Sunday, December 31, 2006

Making a Point

Happy New Year everyone!

My goals this coming year are primarily focussed on performances in pursuit and points racing. So I thought I'd post a picture of the file from my last State Masters Points race to remind me of what I am trying to better (no pic of Nats - I crashed unfortunately).

All things going well, I won't miss the podium on a count back like I did in this race. But even if that doesn't happen*, at least with the power meter I'll have a pretty fair idea if I've improved or not.

For me this is a 20km event with a sprint every 2.5 km (8 sprints). In this case no break was successful, and the file shows that with the surges on points laps occuring at regular intervals.

Training is going well, coach has me thumping out some solid stuff right now - I know today I'm feeling the training fatigue a little. Rest day tomorrow.

* Apart from my own form, to some extent it does depend on who shows up on the day as I have several world class competitors in my State/category so if they all present on the line, then it will take some cunning riding to beat them. I can be pretty cunning though....

Read More......

Thursday, December 28, 2006

TSS vs. kJ

Recently I've noticed a few discussions in the on-line forums about using the CPU read-out on power meters showing work performed (usually expressed as kilojoules) as a proxy for cumulative TSS. Many have noticed a roughly linear relationship appears to exist between the two measures.

This comes from a desire by some to know their cumulative TSS while riding.

But is the kJ read-out a valid proxy for TSS?

For those that use the newer ergomo power meter, they already have this feature built into their CPUs, so they have no need for using kJ as a proxy for TSS. However, for the rest of us, unless you do the same type of ride every time you head out the door or get on the trainer, it is unlikely that this linear relationship will hold true.

The Practical Example

While the mathematics shows this relationship to be a spurious one, there's nothing like real data to emphasise a point.

The above chart is a plot of kJ vs. TSS for 161 rides so far this season.

While the relationship is roughly linear, there are major differences in work performed for rides of a similar TSS, even rides with TSS around 100-130, the energy spread is greater than 1,000kJ or up to three times the difference for the same TSS!

So I won't be using the kJ display on my power meter as a proxy for TSS.

Besides, I'm better at estimating what TSS to expect per hour for certain types of rides. While you can do this by estimating the Intensity Factor (IF) of a given ride (or sections of ride), I simply know from experience what to expect since I have probably already done similar rides as a part of my regular training and racing.

The Maths

Here's a quote from Andy Coggan on the matter to explain the maths:

"The relationship between TSS and total work not only varies with the individual, but also with the nature of the workout. That is evident by looking at the respective formulae:

Total work = duration x average power

TSS = duration x (normalized power/functional threshold power)^2

Thus, during long workouts the ratio of TSS to total work will tend to be lower, since normalized power and average power will tend to be closer together. Conversely, during shorter, higher intensity workouts (especially, e.g., with trackie style "go hard, puke, go home" level 6 intervals) the ratio of TSS to total work will tend to be higher, since normalized power will be much higher than average power. Of course, if practically all of your workouts are "middle of the road", then these differences won't be apparent and you may find a fairly high correlation between total work and TSS. As should be evident from the formulae given above, however, the two are not equivalent, i.e., such a correlation is simply spurious."

So until TSS, IF etc are incorporated into the CPUs of more brands of power meter, I guess most of us will just need to get to know our own data better....

Read More......

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Pudding (Racing vs Training)

Last Race of the Year and another result!

Yesterday was the Bike Bug 500 - another handicap criterium at Sydney's Heffron Park circuit. With $500 for 1st place, there was a pretty good turn up with all the usual suspects. This one was a little different to the others I've ridden in that it was an open A, B, C grade group handicap run over 15 laps (30.6km) - but in the reverse direction. Now I've raced at this circuit for a decade but never the other way round! It was a pretty interesting experience. I don't plan on riding the velodrome the other way round though!

We were lucky as a big thunderstorm blew through not long before the start dumping a lot of water on the circuit but a wet track and a few puddles wasn't going to stop the race going ahead.


This wasn't an important race for me, just a bit of fun and a good workout. Since I had done 30 minutes of time trial effort at 99% of FTP the day before and earlier in the week some heavy tempo work, I wasn't expecting the freshest legs on the planet. Certainly the routine on day before a race is typically not TT efforts!

That's because I am now in race prep stage for March and race results now are inconsequential and subordinate to training. Coach is helping me to avoid the mistakes I made last season, where I was constantly staying fresh for racing and intense efforts and that left me with little in the tank by the time the Championships rolled around. Don't get me wrong, I had a great season but there sure was room for improvement. The Performance Manager Charts really made that stick out for me. Here's what I mean (click/right click to see larger image):

Last Season's PMC
Basically I ended up never really having a proper CTL build phase to start with. There was a short one around this time last year but I tried to ramp up too quickly and got sick. After that, regular racing and a change of focus to efforts of increasing intensity meant CTL was flatlining or heading south.

Back to the Bug

OK, so how did the race go? Well I got onto the podium, so that's not bad! Here's the WKO annotated to show the various phases of the race. I applied 30 second rolling averages to smooth out the data as the power line was highly variable - the smoothing makes the phases of race a little easier to pick out. Again click/right click to see a larger, clearer image.

The Bike Bug 500 "Pudding Race"

The chart pretty much tells the story. I started with the B-grade bunch and they really weren't going fast enough to hold out a determined A-grade. And as usual only 6-8 guys were doing the work while the other 20 or so would sit on. Not the way to win a handicap but I expect no less from these guys.

So about 6 laps in I was sick of just hanging around and decided to see how my legs really were and put in an attack. That lasted a couple of laps but at least it got B-grade to pick up the pace a bit and made A-grade work a bit longer before the catch. Seeing that effort was futile, I went back to hide in the bunch for a while and recover in time for the A-grade train, making sure I had good position when it came steaming through. Shortly after we picked up and passed the C-grade bunch.

Scratch the Handicap
Then it was a matter of managing position and marking the attacks which were inevitable as the race was now reverting to a scratch format given all bunches had been caught. The pace was certainly higher now and I had to dig in a little here and there but I was sufficiently in control to maintain it with the leading riders.

As it turns out I was the last remaining B-grader in the lead group and that earned me a place on the podium, a large Christmas Pudding, a bottle of wine, 2 Veloflex Black tyres (one of my favourite road race tyres) and $50. So an early Chrissy present! Always good to get the new club kit up there for the photos (which I don't have yet BTW).

These coming weeks I have some
really solid training in front of me.
Coach reckons I'm a chance of abusing him at some stage for what he's dishing out but I got through week 1 of this phase with only minor expletives emerging as I struggled towards the end of my sets.

All's looking good for 2007!

Read More......

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Short & Sweet

Carnival Time

First up - Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.

I've just started a three week break from work and boy do I need it. I was getting a bit tired in the brain department, so a few weeks of riding, relaxing, watching some cricket and doing a few things for myself will be just fab! Just need to try not to completely stuff myself stupid on Christmas Day.
OK - it's 2 weeks since I wrote anything for the blog, so here's a couple of entries coming up. I was hoping to have a few more photos to attach but they're a bit thin on the ground.
Last weekend I raced on Saturday night at the Bankstown Track Open at Dunc Gray Velodrome, a national category 1 track carnival, meaning all the big hitters would be out to play and guys like me in the lower grades become "stocking stuffers" giving some time for the main riders to recover between efforts. World class riders like Ryan Bayley, Anna & Kerrie Meares for example. It was also combined with a number of NSW State Championships and the Keirin in particular was hotly contested.

Perkins, Leonard & Bayley lining up for the Keirin.
Ryan Bayley basically took the front position in the heats and semi finals, making sure he got through to the final. Perhaps the efforts of those long sprints on the front told in the end as he was unable to take it all the way for he win in the final. Here's the final finishing places.

Not a bad field for your local State Championships! Look out for that Danny Ellis, he's coming up real fast.

One rider making his come back following back surgery is Commonwealth Games Kilo Champion Ben Kersten. Benny saved himself for the track carnival and ended up doing what he seems so good at, winning the wheelrace final in emphatic style. A few of my regular racing buddies took the minor placings but Benny was pretty awesome.

I had a so-so carnival but got something out of it in the last race of the night where I just missed winning the final motorpace race. Here's the wko for the motorpace race (click/right click the pic to see a bigger image):

Motorpace race WKO

The first thing to notice is the gradual rise in speed as the race is controlled by the motor pacer riding the derny
(motor bike). No-one is allowed to pass the derny until it withdraws from the track, usually with about 625 metres to go. Then the pace dropped a little as the front rider slowed it down a bit, which saw one rider attack immediately, using the banking to good effect. Being the bunny left near the front with 2 laps to go, I just pinned the ears back and set off after them - see the rapid lift in power and resulting acceleration. It was then just a matter of whether I would overhaul them as no-one was coming round me. I got their hip in the final turn but couldn't quite finish it off - only a wheel rim in it but that's track racing. Nevermind - a few bucks for 2nd place is always welcome.

Ride safe!

Photos courtesy of David Lane at Action Snaps

Read More......

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Give the Dog a Bone

That's the way, uh huh, uh huh, I like it!

OK - so I had a win! Always good to get a win under your belt and this time it was at the Brindabella Challenge Criterium, held on a hot, windy and exceptionally dry Canberra day.

The Brindabella Challenge is relatively new phenomenon, combining events across all cycling disciplines in the nation's capital city over a 10-day period. With backing from the local government and tourism body, it brings many cyclists into town for the great riding on offer. It also happens to be where my Mum lives, so all up it makes for a good weekend away - I get to visit my Mum and my brother's family (my nephew was also celebrating his 21st birthday so we had a dinner out), eat Mum's cooking and am able to train, relax and have a race too. Multiple birds struck down with one stone, how good is that?

Racing was at the brand spanking new Stromolo “Forest” crit circuit known as
“The Bone”.
See the picture above of the 1.25km circuit layout and you'll see why it's called “The Bone”. It is also dry as a bone (”drizabone” in Aussie slang) ever since the horrendous firestorms fanned by high winds hit the nation’s capital on Saturday 18 January 2003. The fires swept through Canberra's suburbs causing massive destruction. Large scale evacuations took place and a massive relief effort was put in place.

Four lives were lost in this catastrophic inferno and more than 500 homes were destroyed. My Mum lives nearby and fortunately her home was spared although many in the surrounding streets were not. Thousands of hectares of forest and park lands were also burnt out (including the Pinus Radiata forest that once covered Mt Stromolo) as well as destroying the famous optical telescope observatories on top on the hill. There is a memorial to those that died just a few hundred metres from the new race track.

So, back to the racing! It was pretty hot, at least 36+C (97+F) and quite probably more down on the tarmac. A strong westerly was blowing the dust amongst the riders. The track is really nice to ride on being lovely smooth new hotmix - mmmmmm - nice. Not all that technical though - I usually prefer technical. We rode in an anti-clockwise direction.

I didn't really know what to expect from the Open B grade bunch - the boys rolled gently off the line, no-one attacking from the gun, so after the first few corners I was on the front, put a bit of pressure on and got a small gap. No-one on my tail, so I got cranking and got away. A young bloke rode across to me and he lasted a lap before dropping back. The gap to the bunch was getting bigger so I kept driving. The bunch obviously thought I was mad and would never last in the conditions.

At about 12-13 min in I was starting to feel it a bit and noticed one other guy got away from the bunch and seemed to be making ground - he eventually got to me, which was great as then we worked together all the way to the finish, eventually putting about 40-50 seconds into the main field. It was sooo hot and the wind was wicked, which, while it meant hard work for us in front, it also meant the bunch were marking each other and not focussed on working together to close the gap. Happens so often.

Race organisers, sensibly, provided helpers to hand out extra bidons for the riders, which I gladly took advantage of, drinking some but also "doing a Floyd" and pouring it over my head/neck to aid cooling. It really works!
Since the two of us had some time up our sleeve, we could ease back a little on the last lap or so. I led up the rise into the final bend (at the top of "the bone") and rode it like a track sprint - hugging the best line and forcing my opponent to start the sprint wide, from behind and on the windiest side. He finally jumped, got in front by length of bike but I gradually wound him back and got my wheel in front with 10-15m to go.

Here's a shot of my race power file. I put in horizontal lines marking the average speed and power for reference.

My race power file.

So a nice win! I also set new peak, 5 & 10 second power PBs in the sprint - gotta be happy with that!.
Motivation is a wonderful thing in bike racing
(not to mention PB fitness levels & TSB at +12).

Scored some prize money, the 2006 Brindabella Challenge winner's jersey as well as some bonus bucks for being the 1st placed 40+ year old in an open field.

Race day stats:
CTL: 88
TSB: +12

Brindabella Crit:
Duration: _____39:33
TSS: __________66.4 (intensity factor 1.005)
Norm Power: ___306
VI: ____________1.06
Distance: ______25.691 km
Power: ______0___1583_____289 watts
Cadence: ___43____133______97 rpm
Speed: ______0____55.8_____39.0 kph

Read More......

Monday, December 11, 2006

MAP Testing - where failure is a success...

So, am I getting better coach?

Well coach knows the answer already but how do you really tell? Well with a power meter, it isn't difficult to work out. Aside from actual race performances, the best guides are performance tests. These come in various shapes and sizes and generally follow a consistent protocol so that results can be compared over time. I have already described one such test I've done a number of times - the 16km (10 mile) Time Trial, which gives a really good marker of changes in aerobic fitness. See post here for an example.
Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP) is another such performance marker and can be determined with consistency through performing an incremental test to exhaustion. There are a number of protocols for these tests but they all have a common theme, i.e. you ride in such a manner where resistance (power) is continually increased until you can no longer continue. It's a bit brutal (and should only be attempted by healthy subjects) but all up it's pretty quick (less than 15 minutes).

The MAP testing protocol we use at RST is the same as used by British Cycling - and involves riding on a stationary ergometer or indoor trainer, beginning with a resistance at the lower end of endurance training levels and then increasing the resistance by 15, 20 or 25 watts per minute until you can no longer continue to sustain the power.

Different categories of athletes should use a different starting power and different incremental rate of increase in power. Where possible, the rate should be gradual, rather than in large steps of 20 or 25W/min.

Elite athletes (e.g. Cat 1 to Professional level) should use 20W/min
Non-elite men use 25W/min, and
Women use 15W/min.

The outcome we are looking for is the mean maximal power output for 1 minute, which (assuming the resistance is continually increasing) should be the average power for the final minute of the test prior to failure.
How do you do a MAP Test?

Firstly it is very important that you are healthy and reasonably fit to perform such a test. These are maximal efforts and so you should always consult your physician/doctor if in any doubt about your suitability for such testing, and most definitely if you haven't exercised for over two years, are or have been a smoker, are significantly overweight and/or are over 35 years old. Never perform a MAP test if you are ill or have been ill in recent weeks.

It helps to have an ergo trainer and a powermeter. At worst a flat road ending with a hill climb can also mimic the circumstances needed.

I perform tests by fitting the bike to a Computrainer. This is ideal as the Computrainer allows for programmable resistance increments, so it takes care of the increase in resistance for you and all you need do is focus on pedaling. But an indoor trainer where you control your own power output by watching the power meter display is certainly good enough.

It might also help to have a buddy to help keep you on track, call out the next power level and to encourage you when it gets hard. And of course, make sure you are recording the test with your power meter.

The test is relentless and you go until failure (i.e. no longer able to increase the power). You really need to try as hard as you possibly can. There ain't much more to it.
I then use the data recorded by the power meter and Cycling Peaks' WKO+ software to analyse the results.

So what does a test result look like?

Well here's a picture of the result of a MAP test I've done (click on pic to see a bigger version):

Alex's MAP Test
There are five lines on the chart. The two horizontal dashed lines show:
- Average Cadence for the test (green dashes) and
- My Functional Threshold Power (yellow dashes).
These are simply there to provide a visual reference point for the real test data.

The three jagged lines are:
- Power (yellow)
- Heart Rate (red)

- Cadence (green)

So we can see the power gradually increasing until failure. Note the mean maximal 1-minute power of 399 Watts. Darn. I was hoping I'd crack 400 this time. Never mind, there is still room for improvement there.
Heart rate is also shown for reference. A couple of spikes in the line which are likely just erroneous data. I don't use heart rate much as a guide but you should expect to see HR approaching maximum during or just after ending a test like this.

So what does it all mean?

Firstly, using this protocol, we are able to set and adjust training levels from recovery right through to anaerobic capacity efforts.

The training levels are as follows:
These can be used to help guide training efforts.

Secondly, we can measure whether training is actually improving performance.

My Map Results over last few months

Shown above are the results of my MAP tests over a period of a few months. As we can see, a 38 Watt improvement in my MAP - a little over 10% increase (and a 13% increase in terms of power to weight ratio).

So if you have a power meter and a trainer (especially one with a programmable resistance) then you have the perfect set up to test your own progress.

So what are you waiting for?

Read More......

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Testing 1, 2, 3...

About four weeks ago I wrote about one of the performance tests coach has me down for every so often - a 16 km (10 mile) time trial (or near enough to 16km). In my case I use the local training circuit - Sydney's Centennial Park and do a 4-lap TT. Well I just did another one of these on Tueday this week.

Ease Up!
In the lead up over last few weeks, my training was eased back a little, partly to give my body a chance to catch up with the CTL I had accumulated and in response to a few early signs of fatigue (like being unable to complete a set interval) but also a chance to have a race or two with a little freshness. Now I was by no means overtrained, not even close, and race power outputs have certainly been healthy enough. It also represents a segue into the next phase of training, where intensity of workouts really starts to pick up for the build towards the track championships next March.

So what's the Performance Manager telling us? Well this is an extension to the chart I last posted here on 23 October.

My lastest PMC

So since last time, we see CTL continue to build through to mid-November, reaching a peak of 98 TSS/day on 12 Nov (which is an all time peak CTL for me - last season my CTL peaked at 81 TSS/day). After that you can see the impact of my training easing back, with CTL dropping, going TSB positive and enjoying some good form at the track carnival up at Gosford.

And the test TT? Well here's the chart of the ride. Stats are shown on the left, with wattages by lap also indicated.

16km TT test

Pacing TTs well is a challenge for me. Let's face it - I don't do lots of TTs so my pacing is a less than fine tuned skill but I'm sure I'll get better with more practice. I'm a track/crit rider, used to the dynamics of that environment.

Last time I tested (1 Nov) I talked about how I picked it up a little mid-way, then paid the price in the final lap. Well this time I started slightly more conservatively (~5W less) than last time but found that the last lap and a half I was able to crank it up considerably. So in the end I averaged only 1 Watt higher than last test.

While it's not much of a PB (it's still a PB!), I am pretty happy with that as I had all the "mental sensations" of actually losing some aerobic fitness this last couple of weeks, so personally I wouldn't have been surprised to have struggled more than I did.
I suspect coach knows more than I do though....
Soft c**ks
Last weekend I was supposed to have a race but I turned up and found they'd decided to cancel since all these softies in Sydney go underground at the slightest hint of wet weather. So bugger it, I got on my bike and did some hard laps anyway. After eight circuits at Heffron I got a bit bored, eashed back for a short time then two other guys came through doing turns so I jumped in with them and we cranked it up for a few more good laps. So a neat little 50 minute effort. Then the rain came.

My MAP test is tomorrow and this weekend I race the Brindabella Challenge crit. Will report in next week.

Read More......

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Young Ones

Gearing up for the final push.....

Track racing is popular with the kids

Paul Craft's unique and well lubricated commentary kept us amused all afternoon and well into Saturday evening during the Central Coast Track Open at the outdoor 460 metre Adcock Park track located at West Gosford. Hosting 55 track cycling events covering a Junior and Senior racing carnival is no mean feat for any sporting club club, so thanks to all the organisers and helpers for making the day's racing fun. The carnival started in windy conditions which eased as the evening settled.

The junior events attract good fields

The junior carnival is pretty popular and for a local town track carnival, this is pretty typical of what you'll see in towns across the country. Grass roots racing certainly keeps the sport healthy.
For myself, it was my first open racing in the new club colours. Given the top B-grade handicap mark (110 metres), I had six races for the evening:
  1. 5km Scratch race (3rd)
  2. Keirin Heat (2nd)
  3. 1.8km Wheelrace heat (missed qualifying for final);
  4. A/B/C grade Handicap Miss'n'Out (3rd);
  5. Keirin Final (4th)
  6. 12km A/B Combined Scratch Race (no placing, retired gracefully with 1/2 lap to go along with former junior world and Australian elite champion Shaun Hopkins)
The new suit

Scratch races and Keirins are pretty well known but two races that may not be as well understood are the Wheelrace and Handicap Miss'n'Out. Click the link to get a little more info if interested. The Miss'n'Out is explained at the bottom of this post.

Some race day stats:

CTL:___________ 89.1
TSB:_________ + 25
TSS:__________ 137.6
Max Speed:_____ 60 km/h
Max Power:___ 1391 watts
Gear:_______ 48x14 (92.6")

Clearly I was plenty rested for the event with a large positive TSB. Coach had backed off training a little after a few signs were emerging that I needed a bit of a breather.

I was pleased at being competitive in the Keirin as it's a sprint event and not my target type of race (my focus is on enduro racing). My best result was the 3rd place in the Miss'n'Out, eventually outlasting all 40 riders bar Peter Fitzpatrick (2006 Australian Elite Madison Championship bronze medallist) and top U-23 enduro rider Phil Stokes. Indeed these guys are in final prep for the State elite track championship in a couple of weeks and their form ain't exactly shabby.

The final scratch race was pretty hard with the top enduro boys cranking it up several times in an effort to drop the sprinters. Here's a screen shot of the closing scratch race power file for interest. Click on the image to see a larger, clearer version
(right click to view in a new window) .
The two dotted horizontal lines mark the average speed (blue) and power (yellow). Stats are shown on the left. Ignore the cadence numbers, they are wrong (I don't use the cadence sensor on the track bike and should turn off the hub cadence function).

Note the repeated increases in speed and the power required to respond to the accelerations. This is pretty typical of enduro riders trying to rid the bunch of the sprinters by picking up the pace and then the spirnters and/or less fit attempting to slow it down again. It can be pretty ruthless. You know the tactic is working when world champion riders get spat out eventually.

Anyway - a pretty good night's racing and my form was, according to a fellow competitor
(a World's Masters track champion himself) who wasn't racing as his two boys were busy cleaning up in the junior carnival, "better than I've ever seen". Nice compliment.

"Form = Fitness plus Freshness" ~ A. Coggan.
"Form = Compliments from Competitors" ~ A. Simmons.
Next stop: a local crit then a trip to Canberra to visit Mum and race the Brindabella Challenge Crit.

Miss'N'Out (courtesy of FNWTR):

The bike equivalent of musical chairs, sometimes called the Elimination or "Devil's Race", every lap the last rider across the finish line is pulled out of the race until only two riders remain. These two are given the bell for the final sprint lap. Keep your eyes on the back of the field, that's where all the excitement lies in this event.
In a handicap format, riders are split into grades starting at different points on the track, meaning the top riders lose one per lap from their bunch until they catch the bunch(es) in front.
Photos courtesy of David Lane at Action Snaps

Read More......

Friday, November 24, 2006

Planning a Comeback with the Performance Manager

Tanya making her return to racing on 18 November
US Independence Day 2006 was the same day my good friend and former coach, Tanya, went under the surgeon's knife at Sydney's Prince of Wales Hospital. Diagnosed with bowel cancer a couple of weeks earlier, it was quite a rude shock to realise there was a substantial tumour needing removal. Especially as Tanya was in final build phases in preparation for a trip to the UK to compete at the World Masters Track Cycling Championships. Indeed it was her inconsistent responses to training that led Tanya to investigate possible health problems. Just as well.

The surgery was successful and Tanya was fortunate that there were no complications. Chemotherapy was an option but deemed unlikely to provide an improved long term prognosis, so Tanya decided against it, preferring to get back to her normal life as soon as practicable. Her recovery was pretty quick but "activity" in the sense that competitive riders know it, was still some way off.

First off it was to get home from the hospital, then gradually to move about, short walks, longer walks and so on, until the first chance to put the bike on the trainer and gently turn the cranks.

Exactly eight weeks after going into surgery, Tanya had her first ride outdoors.
Tanya runs a full time cycle coaching business (Onyabike Cycle Coaching) and has for many years understood the importance of power measurement as the objective means of determining fitness and tracking improvement. Tanya has her own Computrainer but did not have on-bike power measurement. That was all about to change and Tanya finally took the plunge and ordered Powertap wheels for her road and track bikes.

Then she asked me to guide her training back into the sport. Quite an irony really, pupil becoming the coach's coach! I knew this would be a challenge but how on earth do you plan, track and monitor
training loads for someone who's been through all that? Not a light responsibility by any stretch. Especially a coach so eager to learn!

Enter the Performance Manager and the Charts it provides (PMC). Combined with the lessons from applying the PMC to myself and being most fortunate to be a member of the eweTSS (PMC) beta test group (the PMC brains trust), I knew that this was the perfect tool to help manage Tanya back to fitness.

We both decided that a medium term goal was the best thing and so Tanya chose to aim for getting in good enough shape to ride the shorter option at the Alpine Classic Audax event on 27 January 2007. After that, well, let's get there first and we'll see....(but a comeback to racing was always the intention).

So, we started gently, with the
first couple of weeks about reacquainting herself with riding and getting back that "it's normal to be on the bike" feeling. It was also a time of learning how to use the Powertap and Cycling Peaks (and solving a troublesome download problem - which turned out to be a loose connection in one of her laptop's USB ports).
It was far too early to be asking her to undergo the stress of MAP (maximal aerobic power) or FTP (functional threshold power) testing, so I estimated her MAP & FTP and set training levels based on a previous ramp test, of which we had plenty to choose from - so I picked one from when she was just starting out and the least fit. Being precise wouldn't matter too much in the first few weeks, and we would schedule formal power tests eventually.

Tanya being Tanya though, had to do a bit extra on a couple of days (simply so keen to get back into it) and we saw relatively high TSS on those days. The impacts were felt in the days after and so eventually we agreed the merits of a conservative build.

A month after starting back on the bike, Tanya went on a family break with her husband Eddie and took the mountain bike for something different. So I gave her some guidelines on what type of rides to do and how we were going to estimate TSS on those days she wasn't using the power meter.

Here is a picture of her PMC to date (click on it to see a larger view - or right click to open in a new window):

Tanya's PMC since 27 August 2006

Since returning from her holiday, it's been a matter of gradually building the duration and/or intensity of her rides and fitting these around her busy schedule of delivering cycle coaching and courses. We were also able to conduct formal testing with the power meter and reset her training levels accordingly. In her case we did both a MAP test and two short TTs to help set benchmarks and FTP via the Monod Critical Power model. I give her estimates of TSS I expected to see from each ride/workout and as the "ride library" grows, we are both able to better manage the overall stress and day to day effort.
So we see from the PMC that Tanya has managed a steady ramp up from a zero base over 12 weeks to a CTL in the low 60's (a ramp rate of just over 5 points / week). For some that would be a tough rate but given we were starting from zero and her fitness (FTP) would likely improve through this phase, we found that ramp rate has been sustainable so far.

Tanya also takes her Performance Manager Chart to regular checks with her doctors and specialists, so she can prove she's not "overdoing it"!
Happy to report that just 12 weeks after getting on the bike for the first time since her surgery, Tanya competed in the same club crit as I reported on here - and did rather well hanging in there for many laps. Here are her stats:

Club crit:
Duration:___ 37:40
TSS:________ 84.3 (intensity factor 1.159)
VI:__________ 1.08
CTL_________ 61.4
TSB:_______ -12.3

I think from those numbers (especially the Intensity Factor) we may need to retest as it would seem Tanya's fitness has taken another leap forward.
Tanya can see her fitness has improved significantly since starting back and is beginning to entertain thoughts of competing at the State and National Masters Track Championships in March 2007, something we didn't really rule in or out three months ago. So, after discussing that, we will begin to introduce more track specific training into her weekly routine, since that is what she loves doing the most.

In summary, the Performance Manager is giving both Tanya (the athlete) and myself (the coach) a quantifiable means by which to plan, track and manage training loads appropriate for her comeback to competitive cycling.
It gives both of us confidence we are building her return to fitness in a sustainable manner.

I will report again on progress in a few months.

Read More......

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Trials and tribulations

Well, more trial than tribulation.....

Here I am in pursuit mode
(this one's from the team pursuit titles earlier this year)
Last night I was scheduled to ride a trial individual pursuit - to set an early benchmark as I progress towards State & National Masters track champs in March. For me this means a 3,000 metre effort from a standing start on a velodrome. Fortunately I have good access to a world class indoor facility - the Dunc Gray Velodrome. And given that, along with John "JB" Beatty, I supervise the Monday night track training at DGV, I pulled coach's privilege and had a ride myself.
The individual pursuit is a funny event - it plays with your mind. But that's a whole other story.
So after a warm up I get the track to myself and decide on a schedule to ride a 3min 50 sec time.

Here's the result:

The power and speed graph from my trial pursuit last night.

And the numbers:
Pursuit Trial:
Duration: 3:14
Distance: 2.496 km_________Min_____Max_____Avg
Power:___346_____892_____433 watts
Speed:___8.3____48.5____46.2 kph
Temp:_____________________24 C
Air P:__________________1016 hPa
Cruise speed:_____________47 kph
Gear:___________49x14 (94.5")
Cadence at cruise________107 rpm
TSB:___________________ +1.5

The more astute reader will notice I pulled the pin with 2 laps to go. Maybe that was the wrong thing to do but it was the decision I made on the spot - I just wasn't ready to dig a big hole for myself. I was going slower by that stage and speed wasn't great to start with.

An all time 3 min power PB though. By quite some margin so the training on the engine is working fine.
Hmmm. Don't really understand the slow speed for such power?

I started out pretty conservatively for me, peak power under 900 Watts and I didn't overshoot the target speed by much (if at all). So all I can conclude is that I need to work more on the aero position. I have a new frame in mind which will provide a far greater opportunity to improve my aerodynamics. On my current rig I am using a Look Ergo stem and it is just about already at full downward tilt. I'll just keep playing with it.

'til next time....

Next weekend is the Central Coast track open. Should be a hoot.

Read More......

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Farewell Crit

Today was a fun race.

Driving the small scratch bunch down the straight at Heffron

It was my last with the Sydney Cycling Club as I am moving to a new club, Bicisport. The reasons for my move are positive ones and there is no animosity at all with SCC. I simply want to follow my passion of hard but enjoyable track racing as I build towards the State, National and World Masters Championships in 2007 and so I need to train and race with like minded guys.

So I have joined Bicisport along with my regular track training buddies. SCC doesn't have much of a track racing culture (believe me I've tried to change that over the years but to no avail), so I have decided to stop swimming against the tide and get with the strength. My first race in the new colours will be next weekend's Central Coast Track Open. Hearing Paul Craft's commentating should liven up the evening no matter the results.

Anyway, back to today's race. Another Handicap Crit format - 10 laps, 20km. Six minutes to limit. I have already described these race formats in a previous post, so if you don't know what I mean - click the link and have a read.

I was also the handicapper! Just to add some spice into the race, joining us for the first time was current Australian Masters Crit champ (and former World Masters crit champ) Liam Kelly, and Discovery Channel's recent signing, Aussie Matt White.
Matt & Liam doing it tough. Sorry 'bout the handicap boys!

Being a kind fellow, I made them start 30 seconds behind the normal scratch boys (myself included). Sorry lads (as it turned out) since they never caught us. Nice to ride away from a seasoned pro like that. My small group of five was made up of the usual suspects (Stan, Doddsie, Simon, Chris and myself) and worked together pretty well with only one passenger. We averaged 41.7 km/h (25.9 mph) for a little under 30 min on the semi-technical Heffron Circuit and I did some pretty solid turns today. The result didn't matter to me since I was more interested in getting a good workout.
Sshhhh - coach had me down for a 20 min time trial effort today but I figured a 30 min race would be just as good if I did lots of work. I did and it was. I don't think he'll mind ;)
Race Day stats:

Club Crit:
Duration: 29:16
TSS: 58.8 (intensity factor 1.098)
Norm Power: 335
VI: 1.05
Distance: 20.351 km
____________ Min __ Max __ Avg
Power:______ 0 ____ 943 __ 320 watts
Cadence:____ 33 ___ 116 ___ 96 rpm
Speed: _____ 4.6 __ 52.1 _ 41.7 kph

CTL: 95
TSB: +7

So, that's a pretty solid power average for me (indeed had the race lasted a little longer then it would have been a 30 min power PB). When I look back at the previous handicap crit on 28 October, this was over a minute faster! It's amazing what you can do with 5 guys prepared to all work together. Both Average and Normalised power was up on that previous race, so more good signs after the legs felt a bit ordinary this week. I think a little less than optimal amounts of sleep was partly my issue. Good rest is so important when training regularly.
Simon about to lead us into one of Heffron's 9 corners.
Nice tight group riding - there's 5 of us - count the shadows.

We caught what was left of the normal "chopping block" bunch with about 3.5 laps to go so that added 3 more riders to our group but it wasn't enough to overhaul the front bunches, which by this stage had all grouped up and finished about 20 seconds in front of us. Good luck to them - they clearly rode well today.

Club President Barry Doosey won the day in the bunch gallop with good buddy Leigh Ringrose taking 2nd spot. Nice one boys!

Afterwards there were lots of takers at the mobile cafe van dispensing free coffees and in a nice surprise, the club all gathered to give me a farewell thank you and a nice gift to boot. Thanks to Tanya for her kind words and all at the club for their support and camaraderie over the past decade. I'll still be around the park after my training.
Some farewell words from Tanya and a goodbye from the club.
Nice way to go out.

Next up I have a trial pursuit effort on Monday night at DGV and next weekend is the Central Coast Track Open. Can't wait!

Read More......

Monday, November 06, 2006

In Pursuit of Perfect Pacing

(or how to go faster without really trying)

Reproduced from an article I wrote in May 2006 for

The Individual Pursuit is one of cycling’s gold riband events that almost every cyclist should try at least once in their careers. It is one of the most challenging cycling events there is and taxes a cyclist’s abilities to the maximum. It is also a really solid indicator of a rider’s physical abilities across many cycling disciplines. So how on earth do you ride one well?
Well there are a lot of things about being and/or becoming a good pursuit rider and I’m not going to attempt to cover them all here (I certainly don’t profess to be an expert). What I will share is some first hand information about pacing and its importance, since it is the most important skill in pursuiting.

Individual Pursuit (Men/women) – Courtesy of

Held over 4000 metres for elite men and 3000 metres for elite women (shorter for masters riders), this is considered an "endurance" track event, although the speeds are still extremely high. Two riders start on opposite sides of the track and try to set the fastest time over the allotted distance. Normally, a qualifying time trial is ridden that determines who is eligible for the finals. The fastest ride is often produced here, as in the finals, the only important criterion is to beat your opponent. If one rider catches the other, i.e. puts half a lap into them, then the race is over.
An explosive start is not critical (but it's handy to have), however the ability to ride at a consistently high speed is far more important. Many riders who go out too hard can look to be well up on their opponent, only to fade in the last 1000 metres. This has typically the greatest "cross-over" to the road. i.e. good pursuiters make good road riders and vice versa. Brad McGee, Stuart O'Grady, Vjatcheslav Ekimov, and Chris Boardman are a few examples of top pursuiters who have had successful road careers.

Every rider has a limit to his or her anaerobic and aerobic work capacities (and we can all work to improve them). However, come race day, the trick is working out how to best use your current capacities to ride the distance in the shortest time possible. Pacing is the key to success.
Let me demonstrate what I mean.

Below are three power and speed charts for Individual Pursuit efforts I have done over the last two months [1]. Apart from the public embarrassment, these charts highlight some really important lessons about pursuit pacing.
Each chart shows three lines:
  • The Blue line is speed - shown against the left axis in km/h
  • The Orange line is target cruise speed (in this case 48.3km/h)
  • The Yellow line is power in watts as shown against the right hand side axis.
The scaling is designed to make the comparisons easy to see and for the differences in pacing to stand out.

[1] Same rider, bike, set up, tyres & venue (an indoor velodrome); Data as recorded by Powertap; Conditions very similar (temperature, barometric pressure).
OK – the first thing you notice is the “sinusoidal" (up ‘n’ down) variance in the blue speed line as recorded by the power meter. This is due to the wheel speed variances caused when going from straights into the curves and back to straights. So you need to follow the overall trend of the blue line.
Secondly, you will notice the large spike in power output at the start, as the power is put down in order to accelerate from a standing start. Note the peak power of a little over 900 Watts before settling down to ride at an average of about 375 Watts.
Ride A is "almost perfect" pacing. Note how the start accelerated to the desired cruising pace, which was maintained through to the end (almost). Perfect pacing would have not seen a drop in pace at all.

Ride B shows a somewhat different pacing strategy.

In this case I started too conservatively, realizing half way that a lift in effort was both needed and possible, resulting in negative splits all the way to the finish (but too late to make use of all the petrol in the tank).
This ride represented a “missed opportunity” as clearly there was more speed available in the legs that day.
Looks like I was the April fool!
Ride C represents the classic pursuit pacing mistake - starting out hard (note peak power this time is well over 1000 watts and initial cruising power/pace is higher than the target) resulting in me being unable to maintain the effort, with the final laps an ugly experience, something I'm sure plenty of others who have ridden the event can relate to.
Now let’s compare the average power outputs with times:

Ride__ Avg Watts__ Time (3km)
__A__ 384 Watts__ 3:49
__B__ 388 Watts__ 3:54
__C__ 377 Watts__ 3:55

It is amazing to see that Ride A has a time 5 seconds faster than ride B but with slightly less average power!
Ride C is typical of many novice pursuiters (myself included). In my case I instructed my caller to use this pacing strategy as I wanted to find out what I really had in me on that day, knowing it was risky and the fact that even a personal best (PB) time was not going to qualify me for finals.
Ride B was my biggest disappointment as I clearly had the legs on the day to do a PB but simply didn't put it all on the line.
Ride A proves that with some practice, especially that crucial first lap and a half, perfect pacing is possible and a PB performance is just around the corner. Just try to hold back in the initial stages (but not too much!).
So how valuable is pacing strategy? Pretty important I would say. Anyone else out there want to knock 5 seconds off his or her pursuit time for no more actual effort?
It is easy to know the theory of perfect pursuit pacing but applying it is another thing altogether, so get to your local track and give it a blast. It’s the most fun on two wheels.
Happy pursuiting!

Read More......

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Testing Times

Well today was one of my regularly scheduled fitness tests – the 16km (10 mile) Time Trial effort. I’m not so much interested in the time it takes to complete the course as I am in the average power output for the duration of the effort.

If my fitness has improved (and I’m not too fatigued), then I should put out more power on average than I did last time I tested. It’s a much better gauge of progress than a stopwatch, especially on this day as conditions were quite different.

Regular testing is a really important part of any training programme - firstly it helps determine what your current capabilities are (as measured by average power output over a given duration or distance). That knowledge is then used to shape training plans suitable to improve the capabilities specific to your target event or cycling goal. Finally tests ensure that training is having the desired physiological impact. Adjustments to training can then be made according to results. Besides, tests are great workouts in themselves, so they should be part of any regular training cycle.

Well first let’s get the excuses out of the way…

This week we moved to summertime in Sydney, so the clocks have just gone forward an hour. My mid-week workouts are early morning, so getting up at 5am was really getting up at 4am… I’m not sure the body was quite adapted to surfing the pain curve quite so early in the morning. Then there was this strongish westerly blowing in (an unusual breeze that one) and that was going to make pacing a challenge on the circuit I use. Then in the warm up I’m thinking, why does it sting when I’m not really going that hard?
Oh just shut up and get on with it….

Anyway, with that lot out of the way, we get into the test. But how hard do I go? Well a couple of weeks ago I set a new 20 minute mean maximal power (MMP*) PB in a criterium race at Olympic Park. So I figure, that’s what I’ll aim for. Nothin’ but the best for me!

Ay yay yay! That hurt! In the course of a 4 x 4km laps I rode laps 1 & 2 at around the nominated power, then for some unknown reason I have visions that I can or need to go harder (surely I can go harder?), so I do and lap 3 is cranking (and hurting). Lap 4 was ugly.

Well I beat my last test average power by about 10 Watts and set a new 20 minute MMP PB in the process! So there you go. Not so bad after all. Did I say lap 4 was ugly? Yep, it sure was ugly. I was definitely hurting more today that last time though… or maybe the pain memory of my last test has simply subsided.

Oh, and this is a 46 Watt improvement over my first test in August.
Test day stats:
CTL: 93
TSB: -8 (so reasonably neutral but on RPE it felt more like –15 or so)
And why is it that on power test days you swear the Power Meter reads low?

Here's a pic of the test results (click on pic to enlarge). Note how variable the speed was compared to power. This was partly the slightly up n down nature of the loop I was using but also the wind which was creating a pacing challenge. See the ugly last lap?

Dashed horizontal lines mark average power (yellow) and average speed (blue) for the course.

*MMP – the highest average power output for the nominated period within a ride (e.g. the best average 20 minute power within a 2 hour ride). Often shortened to 20min MMP, 60 min MMP, 5 sec MMP etc.

Why 20 minute power?

Well it’s a fairly common marker of aerobic fitness and is a duration that is readily repeatable either in normal training or regular testing, especially where 60 minute efforts are less frequently undertaken.

Read More......

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....

Read More......