expert on training and which approach will help you get stronger. But I do think the principle of stasis applies to races. Some suggestions:
(1) Keep your cadence low. Some studies suggest that "spinning" while the peloton is moseying actually tires you out more than turning over a large gear at cadences < 90.
(2) Stay in the saddle. Standing up is slightly less efficient than sitting.
(3) When putting out short efforts (4-7 minutes), keep your cadence between 80-90rpms.
(3) If possible, don't jump out of corners. Better to give up a few place and try to make it up on the straightaways or downhill sections. Yesterday, I saw countless guys jumping out of their saddles, throwing down way too many watts and whipping their bikes all over the place, only to brake hard once they realized they were going to ram into the backend of the guy ahead of them. I saw some guys do this repeatedly.

Keep it smooth and creamy.

Sources: Ed Burke's High Tech Cycling, Stephen Cheung

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