Monday, August 27, 2012

Planning Out Your Macro Cycle to Win Time Trials: Part 2

Last entry we thought about off seasons and the general direction they should take.  We examined mostly things you should not do:
  1. train like a pro,
  2. follow the advice of pros trainers of pros, or
  3. ride slowly for a very long time.
At the end, we touched on thingsyou should do:
  1. understand what it takes to win in MABRA
  2. understand your own abilities, and 
  3. train to minimize the gap between your current abilities and the abilities you need to win.
In this post, let's take a closer look at the things you should start doing.  

In particular, let's look at what it takes to win a MABRA race.  There are as many answers to that question as there are courses and groups of riders--Ryan McKinney, who won everywhere and against all kinds, excluded.  Still, we can get a rough idea of what's required by looking at several types of races, starting with the simplest, in terms of analysis--time trials.

Winning Time Trials in MABRA
Hire someone to keep Josh Frick away from the race.  That's the only way you'll have a chance.  OK, kidding aside...

Essentially, you have to sustain a certain speed for between 20 minutes (e.g., Washington County) and 60 minutes (Page County TT).  This means the requirements on you are, in terms of fitness, seemingly straightforward, and captured by one ratio:  
watts / time  
If hills are a factor add a third relationship:
watts / time / weight
This--how fast you can go, for a given time, and a particular weight--captures everything you want to address in your training (it surely ignores other important factors that matter in time trialling-- aerodynamics, equipment, pacing strategies, etc. which are outside the theme of this series).  

In a flat time trial like Church Creek, you really don't need to worry about weight; those who can sustain the highest watts for the entire 40 kilometers, all other things being equal, will win.

Here's what it takes to win Church Creek in terms of speed and watts (calculator here):

NB:  all calculations assume combined rider and bike weight of 165 lbs (75kg), .5m^2 drag, rolling resistance of 0.0004, and sea level)

 

This Spring a rider in the 45+ group actually went the fastest, averaging 29.5 mph in 50:36, sustaining an estimated 390 watts.  This is a bit of an aberration, to say the least.  The winner of the Cat 4 group also outperformed the Cat 3s, sustaining 27.4mph at an estimated 318 watts.  

Notice how the relationship between watts and speed is not linear.  For instance, the winner of the women's cat 4 race averaged 24 mph at an estimated 220w.  The winning Cat 3 male averaged 26.8 mph (298w).  That 78 watts difference bought 2.8 mph.  

Consider now the difference between the Cat 3 (26.8mph/298w) and the winning Cat 1/2 (29.3mph/383w).  The winning Cat 1/2 rider averaged 85 watts more, but only 2.5mph more.  This is an example of the declining returns of power on speed. An extra watt at 24mph brings .11mph in speed; but an extra watt at 29.5mph brings only .078mph.  This is shown below:  the declining marginal gains of wattage.


We set out to figure out what we need to do to win a time trial in MABRA next year, and here it is:


The next question you should ask is whether these speeds and wattages are attainable.  If you're new to training, you probably can gain power and speed; if you've been in the game a while, it might be harder.  You may, like me, be forced with the hard reality of your physical limitations--I doubt I will be able to shave 5 minutes from my TT time in six months.  I should just be aware that doing so will require bumping my threshold up about 70 watts or cheating the system in other LEGAL ways--aerodynamically, for instance.  

If I really wanted to win a MABRA race next year, I'd probably assess my weakness, note that 60-minute power has never been a strength, and try to win at another game--crits, road races, or climbing races.  We'll take a look at the power requirements of these races in upcoming posts.

If my goal for next season is simply to improve my TT, I should probably focus on improving my sustainable wattage--what's called the FTP.  It means "the power output you can sustain for 60 minutes under ideal conditions," but it's the same metric used for everything over 15 minutes in duration.

There are many ideas on how to improve your FTP, but I won't go into them here.  Just realize that, if TT-ing is your aim, improving your FTP should be your goal.

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