In the (Feed)Zone
DISTRICT TIME TRIAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
YOU CAN'T CHEAT THE SYSTEM RACE
man asked me "Druber, how much do you train every week?"
response was "I dunno 10-15 hours on average I guess, just
like everyone else."
man responded "Well, my genetics must suck because I do 8-10
hours and I can barely hang on in any race that I'm in. No matter
what I do I just can't keep up with the good guys."
good." I said which then lead into a discussion of watts and
outputs and lactate thresholds. I quickly grew bored and noted that
I had a 3.5 hour drive ahead of me and needed to get on the road.
in the day I had won the USCF Illinois District TT masters division
with a time of 42:06 over a 20 mile course. It was a beautiful day
and I felt good so I also registered for the 1, 2 category as well.
My second ride of the day was: 50 slower for a 42:56, which was
good for second place in the 1, 2 division behind young John Meyer
(Turin), who I've noted in the (Feed)Zone as a rider to be reckoned
with if he continues his steep trajectory of performance improvements.
My 42:06 was the fastest time of the day and the 42:56 was the third
best time behind John's 42:40.
time trial is the race of truth. It is called such because it is
the only form of bike racing in which it is impossible to scam your
win to a win. You can't suck like a leech on the back of the winning
break all day and then out kick your break mates at the finish.
You can't take multiple free laps with 'false flats' and rest up
while your competitors are going hypoxic on the course. You don't
have a team to protect you and chase breaks for you while you remain
in the draft of the peloton. The time trial is the only form of
bike racing that regardless technological advancement, the strongest
guy will always go the fastest. It's called "The System".
as long as mankind has walked the planet, he has put great amounts
of mental energy into gaining more output or currency with less
work. This inherent instinct has lead to great inventions such as
the cotton gin but it has also produced a great many hucksters and
televangelists. As Billy notes, there is serious money to be made
in the sale of buncombe to rubes.
I peruse the cycling blogs and web sites on any given day, I find
an increasing number of riders who are taking drastic measures in
an attempt to cheat The System. There exists an entire world, a
subculture of cycling devoted to finding a way to purchase additional
wattage so to speak. It is as if watts can be obtained or given
away like "Carbon Emission Credits" in the open market.
I find this to be plain silly, but I'll give you examples.
Using Veloflex Record clinchers with latex tubes (to the tune
of roughly $100 per wheel) buys you 25 additional watts.
- Before an event make sure you have about 50 miles of use on
your tires as a slightly used tire can buy you roughly 3 watts.
- Taking a hack saw to completely chop the bull horns off of your
aero bars buys you about 10-15 watts depending on the size of
the bull horns (no mention of how to steer the bike or the loss
of time at starts and turn around points due to nothing to grip
while you sprint up to speed)
- Tufo tubulars and tubular clinchers "cost" you roughly
- Butyl tubes cost you 12 watts even if they're inside of "fast"
- A water bottle (even empty) on your down tube buys you 4 watts.
- Ceramic derailleur pulley bearings buy you 2 watts.
- Pedaling with your knees close to the top tube will buy you
about 10 watts
- A Rudy Project helmet costs you 5 watts while a Spuik helmet
buys you 5 watts but the Garneau helmet might actually purchase
you 7 watts.
can imagine the other hare brained ideas being floated. Recently
I heard of one "watt trader" (a person who operates under
the delusion that watts can be bought and sold like options contracts
at the Chicago Board of Trade) trying a cleat position under the
arch of his foot rather than under the ball of his foot. This simple
move could potentially purchase 5-10 watts. Not to mention future
knee problems. 'Tis but a small price to pay in the procurement
of precious watts.
scientific experimentation, and data collection goes into the theory
that watts, like stocks and bonds, can be bought and sold. And,
a great deal of currency is collected by watt brokerage houses from
watt traders who purchase at great expense, tools that will help
monitor the flow of watts and increase the value of the watts produced.
You know, sort of leveraging the watts
For only $3000 I can
help you get 1.5 watts of use for every 1(one) watt produced. This
is called buying watts on margin. It's all well and good until the
watt trader tosses his leg across the top tube and gets a count
down to start his TT. Ultimately there isn't enough fuel to power
the additional watts that were purchased on margin and the watt
trader faces a margin call about 5k into his TT. The entire system
implodes into watt market meltdown. Rather than looking into the
cause of the fuel shortage (supply), the watt trader invariably
will return to futile attempts to purchase additional watts (demand)
by changing tires or helmets or looking for a faster skin suit.
Thereby the supply/demand equilibrium again gets upset, wattage
prices spike and the market crashes again when the wattage trader
again fails to break 56:00 for a 40k. Meanwhile, the wattage brokerage
firms continue to disregard supply as they build hype irrational
exuberance toward demand. They make money regardless of market conditions.
THE WATTAGE BROKERAGE HOUSES WON'T TELL YOU
selling the myth that technology can make 299 watts act like 450
watts don't like to reveal the fact that wattage in and of itself
is not the final measure of the capability to make speed. I won't
delve into an individuals ability to tolerate pain and the fact
that lactate threshold cannot be "increased" (the body
can be trained to TOLERATE effort at lactate threshold and can be
trained to recover from that effort more quickly but lactate threshold
cannot be physiologically "increased") and any of the
other key ingredients to successfully making speed in a time trial
- like not watching "The Big Lebowski" during an event.
Those factors surely come into play, but the greatest indicator
of whether an individual will EVER produce times able to compete
at an elite level (state, national and world championships) is wattage
per kilogram of body weight - not simply gross wattage.
review the following chart:
from Training and Racing with a Powermeter, by Andrew Coggan
& Hunter Allen, VeloPress, 2005
Champion/World Record Holder
Div. I/II Pro
Div. III pro
Values are displayed in watts/kg. The weight should be the weight
of the body only. Bicycle, kit, water bottles, etc… are all
chart compares power outputs in terms of watts per kilogram of body
weight for cyclists in various categories ranging from Fabian Cancellara
to Fred Hubbard. Of particular interest for our study today is the
final column, watts per kilogram for efforts lasting 20 minutes.
order to decipher the chart, let's use Fabian Cancellara. He weighs
81 kilos (178 lb). Thus his average wattage output for a 20 minute
effort would be in the neighborhood of an astonishing 536 watts.
81k X 6.62 watts per k = 536 avg. watts.
81.5 kilos and my best effort of measured power output over 20 minutes
is 430 watts, or 5.28 watts per kilogram which puts my sustained
time trialing effort in the low end of UCI div 1/11 pro or high
end of UCI div. III. This is why I can make a fast time trial even
when I'm not using fast tires. However, if one were too look at
my 1 minute or 5 second wattages, one would find that my best efforts
are roughly in the low range of Cat 2 at best. This is why I am
not making a living as a bike racer. Or as Billy has noted, I have
"all of the sprint of an aging greyhound on a diet of Chinese
look at a theoretical 175 lb time trial guru who has for the princely
sum of $20,000 (fast frame, fast tires, fast wheels, fast aero bars,
wind tunnel testing, fast helmet, videotaped coaching sessions and
bike fit) bought 500 watts on the open market but has an "account"
of only 299 watts on his good days. At 175 lb he weighs roughly
79.5 kilos. 299 watts / 79.5 kilos = 3.76 kilos; which puts his
power output at the top of the Cat 3 range. So, when the time trial
aficionado shows up to compete against the likes of Thurlow Rogers
at national and world championships with the wattage he has purchased
and an aero position as thin as an edge wise credit card he still
won't get within two minutes of Thurlow. How can this be? Because
his body doesn't make the kind of watts that Thurlow's does. He
lacks fuel in the very core of his mitochondria. Supply won't cover
demand. Don't get me wrong. 3.76 watts per kg is not a shabby output.
It's quite good. My point is that one cannot possibly buy enough
watts on the open exchange to compensate for the base line power
differential between elite and good. Or to put things another way
the fast guys start using better equipment too.
background material. As a multiple national podium placer and state
champion I have developed some "street cred" when it comes
to time trialing. Given that, I have had the privilege this season
to test some really tasty time trialing equipment. The items I tested
will not buy you more power output, but they will help you get the
most out of the power you produce. If you would like to see where
this is going, please read the accompanying product review post.