by Frank Overton
Dirk Friel Tour de France Power Data Talk & Slideshow Wednesday July 28th @ 7pm
It’s Monday night post Tour and for the firsts time in 3 weeks our productivity has spiked (thus free’ing me up for a blog post). Correct me if I’m wrong but I think a lot of fans have transitioned back into a normal non-Tour routine? I first started following the Tour in 1997 (I think) to the tune of ~20-25 minute taped ESPN re-plays at 5:30 MST. The sport has come a long way and yesterday afternoon, I admit it was kinda sad to say goodbye to the fever, the electricity and competition until 2011. It used to be I scanned every internet report –and read Frankie Andreau’s every word (remember those TdF diaries?)
Since ’97 I’ve followed the Tour as a fan, an athlete, a coach and also as a casual power data couch “scientist”. It has always been a curiosity to me as a powermeter user to know what the pros “do” . If you can define the upper limits of human performance you can relate that to the athlete’s I coach. In the early days power files were hoarded away and kept secret. Below is one of the first chances I had to learn that Lance Armstrong and Jan Ulrich did 6.3 & 6.0 watts per kilogram of body watt up the 2004 Alpe D’Huez Time Trial.
This is a picture I took of a poster presentation in SRM’s headquarters in Julich, Germany. 445 watts for 39 minutes and 11 seconds. Ulrich made nearly the same power (440 watts) but his extra 2 kilo’s of body weight lost him 61 seconds. Maximal sustained power and power to weight is the the name of the game. These figures formed the initial figures for what we’d talk about and throw around in talks, presentations and comparisons to other athletes and performances.
In 2006, I closely followed Dr. Allen Lim’s daily power data report on Bicycling.com about Floyd Landis’s PowerTap data. 6.4 – 6.6 watts / kg were some of the numbers that were thrown around if I remember correctly.
2006, Training Peak’s began publically publishing power data and I eagerly downloaded Christian Vande Velde’s SRM from the Tour each day. For the first time to my knowledge this was a complete data set (except the TT) of a 3 week Tour. I wrote an article about Christian’s power data that mainly focused on the power based metrics TSS, CTL using the new (at the time) impulse-response power based performance model. Christian was not a GC contender but it was intriguing to see the kind of wattage a European non super star made. Plus the 3 week data set made for a nice analysis.
In 2008 & 2009 the Tour data rolled in & for the most part 6.4 – 6.5 w/kg was the winning GC numbers. Last year in 2009 I was fortunate to obtain a powertap file from Garmin-Transitions rider, Danny Pate of which I made a video analysis. Again, just some background of the kind of “normal” wattage a Tour de France rider makes. Normal, being 5.5 watts/ kg for 40 minutes & 381 watts for 19 minutes. Sheesh and this is not even going full gas.
As a point of reference I also have a 6.1 watt/kg 31:08 pre-Tour field test (6/27/09)from Pate to serve as a baseline for what he can do fresh and full gas. 6.1 watts per kilogram – remember that folks.
Then this year, once again the fine folks at Training Peaks (Hunter Allen & Dirk Friel) released another nearly complete power data set from Team Saxo Bank’s Chris Anker Sorenson. He was the guy absolutely annihilating himself at the base of the climbs before Andy Schleck launched his attacks on Contador. What stands out the most from Sorenson’s data is that he did 5.76 w/kg for 21st place & 64 minutes in the Tour’s final time trial. Two things are significant about this power:
1. Up until now the public has not been privvy to many full full gas power data performances in the Tour de France.
2. Sorenson beat both Schleck and Contador, meaning they did less the 5.76 w/kg in their Tour winning performances (aerodynamics, watts/CdA aside).
Back to those ESPN coverage days in ’97, weren’t the Tour’s GC winner’s supposed to be winning or at least contending for the “w’? They certainly didn’t get 35th and 44th. So what’s going on here? This year, like he should have, World Champ Fabian Cancellara wins the TT by over 2 minutes to all but 2 other time trial specialists whereas last year Contador beat Cancellara in the all important time trial. These type of performances remind me of the Oak Express commercials, with the tag line, “that’s not natural”.
I think 35th & 44th in this year’s Tour de France TT was natural and these guys were a) tired and b) racing clean. Quite refreshing and encouraging for guys like Danny Pate who can 6.1 watts/kg!
Thanks to the power data and slower times up the climbs this year, the Tour is becoming cleaner (we have data to prove it) and the performances more are believable. At times over the last 12-13 years I have felt like I was watching Jimmy the SuperFly Snooka . This year I didn’t. The race was better, closer, more suspenseful and more human. For the first time in my Tour watching history, I could see the winner really truly suffering.
And for the guys like Pate, Cadel, Bookwalter and domestic pros that I know can TT @ 5.76 watts/ kg and climb @ 5.6 – 5.9 w/kg the Tour is not far off for you. You can do it, it’s not that far off anymore. I’ve seen your data and I know you can make those power to weight numbers in testing, single day racing and probably shorter tours. Just work on making those wattages after 12-16 previous stages! 5 years ago – untouchable. Next year, do-able. Go for it!! I’ll be rootin’ for you and hopefully analyzing your power data.
We’ll hear more about the power data from Tour de France this year when Dirk Friel gives his presentation Wednesday July 28th @ 7pm. Come on over and join us!