Friday, November 11, 2011

Mean Maximal Power: A Unique Comparison

It's been a while since I posted. Just too busy for the most part so my apologies.  I'll do an update at some stage!

I had a long break from training due to a prosthetic leg changeover in June (had a few transition problems with that) and a lot of travel in August and September. I've been back on the bike for a few weeks now (the hardest part sometimes).  I sure have some fitness to catch up on.

For some personal motivation, I thought I'd post up a couple of charts comparing my performance before and after the leg amputation (I get asked about it occasionally, and my data is being analysed for a science write up at the moment).

So I thought I would summarise it in a neat chart known as a Mean Maximal Power (MMP) chart.

MMP charts show your best power ouput for all durations from very short periods (seconds) through to very long periods (hours). Because the horizontal axis represents durations from second to minutes to hours, we turn that into a logarithmic scale, so we can inspect best power outputs for durations covering a wide time spectrum.  Power is represented on the vertical axis.

As you would expect, one can produce higher power for short periods (seconds), and somewhat lower power over longer periods (hours), so the chart trends downwards as you move to the longer durations on the right.

By using WKO+ software, I made a comparison of my all time personal best power for the time before my accident and amputation and since then.

Two versions plotting mean maximal power to weight ratios, one for Average Power and one for Normalised Power. The blue line is before amputation, the red line is since then.

Click on the chart to see a full sized version:

The chart above shows my best W/kg for all durations.

What is very clear from that chart is the wide performance gap for very short durations but the closeness in performance over durations longer than a minute or so.  This suggests my sustainable aerobic power and my anaerobic work capacity hasn't been significantly hampered by riding with a prosthetic, however my neuromuscular power (used for sprinting and short duration hard accelerations and efforts) has been significantly compromised.

What about Normalised Power?

When plotting NP data, WKO+ restricts the output to a minimum of 5-minutes.  For most analysis and application, we really don't read too much into NP for durations shorter than about 20- to 30-minutes.  But nonetheless, the chart shows an interesting change in my power profile when viewed through the lens of Normalised Power.

NP appears to amplify the difference in performance over a wider part of the primarily aerobic duration spectrum (> 5-minutes) when compared with the Average Power chart

A reduction in my ability to perform those short high power bursts (up to ~ 30 seconds or so) definitely comes though in the NP for durations from 5- minutes to about 30-minutes.

For longer durations than half an hour though, I have been able to equal or somewhat exceed my best pre-amputation NP outputs.

This I think is reflective of the type of racing I do - which is lots of track and crit racing, some road races and only occasional time trials.  So for an apples to apples comparison, I certainly think this NP chart is pretty telling.

I no longer have that weapon of short high end power, but have instead found other ways to make up for it.

Of course this is just one way to use MMP charts. Once can plot one season over another and make comparisons as to their overall progress. Or any time periods they care to compare.

Read More......

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

l'Alpe d'Huez - one for the mortals

About this time last year I posted this item about ascent times of leading professional riders up l'Alpe d'Huez and what power to body mass ratio would be required to do that.

There's a chart which shows the relationship between ascent time and power to body mass ratio (watts per kg - W/kg). It also provides an indication the impact of wind can have on climbing speeds.

Times for leading riders since 2001 are shown on the chart.

The guys over at the Science of Sport blog referenced it in a post here, after seeing it on a cycling chat forum I posted to recently.

Well for a bit of fun (and considering the Tour de France is heading up the Alpe in a few days), I thought I'd post a follow up chart which covers the power to body mass ratio for the rest of us mere mortals.

Here it is (click to embiggen):

It's not a hard chart to read.

Want to ride up l'Alpe d'Huez in 1 hour dead? Then you'll need to be able to sustain around 3.75 W/kg, give or take depending on the wind. If you are 70kg, then that's around 260-265 watts.

If you know your sustainable power is 3.4W/kg, then you can expect to get up the Alpe in around 66 minutes.

In calculating these values, I've made a few assumptions (listed on the chart), although the relationship between speed and W/kg on steep climbs is not particularly sensitive to those assumptions.

After power and mass, wind has the biggest impact on speeds when climbing. Hence the two extra lines for head and tailwinds.

At my best form*, I would expect to climb it in around 56 minutes.

How fast have you been up l'Alpe?

* My power to body mass ratio for 1-hour at best is ~ 4.2W/kg (based on my racing power at the UCI World Cup this year), but I have to allow a bit of extra mass for my prosthetic leg. I'll get to do it one day.

Read More......

Friday, July 15, 2011

Aero Profiling

Earlier this week I posted this item about power to aerodynamic drag ratio for the individual pursuit.

I mentioned in that item a table prepared some time back by Andy Coggan, which was similar to his power profiling table (which lists typical power to body mass of riders - W/kg for various time ), except it showed Functional Threshold Power (FTP) relative to aerodynamic drag (CdA) - W/m^2, instead of as per the original power profiling table.

The top end of the table would represent what's required to set a World Best Hour record.

In this way, a rider's power to aero drag ratio can be compared against the world's best.

Andy has kindly sent me the data, so here is the table for reference. Thanks Andy.

(click on the pic to superaeronate)

Read More......

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Individual Pursuit - What Makes us Faster?

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, a Jedi Knight called Andy Coggan developed an insightful (but often misunderstood) table of numbers known as Power Profiling. Power junkie cyclists have been (mis)using the table to psych out their mates for years now.

The Power Profiling table lists power to body mass ratios for four key durations: 1-hour, 5-minutes, 1-minute and 5-seconds, chosen to reasonably represent the energy systems/physiology that predominantly underpin performance over these duration, i.e. (respectively): lactate threshold, maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), anaerobic work capacity & neuromuscular power.

Power to body mass ratio is an excellent overall predictor of performance potential. It is especially good for determining performance when climbing hills.

However, performance in flatter time trials and individual pursuits is much more a function of power and aerodynamics than it is of power and body mass. Body mass of course impacts aerodynamics, however the relationship between them is variable, with overall morphology and position on a bike far more influential than body mass per se.

So, when choosing the one performance factor most important for flatter time trials and pursuits, one needs to focus on improving a different ratio – the Power to Aerodynamic Drag* ratio (power to CdA ratio - W/m^2).

The higher the W/m^2, the faster we go. Pretty simple really.

In 2009 Jedi Knight Coggan, being somewhat prescient, developed a draft version of his power profiling table, this time expressing performance in terms of the ratio of 1-hour power to CdA . I’d love to share a link to it, but I’m not sure I have a public location I can point you to (it was originally posted on a discussion forum about two years ago which has suckerific search function). I’m sure either Andy will provide a link, or post up a new blog item about it at some stage.

In any case, I thought at the time it might also be of interest to develop a similar table for the Individual Pursuit, so Andy whipped up one for me, and I then took that data and created a chart and table. Now that was nearly two years ago and I've been meaning to do a blog post about it ever since! Okay, so it's a little late but here it is.

The table show times for 2km, 3km and 4km individual pursuits and the corresponding W/m^2 required to attain that performance (click / right click to show full sized version):

So, for example, if you want to ride a 3km pursuit in 3:35, you will need a power to aero drag ratio of about 1900 W/m^2.

Alternatively, if you know your power and pursuit time (on a fast track), then you can back calculate an estimate of your CdA. e.g. a rider who completes a 4km pursuit in 4:30 requires a power to aero drag ratio of ~ 2200W/m^2.

If we know their power output we can then estimate their CdA. Let’s say they averaged 480W.
CdA = (480W) / (2200W/m^2) = ~ 0.218 m^2

It’s not perfect of course, just a guide and there are many factors to consider. Besides, if you have a power meter on your track bike, there are better ways to determine your CdA.

The chart below plots the same data, as well as show where on the chart the current world record holders appear for the following categories:

Elite Men & Women
Junior Men & Women
Masters Women

Hence, these world records represent the current upper limit of W/m^2 for each category:

The records are from the UCI website here: Track World Records

With the exception of Sarah Hammer’s WR in Aguascalientes, all of the others were set at sea level and in indoor velodromes (and so the assumptions used for the table data will be closer to the mark).

In the case of Sarah Hammer, due to the significantly reduced air density at altitude, it is probable her W/m^2 is overstated and is a little less than previous world record holder Sarah Ulmer whose record was set at sea level. The Power/CdA estimate for Ulmer’s 3:24.537 ride is 2200 W/m^2.

One thing the chart emphasises is just how much one needs to improve W/m^2 in order just to go even just a few seconds faster. When you are near your physiological performance (power) limit, we can see how important aerodynamics are to overall performance.

And just how freakin good those world record rides are.

Now of course there are some assumptions used to make up the data for the tables (assumption are shown on the table and chart). For example, it does assume a pretty fast track/tyres at a typical sea level air density, but really it’s just a guide, and serves to emphasise the importance of aerodynamics and thinking in terms of W/m^2 when working out what to focus on to improve your pursuit and time trial performance.

If your track and/or tyres are slower than the best, then it’s likely the performance suggested as attainable from a given power to aero drag ratio is overstated (or the W/m^2 required for a given performance is understated). Also, the rate of change in kinetic energy and associated variable power demands will also have some impact on these estimates. These data have used typical assumptions for that, but of course everyone’s initial acceleration, mass and fade in speed during their pursuit rides are different.

I’ll look into doing a similar chart for the hour record at some stage.

Where do you fall on the table?

For those interested in more discussion on factors impacting pursuit performance, then these items by Andy Coggan are a great place to start:

Demands of the individual pursuit, part 1
Demands of the individual pursuit, part 2

* Aerodynamic Drag is expressed as the combination of our two factors:

- Coefficient of Drag (Cd), a unit-less measure which is related to the shape of an object and how that affects air flow around it (e.g. think of a brick vs a bullet shape, the bullet shape has a lower Cd); and

- Effective Frontal Area (A), measured in square metres (m^2) which is how much area we present to the air (e.g . compare a van and a Mack truck – the truck has a larger frontal area and has to push more air).

These two factors are multiplied together to determine how "slippery" we are through the air.

Some example typical CdA values:
Commuter cyclist: 0.4 – 0.7 m^2
Road racing cyclist: 0.26 - 0.38 m^2
Time trial/pursuit rider: 0.2 – 0.3 m^2
Sports car: 0.5 - 0.6 m^2

Read More......

Friday, May 20, 2011

Winners never quit

It’s one of those phrases you see on “motivational posters” about the place. I’ve never really had such posters hanging up. I suppose I’ve never really felt the need to have such things to motivate me, although some of them are quite good pictures.

I certainly never ever thought I’d be in one of those pictures or be someone to inspire others.

Nevertheless, I seem to have found myself in that position – after a friend and mentor sent me the picture above.

I’m not hard to pick out of course (just play spot the carbon leg) but for those interested – the shot is of my race winning sprint in the Eddie Salas Cup on 8 May 2011. It was an A-grade Masters circuit road race at Sydney’s Eastern Creek raceway. 60-70 starters. There were over 200 racing that day in all grades.

It was a cold morning (for Sydney about 6-7 C) and a foggy start. The race was the usual affair with break attempts, counters and so on. I bridged across solo to one such break, which I thought looked dangerous, but it was brought back.

A cool foggy morning, and the pace was on...

Then with about 25-min to go, I just knew I was feeling good and said to myself that I had a threshold effort in me for the balance of the race. There were some riders up the road. So I decided on the last hill before the main straight to push hard off the front of the chasing group. Only one rider (Matt from Sydney CC) was on my wheel, so I put my head down and buried it. He worked with me but eventually faded so I kicked on and finished off the bridge across solo. It was about 2.5-3-min effort at 350W.

The bridge across, Matt was suffering, I was ready to launch again.

Now I was there I had to consolidate, which I managed OK, then did some work with them to establish the break – they were riding hard. Since two of us had either club or team mates in the group behind, we had a combination that just might stick. I knew that if we got caught, all it would mean was my team mates being dragged to the front of the race and being in a great position to finish it off – being in a team makes such a difference to race tactics, it’s way cool to race this way.

The break, and rolling off after a turn

Once I was convinced we were not going to get caught, I started to reduce my workload, while the other two kept pushing hard. Fine by me, I just sat on (mind you my NP for the final 30-min of race was 331W so it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park).

Then the finishing straight was upon us and I was very patient, waited as long as I thought I should, gave myself some room to run at the wheel in front and gave it what I had.

I won. By about 10cm. That’s enough. :-)

Winners are grinners they say.
Eddie Salas finished 4th - he's on the right in the blue and my team mate Matt 5th.

Massive thanks to the rest of Team Turbo Studio. We might have stern looks on our faces in the promotional shots (a la the Sopranos), but we sure smile when out there racing, and especially when we have the podium stuck to the soles of our shoes.

It ended off a great week with four big races, some really good form and my third race win of the year.

I wrote in my previous post about the UCI World Cup road race. Well in between that and the Eddie Salas race I raced the UCI World Cup Paracycling time trial on a technical circuit at Sydney Olympic Park.

It was 4 laps, which meant riders from various categories were on the circuit at the same time. Technical suited me as I’m a pretty decent bike handler but it meant some interesting tactics were needed. Whenever I came up behind another rider, I would surge to get past them before the next corner as most of the other riders were too slow through the turns and would hold you up.

In the end I placed 7th overall and was the fastest of the three Australian C4 riders, 4-seconds faster than National TT champ and Aussie squad rider Ryan Hughes. I was second fastest Aussie overall behind Michael Gallagher in the C5 category.

Average Power for the 32-minutes was 320W, so that’s not too shabby at all and I was very pleased to have had the opportunity to race my first international UCI paracylcing event, and to race well and be competitive.

But back to that picture.

It’s never been my objective to inspire others – I simply love racing my bike, so do what I can within the constraints of my life to improve my own performance and to race. I've had plenty of support as well from many people. Still, I am proud of what I’ve been able to achieve in the four years since my accident and amputation. If that inspires others, that’s pretty cool I guess and I can live with that.

Read More......

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

World Cup – Road Race

Today I raced my first UCI World Cup event – it was a ~75km road race with C4 & C5 para-cycling categories combined. Being held at the Eastern Creek Raceway and Western Sydney International Dragway circuit, (similar but not exactly the same as the circuit used last year for the World Masters Games) meant I had some home town knowledge of what I was in for since I have raced on both these venues.

What I didn’t know of course was how the competition would be. I knew one of our Aussie riders – Michael Gallagher – would be pretty hard for anyone to beat as he is a world class athlete but other than that, I wasn’t really sure of the field.

Conditions were good: cool, dry and sunny with a south to SW breeze. Sure made for a nice change with the rain we've had lately. I did 6 turbo session in the previous week.

In the end I came 4th in the C4 category, and my compatriot Ryan Hughes 3rd. Michael Gallagher came 2nd in the C5. That was perfect as the Aussie team plan was for Michael (C5) and Ryan (C4) to finish as high as possible and gain extra points for the world championship qualification places.

I had good legs today and some pretty decent numbers:
Ride time: 1:54
Normalised Power: 302W

When the race was pretty fiesty, I had a 30-minute NP of 327W.

The Italians dominated, and after the opening lap the fireworks started with plenty of attacks and counters. Eventually the break formed with 3 Italians, Michael Gallagher and 2 others. Since Mick was up the road we had no real reason to chase, next job was to get Ryan Hughes placed as high as possible, so helped him out here and there. My legs were good today – I sure felt pretty good.

I thought about going with the Italians early but they were very strong and it was a very tough place to be burning a big match. When the chase to the main break attempt was on, someone baulked as we were closing in and that didn’t help. Then a rider (the Canadian I think) crashed in front of me at the left hand turn entering the main raceway. That took all the momentum out of the chase. After that it was a training ride for next 4 laps, then in last 1.5-2 laps the group started getting frisky looking to get the minor placings.

I chased down one break by the British rider late in the race, and was about to do it again when the call was to let him go as he was C5. I certainly had the legs to go if needed.

Heading into the finale I was getting ready to go to front to give Ryan a lead out along with Mitchell Gourley from St Kilda, when the Italian for some reason let a gap go for Ryan and Mitch, and so they went for it with about 1.5km to go. I then just sat on the Austrian, Italian, and the American (Sam - of course! I said g’day during the race and asked his name) until the sprint as they were now chasing the Aussies. Fine by me.

Sam the American opened it up at top of straight, the Austrian was cooked and the Italian had nothing left or couldn’t be bothered (they were both on the front a lot today) so I went and eventually overhauled Sam down the long finishing straight, was catching Ryan and crossed line as 4th placed C4, and 8th overall.

Pretty darn happy with that. I’ve gone from having a lower leg amputation to a World Cup result in a bit less than 4 years.

Time Trial is on Friday. It’s technical and well I’ll just let ‘er rip and see what happens.

Read More......

Monday, April 25, 2011

New Team

Last weekend I had a tune-up race at Eastern Creek. Mainly to have a good hit out and also to ride over part of the circuit that will be used for the UCI World Cup event in early May. I had a puncture which interrupted proceedings for a while but a wheel change saw me back into it and doing my best to put myself in the hurt box often.

Attacks and covers didn't pay off results wise but that didn't matter. I didn't quite make it across to the attack that actually stuck, which featured Eddie Salas, Pete Milostic and Trent Butler. Go figure.

Still, a few silly solo efforts and big pulls on/near the front practicing a few things meant a great hit out.

1hr:22min with Normaised Power of 302W, so not too shabby.

Since then been training pretty solidly, some good longer rides and also started some higher intensity work at around 90% of Maximal Aerobic Power or 120% of threshold power. Nasty buggers those. We call them Aerobic Power Intervals (APIs).

Plenty of racing for me coming over the next few weeks. On the agenda are:

30 Apr: Cervelo Masters Series Round 1 (64km Kermesse)

4 May: UCI Paracycling Road World Cup - 78km road race at combined Eastern Creek Raceway - Sydney Dragway circuit

6 May - UCI Paracycling Road World Cup - 25km Individual Time Trial

8 May - Eddie Salas Mother's Day Cup (75-min + 1 lap)

14 May - NSW State Masters Road Race Championships

15 May - NSW State Masters Criterium Championships

Then in June there is the remaining three races of the four round Cervelo Masters Series.

All of course will be in my new team race kit, and the non-championship races (Cervelo & Salas races) we will be racing as a full squad, which will be uber cool. We all had a full squad practice run together a month back at the Orica Kermesse where we got two of our team up on the podium, so that was a good start.

The lads have been in fine form, with everyone getting results over the past couple of months.

And here's the link to introduce the new race team. Watch out Sopranos, you ain't got nuthin' on us!

Turbo Studio Masters Race Team

Read More......

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bon Anniversaire IV

Well another of my annual updates - four years today since my accident.

For previous editions, click here:
Bon Anniversaire III

What a year, much to talk about, some very good, some simply awful. It's a long post, so come back later if you don't have the time right now....

Perhaps I get the awful out of the way quickly. Typically I don’t make many comments about personal stuff on here beyond cycling activity, so this will be brief. But they were significant and important.

My father passed away in September. He went peacefully and while it was a sad occasion and there is never a right time, it was not so bad all things considered.

Then later in the year my dear younger cousin Dante also died, losing a very swift battle with an aggressive cancer and that was about as bad as it gets. His death really was completely and utterly shite in so many ways. Those that know, know how we all feel about it. All I know is that I am blessed to have spent all those times together with him and continue to live as I do. Enough of that. It is/was awful and will remain with us for a long time.

2010 was a pretty skinny year for my blogging, mostly because I was simply too busy and not because there isn't much to write about. There are lots of topics I have on the simmer, just need the time to get to them.

Taking my energies are four new / start up / emerging business I am involved in, and that takes a bit of doing! All of them cycling related so I'll talk some more about them. Obviously I was also training and racing too and I’ll get to that as well!

Turbocharged business

Taking a substantial chunk of my energy was the continued development of Turbo Studio, and of course my world wide coaching activities. At this time last year, Turbo Studio had only been operating two months.

Since then Turbo Studio has really blossomed and is now a benchmark for how to run these businesses. Over the Christmas break we expanded and refurbished the centre and it was just as well, with the extra capacity being taken up quickly.

Working with Joanne has been (and still is!) an absolute pleasure and I thank all those clients who have made the commitment with us to improve their cycling. Listening to all their stories of great results and personal bests is most gratifying. Jo & I are forever talking about ways to help each client improve. It inspires us. And the indoor race series was an absolute hoot.

The best thing is it’s all grounded in the sound and practical application of science to training which, as long term followers of this blog will know, is a passion of mine. And it is this application of stuff that actually works that is core to why people come, and keep coming back (along with an environment conducive to training for riders from all disciplines).

We don’t go for fads, pseudo-science or sell things based on scant evidence. Jo of course emphasises the business fundamentals of quality marketing and customer support/relations, as well as the coaching. She works so hard and with a passion and commitment to success. It’s a great team.

We also started our own outdoor road training squad, with the Turbo Studio cycling kit now a regular feature on Sydney’s Saturday morning roads. Again the focus is on good training. Far too many groups seem more interested in quantity of riders over the quality of their training, and that’s not how we do things. Group sizes are kept down to promote a higher quality of ride, greater safety, better skill drills, more enjoyment and a far better training impact. They are fun too!

We look forward to opening more Turbo Studios in the years ahead.

Power to the people

So from one new business to another – in 2010 I was appointed by SRM to be an official retailer of their power meter products here in Australia (and some limited offshore markets). That’s been going well, and while a small and specific segment of the market, it perfectly complements everything else I do. The product is first rate in the world of power meters. Let me know if you want one – I promise a good deal!

Coaching goes up a gear

Late in 2010, Ric Stern made the smart move for us both to take the coaching business up another notch, and so Ric brought on board Dave Smith (a former GB coach) as our new commercial director. We set up a new company, RST Sport and the three of us are the directors. We appointed a high quality group of coaches to join our existing team – all with strong background in the practical application of science to coaching for performance. While cycling is our mainstay, we are also working with high level sports people from many backgrounds. The depth of talent on our team is seriously impressive.

My clients this past year have been based all around the world, including Mexico, USA, Australia, France, Norway, the UK and Ireland. It's exciting and fun to work with a diverse group of clients across the globe - and they have all moved up to new levels with their own performances - we all look forward to the challenges ahead, with some big goals to knock over this year. I thank them too for their continued support.

2011 will be an exciting year for RST Sport. There is so much happening and to do.

The cutting edge

There’s one other venture I’m involved in. I can’t reveal a great deal about it other than it will be a new technology specifically designed for the accurate assessment of the aerodynamics of a bike and rider while they are riding their bike, no matter the environmental conditions. It is this latter element that makes this project seriously exciting. This is cutting edge stuff in so many ways, and again I find myself involved with some very smart people. As I can, I’ll talk more about it, but if you’ve heard of “Aerostick” then you’ll know what I’m talking about.


In September and October, I made a return trip to California to spend another week with Steve P and his family, who once again so generously hosted my visit. We had some great rides in and around Sonoma County and once again I participated in Levi Leipheimer’s Granfondo. I can’t thank Steve enough for the opportunity afforded me.

After the week in Santa Rosa, I made a long road trip, first south to San Diego to meet up with a new client, a very promising junior from Mexico, and his father. After that I headed east through Arizona and New Mexico, visiting some places I’d seen before and some new sights.

I'd been to Sedona before, but thought it was worth another look:

This was on my way to Colorado Springs via New Mexico to catch up with the good Dr Andy Coggan, who was talking at the USA Cycling coaching conference which I sat in for a session and spent a little time hanging with the USAC coaching development team. Andy & I hung out for the day which was pretty cool. Andy's the skinny dude:

Then I headed back west to do some sightseeing through Utah, Nevada on my way back to Santa Rosa. Here's a few pics from the journey. You can click on any of them to see a bigger version. It's pretty spectacular scenery:

Once back in Santa Rosa, I delivered a seminar on aerodynamic field testing using a power meter, hosted by our good friends at Echelon Cycles. Among those attending the seminar was Professor Robert Chung, whose methodology was one of those I was lecturing on, so it was kinda cool to have the good professor in the audience. You sure know quick smart if you make a mistake, but I don't make too many fortunately.

We were scheduled to do an actual practical field testing exercise the next day, however the heavens opened up and so rain forced us to postpone to another day. I was headed back to Sydney the next day, so follow up was done remotely. Amazing thing this internet.

In February I got to return the visitor’s favour to one of Steve’s team mates – Peter and his partner Therese, hosting their visit to Sydney and taking them on a road trip, mainly to see some kangaroos. We saw hundreds of the buggers. Lol. That was fun.

Training & racing

Yep, did that too!

Just after my last annual report, I raced a local 2-hour enduro and it was hard. Riding as part of squad we did well on the day. As it turns out, my two-hour race power was my highest ever all time, pre- and post-amputation. I was pretty amazed but there you go. It would seem legs are over rated.

But there was a cost. My knee didn’t agree with the effort that day, and severe pain and swelling resulted in several weeks off the bike and nearly a week of being unable to use the leg for walking. Now it wasn’t all the bike racing’s fault, as that was Easter and I had a visit by a mate and his kids and we spent a long day out doing touristy things. That meant many hours on my feet, and well that just doesn’t agree with me. I seem to be able to do 6 hour hilly rides with no ill effects, but 6 hours of standing/walking is bad news.

These set backs happen to most competitive athletes and we learn to deal with them as best we can. As an amputee, well it adds a bit of extra spice to the mental challenge. Along with that I was having a few challenges with the bureaucracy of cycling and wondering whether para-cycling was worth the emotional investment.

Once the leg settled down, I began the rebuild and training went well, with one winter flu bug being the only interruption (well that and my driving holiday in the USA). But not a lot of racing to speak of for the balance of 2010. That picked up early 2011.

Performance highlights were:

- Setting all time power to weight bests for aerobic power from 4-minutes through to 2 hours.

- Winning my opening crit at Heffron (by breaking away with 3km to go for a solo victory)

- Silver medals in both the Kilo time trial and 4km individual pursuit at the paracycling national track championships

- 4th place in the State points race in a field with two world champs

- A win and a new State record time with my team at the Masters Team Pursuit Championships, repeating the same feat we attained in 2007, just a couple of months before my accident

- And just this weekend at the National paracycling road championships, a silver medal in the individual time trial (24km) and a bronze medal in the road race. I made the move in the sprint and it so very nearly paid off with a win and national championship but it was not to be, with my competitors getting me on the line. Inspecting my power file shows a PB 30-second power post amputation, which just shows I really did commit and give it all I had.

- And today, of all days, I get notice that the national selectors are recommending I get a start at the UCI Paracycling Road World Cup in May. That was my main season goal. How good is that!

There is other racing news to come (especially about my new sponsored race team), but I’ll talk about that later once it’s officially launched.

Here I am in the new race kit at the State points race:

Once again there are so many people that have helped me along the way and I am very grateful for their support. Hard not to mention Ric Stern of course, the super coach who's taken me from the lows to banging out more power than when I had two legs. Thanks Ric.

This next year will be a cracker. I can just feel it.

Read More......

Saturday, April 09, 2011

little things matter

This weekend I’m on Australia’s “Sunshine Coast” in Queensland where the national paracycling road championships are being held. Sunshine Coast? It’s pretty much been raining since I got here yesterday after 15 hours of driving from Sydney.

Today was the individual road time trial. The races were run over a flat 4km section of road that was closed for the event, making an 8km out ‘n’ back course, the number of laps depending on race category. All paracycling categories, including handcycles, were competing today. Those handcycle guys and gals are pretty amazing.

My race (Mens C4) was a 24km ITT which was three laps of the flat S-shaped course. That meant five U-turns. There was a decent southerly wind blowing today (20 km/h) making for cross winds mostly, but short sections of near block head and tailwind. Here’s the course map:

24C, 1024hPa and 85% relative humidity.

And below is the power, speed and cadence trace (click to see a larger image). As you can see by looking at the speed line, the wind really had an impact.

So how did I go? Well the power was OK and about right for my current form. I pretty much just tried to keep a 3 in the hundreds column on the power display and let the legs tell me if that was about right. As is typical legs felt way too good early, plus pushing into cross-head wind, resulting in a solid start.

Average for the 35 minutes or so was 304 watts. Normalised Power 305W.

At halfway I started to struggle and power dropped a bit for the next section. I was focusing on keeping a rhythm as much as I could and use the short tailwind section for a very slight recovery, knowing that I would probably be able to find something for the final leg.
I just needed to hang in there.

Hang in there I did, and I lifted for the finale (ouch – that was hard) but it was worth it.

I took Silver, 1:13 down on the winner (Ryan Hughes) which is what I expected given the gap between us in the Individual Pursuit earlier this year. I thought about a minute or so would be about right.

But I only took silver over bronze by 1/100th of a second! That’s the equivalent of the width of one’s hand over 24km. 0.00045%. Now that’s what I call a slim margin.

Sometimes the little things matter.

Go Turbo Studio.

Road race tomorrow.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Anaerobic Stuff - Mr Peabody's WABAC Machine

Time to get into Mr Peabody's WABAC Machine. C'mon Sherman, let's wind the clock back to 2007....

This post is another take on my February 2007 Darth Vader item. Back then I wrote, with considerable assistance from Mr Peabody - er, I mean Dr Andy Coggan, an item about Maximal Accumulated Oxygen Deficit (MAOD).

Andy introduced the concept of using power meter data from a well paced individual pursuit as a means to estimate MAOD (which ordinarily would require lab based testing). He expands on it in the book, Training & Racing with a Power Meter, pp 244-248 (2nd edition).

Just to recap, MAOD is the "gold standard" measure of an athlete's anaerobic capacity. Expressed in litres of O2, it's the difference between the energy produced aerobically and the total energy demand. In an event such as the individual pursuit, a rider's total energy output is typically ~ 70-80% via aerobic means and the balance of course via anaerobic metabolism.

So I thought I'd take the analysis method from that previous post, run it on my recent events and add another twist - the points race.

In recent posts I've mentioned a few track endurance* events I've raced:
- 4km Individual Pursuit (Aussie National Championships - C4 paracycling)
- 2km Team Pursuit (Masters 150+ State champs)
- 20km Points race (Masters 45-49 State champs)

Edit: I've since updated the list to add in the 1-kilometre time trial I raced at the Paracycling nationals the day before the 4km individual pursuit.

It's all part of my comeback to competitive cycling, as these are the events I most enjoy. Well except for the individual pursuit. That's an event impossible to enjoy. But it's fun to do some analysis of pusuiting because it reveals so many things about a rider. Physiologically, technically, aerodynamically and psychologically.

In the weeks and months before my accident in 2007, I rode the same events, the only difference being the individual pursuit was 3km, not 4km and the team pursuit was 3km then vs. 2km this year (different distances for different masters age and paracycling categories).

I've been riding these events for many years but 2007 was my best season up to that point, with a win in the Team Pursuit (in a new state record time), a bronze medal in the National Masters Points race champs and two personal best times in the 3km IP. So for me, relatively speaking, they provide very sound benchmarks for how I've bounced back since then. I'm not going to go into that here though as I've already covered that a number of times.

OK, back to Mr Peabody and the analysis. Here's the chart showing cumulative O2 deficit from my recent races:

Click on the pic to enoxygenate (apologies for the Phil Plaitism).

The picture details the cumulative O2 deficit for four rides - my individual pursuit (red line), the team pursuit (blue line), the 1-km TT, and also a roughly 5-min section from my points race last weekend (the Richie Benaud cream jacket tan line). I'll get to the points race later.

Just to explain the chart - let's take the red line for the individual pursuit. You start the event from a dead stop (your bike is held in a starting gate which releases on count down to zero) and then accelerate over about 15 to 20 seconds to a high cruising pace, which you are then attempting to maintain for the balance of the event. The red line is a measure of how much oxygen "debt" I am incurring as time passes.

I incur this O2 "debt" since my power output in a pursuit is somewhat higher than my sustainable threshold power (which can be produced almost wholly via aerobic metabolism - or in a "pay as you go" sense). Once you ride above threshold, you are tapping into your limited anaerobic work capacity - and it really is limited - meaning that such efforts are by necessity going to be short lived. Harder you go, the less time you'll last. Nothing new about that.

Not only that but once you expend your limited reserve, in order to continue you will have no choice but be forced to ride under threshold in order to recover the O2 deficit. This is why pacing your effort is so crucial in timed events, and in mass start racing why dosing out the hard efforts at the right time is so important. The cost of "blowing up" is considerable in performance terms.

It's also why improving threshold power is so crucial. When you do go into the red zone in a race, you don't incur as much O2 deficit, or can last for longer at that level. And when the pace eases up again and you dip below threshold more quickly, you recover faster meaning you are ready for the next attack before someone else is. Counterattack anyone?

How do we determine this aerobic/anaerobic contribution with a power meter? Well as per the book, it's matter of looking at O2 kinetics of a well paced pursuit:

Andy showed that we can plot, along with the actual power output from a pursuit, a line representing a rider's theoretical maximal aerobic power output based on lab tests of a rider's VO2max** and efficiency***.

Except that in my case, I don't have the latter. Never mind, since the steady state part of a well paced pursuit represents power output at VO2max, we can simply adjust those VO2max and efficiency values so that they match the steady state portion of the pursuit power file. I assumed an efficiency of 22.5% and adjusted my VO2max value until it fairly represented my steady state power output in the pursuit. It came out at 58 mL/min/kg. If you change the VO2max (or efficiency) value, it moves that maximal aerobic (red) line up and down accordingly.

OK, so that's pretty funky, I can estimate my VO2max (or at least a range given that we assume efficiency is in a range typical for trained cyclists).

But by then directly comparing the difference between the maximal aerobic power, and what power I actually produced, we can then attain an estimate of the proportion of energy output from anaerobic contribution.

In my case, it estimates about 17% of my energy was from anaerobic supply. That's a little lower than typical for a pursuit, but my race time was 5:08, which is longer than the 3.5-min to 4.5-min efforts for elite riders in 3km and 4km pursuits and so it's not entirely surprising.

It also means that my MAOD was estimated at 4.16 L. We'll tag that number for now.

OK, so how about those cumulative O2 deficit lines?

In the WABAC machine we saw the way the O2 deficit would climb at different rates when riding a team pursuit as a rider alternately takes a pull on the front (O2 deficit line increases at a faster rate) and then gets back in line and recovers (where the line either rises more slowly or can even fall if the rider is quite powerful and not overly challenged by the team's pace).

If a rider exceeds their MAOD, then there is a pretty fair chance they will crack, which in a team pursuit means they are unable to continue and pull out after their turn on the front, or as sometimes can happen they cannot even maintain the pace of the rider(s) in front and they end up creating a gap in the line, which is bad news.

So I plotted the cumulative O2 deficit line from my recent individual and team pursuits and they shows the same pattern as in 2007. The team pursuit line is much shorter of course since the event is half the distance of the individual pursuit, and in a team, so it is considerably faster.

I also plotted the same line from a section of my points race on the weekend. I chose a starting point very early in the race, it was about lap 6, with 4 to go to the first sprint. My team mate was on the front at the bottom of the track, he slowed the speed down a little in the preceding half lap and then launched an attack, I was on his wheel and went with it.

I had to go pretty hard, with peak power reaching 1184W in order to cover it (he's a world class masters sprinter but not on form right now). The idea was to see what we could get from it - either get a break happening or at least pick up some early points for later strategic benefit.

Problem was, he cracked pretty quickly and I was left with about 3 laps to the sprint line. I was committed, had a gap, so went for it. The cumulative O2 deficit line shows just how deep I went. Very deep.

Once the sprint line was passed I then had to do everything I could to ensure I stayed in the race. You can see how the cumulative O2 deficit line drops away as I reduced my power output and went on the hunt for good wheels to follow. Not long later you can see the line begin to rise again as the next sprint was approaching. I sat that one out just making sure I got through unscathed and could cover any counterattacks.

When you look at the blue line tracing my cumulative O2 deficit from the team pursuit, it reaches a maximum of 4.26 L (about 2.5% higher than from my individual pursuit) and in the points race I reached 4.46L (7% higher than in the IP). What's going on there?

Well, a few things:

- firstly, there is normal day to day variability in performance.

Given that in this analysis we are keeping VO2max and VO2 kinetics**** constant, then the performance is wholly expressed as a difference in MAOD. And since anaerobic contribution to power output is still only 25% or less of total over several minutes, then it still only means a difference in performance of ~ 20-25% of 7% or less than 2% of the total power/energy.

- the next obvious difference is group versus solo efforts, and the influence of motivation/psychology

I would never discount the role that motivation can have on performance and perhaps I am capable of pulling just that little bit more out of myself in a team or a mass start event than I can in an individual pursuit. I can't imagine how I could go any harder in the IP, but it is interesting nonetheless to see if there's any more blood to get from this stone.

- thirdly, as Andy mentioned to me, lab studies indicate that MAOD is independent of the duration of the effort, although he doesn't recall any studies looking at efforts quite as long as this (~5-min). Perhaps that is a factor as well.

So there you have it.

As for the points race, well that attack was a very big risk and a large match to burn so early on. I really needed it to either form a successful break or net 5 points in the opening sprint (3 at least given the race favourite was always going to be very hard to beat). I was overhauled on the line and ended up with 1 or 2 points (I forget exactly) and so it meant I had not gained the desired return on investment. It sure wasn't through lack of trying.

It also meant that since I had gone so deep into O2 debt, I would need every ounce of craftiness to stay in the race. Perhaps in going so hard, the chase was not so easy either and everyone else had to recover too and that was just enough to keep me alive. Thereafter I just took my opportunities to collect points as I felt able. I had to gain 3 points in the final sprint to have a chance but didn't have the legs for that last lap to contest. It was enough for a 4th place finish. Had my initial salvo netted 5 points, perhaps the result may have been different and I made the podium instead.

That's bike racin'.

Edit: Since posting this the other day I also added to the chart the data from the 1-kilometre time trial. As we can see, I reached a MAOD of 4.30L, which is consistent with giving it all and with the MAOD values attained from the other efforts. Not sure if it affected the value attained in the pursuit on the next day, but does highlight the day to day variances.

Thanks again to Andy Coggan for his inspiration, Ric Stern for getting my form to such a good stage and all those team mates and competitors and supporters who help bring the best out of me.

* We call them endurance events, since even though they are about as hard as hard can be and relatively short in duration as far as cycling events go, they are still fundamentally aerobically (with oxygen) "fueled" efforts, albeit with some sizeable contribution from our anaerobic (without oxygen) energy systems.
** VO2max is the maximal rate of oxygen uptake by the body, typically occurs when exercising very hard for several minutes, although it can be induced with efforts lasting over longer periods (VO2 slow component). Expressed as litres of O2 per minute, or in relative terms as litres of O2 per minute per kilogram of body mass.

*** the proportion of mechanical energy output delivered to the bicycle crank as a ratio of total energy metabolised by the body - trained cyclists are typically around 19-24% efficient. The balance is almost all given off as heat (which is why we get so darn hot when going hard).

**** Initial VO2 assumed at 0.5 L/min and half life for VO2 assumed to be 25-seconds.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Point scoring

Let's race! Say, a State Points race championship - masters 45-49.

All you need are one to two dozen hard men. Toss in one current masters world champ, one former world champ, and bike bling as far as the eye can see. Carbon wheels and frames galore. One carbon leg. I'll be screwed if they ever bring in a carbon tax.

80 laps, sprint every 10 (2.5km).

Go hard. Sprint. Blow. Recover. Cover. Grovel. Sprint again. and so on. Watch your position, keep tabs on the score for yourself and others.

Finish 4th.

These races are a whole 'nuther world of pain.

Not really much of a race report because, well, I can't remember all that much they are so effing hard!

I made a very early attack and it was on for (not so) young and old for rest of the race. 18 listed starters, I think a couple of DNS. We were nudging 60km/h for most of the eight sprints. Field too good to allow a break despite many attempts.

You are on your limit, recovering from one sprint, covering counter attacks, grovelling to stay in at times, planning the set up for next sprint and having to do the maths along the way to work out who's got what points and what wheels you need to attack/cover.

Here's another pic to show off my leg and the sexy new Turbo Studio team race kit.

Peak power: 1184W
NP: 299W (it felt harder than that though)
About 25-26 minutes of purgatory.

Damn that was fun.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Déjà vu

2007 was the last time I rode a Team Pursuit. My team won that day and set a new state record time in the masters' age category. Indeed two of the pics that line the top of this blog are from that day.

I wrote about our 2007 effort in this popular post which looked at Maximal Accumulated Oxygen Deficit using the power meter data from team mate Phil and myself.

Well as most of you know, a few months after that race I had my accident and the subsequent leg amputation.

Yesterday I rode in my first Team Pursuit championship since then. In between times I coached our squads while I made my recovery on the bike myself.

Well we won again and set a new state record time (2:21.379). Phil was also in the team and we both have power data from the event. Déjà vu.

There was one main difference this time - in 2007 we were in the "younger" age category, this time the "older" age category (three youngest riders 150+ years). I suppose another five years does that! It also means the event this time was shorter - 2000 metres compared to 3000m for the younger category.

Interestingly, the power output for each was similar.

In 2007 I averaged 397W in the final.
In 2011 I averaged 411W in the final.

Leg? What leg? More pretty convincing evidence that a lower leg amputation need not be an impediment to cycling performance.

Here's a pic of the power, speed and cadence trace from yesterday's final.

Cadence maxed out at 126rpm, and averaged ~ 119rpm during the "cruise" part of the event. I rode a 51x14 gear (nominal 98").

Here I am with Phil (left) with whom I have been riding Team Pursuit events for the last 10 years. Sneaking into the shot is John Crouchly, a good buddy and former coach of some Aussie Olympic track riders. I had the pleasure of coaching John himself helping him to a win in the State individual road time trial championships in 2009 as well as get him started into the world of training with power.

Our club had five teams riding and our good buddies Peter, David, Alan and Crouch picked up the bronze in our division with two cracking rides a couple of seconds behind our team, the all ages team placed 4th and the 2nd all ages team had a good qualifier setting the early standard. The girls also rode well to get on the podium.

What else can I say? I think I've made a pretty good comeback.

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Sunday, February 06, 2011

Form = Fitness + Freshness: Take 2

A few weeks ago I posted about gaining some form after a race win in a local crit.

Here's take 2.

Yesterday (Saturday) and Friday I raced the Aussie national track cycling championships in the para cycling categories at the Dunc Gray Velodrome here in a blazing hot Sydney. There are only two events for individual para cyclists - the time trial and the individual pursuit. So I enter both. For my para category (C4) that means a 1-km time trial and a 4km individual pursuit. Ouch.

The day before that I had to go through reclassification. I was first classified in 2009. I suppose there was a slim chance my leg might have grown back since then.

Not having raced the "kilo" before, I just went at it hard but keeping a fraction in reserve on the opening lap. The kilo is raced as an individual, whereas in the pursuit you are racing on track at same time as your opponent (starting on opposite sides of track).

I finished the kilo in a 1:16. My opponent rode a 1:15. I was 1 second in front after 750m but my fade in the final lap saw my opponent overhaul my time. Happy with that. Much room for improvement from me, so something to think about for next year. A little more than a couple of week's notice of getting a ride might help...

The next day we had the individual pursuit. Here's my power trace:

Just power and cadence showing.

Average Power: 363W
Time: 5:08
Place: 2nd

Again I was pretty happy with that. My 5-min power/weight ratio was an all time personal best pre- and post-amputation, and the time was 4-seconds faster than previous national record. My opponent though had a fantastic race, going 4:58 and setting a huge new PB for him. Nice work Ryan! :)

CTL: 96
TSB: +8

Once again, Form = Fitness + Freshness

Next up - Team Pursuit later this month.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Form = Fitness + Freshness

It's one of the Pithy Power Proverbs that came along with the introduction of the Performance Manager Andy Coggan introduced to so many of us in 2006.

Five years on and it still works.

In the last couple of weeks I've been bouncing around with a Chronic Training Load (CTL - "fitness") above 100 TSS/day (see link for an explanation of these terms) but had some external life stresses and work commitments (like refurbishing and expanding a growing indoor cycle training centre amongst other things) which combined saw me "crack" a little in training. Not badly, just enough to know it was time for a little recovery.

By cracking a little I mean being unable to successfully complete a scheduled hard tempo session within a desired power range a couple of times and one endurance ride that was a bit of a grovel. One bad day isn't always a sign, but 2-3 examples not far apart is something usually worth taking a closer note of.

So I shut down the session the second time it happened and had a rest day the next day. It is also very hot and humid when I get to train which likely did not help, and combined with insufficient sleep, well the signs were all there.

So an extra day's rest, combined with a few no-bike days due to coaching work commitments saw a sharpish drop in Acute (recent) Training Load (ATL) and a corresponding rise in Training Stress Balance (TSB - "freshness").

On Saturday I had my regular squad training group (which I run) and said to myself that if I feel OK, I would go race in the afternoon.

As it turns out, I did feel pretty good in the morning, so I decided to line up for a crit that afternoon (at Sydney's Heffron Park).

I win.

Which is always nice of course. A good way to start the year off.

Winning move was made when I attacked with a bit under 3km to go.

A few things to note for day of race:
- FTP: 295W - my last TT in December was @ 297W (38-minutes)
- CTL: 96 TSS/day
- TSB: +19
- NP*: 300W (50-minutes)
- AP^: 257W

Race was not overly hard, I was pretty well in control most of the time. I had a solo break mid-way but that failed due to a rear puncture (was given a replacement wheel and allowed to rejoin main group).

The final 4-minutes of the race was a new
all-time best 4-minute W/kg.

Now ordinarily I wouldn't expect to feel so good with TSB that high. Neutral to somewhat positive TSB yes, but at +19, sometimes you feel underdone or legs are a bit claggy. Not today.

Fresh and Fit. Toss smart into the mix and well, wins are there to be had.

By the way, I know it's been way too long since I've posted. It's just been a very busy 12-months. All good stuff and I hope to be able to get back to more regular posting. I have a backlog of items to write about!

A super full year of events coming up in 2011. So much happening on the coaching, training and racing front, I will endeavour to keep y'all updated!

* Normalised Power
^ Average Power

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