Challenge Dubai

2nd Best Bike Split for Weiss at Inaugural Challenge Dubai

SRM Race File Headline Numbers:

Split Time = 2h04m31s

Avg Speed = 43.1 km/h

Avg Watts = 348W

Avg Cad = 90rpm

Looking at the SRM race file below, what is interesting to me and what I very much like to see, is the smoothness in power delivery by Michi from start to finish. Easy enough you might say, especially considering the unusually large 20 metre draft zone strictly enforced by Challenge which essentially stripped out the type of strategic riding so commonly seen in WTC races with 12 metre draft zones. 20 metres is just too far to gain any real advantage from the cyclist in front, whereas 12 metres is not. But in this case, there was the not so small matter of an upto 25km/h tail and then headwind to contend with.

We can clearly see the result of the wind factor in the file as the pink trace (speed) dramatically falls off from around the halfway point. In plain terms 350W kept Michi well above 50 km/h outward bound, but the same watts on the return leg barely gave him 35 km/h. Yet he maintained almost exactly the same watts and cadence throughout the entire bike leg. The reason an experienced athlete will opt for a steady state effort given the chance (whether he knows it or just feels it) is because it most optimally spares muscle glycogen for better running off the bike.

[The introduction of available technology which allowed for the electronic enforcement of a variety of draft zones (even during a single race) would require dramatically altered riding strategy on the fly, inject a level of dynamism currently missing from long distance triathlon racing and in so doing, improve the spectacle for television. All of which would of course also require a more considered and sophisticated approach to the training of the athlete’s energy systems and a greater need for coaches who are on their game… a thought for WTC and Challenge Family to consider]

Racing Is The Best Test

From critical power testing in the field 2 weeks prior to the race, I knew that Michi should be able to hold 350W – 88% of his 400W CP – for the duration of the 90 km bike leg as long as he kept the effort steady and avoided unnecessary  power spikes, again a luxury afforded by the 20m draft rule. To optimise average speed it was also essential that Michi minimised ‘position break’ not only to improve the aero effect, but also to better test his position on his new Falco frame with prototype Xentis rear disc because, from a sports scientific view, the 20 metre drafting rule meant that the bike leg lent itself to a purer sub-maximal test on new equipment and an excellent exercise in early season benchmarking of Michi’s triathlon specific cycling condition.

High and Tight.

SRM software has a ‘frequency chart’ which shows data distribution captured by the PowerMeter allowing us to see at a glance where the athlete was most physiologically able to spend time whether with regard to the watts, cadence and speed (we could also look at heart rate distribution if the athlete wears a heart rate belt). This is useful because it provides an insight into not only how developed the athlete’s endurance base is (less well developed would manifest itself in a broader data distribution as fatigue reduced the watts produced) but also the ‘tightness’ in cadence distribution tells us that Michi is probably very comfortable with his new Falco bike setup because if this were not the case his cadence distribution would broaden as he subconsciously and continually altered his cadence in order to shift the load to different muscle fibres as he searched for a better biomechanical advantage – something that you do not do if your position is dialled in and you are comfortable. Comfort = Power.

Age Group Lessons

The fact that there is no discernible power drop off from T1 to T2 with almost identical 1st half vs 2nd half splits in both power and cadence is certainly something that age group athletes should learn to replicate on courses that are mostly flat irrespective of wind conditions in order to give themselves the very best physiological platform on which to run. Also If you are targeting a 70.3/half iron distance this year and are wondering whether you have built the required bike endurance, perform a training ride at no less that 20W lower below your target watts for the race and afterwards simply look for a right to left downward gradient in the power trace. The steeper the gradient, the more work you have left to do on your basic condition. As we can see in Michi’s trace not only is he already in possession of a great half iron distance base, but a glance at his frequency chart shows that he was able to maintain both a high and a tight distribution of watts and cadence which is evidence of neuromuscular freshness, superior motor control and a fatigue-free central nervous system. Furthermore, a solid 12th best run split in spite of being 3kg above peak race weight and in which the last 5km were the quickest, tells me that Michi is already where he needs to be without having had to really hurt himself yet in training to get there. Always a nice place to be for an athlete. 

A Picture Can Paint a Thousand Words…

As long as you know the context, sometimes just a glance at a power trace from a race effort in its purest form can be enough to tell you that the athlete is fit, comfortable and in this case, ready to run off the bike. When you analyse your own files, start by simply gaining a feel for the workout and its execution from the gradient and smoothness of the power trace in its raw form before layering on the other variables such as cadence, speed, heart rate and all the other related numbers. Get a ‘feel’ for how power graphically describes the session you or your athlete just performed and then drill down into the data for the detail. Performance improvement is dependent both upon numbers and the ‘sensations’ the athlete feels in relation to those numbers. SRM power is more than a number. It is a window into an athlete’s overall training status, comfort and even degree of mental fortitude. You can only improve it, if you measure it and SRM it.    

Thank you as always to Michi Weiss for sharing his SRM racing files in their entirety and we wish him the very best for his 2015 season. From where we are standing it is looking very good!

Garth Fox

Sports Scientist and High Performance Endurance Coach

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