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Power Analysis – Tour Down Under Race Winner

Ben Swift of HTC Highroad won stage 2 of the Tour Down Under that is currently taking place in Australia. Conveniently enough, Ben rides and races with a power meter. Even more convenient is the fact that his power file was available for download here.

As a coach that utilizes power, and has clients that use power meters, I just wanted to take a second to highlight a few areas of note from the race file that might help you train and race smarter. Doing a few calculations based on the information that was given (assuming the TSS was correct) I have determined that his functional threshold power (FTP) is right around 382 watts. Looking at his bio on the HTC team website to find out his weight (65 kg) his watts/kg at threshold would be 5.88. That’s pretty dang good, especially for a guy who ends up winning in a sprint finish.

First, and for any of you triathletes that plan on doing some road racing, take a look at the cadence distribution for the race winner. It is not necessarily the person that pedals the most that wins the race:

Highest percentage of time was spent NOT pedaling

As you can see from this snapshot, almost 17% of the race he spent NOT pedaling. This worked out to be almost 37 minutes of the 3h 37 minute race that he spent saving up useful energy. Had he spent the majority of the race on the front of the peloton, this time spent not pedaling would likely have decreased significantly.

The next highest bar, coming in at around 12.5%, is the 95-100 rpm range surrounded on either side by 90-95 and 100-105. This is also a good lesson for people to look at. By increasing your cadence you are decreasing the watts per pedal stroke that you are having to put out, something that will help to “save” the legs for when you need them to be the freshest.

Race Data Breakdown

Alright, that’s enough with the cadence, let’s look at some other data.

To the right you can see a variety of general stats from the race. 2522 kJ of work equates to a lot of calories that needed to be consumed during the 3.5 hour race. Although he likely could have made it to the finishing line without fueling properly, there is not much chance he would have had the energy needed to put forth a race winning sprint effort.

His TSS (Training Stress Score) of 175.6 (originally stated in the blog as 178) provides an indication of how much “stress” this race would have on him and how long it might take to recover from that effort. The 0.712 that is in parenthesis to the right of the TSS value is an indication of the intensity of the race. To put this into context, this numbers are lower than what I see from my athletes on a faster Saturday morning group ride.

So does this mean that a pro race was easier than a Saturday group ride in Memphis, TN that is almost the same duration? No, these numbers mean that this race was less stressful on his body than a hard group ride would have been for an athlete with a lower threshold power.  Riding at 270 watts for Swift who has an FTP of around 380 puts him in his Endurance Zone, whereas riding at 270 watts if your FTP is 280 puts you very close to your threshold – huge difference in relative energy costs between those two zones.

If you watched the finishing sprint you can see that Swift jumped early and held on for the finish. Although his peak maximal power was relatively low at 1225w, he won the race due to his ability to maintain a high average wattage over a 10-15 second span (1105w over 12 seconds).

So what kind of sprinter are you? As the season approaches and you are out practicing your sprints, remember that they are not always won at the last second with a huge spike in power. Do a few maximal effort sprints and hold that power as long as you can. Then go home and take a look at the chart. How sharp is that power drop-off for you? If you see a big spike on the left side of the chart followed by a steep descending line right after it you would be best served waiting until the last possible second to uncork your sprint for victory.

If you see that initial spike from the sprint followed by a relatively shallow drop off in power then you are the type of sprinter that needs to go from a further distance out and hope to hold everyone off to the line.

Too much data available to talk about everything. Let me know if you have specific power analysis questions that you would like answered in a future blog.

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