Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Plagiarist

I always try to resist the temptation to play copycat, but I could not resist plagiarizing this little section from "Coppi and Me, Part II" by Padrig over at Belgium Kneewarmers.

In the series Gino Bartali reminisces about racing against Fausto Coppi in the 1940s and 1950s. They were both good friends and bitter rivals. The segment below is what Bartali had to say about Coppi's Achilles heel. It reminded me of the almost imperceptable signals I get from some of my companions where they are in difficulty (hollow eyes or barely perceptable changes in hand position on the bars).

It is a perfect metaphor for the intricacies of cycling and the sometimes frivolous and comic nature of our great sport.

Bartali recalls:

"So I studied him, I looked at him, I scrutinized him, passing all I observed through a sort of sieve set to catch the least eccentricity that would imply fallibility. And then, one day, my tenacity was repaid. I perceived something. Finally, I had it!

Behind the right knee a vein inflated along 5 or 6 centimeters, apparently under the pressure of ridding his leg of toxic waste. This apparition made itself obvious between 160 and 180 kms into a race. At this moment Fausto became vulnerable and he lost a bit of that fluid plastic motion he normally displayed.

One day, in the 1948 Tour of Italy, the stage to Naples, I decided to see if I could profit from my research. I told my lieutenant, Corrieri, to survey the hollow behind Coppi’s right knee and let me know if he saw any change. Sure enough, right about the time I expected, Corrieri came rolling through the peloton crying at the top of his voice, ‘The vein! The vein!’ Of course no one knew what he was yelling about, least of all Fausto, but I knew and I slid through the group to verify the good Giovannino’s spy operation. One look and I could see the vein was indeed inflated!

’Go! Go!’ I yelled to Van Steenbergen, to Koblet, to Kubler, and anyone else around me. ‘Coppi is in difficulty!’

‘Are you nuts?’ queried Van Steenbergen.

'Follow me!’ I yelled.

Everyone attacked, and at the finish Fausto had lost four minutes!"

What a great story. This past weekend I think I discovered a 'vein' in one of my more genetically gifted associates. It'll be fun to test my theory on the roads this summer!

The Vein!, The Vein! also reminded me of Tatoo:
The Plane!, The Plane!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

2009 Coast-Down Aero Testing

Every winter I try to improve my time trial position, and every winter so far I've been able to do it. This year I lowered the bike's front end, narrowed my elbows, and moved my hands closer together. Also, in the middle of last season - since my last aero test - I replaced my front American Classic 50mm deep section wheel with a HED tri-spoke wheel and Veloflex Record 19mm tubular. I'm still using a non-dimpled Zipp 900 disc rear wheel and riding a 2001 Cervelo P2K. I test in a short-sleeved skinsuit with a Louis Garneu Rocket TT helmet and shoe covers - no gloves, no glasses. I perform the test at 25 mph entry speed and ghost pedal during the test (In case y'all are wondering why I give so much detail: this is where I'll come next winter to review my last test and prepare to do it again).

Here are my aero testing results for the past three years along with my FTP in TT position, my theoretical speed on a flat road at FTP, and my theoretical 40k TT time on a flat course at FTP. All of this assumes a Crr=0.005, a weight of 172.5 pounds for bike and rider, 80 degrees Fahrenheit, 1022 kPa air pressure, and relative humidity 50% on a calm day.
2007: CdA = 0.269 m^2 ------257 watts ------ 24.27 mph ----- 1:01:26
2008: CdA = 0.233 m^2 ------271 watts ------ 25.91 mph ----- 0:57:33
2009: CdA = 0.219 m^2 ------278 watts ------ 26.64 mph ----- 0:55:59

These drag coefficient (CdA) numbers were all developed on the same test course with the exact same testing protocol, so even if the absolute numbers are a little off -- maybe because I estimated the hill slope wrong or assumed a bad rolling resistance coefficient, Crr -- at least I know that I'm more aero than I've ever been.

The coast-down test results were amazingly repeatable. I performed 5 test runs. On the first run 4 cars passed, so I threw that one out. The times on the last four runs were 79.6 sec, 79.4 sec, 79.8 sec, and 79.6 sec.

Testing results don't guarantee race results, but the added confidence sure doesn't hurt.

If you haven't played around with aerodynamics and tested your CdA, you should - it's free speed. My improvement from 2008 to 2009, which is only 0.233-0.219=0.014 m^2, will save me 57 seconds on a 40k TT (the equivalent of 15 more average watts on a flat course). Or more realistically, about 30 seconds on the shorter TTs that I'll do. If you want to play around with the calculation spreadsheet, get it from Badger3 and input your numbers.

Or if you're not the number crunching type, just take a piece of chalk and your TT setup to any hill that bottoms out and starts back up. Start at the top at a consistent speed. Coast down the hill and keep rolling until you stop. Mark a spot with the chalk where your front wheel stops. Do it a few times to get a good average. Then change something - your helmet, skinsuit, wheels, position, etc. and do the test again under the exact same conditions (temperature, weight, humidity, etc.) on a calm day. If you pass your prior mark on the road, you are more aero and therefore are faster (as long as your power output is the same).

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Black Box

In the process of researching how to calculate one's highest possible FTP from VO2max, I've investigated the relationship of many different physiological variables. I didn't want the work to go to waste, so I've taken many of the relationships and built them into a spreadsheet that links them together. Here's a screen view of the spreadsheet with my numbers intered into it:

Here's a link to the spreadsheet in Google Docs (click on "edit this page" at the bottom of the sheet to enter your own numbers in the green boxes):
The Black Box

I haven't locked any of the cells, so the Google Docs spreadsheet might get screwed up. If that happens, you can download a copy of the spreadsheet in Excel format at FTP from Calculate VO2 from FTP.

And finally, I've created the ultimate black box. This spreadsheet pushes each of the physiological variables to the limit. It assumes that you have excellent genetics and that you are training to the absolute max with the best available techniques and coaches. If all of that were true, this spreadsheet would tell you your FTP. If you produced above that number for an extended period in the Tour, you'd get a one-way ticket home. Here's that Pro max spreadsheet with Lance's numbers entered:

Here's a link to the Google Docs Pro max sheet (click on "edit this page" at the bottom of the page to enter your own numbers in the green boxes:
Pro Max spreadsheet

Here's the Excel version for download:
Theoretical max FTP from VO2max

I think drug testing based on power is a crazy and unworkable idea, but it's interesting to ponder.

Lance Stats From TdU

Lance said his average power was 340 watts after 2 hours of yesterday’s stage of the Tour Down Under. Assuming a variability index (VI) of 1.1 (which I’ve found to be typical for hard paceline riding on rolling terrain), then his Normalized Power (NP) for that period would have been about 340 watts x 1.1 = 374 watts for that period. If his FTP is around 420 watts (about 5.7 w/kg, I think),,6610,s-1-9-18332-1,00.html, then his intensity factor (IF) for that two hour period was 0.89. That lines up with the IF values I see for a very hard Tuesday Worlds ride for me. It’s very hard, but not impossible. So it sounds like the numbers work based on those assumptions.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Heartrate and VO2max Predicts Cycling FTP

In my research of the relationship of VO2max and max potential FTP, I stumbled on this calculator:

I've seen lots of littel cutesy calculators like this; but for fun I input my data: male, 150 lbs, age 40, ave HR (at FTP) 162 bpm, VO2max = 70 ml/kg/min. I was quite amazed to find that it predicted my power output at FTP (based on average heartrate) to be 290.46 watts. My last two FTP test results are 290 watts and 292 watts.

Either this is a really cool coincidence, or there is some good science in the paper on which the calculator is based, found at I haven't read it yet, but I will.

This is the formula used in the calculator:
kCal/min = (-59.3954 + (-36.3781 + 0.271 x age + 0.394 x weight(kg) + 0.404 x VO2max(ml/kg/min) + 0.634 x HR(bpm)))/4.184

I don't know what each factor means yet, but I probably will after I go through the research paper.

Calories burned vs oxygen intake is relatively well understood. Oxygen intake is commonly measured (it's VO2max). And I know that the calculator assumes a 24% efficiency from chemical to mechanical work for cycling, which is a commonly-used and accepted factor (it usually ranges from 20% to 25%).

Now if I can find good data relating FTP and % VO2 max for elite cyclists, I should be able to set up a direct relationship between VO2max and FTP in well-trained cyclists. This would be the relationship that LeMond is proposing to use in evaluating power output of riders in the pro peloton to test for doping.

Monday, January 12, 2009


This is a good winter trainer workout for gradually transitioning from pure FTP build into a little more intense L5 work. It'll give you 55 quality minutes and 66 TSS.

  • WU: 15 min @ 65% FTP (L2)
  • Then do this set 3 times:

  • 5 min @ 88% FTP (SST)
  • 3 min @ 112% FTP (L5)
  • 2 min @ L2

  • Then:

  • 5 min solid tempo
  • 5 min cooldown spin

Google is very helpful in making up workout names: In 532 AD, the Nika Riot occurred in Constantinople, and about 30,000 people were killed in the Hippodrome (horse track). Also, 532 AD was the first year that the Anno Domini calendar was ever used.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


Since 2000/2001 my winter training plan has included at least one day per week on the TT bike. This winter is no different. In November and December I've done one SST workout per week on the Cervelo.

Winter is also the time to do position tweaks. A few days ago I added a new Thomson stem to my P2K. It is the same length as my old stem, but has a 10-degree downward angle (the old one had a zero angle). That lowered the front end 16 millimeters [90cm x sin(10 deg) = 16mm]. I also moved the tri-bar extensions forward about 15 mm. To maintain a similar reach, I shifted my saddle forward about 1.5 cm forward. Shifting the saddle forward meant that I had to raise it a little to keep the same height from the BB. I had to add new shifter cables and cable housing due to the extended new position. To polish it all off, I sawed 2.5 cm off the top of my fork, steerer tube, whatever you call that thing, and took off several spacers.

As I mentioned, up 'till now I've only done SST workouts - 85% to 90% of FTP.

After I made the adjustments, I did a 45 minute workout including 4 threshold power intervals - 100% of FTP - each 7 minutes long. Not what I would call a difficult workout.

For two days after the workout I have been extremely sore. Legs, back, shoulders - it's been hard to sleep, even. I don't know if it was the slightly different position, the slightly higher intensity, the fact that it's my first winter over 40, or maybe all three. But it hurts like hell.

The experience has changed the way I'll approach my TT training for the rest of the winter. After a few more workouts to hopefully 'stop the hurt,' I'll start doing shorter, harder intervals on the TT bike. If many of my TT efforts this year will be prologues or very short TTs in the Georgia Cup series, I'd better get used to VO2max level efforts on the Cervelo. So from here out, it's weekly 355s on the TT bike: 3x5min@L5 (L5 is 110% FTP power).

If I find that there is as much difference between the 355s and the FTP efforts on the Cervelo as I found between SST and FTP, then there's probably more soreness in my future.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Five Pain Portraits

I've recently administered FTP tests for a few other riders - 45 minutes - as hard as you can go and still finish the test. All of them were strong and experienced racers. But as you can see from the charts below, none of them had the same approach to the test. It was fun, and sometimes very painful, to watch.

This guy started too easy and probably had too much left at the end:

This guy started too hard and struggled at the finish:

This guy's approach took him to all sorts of highs and lows. A premature finishing push and subsequent burnout probably cost him a few watts:

This guy had good, if slightly undulating, pacing and turned himself inside out, in and out of the saddle, to maintain his number in the closing minutes:

This guy's metronomic output was juuuuusst right (guess who's the experiened time trial specialist of the group?). Amazing consistency and near-perfect pacing.

I expect higher numbers from the first three riders if they choose to test again later in the season - from better pacing strategy if not also from improved fitness. If the last two want higher numbers, they'd better just "Ride Lots."