Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Winning Formula

More on Team Pursuiting...

The 2007 Bicisport Train in Action @ 55kph
In order: Andrew, Alex, Phil, Alan
Our masters team pursuit squad (an event we raced successfully on Sunday), did one or two specific training sessions per week in the weeks leading up to race day. All other training was responsibility of individual.

In the first couple of weeks it was about familiarity with each other's wheel (and each other for the newer club member) and riding in formation/pursuit bike set up. Then the pace of our efforts was lifted and rider order changed about to find out individual rider's form and to iron out technique and pacing.

Three weeks out from the event the sessions were:

Sunday morning: After a warm up, 2 x standing starts, maximum of 1.5km (often less than 1km) - just enough to have everyone do one (maybe two) short turn(s) on the front and get the start pacing right. Then the boys could do what they liked (starts/sprints etc). I'd already done my endurance training beforehand so that would be it for me.

Monday night at race venue: After a warm up, 2 x Flys at or near race pace: 1 x 2.5-3km just under race pace as an opener; 1 x 2km at race pace. This served to reinforce technique at full pace and provide confidence to team members since a 2km fly is significantly easier than a full pursuit effort. Indeed, I specifically avoided doing a full pursuit effort.

Along with the data from my power meter (especially pacing information by rider*), this gave me solid information to:
(a) select riders to make the first choice team,
(b) decide on the rider order and
(c) decide what race pace I thought we were were capable of.
* Pacing info/data from the power meter was especially helpful since:
(i) I didn't always have someone with a stopwatch to record splits and

(ii) more than half the training sessions were conducted on a 333 metre velodrome and not the 250 metre track we would race on

(iii) I could match what actually happened with the PM data (e.g. did a rider slow down because they were slow or because the rider before them was going too fast). Retrospective analysis of PM data helped keep objectivity in the decisions.

Final week efforts were done in race order and full race kit used for flys at race venue in final two weeks to make sure everything was tested OK.

Team BalanceWe had a mix of track pursuit/enduro and track TT riders with different levels of experience of the event (from 10 years of team pursuiting to second attempt), so blending the unique characteristics of each to maximise team potential is an interesting exercise. I certainly learned never to start with a TTr, they go out way too hard (can't help themselves).

We were fortunate to have five guys going well enough to ride so we had a reserve rider on the day in case we needed him. Most of the guys were training right through this event as our goals are more the Masters track championships in March. I certainly hadn't done anything special to taper for it, indeed I was doing VO2 Max work and raced a hardish crit in the days leading up. In fact, my Sunday training sessions above were preceded by a 80-100 min of high end tempo (L3) in a 3 hour ride and the Monday flys were my "rest day". Despite this, my TSB remained in a relatively neutral zone.

Result: A State Championship win.

Winners are Grinners!
L->R: Alex, Andrew, Alan, Phil
Photos courtesy Ernie Smith Photos

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Gold! Gold! Gold!

With apologies to Norman May.

State Masters Team Pursuit Championships

He he - we had a win today, taking out the NSW 3,000 metre MMAS 1-4 Team Pursuit Championships. Event was held at Sydney's Dunc Gray Velodrome.

Photos not available just yet but I'll post some as soon as they become available.

Our time in the final was a 3:30.46, just 1.8 seconds over the State record set last year by the same team we beat in the final today. We qualified with a 3:36 (about 2 seconds slower than I'd have liked but it was enough to make the gold medal ride).

In the final we were down on every lap (including #11), Andrew had picked it up on lap 11 and I hit the front with 1.25 laps to go. After being certain my 3rd rider was back on I just gave it my all and we over powered the other team to take it out by 0.4 seconds (approx 5-6 metres). Being ahead on lap 12 is what counts!

The boys were fantastic. Phil, Alan & Andrew all did great rides. My form was good, I was especially pleased to finish so strongly and it was great to be team captain as well.

A huge thanks to both Dave (for being our reserve rider, supplier of spares, general gopher and all round good guy!) and Pete (for the gee up, sideline calling and general technical assistance).

Now how many teams get to have two world track champions:
(a) not selected in the starting line up and
(b) have them attend to our every need?!!
What a way to go. Thanks boys, really appreciated.

Great team work = great results.
That was the first Championship win for each of us in the riding squad. I've been trying for seven years and I think Phil has been trying for a decade to crack this nut. We both have a series of bronze and silvers but hadn't quite got to #1. The event is not contested at National level so State championships is as far as we can go.

The stats for the final were:

Time: 3:30.46 (1.8 seconds outside the State record set last year)
Speed final avg 51.31 kph (by the clock)

Power Avg: 397 Watts
Power Max: 844 Watts (nice starting Phil)

We rode the last 2 laps at 54.6kph (with Andrew & Alex powering home)
FYI my max speed was 59.0kph (yikes!)

Gear: 50 x 14 (nominal 96.4", actual 93.5")
Cadence at average cruise speed: 118 rpm
Cadence at maximum speed: 132 rpm

CTL: 94
TSB: -6.3

Here's the wko screen shot of the final showing the power and speed every second (well every 1.26 seconds). Click/right click to view larger image:

I set the smoothing at three seconds to reduce the noise of the yellow power line. The horizontal lines mark average power (yellow) and speed (blue). You can clearly see the power spike at the start and then the period where I was either in the paceline or on the front (where the power is much higher).

Just for comparison, apart from the first few laps where the acceleration happens and you settle in, when in the paceline I was averaging around 300-320 Watts and when on the front I was averaging 480-490 Watts.

As you can see we started pretty fast but we had to, the other team were going hard. I had faith that as long as we rode close enough, they would crack eventually. But it didn't happen until the last lap. That sure was close!

I couldn't believe it when I came round for my first turn on the front, saw 58kph on the screen and Pete was calling me to lift it!! No way I thought, they will crack. From there we kept powering on but remained behind every lap.

Note the final surge for the line and the win. Woohoo!

And just as a sideline, apart from myself, Phil rides an SRM, Alan uses a Powertap track wheel (but rode a disk today) and Andrew is waiting for his Powertap wheel to arrive. That only leaves Dave without a power meter (but wanting one) as Pete has a Powertap as well.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Australia Day

Australia Day (26 January) means many things to this nation. Technically it's a celebration of the anniversay of the 1788 British arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove and the establishment of a new colony, New South Wales. Of course many indigenous Australians don't necessarily see that as something to celebrate and in reality Australia Day has become more of a day to mark things that we enjoy most about being Aussies. Being smack in the middle of Summer, typically there are lots of outdoor festive activities. Of course it's a public holiday and us Aussies like our days off. A little more on the topic can be found in this Wikipedia entry.

One of the many thousands of activities on this day includes the annual Joseph Sunde Memorial criterium races at Sydney's Heffron Park. The race doubles as a fund raiser for the Children's Cancer Foundation. There are open graded events including a Masters 1-3 race.

I usually race it, although as a race it can be a bit of a non-event. The organising club, Eastern Suburbs CC, has a tendency to stack the field with their best riders and play the usual games that result in a break away with the remaining 10 or so Easts riders sitting on and marking any attempts to bridge across. Any time the gap is shut down, the rested Easts boys would counter and so on until they get someone away. It's pretty dull racing really and indeed I think the numbers of entrants will fall if this trend continues. Already I noticed other local clubs poorly represented (this is not home turf for my club).

And that's exactly what happened.

Not that it mattered much, I was really just interested in a good training hit out and it served its purpose. Here's a pic of the race file for reference.

Joseph Sunde Memorial Criterium

In this case I wanted to sit in the bunch a bit more than I tend to and it shows with the regular coasting (see how often the yellow power line drops to zero). I was zero power for approx 17% of the race (even though this is a flat crit) and less than 100 Watts for 24% of the time. But when you pedal you have to pedal hard.

The race stats show that with a Variability Index (the ratio of Normalised Power to Average Power) of 1.18. That's pretty typical for a flat scratch race criterium.

Just to spice up an otherwise dull race, I went to the front with 1.5km to go and wound it up hard in a final attempt to bridge the gap, peeling off with 500m to go after getting them to within 50 metres of the leading two riders, however the rest of them couldn't continue the surge and they ended up sprining for third, while I coasted in, happy to have a solid hit out.

Happy Australia Day!

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Getting there....

Raising the Bar

A couple of weeks ago I reported on my difficulties (see this post) in transitioning to (Coggan) Level 5 workouts. Variously known as VO2 Max workouts or Aerobic Power Intervals, these are designed to improve your power at VO2 Max, something that's pretty important as my key goal events draw nearer.

Hopeful that my troubled transition was just an aberration, I went into week two hoping that I'd have a bit more success. Unfortunately week two didn't end up any better with circumstances meaning these were simply unable to be completed. I won't bore you with the details but I was getting a little anxious. Still I was not overly concerned, I had some track racing and team pursuit training as well, so I was already getting some intensity...

A New Level

Level 5 is described as working at an intensity between 106% - 120% of your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) for interval durations of around 3 - 8 minutes, for a total time at that level of up to about 30 minutes in any one session. For me that means around 330-370 Watts.

In this case the target coach set was a range of 335-355 Watts, with six four minute efforts with four minutes rest in between each (a 1:1 work:recovery ratio).

Here's a pic of the wko showing what happened. I cut out the warm up/down sections. Click/right-click to view larger image.

OK, so in order to see if I could do these without the problems previously encountered, coach suggested I start a little conservatively, slightly under the range but to get it into the target power by 1 minute mark and then keep ramping it up through to end of the interval.

So that's what I did. These are done on my track bike in pursuit position, in this case at my local outdoor velodrome. It was really blustery and pacing was quite difficult. But I got through the first three efforts OK, using the pacing strategy as best I could in the conditions.

For ease of reference, I marked my conservative starting level and the upper end of the range with the horizontal lines in the wko chart.

I then needed a drink, so I got off quickly and had a drink and then back on the bike to get into effort #4. Well as you can see from the chart, that didn't go so well. I simply couldn't sustain the power level and cut it short. That was too hard. Hmmm, surely I had more than three efforts in me? OK - so perhaps in stopping I lost my rythym.

So I tried again (effort #5) and this time it was worse and there was no way I was going to keep it up so I pulled the pin again.

It was then I realised what was going on.
My speed had lifted quite a bit but the reported power had not.
My PT's torque zero needed re-setting.
Torque talk

I stopped, unstrapped from the pedals and reset the torque zero (which I had done at the start of my set). Then I went out and tried again (effort #6) - well wouldn't you know - I was able to complete the interval this time. While the RPE* meter in the brain was telling me one thing, the power meter another, I wasn't making a sound judgement as the blustery wind was simply confusing the whole picture.

So, whenever you restart on the fixed gear bike, it pays to ensure torque zero is reset each time.

I thought about trying one more but enough is enough, a successful night's effort and learning.

All in all, I am really happy to be getting these efforts happening and being able to do them on the pursuit bike is a real bonus. Generating power is one thing but doing it in an agressive TT/pursuit position can take some time to adapt.

* RPE - Rate of Perceived Exertion

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Sunday, January 21, 2007


OK, I wouldn't exactly say I'm a highly religious man but when it comes to bikes, well I have new one and it needed to be "christened " so to speak, so what better way than to get it out on the track and race it. I'm trying to organise some decent photos which I'll post but in the meantime here's what the frame looks like:

Viva el Presidente!

Last night was the President's Cup Track open at Dunc Gray Velodrome. I'm not sure which President and of what but no matter, presumably President of CNSW (my State cycling authority/administration). It was a new carnival on the track programme - it appears that the powers that be are starting to look at the major summer carnivals and create a series from the big events each year - spacing them out a bit better.

The Sydney 1000, Bankstown Open, President's Cup, Clarence St Cup - all big(ish) prize money events on the summer track calendar. I sat out the Sydney 1000, raced the Bankstown, and last night the President's Cup. Clarence St Cup is in a couple of weeks.

OK - back to racing - so we all get inside the velodrome very late as the Youth Olympics had been in the velodrome all day and we had to wait for them to clear out. Then the organisers generously gave us 15 minutes to warm up. Ha! Nevermind - it was the same for everyone.

The top seeded rider was
Shane Kelly, who was off scratch in the wheelrace.

So the opening race is a standard scratch race and a qualifier for the
Wheelrace final (click the link for an explanation of what a wheelrace is). I found myself with pretty favourable grading and promptly won the race, thereby qualifying for the final and picking up some prize money for 1st place.

So the new bike is one for one in open track racing!

In the other grades all my regular training buddies all qualified as well.
Next up was - ah - another scratch race (imaginative lot these programmers) and this time I got pipped on the line for 2nd place. Not too bad as during the race I was forced to bridge a 40 metre gap that some dill in front created by not going with the attack and then I had to lead out the sprint. I'll never complain when a multiple world masters champion is the guy that gets you...

Then the Wheelrace final. Since all my club training buddies qualified for the final we basically had a plan to get one of our guys to the finish. It went perfectly, with yours truly being the final lead out rider for the big unit Andrew Burne, who powered away to take the win by eight lengths. We were way too fast for the back markers, even a rider of Shane Kelly's awesome capabilities struggled to reach our committed mid-marker train. So the big money came back to the boys - nice work!

Then one more race to finish off the night - a - you guessed it - another scratch race. Gee, there are so many different types of track races, you wonder if maybe they could have thought of at least one slightly different event but no matter. With legs still reeling from the wheelrace, I rolled around and as the race panned out, I swung off after a short turn and promptly slotted myself in front of two team mates, hit the front again with four laps to go and just started winding it up before the last big surge to give my buddies the perfect lead out for a 1-2 finish. Nice work again boys!!

So a pretty successful night for the new machine.

Team Pursuit

Next weekend I have the State Masters Team Pursuit Championships. I'm team captain (in my new club colours) and we have a good unit going. We've been training together for a few weeks, mainly to sort out the technique stuff and for me to make decisions about who will ride where (and who makes the team). It's one of my favourite events and indeed was the first ever race on the track I attempted many moons ago.

Will report in on how that goes....

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Perrshoot !

Trial & Error

On Tuesday I had an ordinary day, not being able to complete my set intervals. Then yesterday morning I was not feeling too good, postponed my ride to the afternoon, only to get slight stomache cramps, so I figured my body was telling me something and I ended up with a no ride day (shock, horror !!).

So that left me with this evening's scheduled trial pursuit run and general track racing. Idea is to set a benchmark and see how I'm going.

This week, one of the local clubs started up a regular Thursday night track racing series at Tempe velodrome (which is only a 10-12 minute drive from my place), so they kindly let me start warming up early so I could do my pursuit effort with a clear track before racing commenced.


Tempe is an outdoor 333.33 metre concrete velodrome. A bit bumpy but in reasonably nick - some surface refurbishments were undertaken last Sep/Oct which smoothed out some of the bigger bumps.
Conditions, while warm, were not ideal as it was quite windy - not something I'm used to as most of my pursuits have been conducted inside covered velodromes. The headwind was particularly bad in turn 2 and down the back straight and into turn 3. You didn't notice any assistance until well out of turn 4 and about half way down finishing straight.

Anyway, here's the wko of my effort (click/right click to view larger image):

Trial Pursuit 11 Jan 2007

Times as per stopwatch were:
1 km: 1:20.04
2 km: 2:36.50 (1:16.46)

3 km: 3:54.38 (1:17.48)

Gear:________ 52x15 (93.6" nominal)

Avg Power: __ 365 Watts
Avg Speed: __ 46.9 kph
Avg Cadence:_ 108 rpm

CTL:_________ 93
TSB:_________ +6
(Given unscheduled breaks this week, I was not originally expecting to be TSB positive)

So judging by all that, I'd say my pacing was pretty good considering the conditions. I didn't watch the power meter that much, just the occasional glance, preferring to go by feel. Certainly the jagged speed line shows the impact of the wind - typically it's a much smoother, more "sinusoidal" type of line.

One good sign is it's a faster time than I rode at the State/National championships last year.

I then backed up OK for the rest of the night's racing, riding A grade and picking up a 2nd in opening scratch race and 3rd in the elimination and basically attacking the other races hard(ish). Max speed of 63.8kph was fairly respectable too.
SBS Television were out there filming, so I might even make it onto TV this week! Cycling Central on SBS 5.30pm Sunday afternoon.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

One of those days...

Best laid plans.....

Yesterday I was to start some new interval work - a change in training focus as workouts become more specific to my race goals.

Aerobic Power Intervals, intervals working at a power level equivalent to Andy Coggan's L5 or near enough to pVO2 Max (power at VO2 Max). Intention was up to 6 x 4 minutes efforts in a zone around 110%-115% of FTP. On the pursuit bike.

So I have the day off work, the velodrome is open and I have my new bike ready to rock 'n' roll.

I had a good warm up, rolling steady for a while and then 15-20 minutes riding behind Commonwealth Games kilo champion Ben Kersten with Aussie bike legend and NSWIS coach Gary Sutton on the derny. Perfect.

OK - so it was time to get cracking. Shame my legs didn't want to play ball.

Effort #1 was tough (they're not meant to be easy but it was a bit too hard if I was expecting to do up to 6 of these) and well, I was simply unable to complete remaining intervals at the set power. I tried an extended break in the forlorn hope of maybe coming good (but having done similar before I knew it was a slim chance). Forlorn it was.

So if the legs won't do it, no point trying for a lower power level as that's not going to achieve the desired adaptations, so I pack up and go home.

Phil Thuaux was also there about to start a similar type of work out with Gary Sutton on the apron, stopwatch in hand, yelling out the pacing intructions. His medal at the UCI Track World Cup
Sydney round in the Individual Pursuit was a great break through (I was right there cheering him on). Not sure if he's off to LA for the next round in a couple of weeks.

They all like my new bike. A carbon fibre Teschner Track Pro.

It was my first formal set of these type of intervals, coming off a fairly solid block of training, a new track bike and pursuit position .... Perhaps it was just a little ambitious.

All up I'm not that worried but it's frustrating when you have the time and facility available and the legs weren't up to using them. As long as I can see an improvement next time....

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Two by Twenty

Surfing the Pain Curve

On many cycle training forums and in several training articles or books you might see reference to a type of training workout acknowledged as being most useful in helping to increase one's Functional Threshold Power (FTP) - the maximal power output sustainable for about an hour (usually attainable when not overly fatigued). Sometimes these are called Time Trial workouts.

FTP is a pretty important fitness marker, especially since it is readily testable by anyone using a power meter, but mainly because it is the single most important physiological determinant of performance in aerobic events from 3km individual pursuits to grand tours.1

Everyone has an FTP of course, we just may not know what it is (FTP is determined via testing or actual race performance), or it may not be as high as we'd like (is it ever?).
Of course there are other important attributes necessary for cycling performance and they cannot be ignored - undertaking training specific to your event is critical. That said, improving your FTP will go a long, long way towards improving performance. Hence why cyclists like me want to improve their FTP.

So we do what (legally) works best - Level 4 workouts (Level 4 as defined by Andy Coggan's training levels).
These Level 4 (L4) workouts commonly involve efforts of between 10 and 30 minutes duration at an average power ranging between 91% and 105% of your current FTP. Often, more than one interval is performed with a short period, say 5 to 10 minutes, of easy riding in between. Apart from the duration of each interval (and the number of intervals), the next factor to consider is the intensity at which to ride them.

Other training schemas refer to them as Time Trial Intervals, or 60 minute Critical Power efforts (CP60). All are similar in concept and serve to induce the same physiological adaptation - namely improved FTP.

2 x 20sA commonly used L4 workout is the "2 x 20", meaning two intervals of 20 minutes each.
There is a big difference between riding these efforts at 91% of FTP to riding them at 105% of FTP. Typically there is a trade off between intensity and duration, depending on where you are in your training cycle, the composition of your total training, current levels of fatigue etc. Riding in the 91%-95% range means you could do more of these efforts (or more frequently) than if you perform them at 100%-105% of your FTP.

At the moment, part of my training involves doing these 2x20s at and just above FTP (100%-103% of FTP). Hence, in the context of the routine of other fatigue inducing training, these are quite tough to do.

So tough in fact that last week I was unable to complete the 2nd interval. This week however, I managed, just, to get through. Here's a pic of the workout from Cycling Peaks (click/right click to view larger image).

A "2 x 20" L4 workout.

For me this was a breakthrough as (aside from racing) I hadn't ridden L4 efforts at this power level before (I'm currently at PB power levels). I had done L4 work before, sometimes with a twist involving L5/L6 efforts but not at this average power.

Effort #2 was particularly hard - if you look at the power line (the yellow line) you can see how just a few minutes into the effort I was struggling to maintain power within the set range (marked with the horizontal dashed lines). But somehow I managed to convince myself to keep trying and for some reason I can't quite explain, a few minutes later I seemed to improve and once I got past halfway, I knew I could make it the whole way. I just managed to complete the set within the desired power band.

It certainly showed me it is possible to surf the pain curve, sometimes you just need to use a bit of positive affirmation when the legs are really suffering.....
1. Training & Racing with a Power Meter, Allen & Coggan, pp 43-44.

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