Saturday, October 28, 2006

2 Races in One Day

Here I am (yellow shoes) sucking wheel as usual! For the uninitiated - this is the exit to a fast left hander, note how I am right on the wheel in front. Letting gaps form when cornering in a crit wastes lots of energy. Note the riders behind - they have to put in extra effort to close the gap. All those little extra efforts mount up and can send you out the back in a hurry.

Today was the annual Snowy Wilson Memorial criteriums open racing carnival hosted by RBCC at Heffron Park, Maroubra (one of Sydney's beachside suburbs). As is typically the case at Heffron, the wind was blowing - and it was pretty strong Southerly today, making the long home straight a real slog fest. With 10 corners per lap, Heffron is a real tester of a circuit, with handling skills combined with race nouse and brut power needed to be successful. The race format was graded scratch crits, followed by an all-in handicap criterium.

What's a Handicap Criterium?The handicap crit format is where riders of all grades race together, with graded bunches sent off at different times. First past the post wins. So the front bunches are trying to stay away while the back markers are chasing hard. It means groups have to work together well in order to maximise their chances of catching and/or staying away. It is very different to scratch racing - we'll see the difference in the race power stats.

Race #1 - Team tactics take their toll
My first race was the Mens Masters A/B grade scratch race. I commented last week that this was likely to be a team dominated affair. Well I was right with team riders taking turns to attack forcing the rest of us to cover moves constantly. During that early softening up period, being a bit jack of the tactics I countered a couple of times myself but of course the teams chase you down.... With Easts riders attacking until one, John Kenny, got away with Liam Kelly (SCC), then it was simply a matter for the rest of the Easts boys to mark the counters and generally spoil the chase effort. Still, I had a go where possible but we just couldn't overhaul the front two. The large field was pretty well shelled by now and the chasing bunch was eventually down to about 8 riders. Liam Kelly (a former World Masters Crit Champion) ended up winning the day. I managed top 5 or so (can't really recall) after trying another surge with 2.5km to go (and getting caught).

Then I had a couple of hours to kill before the next race, so with a few mates we rode up to Queens Park for a cafe stop and a quick bite to eat/drink. Then back to Heffron for Round 2!

Race #2 - At the Handicapper's Mercy
I felt good in this race - since you have to work more together as a bunch, there is less surging and little likelihood of attacks happening, so while you are on the power all the time, it is less taxing mentally. Having said that, it seemed to me the pace was insufficient to overhaul the front bunches, so I thought, hell why sit back - it's not that big a race, so I just put myself up the front and drove hard. Unfortunately not all could come with me, so I was constantly finding myself having to ease off and go back to the bunch.... The best method is for the group to roll over like a TTT but not everyone is willing and/or capable on the day, so sometimes a few have to take charge. Well we swept up all but one rider and had not been caught ourselves by the A-grade scratch markers, so everyone else thought - we've got this guy in our sights, no need to hammer now. Boy were they wrong. He held on for the win and good luck to him. It served our bunch right - all those glory boy sprinters not doing enough work and missing out on the big cheque.

I placed 5th overall (after starting the sprint a bit early in the headwind and having the glory boys roll me), which in this race was a podium spot and some prize money to boot. Sponsor doubles our prize monies, so I asked it be donated to the Multiple Sclerosis Societies' fund raising ride to the 'Gong, being ridden by a couple of club members next weekend.
Special thanks to Stan, who rode a strong last couple of laps to give me a break before the finale. Onya mate!

Race Day Stats:CTL: 94
TSB: 0 recovery week - thanks coach ;)
TSS: 279

MMAS A Grade Scratch Crit (5th place or so?):
Duration: 30:48
Avg Power: 295 Watts
Norm Power: 338 Watts
NZAP: 320 Watts (8% coast time)

All in Handicap Crit (5th place - podium):
Duration: 31:19
Avg Power: 310 Watts
Norm Power: 338 Watts
NZAP: 328 Watts (5% coast time)

Normalised & Average Power

Note how Normalised Power was exactly the same for both races, yet Race #1 had an Average Power 15 Watts less than race #2. This is a perfect example of how comparing Normalised and Average Powers is a great means by which to assess the physical demands of two quite different race types.

Normalised Power takes into account the highly variable nature of power output and is a clever means to provide an estimate of what average power you could have attained had you ridden the same course at a steady pace (rather than the surge then coasting style of riding common in a crit or road race). It also enables you to sensibly compare the physical demands of quite different rides/races.

So what this is telling me is that I rode both 30 minutes races with a Normalised Power of 328 Watts but my average power in Race #1 was less as the nature of the race involved much more coasting (after surges and attacks) than Race #2 which was a smoother effort. So it looks like I put in a pretty good effort in both races!

A more detailed explanation of Normalised Power can be found here.

All up, another successful day's racing and power numbers are looking good (especially average power numbers which are up near all time highs).

Always nice to get some prize money too!

This coming week I do a performance test - a 16km TT. Hoping to set another power PB. Wish me luck....


tbowren said...

What is NZAP? I don't think I've seen that in CyclingPeaks.
Keep up the blog, I really enjoy the entries you make. I've seen your posts on cyclingforums about tactics (i.e. dropping wheelsuckers) and would love to see a blog entry talking about what tactics new riders can use when beginning racing.

Alex Simmons said...

Thanks for that!

NZAP - yeah, another acronym - sorry 'bout that.

NZAP stands for Non-Zero Average Power. Essentially this is the average of power readings when you are pedalling (i.e. it removes all zero power coasting time from the average power calculation).

It bears no mathematical relationship to either Average or Normalised Power.

Some people like to reference NZAP although I don't use it much, preferring to use Average and Normalised power to assess performance. What I do look for though is the amount of time I spend in a race not pedalling (or soft pedalling). It is often a good guide as to how clever you have been in hiding yourself in the bunch and saving your energy for when it counts. In these races I really wanted to test the engine, so wasn't so concerned with that.

There have been threads on the Topica wattage forum over the years talking about NZAP and it application (which is limited in my view).

Cycling Peaks does not calculate NZAP - you need to export to Excel and claculate it yourself.

As Andy Coggan said once IIRC, "if you're on your bike and the wheels are turning, you're riding". Hence CP registers all data points, zero power or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

In your reply to tbowren you said that you "really wanted to test the engine in these races", but in the body of the blog you mention that you kept going back to the bunch when noone would go with you.

Why didn't you just put the pedal down, chase the bunny and test the engine until it blew or you won?

In my first race I spent an eternity on my own chasing down a break that had opened up through team tactics. That long haul into the wind at 42kmh+ down the main straight with no shelter was a killer. A hiding lap after lap sure does hurt, but I caught them and the lazy bunch was nowhere to be seen.

Alex Simmons said...

Names would be nice!

Too long ago to remember but given my race average power was already > FTP, not sure there was much more in the tank for chasing down solo. I sure gave that tactic a crack at later season races.