Tuesday, July 31, 2007

CTL Increase

As I mentioned in my last post, I'll be very interested to see how 7 days of hard riding in a row will affect my performance over the next weeks and months. I was surprised at how much my training loads were affected by the week.

This graph reflects CTL, ATL, and TSB for the 2007 season:

This graph reflects my CTL since I started training for cycling in spring 2006:

Monday, July 30, 2007


This is mainly a training blog, so I won't bore with a lot of RAGBRAI stories, but it was a unique week and I'm sure Google will give you all the stories and photos you want. There is no way you can get 15,000 cyclists across 500 miles of corn fields without some great stories.

Betty Jean and I rode our tandem. Most riders were recreational riders and many drank LOTS of beer every night. I drank beer and had fun, but also enjoyed riding hard. Betty Jean is a strong stoker. That meant that we probably passed about 70,000 riders during our 7 days of riding. We didn't intentionally count, but we were probably passed by fewer than 20 riders throughout the 7 days of riding, and kept an average speed between 19-22 mph.

Many riders made a game of jumping from one paceline to another. We made a game of blowing up pacelines. Whenever we saw a paceline in front of us, we'd gain speed and blow by them to see if we could get by without picking up any passengers. Most times we could, other times we'd see how long it took us to drop the riders who jumped on our wheel.

The end result is that I rode pretty hard for 70 miles a day for seven days. I feel good, but look forward to seeing how that type of effort affects my performance over the next few weeks. My guess is that I'll be stale for a week or two, then see some benefit. I'll post my performance manager chart soon. My CTL jumped from a steady 84 over the past few weeks to about 104. If I see a big benefit from the long 'training' block, I'll start throwing in a block like that every couple of months during the season if possible.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

MAX took Rome

A follow-up to my last Rome Georgia Cup report:

MAX Cycling had 5 riders in the top 20 GC and would have had 6 but for Drew Slocum's flat in the road race (our 7th, Todd Wilson did not compete in the GC). Also, Jeff would likely have taken 2nd, but got caught behind a crash with 2 to go in the crit. A very strong showing -- we're ready for Dahlonega next.

Doug Ott - 1st
Jeff Clayton - 3rd
Robert Jordan - 7th
Trey Gavin - 19th
Jake Andrews - 20th

Monday, July 16, 2007

Rome Georgia Cup Race Report

What a great race! The MAX Racing Team was born in Rome this weekend, and I hope we can keep it rolling. There is so much to report about Rome that it's impossible for me to give a complete report. This is not intended to reflect everything that happened -- I'm sure there's lots of stuff that I missed and it's probably unintentionally biased, but here's some of it from my perspective:

Racing for MAX in Rome:
Drew Slocum
Todd Wilson
Trey Gavin
Jake Andrews
Jeff Clayton
Doug Ott
Robert Jordan
(Chad Madan also raced for Pacesetter)

TTT - Great conditions, relatively flat 14-mile course with some rollers and false flats, four U-turns, and one 90d turn. We started well with 30-second pulls in a single paceline. After the first turn I still felt good. We shortened pulls to about 15 seconds and I was starting to struggle somewhat when pulling around Jake at the front. Jeff instructed us to move it 'up' to about 90% effort. The problem was that I was already way above that. At the 6 mile point I knew I was weakening and would not be able to hold out until the end, so I decided to do three more pulls as strong as I could, then get out of the way. I did that and peeled off at about mile 8 or 9 because I felt that I had started to slow the team down. I kept up a steady pace and eventually joined Trey and Todd, who did their work and peeled off later as well. Doug, Jeff, Drew, and Jake drove the train for the last few miles with Drew then Jeff peeling off nearer the finish. Jake and Doug drove the train into the station with Doug nipping Jake at the line. Average speed was around 26.1 mph. We later learned that we finished 3rd. We hoped for a win, but it was a strong first-time performance.

Crit - Downtown Rome, long, rectangular crit course with a significant little bump after turn 2. The field included about 70 riders. The race started very fast, as usual. Four of our 7 riders had never raced a crit, which put them at a big disadvantage from the start. Todd and I ended up starting at the back of the pack because of our late team podium presentation, so that made it even tougher to get started. I struggled in the first few laps, but finally clawed my way up into a more comfortable spot in the peloton where the yo-yo action was a little less severe. I could see Doug and Jeff constantly at the front attacking and bridging to other attacks. The PA announcer was constantly talking about the MAX attacks and tactics. Jeff and Doug even tried once to bridge together, which the announcer called a 'very rare move' I think. Being new to crits and getting caught behind crashes (and in Drew's case, in a crash) eventually caused Todd, Jake, and Drew to lose contact with the peloton. Jake made a valiant solo chase to no avail. Trey and I did some blocking in front a couple of times as Doug and Jeff set off the fireworks at the front, but it was a pretty uneventful race for me. Jeff got caught up in a crash with two laps to go. He got back going, but lost 1 minute to the field. I finished last in the peloton sprint (26th) as Trey sprinted around me for 24nd place. I don't know Jeff's and Drew's finish places, but they didn't podium. Of the four of us, only Jeff lost any time in GC. That was my crit goal, so I was satisfied. Doug, Trey, me, and Jeff sat at 5th, 6th, 7th, and 11th in GC, respectively after the crit thanks to the strong TTT.

Road Race - The 70-rider field started rather calmly over 5-8 miles of rollers with a couple of breaks that went nowhere. All 6 MAX riders sat in the top 25 spots, but did little work except for Jeff doing some. After a 1K climb that got everyone's heart pumping, we started a long false flat, then a long (5 mi) very gradual downhill run to the base of Horne Mountain (a 3K 6% climb that took about 13 minutes). During the 10-mile run-in to the mountain, Drew and Jake did lots of hard work and drove the MAX train in the front and completely controlled the race, not allowing anyone to think about getting a break before the climb. Doug sat out of the wind in 3rd acting as gatekeeper so Jake and Drew could roll unimpeded. As we reached the climb, the pace was very strong and all 6 MAX riders were near the front. I was amazed at how hard some of the riders started the climb. Did they not realize that it would last 13 minutes? The peloton quickly ceased to exist. A long string of riders intermittently topped the mountain, with Doug and Jeff getting KOM points and time bonuses. I'd guess I went over in about 20th place. I worked very hard on the descent and eventually gelled with 8 other riders to form a chase group behind a lead group of 7, which contained Doug and Jeff. We passed the feed station with a 30-second deficit to the 7-man break. It took my chase partners a few minutes to figure out that I had two teammates in the break and was more than a little unmotivated to chase. I gummed up the works as best I could for 5 or 10 minutes as about 10 to 15 more riders bridged to us. After the 1K climb, I was pleased to hear that the lead group had expanded it's lead to 1:10. I sat on the back and had an easy next 8 miles. The next time check was 2:20 to the lead group, so I knew Jeff and Doug's group would not be caught. About that time, Jake pulled his group of about 8 (I think he did most of the work) into our chase group. He had been working very hard to rejoin. We hit the base of Horne Mt. for the final ascent with about 30 riders. I got in a groove and was doing well -- sitting about 4th in a long string of 30 from the chase peloton. About 200m from the finish I stood up to 'sprint.' I think fast-twitch muscles do not exist in my body anyway, and any that I had at the start of the day were dead. A couple of riders passed me within about 25 feet of the line and one guy went around me on the finish by half a wheel - I finished 14th. Doug finished 2nd and Jeff finished 3rd for the stage. Drew flatted on the 1st climb, but restarted and passed lots of folks before the finish. Jake and Trey finished well also on the tough climbs.

The GC finish order was not posted when we left due to a scoring problem, but I think Doug might have won the GC! Jeff was probably top 5, and I might have squeaked into a top 10 GC.

It was a super successful first-time team effort for MAX. And we probably had as much fun away from the races as in the races. I'll update with more info as I have it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

TT Frontal Area

In my methodical attempt to improve my time trialing, I plan to do coast-down aero testing to try changes in body position, etc. But before I start doing coast-downs over and over I need to nail down as many known variables as possible to make sure I'm not wasting my time and getting junk numbers (although the testing is a great way to get in good hill repeat sessions).

One of the variables is frontal area. Most folks just combine frontal area (A) with drag coefficient (Cd), call it CdA and are done with it. But if I have a good measurement of A, then I can isolate Cd pretty accurately. Then when I make positional changes on the bike, I can get a preliminary idea of how much it will help just by measureing A again.

To measure A, I took a digital photograph, imported it into AutoCAD, properly scaled it using the tape measure in the picture, traced my frontal area, and measured it directly. I found it to be 4.185 square feet, or 0.3888 square meters. I was pleased to know it was fairly close to the 0.35 square meter estimate I had been using. Based on the limited coast-down testing I did the other day, I think my current CdA is about 0.297. That's good news, becasue that's not a great number. For my size, I should realistically be able to lower it to something between 0.230 and 0.265 depending on whose research you read. Conservatively, that would be at least 89% of my current drag.

Power required to overcome drag is directly related to CdA, so a 89% improvement in CdA would mean I could go the same speed at 89% of the power output it used to take. That type of improvement would be well worth the effort. It might not show benefits at first, though, because a more aggressive position might limit my power output to 89% of my old position until I can train enough in a new position to get the power back up. Six months of once a week time trial training should do the trick, I hope.

Here's the photo with my frontal area hatched in AutoCAD:

Andrew Coggan believes the optimal position on a TT bike for aerodynamics and power output is having your shoulder 5cm above your hip. I don't know if I measured properly, but as you can see in this photo, my shoulder is at least 18cm above my hip in my current position:

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Poor man's wind tunnel

I wanted to know what effect my TT bike, Aero helmet, and skinsuit had on my drag coefficients and TT finish times, but didn't want to pay $2500 for a couple of hours in a wind tunnel. So I found the longest fairly low-traffic hill near my house, a 0.6-mile climb with a 3.5% average grade. Starting at a constant 20mph at the top to eliminate momentum factors, I coasted down the hill lots of times with different aero setups to determine my drag coefficients. I know that my power was 0 watts, so I was able to eliminate power measurement from the list of uncertainties. My typical average speed was in the 23mph range, so I know my numbers will be valid for my average TT speeds.

The only factor pushing me down the hill was gravity, so weight was important. I carefully weighed myself in my kit/shoes/helmet and the bikes prior to testing.

I ran at least 3 'no-car' runs for each setup and averaged them. (I found that each car that passed me during the tests cut about 1 second from my finish time, so I threw out all the runs where cars passed me during the test). There was little or no breeze, it was 88 degrees, and I alternated test runs with various equipment in case the environmental conditions changed during the testing.

The spreadsheet I used required entry of a drag coefficient and/or a bike and rider frontal area and factored those with an air density number to get an 'A2' factor that it used in the calculation. I got everything to work well in the spreadsheet, but I still don't know exactly what my frontal area and drag coefficient are, but I'll work on that later. I used a rolling resistance of 0.004 (which I realize now might be too low for my tubular tires - it's probably nearer .0055).

Here are my averaged results for each setup:
Orbea Orca with standard team kit and helmet, riding in drops - 1:34.5
Cervelo P2K with standard team kit and standard helmet, in aerobars - 1:30.0
Cervelo P2K with standard team kit and TT helmet, in aerobars - 1:29.3
Cervelo P2K with skinsuit and TT helmet, in aerobars - 1:25.8

I was pleased to find that even my low-tech testing was able to accurately measure the effect of even changing helmets on a minute and a half section. The repeatability of the runs was very good, usually within 1 second.

The biggest surprise was the skinsuit. Changing from the team kit to the skinsuit has as much effect at going from the road bike to the tri bike! And the numbers are huge. For a 40K TT, the skinsuit would save 1 minute, 46 seconds. That's a lot of time. Based on my time in the recent half iron man, I saved 4 minutes and 18 seconds purely by wearing the skinsuit and TT helmet. For the short 10-12 mile TTs usually included in the Georgia Cup races, I'll save almost a minute by wearing the skinsuit -- that's amazing to me.

And these numbers are not wild guesses, they are real world measurements that can be easily and accurately extrapolated to racing.

Don't stop training hard -- the bike won't power itself. But for God's sake, buy a skin suit if you're going to ride TTs.

Next I plan to play around with my bar height, bar angle, etc. to see if I can get any measurable effect. And rolling resistance is also on the list of things to investigate.

Since originally posting this earlier in the year, I've fine tuned my analysis spreadsheet. You can view or download it at Badger 3 if you are interested.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Faster TT - Attack Hills or Kill Descents?

In discussing time trial strategies with other riders, I've found that everyone seems to have a different approach to dosing their power over a rolling TT course. There's the 'don't start too hard' rule, which I think is very valid -- I make that mistake often. Then there's the question of when to stand out of the bars, etc.

But the question that I was most uncertain about was whether to put more effort into climbing or descending (assuming that your average wattage for the entire ride is constant). A very good time trialist I know says he powers the descents and that gives him an advantage. I've always heard that I should put out more effort on the climbs and recover on the descents. One coach told me to stand on the last 25% of each roller to maintain momentum. So I've done the math.

I modeled the situation using a spreadsheet allowing input of temperature, elevation, power, frontal area, friction coefficient, rolling resistance, and weight for various course sections. I constructed a 1-mile TT course with a 1/2-mile, 6% climb followed by a 1/2-mile 6% descent. I used aero coefficients that represented climbing on the hoods and descending in the drops. The average power over the course is 250 watts for all three situations.

Constant effort:
If I generate a constant 250 watts over the course, I get the following times: climb (2:58)+ descent (0:45)=total (3:43).

Harder climbing:
If I generate 270w for the climb and 178w for the descent, I get: climb (2:48)+ descent (0:46)= total (3:34). That's 9 seconds faster than the constant power ride.

Harder descending:
If I generate 240w for the climb and 290w for the descent, I get: climb (3:05)+ descent (0:44)= total (3:48). That's 5 seconds slower than the constant power ride.

I tried the same thing for a 3% climb and got similar results. The end result is this: If you are going to ride with a non-constant power output, it's better to hit the hills hard and take it easier on the descents. Extra power output doesn't do you as much good when you are at higher speeds because it gets eaten up by wind friction at a 3rd power rate.

Why does my friend the good time trialist think it helps to kill the descents? Probably because he kills the descents but continues to kill the climbs too! So he ends up with a greater average power for the ride. The moral of the story is "If you have to recover somewhere on the ride, do it on the descents, not the climbs."