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Friday, July 23, 2010

Power from the Tourmalet - 6W/kg anyone?

6W/kg?  Barely.  Power output data from the Col du Tourmalet

Yesterday saw the big showdown of the Tour on its final climb.  Two great climbers in Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck rode man-on-man up one of the most famed climbs of cycling, in thick mist, in a battle that many felt would decide the yellow-jersey.  In the end, it won't, with a time-trial to go and two riders who were inseparable on the climbs.  But it was an epic day, and produced some epic performance.

So, to continue our analysis of the power outputs in the Tour, here are some insights, gleaned from Chris Horner, Chris Anke Sorensen and some self-timing of the climb (once again, power output files courtesy SRM and Training peaks)

The Tourmalet dissected.  First, some estimates...

To wet the appetite, some interesting estimates of power output emerged yesterday.  First, for a really methodical, and I believe quite accurate method of ESTIMATING the power outputs, check out Cozybeehive, where Ron has analysed the climb segment by segment.

This method of estimating the power output relies on using the rate of vertical ascension, or VAM, which can be calculated if you know the distance and the gradient of the climb.  And herein lies a problem - there are many discrepancies in how these climbs are 'mapped', and this affects the value you calculate.  Also, wind, drafting and changes in the grade also affect the final estimated power output.  There's been some pretty strong criticism of it, but so far, comparing the estimates to the actual SRM data has produced quite similar values, rarely different by more than 0.2W/kg.

On the note of distance, yesterday, the 18.6km to go banner for the start of the climb was almost certainly in the wrong place.  It took the peloton a full 4:42 to ride from the 20km banner to the 18.6km banner (speed of 18km/h), and that was before the climb.  Once on the climb, the first 3.6km took six minutes, a speed of 36km/h.  In otherwords, if you believe the banners, then you believe that the speed doubled once the climb began.  I don't, and so my conclusion is that the banner for the start of the climb was late by about a kilometer (this is further seen in the on-screen TV distances, which aren't always accurate, but they said 17.6km to go - I believe this).

So anyway, the point is that what you calculate varies quite a bit as a result of this.

Ron has estimated that the power of Schleck and Contador over the final 8km was 6.0 W/kg.  I think this is close, but likely a small overestimate, because of drafting effects.

My overall estimation is that they took 49:08 to climb what I believe to be the final 17.6km at a gradient of 7.6%.  This gives a VAM of 1,633 m/hour, and a relative power output of 5.9 W/kg.

These are of course estimates, not measurements, and if we want answers, then we need measurement.  And for that, we look to Sorensen and Horner...

SRM data from the climb

The graph below shows Chris Anke Sorensen's power from the start of the final climb.  If you recall, Sorensen set the climb up with an incredibly hard pull over the first 15 or so minutes.


So a massive pull - 415 W or 6.6W/kg, for 11:12, before Sorensen's day was up, and he dropped down to closer to 310W for the rest of the climb (also, note that the speed ranged between 20 and 25km/h, not 36km/h, which further suggests that the climb was marked incorrectly for TV purposes). 

Once done, Sorensen settled down to complete the climb in just outside an hour, for an overall average power output of 330 W (5.2W/kg)

Chris Horner - a barometer for the yellow jersey

Even more interesting is Chris Horner, who had a tremendous day, climbing with the very best in the world.  He was part of the chase group, dropped by Schleck and Contador, but who provide for a really useful barometer, because:
  1. The eventual time gaps were relatively small - 1:45 in 50 minutes - which means that while we can't know the power output of the leaders, but it's not too much of a stretch to infer, and 
  2. The gap between Horner and the leaders remained relatively constant over the final 5 km of the climb.  When Schleck attacked, the time gap grew relatively quickly to one minute, but then it edged up to 1:30, before actually staying in the range of 1:35 from 4km to go until the finish line.  Therefore, it's useful because Horner's power output in the final 5km will be very similar to what was produced at the front of the race.
So, here is Horner's graph:


SRM have divided the climb in half, with the separation conveniently co-inciding with Andy Schleck's attack.  Here's a breakdown:
  • Average power output for the first half of the climb - 377 W, at 5.9W/kg
  • Note the first portion of the climb, which co-incides with Sorensen's pull on the front, which we saw previously produced 6.6W/kg.  You'll see that Horner rode in the range of 390 to 400W over this period, or ± 6.3W/kg.  Horner's mass is 64kg, compared to Sorensen at 63kg, so the values are comparable.  The reason it's lower is the slight benefit of shelter in the group, whereas Sorensen was at the front of the race
  • After the attack came, Horner completed the climb at 348 W (5.4W/kg). 
  • Note once again, that Horner's power output over the final 4km will be very similar to that of Contador and Schleck, because of the constant time-gap between them.  There is some error thanks to drafting, wind and so forth, but we're talking small differences.  From the graph, Horner rode the final 4km at about 350W, and so Contador and Schleck finished the climb in this range of between 350W and 360W - 5.5W/kg to 5.7W/kg
  • Horner's overall average power output on the climb was 360 W, or 5.6W/kg.  Interestingly, if you use the VAM method for Horner, you calculate a power output of 5.7 W/kg.  Therefore, I am quite confident in saying that Contador and Schleck probably averaged 5.9W/kg over the entire climb.
So, a fascinating graph and insight into the Tour's big day.  But what does it all mean?

The physiological implications of the climb

Before the Tour began, there was a great deal of debate about what the performances tell about physiology.  I suggested that the power outputs of the 90s and 2000s, where these climbs were frequently done at 6.2, 6.3 and even 6.7W/kg, were a sign of doping.  You may recall the notion, developed by Dr Ferrari and communicated by Armstrong in his book, that they aimed for 6.7W/kg as a threshold climbing output.

Nobody has managed to achieve even 6.2W/kg for any length of time in this Tour de France, let alone 6.7W/kg.  Unless I am missing something.  6.6W/kg for 11 minutes, yes, but that rider then dropped to 5W/kg for the rest.  In days gone by, that was the tempo the whole way (Incidentally, you can play around with this and work out how far ahead a guy would be if he did ride at 6.7W/kg - I estimate close to 3:00 on the climb.  Contador and Schleck, dropped by 3 minutes....?)

And the top two climbers yesterday arguably rode at around 6.0 to 6.2W/kg for the first half of the climb, but their power output dropped off in the second half (which we know, because the time gaps ceased to grow over someone who was producing 5.5W/kg).

What is the physiology of riding at 6W/kg?  If a cyclist has an efficiency of 24%, then the VO2 at 6W/kg is about 71 ml/kg/min.  If this represents 85% of a maximum, then a VO2max of 83 ml/kg/min is estimated. If the efficiency is 23% (measured by Coyle for Armstrong in 1999), incidentally, then the VO2 is 74ml/kg/min and the estimated max would be 87 ml/kg/min.  Neither jumps out as not-seen-before-physiology.  But, if you go up to 6.2W or 6.3W/kg, then it starts to become, well, questionable.

Horner, incidentally, riding at 5.6 W/kg, would have an estimated VO2 of 66 ml/kg/min.


Conclusion

All told, then, I interpret the figures to be a good indication of the state of the sport. Whether you want to:
  • Base this on the physiology (which is only part of it, but I believe an important part), or 
  • Compare the climbing times (most of which are 5 to 10% slower than before), or 
  • Compare the estimates of power output this year to previous years (again, they're consistently 5 to 10% down), you arrive at the same point - it's a slower Tour.
Now, tactics are of course important.  Many of you have argued this, and of course you're correct.  Race situation dictates who attacks, when they attack and how they ride.  That's why you need many climbs, and not a single one, to reach a correct conclusion.

One Tour provides many climbs, and I think there's still huge value in this year's numbers.  However, because it's still a small number, this is a hypothesis, not a finding - what would be fantastic would be to track these stats over the next ten years, and compare the 90s to the 2000s to the 2010s.  And also, to look at averages for top 10, top 50, top 100, to get an idea of depth.

Yesterday, on the Tourmalet, there were tactics - ride as hard as possible.  6.6W/kg from the bottom, followed by an attack, and I don't see any signs of 'hedging' of physiology on the day.  It was as hard as was possible at that stage in the Tour, and I would continue, then, to hypothesize that the more stringent doping controls, the biopassport and the scrutiny on the sport have helped bring it down.

Call it "physiologically believable" (which many don't like, but I use it with its obvious intention), or call it signs of change, I do believe that the Tour is slower, and that the days of 6.3W/kg for 40 minutes are now the stuff of highlights and commemorative DVDs.

A massive time-trial to come, where the Tour will be decided!

Enjoy it!
Ross

54 Comments:

Frans Rutten said...

Great job, Ross.

I just discovered, the SRM-team did a tremendous job by putting their analysis on their website at nighttime instead of the afternoon.

Chris Horner did halves of 376,5W and 347,5W. Therefore the values for Schleck and Contador couldn't be extremely high.

The Tour and certainly climbing nowadays is considerably slower.

It has been since 2006 although there have been some upsurges from particular riders. Not in general.

Average speed of this TDF will be ranked in probably 10th place all-time and 20th place or so considering all the Grand Tours.

And no one will deny the fact, that bikes continue to improve.

For me a great marker was the fact, that Schleck and Contador yesterday had to settle their pace only after 6 minutes.

There lies the key to clean of not clean riding.

In the end cycling is an energy balance. Kolobnev f.e. had to pay for the surge he made close before he got captured. Not that it would have made any difference of cause.

Frans Rutten said...

Correction:

There lies the key to clean or not clean riding.

roly rouleur said...

Great post! One thing, since you’re not sure about the length of the climb you timed, take it out of the equation:

Chris Horner took 52:22 to do the 18.6km Tormalet (from SRM data)
He was 1:45 behind the Schleck/Contador
Therefore they took 50:37 for 18.6km
@ 7.6% = Vertical ascent of 1413m = VAM of 1675m/hour
Schleck Mass = 67kg + 8kg equipment = 75kg total mass

Not sure what formula you used but using
http://www.flacyclist.com/content/perf/science.html and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_performance
Gives 405 and 407W respectively = 406W ave

This equates to 6.06W/kg
Adding the drafting effect for first 9km probably a bit less than this.
Ballpark the same as you and Ron!

Thomas said...

Great, great summary. I love the fact that a lot of sports are beginning to publish their datas as we have seen in this years Tour de France and the World Cup.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi folks

Thanks for the feedback!

To Roly:

Thanks for the calculation. Just to say though, you can't entirely take the distance out of the climb, because the distance determines the vertical ascent. So if the climb is shorter, the vertical ascent is a little lower.

But nevertheless, I agree with your calculations! And you're quite right, the SRM give the values, so we needn't assume too much!

Thanks!

Thanks Thomas for the feedback and your calculations on the previous post.

And thanks Frans:

I agree with you about your last point, the ability to sustain that power output has energetic implications and like you, I think it significant that the power dropped after the initial "explosion". There was a time where it would not have. Not that this proves anything - all the factors like tactics are still in play, and of course, there could still be doping, but I see this as a good sign.

Ross

Ron said...

Ross :

Thanks for the link to my analysis. Your attention to detail is remarkable. But I went back to my hour long recorded Eurosport footage and stopwatched it. The time the main pack with favorites took to go from 20K banner to the 18.6 K go to banner (on the side of the road) was under 4 minutes - 3:45 or so. The critical thinking to be applied here is that the riders, once on the full brunt of the steep climb, took only an average of 2:80 minutes or so for each kilometer of the Tourmalet. That they will take 4:44 on the gradual slopes before the foot of the climb is a bit overestimating. Great analysis anyway!

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Ron

You're quite right - that was a typo in my initial document which I then repeated, over and over.

3:45 is still much too long. On those relatively flat roads, the pressure was on. So 1.4km from 20km to the start of the climb (supposedly 18.6km) shouldn't take more than 3 minutes. For some reason, I created a minute somewhere...

My bad. Will have to go onto that forum and edit it as well. Nice spot!

But now that we have the SRM, I think it's safe to say that Horner did the final 18.6km in 52:22, and Contador and Schleck in 50:37.

The SRM also says the vertical ascent is 1387m, and so the VAM is 1644, and power is 5.98W/kg.

Fair enough! I'm heartened that for all the little errors I make, you were close, and so were a few other people! And so was the SRM!

Ross

Anonymous said...

Schleck/Contador attack at 1270 m above sea level , Bareges exit( I compared Google maps/Street View and YouTube movies ). It took them 29 minutes 8 seconds to reach the top . So it was 845 m at 1760 m/hour .

From the poster 18,6 km ( that was not in the right place ) , I measured 49 minutes 5 seconds . But I have to check on the recorded movies what was the altitude where it was.

Pierre

Anonymous said...

Now I have checked where was the poster 18,6 . It was at about 790 m above sea level , at the exit of Luz Saint sauveur , after Esterre and under Viella ( google map ) . That means less than 18 km to the top ( source letour.fr , time schedule ) . I measured 49 minutes and 5 seconds to the top , so it means 1325 m at 1620 m /hour . From Luz exit to Bareges exit ( Schleck attack ) : 480 m in 19 minutes 57 seconds i.e. 1444 m/hour.

Pierre

Frederic Portoleau said...

I'm agree with you, the banner was not at the write place. It's often the case at the Tour de France, so I never use these informations for my calculations.

I think, the best source for altitude in France is www.geoportail.fr (clic
"cartes IGN" on the left).

My reference point is the center of Luz Saint Sauveur at 710m. I did a measurement of the distance with IGN map and found 18.7 km from 710m to 2115m.

estimated time for Schleck : 50min10s for 18.7 km (maximal error, 10s)

Tomorrow I will calculate the watts.

Frédéric Portoleau (cyclismag)

Anonymous said...

Funny to see people arguing on minor details like time and precise altitude and inch placement of banners. All are approximations anyway. Ron and Ross have nailed the figures down which are also approximations. I dont think I need more confusion.

Ted said...

If Horner and Sorensen are even 2kg lighter than you estimate (how do you know their actual weight? Certainly, it has declined since the start of the tour), then your analysis may be off.

Y.O. Schumacher said...

Hi Ross,
Thanks for all the calculations and the discussion. I think the various posters and the comparisons with actual field data from SRM have shown that the theoretical calculations have some validity.
If we now go back to the point where we started (i.e. can performance measures be used to identify doping?), we must develop the topic further. In fact, 6 W/kg might be a limit, but a rider who is naturally only capable of producing 5 W/kg might dope and all of a sudden perform at 5.9 W/kg without ever being noticed through this limit. Its a little bit like the "50% Hematocrit" limit that was in place several years ago in cycling. Doping was possible as long as the Hematocrit did not exceed that level. From those simple cut off values, we have moved forward to models taking into account individual levels of biological variables and their individual variation.
Together with my friend and colleague Fred Grappe, we now think that the individual variation of performance might be an interesting point to look at to identify doping. We need to compare the performances of riders over time and see what they are able to perform at different moments of the season. Of course, tactical games are always an issue but I think that with the accumulating data, we will have a good idea on how performance develops in a "normal" cyclist over a competitive season...Are 40W changes within a week for a given power output duration really credible?
Would be great to hera some thoughts on this idea from the knowledgeable followers of thsi blog.
Keep up the good work!

Y.O. Schumacher

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Yorck,

First thanks to all the contributing comments from everyone, it is really amazing and helps paint a better picture than just one or two people.

Regarding your comment about measuring data over many seasons, Yorck, there is real value in it I think. Of course some tests in the lab can be manipulated by the riders, but 1) those data will be few and race data will be more, and 2) even if a cyclist quit early in a peak power output test to mask doping, his race numbers would pick up a problem as suddenly he would be cycling at 90% or more of is PPO for some time that is not realistic.

So what can we do as scientists to encourage or oblige the teams to publish these data, or better yet simply upload the raw files to a central location?

The critics will say the power meters can be used incorrectly, might not be calibrated, and that maybe teams will alter the data, etc. Some of these issues can be overcome, but more importantly we must realize that the anti-doping movement is a combination of different elements, including outright blood testing for the presence of substances, the biological passport program, athlete whereabouts program, and performance monitoring.

Long gone are the days of using only blood testing, although somehow the idea of a positive or negative test still carries so much weight with many individuals. We are now in an era where many different aspects of the sport all contribute to the decision regarding whether or not an athlete is doping.

Like physiology, the answer cannot be boiled down to one single point of data. Both science and anti-doping are more complex than that.

Looking forward to watching the time trial tomorrow!

Kind Regards,
Jonathan

Gene said...

A stat check: Where do your rider weights (kg) come from? The official Tour program is only for sale, but SRM notes that they are using ones the teams or riders told them (when?) or, failing that, ones from the program, which they estimate probably to be 5-6 kg high. For instance, they are using 64kg for Horner, while the Radio Shack team site has him at 70kg. OTOH, for Kristijan Koren they are using the program weight (72kg). Not a small point, since the difference would mean an underestimate of W/kg calculations in the range of 8-10%.

Don Gustavson said...

Your mention of the lance-ferrari goal of 6.7 watts per kg sounds incriminating, whereas I thought they used that gauge only in their climbing tests (10 mins or so i believe?) While this analysis of the Tourmalet climb is good stuff, you can't compare it to what someone was aiming for, but rather what someone in the past actually achieved in a race. What was Lance's VAM on Alpe de Huez in the ITT in 2004? What was Contador's VAM on the Arcalis last year? What was Jonathan Vaughters VAM when he broke the record on Ventoux, then what was Mayo's when he subsequently broke that in 2005 in the Dauphine. Not rhetorical questions at all, i'm just curious as I really don't know.

Don Gustavson said...

Also needed to be taken into account is that they've been racing for over two weeks and their power has most likely waned. Jonathan Vaughters is quoted saying that Brad Wiggins was testing prior to the 2009 tour doing 20-25 min climbing tests at 6.66 w/kg. Based on results, Contador & A Schleck would be superior to that, but perhaps at the end of a 3-week tour those numbers are no longer feasible.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi folks.

Thanks for the comments. Very brief responses to each:

To Pierre:

Thanks for taking the time to check and submit your calculations. Much appreciated! The nice thing is that we don't need to worry about it because we have the SRM data, and I think that tells the whole story.

To Anonymous at 7:52PM

I'm sorry you feel confused. Unfortunately, your desire to avoid confusion also means you'll stay uninformed.

The reality is that the SRM data provide the answer. And this post is not simply approximations. If you read it, you'll see that I begin with some estimations, but then move onto the actual measurements. There is no question that the SRM data should be believed. And if you do, which is the focus of the entire second post, then you realise that the VAM method is actually over-estimating the power output, and that they're lower than 6W/kg. The conclusion is very clear, not confusing at all.

To Frederic:

Thank you for visiting - I'm a fan of your work! I look forward to seeing your own calculations!

To Ted and also Gene:

Yes, you're quite right. But I'll tell you what I know from my experience with this level of cyclists - they always under-report their weights. Therefore, if they're saying Horner is 64kg, he is FAR MORE LIKELY to be 66, 67 or 68kg. Similarly, for Sorensen, his weight is greater than it is reported.

The implications of this are obvious - the power output we calculate is actually an overestimate. Where we calculate 5.8W/kg, the real value might be 5.6W/kg. This only re-inforces the ultimate argument in this post.

But to answer you, Ted, specifically - the weight used comes from SRM, which is as close to the actual team as you'll find. The programme is less likely to be accurate.

More to follow...

Ross

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Continuing my responses:

To Yorck:

Thanks for the comment - your presence here is greatly valued! Jonathan has already replied, so I'll leave it at that.

Thanks again!

To Gene:

I think I've mostly answered your question. You're right, this is an important point. But I'm very confident that the mass that we use is an overestimate, for the reasons I said in the post. So let's say Horner's mass is 67kg (halfway between the SRM value and the programme). This means that his power to weight is lower than we're calculating.

If I have to absolutely commit to one source, I'd rather go with the SRM - remember, they are publishing this data as a collaboration with the team, so it's a much closer relationship that one would have with some media/PR company who are putting a programme together.

However, as I said, and I have to stress this - the rider's actual weight is almost certainly higher than we're calculation. So for HOrner, 360W corresponds to either 5.6 W/kg (if you use 64kg), or it works out to LESS, because he is heavier. I'm almost certain it's not more though.

To Don:

Fair points. A couple of things though.

First, we've looked quite extensively at historical power outputs, as calculated using VAM, in the 90s and 2000s. So when I've written that it was common for riders to ascend at 6.3, 6.4 and 6.5W/kg in the 90s and 2000s, it's because we've actually worked this out, courtesy Frederic Portoleau, who posted above.

The post to read is this one:
http://www.sportsscientists.com/2009/07/tour-de-france-2009-power-estimates.html

Our thinking has evolved since then, so the important point is that graph and table.

Also, note that Contador on Arcalis is only 20 minutes long, not the 40 to 50 minutes that I'm arguing belong down below 6W/kg. That's one area where my thinking has certainly evolved. So it's an important point.

Also, I think it's important to emphasize that I haven't only looked at the Tourmalet - the power output during this Tour, in the first week, was also never above 6W/kg for a long climb of 30 minutes or more.

On the very short (10m) climb up to Mende, they got up above 6.5W/kg, but that's for an effort of 9 minutes.

So while you're correct about fatigue, the balance of the data shows that not only on the Tourmalet, but throughout the Tour, the power output is lower.

And finally, I'd be very cautious about believing Wiggins riding at 6.66W/kg for 30 min. Not that it's impossible, but because a) that didn't happen at the end of 200km and 5 hours in the saddle, and b) no cyclist reports their training at that detail and accuracy.

Thanks again for all the comments.

Good night!
Ross

Don Gustavson said...

thx for the reply, great information. Although I acknowledge JV may have been exaggerating a bit, wiggins' numbers were straight from JV here: http://nyvelocity.com/content/interviews/2009/jonathan-vaughters-post-tour-interview


"Before the Tour he was doing a couple of power tests just like Christian was the year before – uphill and in a 10 mile time trial that he did up in England, and I knew that the power to weight ratio was right at world class. He was doing 480 watts at 72 kilos for a 20-25 minute time, so I knew that Brad would be one of the most powerful riders in the Tour; but the question was whether he could sustain it for three weeks. "

Anonymous said...

Don Gustavson said...

What was Lance's VAM on Alpe de Huez in the ITT in 2004?

Tour 2004, Stage 16, Alpe d'Huez ITT (Distance 13.8 Km, Grade 7.9 %, Elevation 1090 m)

Armstrong
Time 37:36, Speed 22,02 Kph, VAM 1739 m/h, 6.23 w/kg

* * *

What was Contador's VAM on the Arcalis last year?

Tour 2009, Stage 7, Arcalis (Distance 10.6 Km, Grade 7.1 %, Elevation 751 m)

Contador
Time: 26:53, Speed 23.66 Kph, VAM 1676 m/h, 6.19 w/kg

* * *

What was Jonathan Vaughters VAM when he broke the record on Ventoux, then what was Mayo's when he subsequently broke that in 2005 in the Dauphine. Not rhetorical questions at all, i'm just curious as I really don't know.

I don't know Vaugters' time, but the record time of Mont Ventoux (from Bedoin)...

Dauphine Libere 2004, Stage 4, Mont Ventoux ITT (Distance 21.6 Km, Grade 7.54 %, Elevation 1629 m)

Mayo
Time 55:51, Speed 23.21 Kph, VAM 1750 m/h, 6.35 w/kg

David said...

Thanks!

Bill said...

@Y.O. Schumacher

I could see an increase of power production of 40W in a week if the athlete is resting/tapering, I know studies have found huge differences in maximal power and endurance in swimmers resting.

Judd said...

Quick point of clarification - is the weight of the bike being accounted for in these calculations?
Thanks for the great insights!

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Judd

They do, both the VAM and obviously the power output shown SRM is independent of mass. The calculation of relative power output using the SRM figures is done for the rider only (which is convention). Portoleau has a method of converting all power outputs to a value for a 70kg rider and 8kg bike. The key is the relative power output though, W/kg.

And also, the comparison is made between this year and previous years using the same method, so in terms of comparing longitudinally, the outcome is the same.

But to answer you, the relative power output calculated by VAM and SRM are the same - both are for the rider.

Ross

Gene said...

Ross, I'm curious about why you think weights will be higher than advertised. I would think that by the third week weights would be down a bit.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Gene

Because cyclists almost always under-report their mass at the start of the Tour. So while it's true that their weight will drop over the course of the Tour (this is probably 1 to 2kg, if that), the value you'll hear and see is usually quite a bit higher than reality.

For example, we tested a Tour cyclist a few years ago, and his weight during the Tour in the media was being reported as 6 kg LESS than his actual weight - 74 vs 80kg. Huge difference.

Also, we've had some other involvement with Tour teams (which may or may not evolve into more in the future), and its the same there - having followed the sport for years, you hear all the time that Person X weighs 68kg, Person Y 74kg. Then when you actually get their stats, it's more like 72kg and 76 kg.

Point is, the mass on race day is almost always greater than is reported. This may not necessarily be deliberate - it might be that when those Tour programmes are put together six weeks out from the Tour, the rider is underweight and then gains in the taper for the Tour. Or, it's just that no one wants to really let on, and so they under-report! If I had to announce my mass to the world, I think I'd probably claim 82kg, when in fact it's 85kg!

So you're right - it does drop, but I still feel that if there is an error, it's likely that the mass is even higher than reported. But, as I said, of all the sources, I'd believe SRM, only because their relationship is collaborative - if you're going to publish heart rate and power for all to see, getting the correct mass shouldn't be as much of a problem!

Ross

Anonymous said...

Have you included the cobblestones that drained and injured many people in your calculations ?

And as a new part of the Tour, have you calculated when Andy and Alberto allmost stood still in a tactical move ?

Have you included that there are no real climbers in this years tour, the best we have is Alberto and Andy ?

Have you included that this years race have been run in 40 degrees for most of the stages ?

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

To Anonymous at 1:29PM

"Have you included the cobblestones that drained and injured many people in your calculations ?"

How exactly? And do you have any reason to think that the cobblestones were any more draining than a hilly road stage? Because I don't - I've seen the SRM power data, and what I will say is that the cobbles required a really high intensity, high power output for 5 to 8 minutes at a time, but when you're riding in a small pack like Schleck and Contador were, this has a negligible effect on the overall effort.

A typical day in the Pyrenees or Alps is much more difficult than this day. As for injury, yes absolutely - I didn't bother analysing Frank Schleck's performances. Any one else injured in the GC race?

"And as a new part of the Tour, have you calculated when Andy and Alberto allmost stood still in a tactical move ?"

Yes of course - I explained the importance of this in the post, and have widely acknowledged that their power output would be lower here. Menchov and Sanchez did not however get caught up in this, and they gained 1 minute. Given the narrow margins between Schleck, Contador and the other two, I would argue that their tactics affected their overall performance by a little less than you'd like to believe.

But, what you should really be asking is "Why did they need to play this kind of tactical game?" In days gone by, they'd have attacked at 8W/kg, settled to 6.4W/kg and just ridden everyone else off their wheel. That's no longer happening - 9km was the longest attack of the race.

And finally, this post was on the Tourmalet, and if you believe that tactics affected this particular stage, then you're watching a different race. The only tactics on this climb were to ride as hard as possible. This was a max effort, and still only it reached 6W/kg.

"Have you included that there are no real climbers in this years tour, the best we have is Alberto and Andy ?"

This is really reaching for it, sorry. Contador is one of the great climbers of the last decade. Schleck is now equal to him. So the race has two of the great climbers. And then Menchov, Sanchez have been only 2 to 3% off them. So to say there are "no real climbers"...which race have you been watching?

"Have you included that this years race have been run in 40 degrees for most of the stages ? "

Yes, indeed. Welcome to France in the summer. I'm afraid this is the Ferrari/Armstrong school of performance analysis. France is always hot. I was at the Tour is 2004, 2005 and 2006, and I can assure you, it was very rarely less than 40 degrees in the sun. If you have data to show that it's 4 to 5 degrees hotter, then produce it. But I believe it was hotter, but not crippling heat. Typical of a French summer. This can at most account for 1% of a decline, in my estimation.

On the whole, you're right in principle that there are a lot of factors. But you're grabbing at straws a little, when you name these specific factors. My position is based on the balance of the tour, where assumptions can be controlled for or at least quantified.

Ross

tristan said...

It looks like at about 00:45 of the climb up the Tourmalet, Horner's wattage dropped significantly, his cadence increased dramatically, but his speed significantly increased. Would that be the result of a sticky water bottle, or is there some other explanation?

Jens Glad Balchen said...

Tristan: A sticky bottle normally wouldn't result in increased speed, only reduced power. Otherwise it would be fairly obvious to anyone watching what was going on.

The altitude graph shows a short, flat section right around the changes in watt/cadence/speed. Maybe the terrain levelled out a bit before the climb resumed?

Hugo Carvalho said...

All the articles about this subject that I know only analyze climbs, what about time trials? It would be interesting to compare Indurain, Armstrong, Boardman, Obree, Rominger and Cancelara.

I guess it’s harder but does anyone have any data about it? It could also help on the doping along the 90’s and 00’s debate.

tristan said...

I've read recently (from your blog and others) that a sustained period of 6.2 W/kg is an accepted sort of barometer for whether or not a rider is clean. That physiologically this sort of sustained effort would be too much to bear. It seems comparable though and perhaps worth considering that running a sub 4:00 mile was also supposed to have been physiologically impossible, until it was done. Could this be the case with 6.2 W/kg or other thresholds?

To my mind the limitations seem to be more biomechanical than physiological. That the kinematics, and kinetics at the joints/muscles/tendons (and their respective junctions) would be more of a limiting factor than physiological capacity. Is it just a matter of time then before there are either technical, or physiological advances that would allow for such power to be produced over a sustained period of time? I should certainly hope so.

Corvus Albus said...

Great stuff!! Thank you!!

Graham said...

Fascinating stuff. Both from the article/analysis and the commenters. Most cycling websites you feel less intelligent (or at least upset that you spent so much time reading drivel) when perusing comments.

Here - completely different. Complex concepts (in terms of analyzing SRM data) - presented in concise and easy-to-understand form.

Chapeau!

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

HI Tristan

Fair question. And the 4-minute mile is not the only event where that kind of speculation existed, and was proven wrong.

On the other hand, there are more recent models, developed as physiological understanding grew, that say that a marathon should, for example, be run in 1:58. Now, given that we're at 2:04 now, and it took maybe 40 years to come down from 2:10, I would say that we'll be very lucky to see a 2:02 in our lifetimes, never mind a 1:58.

My point is, the current physiological understanding produces limits to performance that can't yet be reached, whereas those of many years ago produced limits long ago broken. Perhaps this is the natural consequence of understanding. Remember that in 1954, nobody really understood the issue of VO2max, efficiency, metabolite accumulation - it was all very new.

So I think that a physiological limit of in that range, 6.1 to 6.3W/kg for a long time at the end of a Tour stage is a real one. In two or three generations, it's possible that methods of training will have evolved to the point where guys can hit 6.3W/kg. But not right now.

And equipment, yes, you're right, it would shift the limits substantially. Kind of like javelin - if you shift the centre of mass, suddenly the same guy can throw it 15% further. But the current model, no one is getting it to 100m, and that's because there are limitations in the torque that the shoulder can produce. So all bets are off if technical changes happen.

Ross

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

To Hugo:

It would, but it's much more difficult because small differences in the course can have big differences on the average speed, and speed is all you'd have to work with because power data isn't available. It's a little different on climbs, because they're more comparable - 12 km at 8% can be more accurately compared to 16 km at 7%, whereas even this year's Time-trial of 52km can't be compared to last year's, which was shorter, but had a hill.

Then there is wind. So all in all, unless one has power data, very difficult to do. Hopefully, with SRM now present in the peloton, it will be possible.

To Graeme:

Thank you, I'm really flattered that you find this difference - the commenters should take much of the credit though, the post really only comes alive when people start discussing it! Great to hear from you and thanks once again!

Ross

tristan said...

Ross,

In response to your reply to my earlier post (which I quite appreciate by the way) you said:

"My point is, the current physiological understanding produces limits to performance that can't yet be reached, whereas those of many years ago produced limits long ago broken. Perhaps this is the natural consequence of understanding. Remember that in 1954, nobody really understood the issue of VO2max, efficiency, metabolite accumulation - it was all very new."

Can we be sure then that we are at a point in our understanding of physiology that 6.2 W/kg isn't unreasonable? And if we are at that point, then what purpose do people like us serve in trying to understand further? I know that our ability to capture, record, and relate physiological processes now are significantly better (no doubt) than they were in 1954, but it seems naive (and frankly, boring) to think that there isn't more that we haven't discovered.

Also, what would the limiting physiological mechanism be that would determine thresholds for performance? With the adaptability that our physiological systems seems to posses, I'm still skeptical that the ultimate factor in determining performance isn't biomechanical. That we can't continue to push our physiological systems further (and faster) than our biomechanical systems.

Really appreciate your response. Good on you for getting around to all of these! It's discussions like this though that further understanding for those of us who have done our turn in academia, and haven't got the luxury of time to go back. Your work here is quite valuable, and valued. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

My compliments for one of the best discussions of ProTour cycling, physiology and performance enhancement that I have ever come across on the web.

I wonder if you might comment on the history of the sport a little further back for some of us who grew up watching Greg LeMond, particularly in light of your highlighting him at the beginning of the article. We are currently hearing some back-and-forth from different camps about LeMond's 1989 Tour performance. I have never really heard of anyone discussing the significance of EPO availability; this was a drug that was approved in 1989 (Epogen; Amgen)and, if you believe as I do, that it was likely not easily available in safe quantities before the mass production of GMP product after FDA approval, couldn't this be seen as strong supporting evidence for LeMond being an unbelievably gifted cyclist before EPO enhancement was even possible?

Robert G. Thorne, Ph.D.

Hugo Carvalho said...

I appreciate you took time to answer my previous comment, let me leave here another.

I guess it’s great that we are all hoped up that these are cleaner years on the tour, but let me ask you this: we've been seeing that Contador is saying that he is the one who is worst than last year and not Schleck who is better, also a number of commentators are saying the same.

It’s a fact that he was ill last June (where he took antibiotics) and he had a number of allergies this year that he didn't have last year, so my point is: if next year he is back to his best, and if this year he had 5.9 W/Kg performances even with all this issues, isn't reasonable to think that he will have performances above 6 W/Kg or 6,2 W/Kg again? And if so can’t we think that he was able to perform at 5.9 W/Kg this year only because he was on something?

Didn’t Contador last year have one of the greatest performances ever on the Verbier climb? Was it not a plus 6.2 W/Kg performance, wasn’t that suspicious?

I think that the problem when we define a physiological limit is that we are leaving no place for the Usain Bolts of cycling to appear, who would imagine 4 or 5 years ago that the 100m record would be now 9,58 (or the 200m would no longer be 19,32) it was simply unthinkable. Is he on something? To my knowledge no one is questioning his performances…

I don’t want to sound naïve, everyone knows that there are a lot of doubtful cycling performances, but is cycling deemed to not embrace any possible Usain Bolt, but instead crucify him with doping accusations?

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that it would be pretty easy to mechanically validate at least the route statistice by having a "robotic" rider machine recording the exact nuances of the climb or ride. They have all sorts of support and publicity vehicles - motorcycles and cars - weaving in and out among the riders. How about a data recording vehicle?

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

To Robert

Thank you for the kind words and the thoughtful question - I appreciate the 'detective' logic you're applying!

To answer your question, it is interesting to look at another sport to see when doping, and specifically, EPO actually had an effect on the peloton. The sport is distance running, and luckily for us (and me), the analysis has already been done.

Have a look at this post, that we did last year:
http://www.sportsscientists.com/2009/08/performance-analysis-weapon-against.html

Here, Prof Schumacher has looked at how doping controls reduced shot-put performance, and how EPO's introduction commercially improved it in running.

EPO was introduced, as you say, at the end of the 80s, but it seems to me that it took two or three years for performances to come down. Now, this could be a complete co-incidence - maybe the performances dropped because more east African athletes started running, bringing their abilities to the sport. Perhaps it was track surfaces, I don't know.

But, it is interesting that from the point of introduction, performances declined, and not only the best, but the average of the top 20.

The delay would fit with your own knowledge of the mass availability of the drug for a while after EPO was first available.

However, I must confess that I don't know enough about the sport at that time - the first Tour I watched was Indurain's win in 1994, so I'm speculating based on what I've read and heard.

I do know that cycling's doping problem didn't start in the 90s - doping existed in 1903, when riders used strychnine and wine to dull the pain! Amphetamine use was the next big thing after the drug was used in World War II, and it eventually claimed Tom Simpson, the subject of that famous book "Put me back on my bike".

I'm not sure what kind of controls existed at that time, but I have spoken with jouralists who covered the sport in the 70s and 80s, and they do say that doping happened. This would co-incide with the era of Finnish distance running dominance, and of course, that is often suggested to have been helped along by blood doping.

So I don't know the answer to Lemond allegations. He's so outspoken about it, and was even in the 90s - he's often said that something changed to the point where he could no longer keep up - perhaps EPO hit the peloton and he wasn't using it? I don't even know the allegations against him, other than those leveled by Armstrong. I will have to go and read up on it.

Ross

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Hugo

No problem, thanks for the next one.

I'm not sure that Contador was quite that far off his best - last year, when he was dominant, he did a great climb on the Verbier (which I'll explain below a little more), but the rest were in a similar range to this year - see Cozy Beehive for a better comparison:

http://cozybeehive.blogspot.com/2010/07/tour-tt-statistics-contadors-climbing.html

Re the Verbier, that is a good question. There was a lot of debate about that at the time. His VAM was super high, and it was calculated that his VO2max would have to be in the range of 99ml/kg/min for this to be possible.

As it turns out, there were a number of problems with this. First, the climb was short - it took only 20 minutes, compared to 40 minutes. That 6.2, 6.3W/kg "limit" is for longer climbs - look at the climb up to Mende this year. It was done at an estimated 6.6W/kg, but it was only 10 minutes long. There's nothing wrong with that - just as a 5km runner can do 62 second laps, so a cyclist can produce higher power outputs for shorter. If the 5km runner kept producing 62s laps for 10km, then I'd be worried...

So the Verbier climb was short, and this goes a long way to explaining the high power. Just to give numbers, the Verbier was done with a VAM of 1864m, this year's short climb to Mende was over 1900m - that is the impact of length.

The other thing about the Verbier, and this is something we got a lot of emails about, was that there was a tailwind on the climb, and as you know, this produces artificially high VAM numbers. So these factors combined make that performance, at least in my eyes, a lot more credible.

This year, on the other short climb, Ax-3-Domaines, they probably rode at about 6.2W/kg for 22 minutes. Also a fair performance.

Now, to the physiological limits. I know it's easy in hindsight to say this, but before Bolt, people had theorized that the 100m WR would drop down to 9.4-something. Models are always being done and they put the "limit" in that range, 9.4 to 9.5.

I think people were surprised at how soon someone pushed us down a few levels, but the actual performance still lies, at least according to mathematical models, in the realm of possibility.

Of course it's possible that someone will come along and exceed this limit. However, the physiology of this individual will be measurable - either they will have never seen before efficiency, or they'll have a VO2max in the high 90s on the bike (also not seen), or they will have the capacity to ride at such a high relative power output. All are measurable, which is why the approach, in my opinion, has merit. It's not as though someone will come along with a VO2max of 80ml/kg/min, normal efficiency and ride at 90% of max for 30 minutes, producing 6.5W/kg.

They'd have to "break a rule" in order to do so, and the most likely one, as mentioned, is the one about relative power output - we know that EPO (and probably blood doping) improves sub-max ability to exhaustion, and so that would be the likely mechanism, based on what I've seen, to explain the performances that we're now saying at questionable.

Regards
Ross

Anonymous said...

[PART 1]

Thanks very much for your response Ross,

It is really refreshing to be able to have a sensible, collegial conversation about some of these topics with other knowledgeable people. Based on my own reading from a variety of different published sources, including interviews of LeMond, I have long felt there is significant support for the idea that LeMond himself seems to contend and you have summarized in your response: "EPO hit the peloton [in the early 1990s] and [LeMond] was not using it."

I would like to suggest a scientific approach to some of the current debate that is likely to dramatically heat up in the coming months regarding alleged past doping offenses by LeMond (as suggested by Armstrong) and Armstrong (as suggested by Landis, LeMond and others). If memory serves, the sort of comparison of performances that I would like to see has already been touched on by David Walsh in his books, but he is not in a position to evaluate these two riders and their past history in a neutral fashion using climbing data from the Tours. Armstrong's history is well known. In an effort to stimulate more interest and debate, here is a brief summary of Greg LeMond's history that I have selected to make my points (principal sources - an excellent on-line interview of LeMond about his pre-Tour history, found here: http://www.bikeraceinfo.com/oralhistory/lemond.html; LeMond's Tour results from http://www.letour.fr/2010/TDF/HISTO/us/index.html; and Wikipedia):

[PRE-TOUR]
1975/76 – Began cycling at age 14/15 (prior to this, competed as a freestyle skier; started cycling to get in better shape for skiing)
1977 – Won 27 out of 47 races entered on the U.S. Junior circuit; Junior National Road Champion; 1st place, Junior World’s Trials; “learned about the Tour de France”
1978 – spent two months in Europe racing, winning “most of the races [he] rode” in Switzerland (1st place twice), France (1st place twice), Belgium (1st place three times and 2nd place twice) and Poland (one stage win and 3rd overall); saw part of Tour de France in person for first time; decided the Tour and European top level cycling was “what [he] wanted to do”
1979 – 3 medals at the Junior World Championships (First ever American to be Junior Men’s UCI Road World Champion; medal in Team Time Trial; medal in track cycling – individual pursuit)
1981 – 1st Place overall in Coors Classic (along with two stage wins)
1982 – 1st Place in Tour de l’Avenir (along with three stage wins); 2nd Place in UCI Road World Championships
1983 – UCI Road World Champion; 1st Place in Criterium du Dauphine Libere (along with three stage wins)

[POST-TOUR – only Tour de France racing highlighted]
1984 – First Tour de France (3rd Overall; Best young rider; 1st Place – stage 3, Team Time Trial)
1985 – Second Tour de France (2nd Overall; 1st Place – stage 21, Individual Time Trial)
1986 – Third Tour de France (1st Overall; 1st Place – stage 13)
1987 – hunting accident, April 20 – missed Tour de France due to recovery, surgeries required
1988 – missed Tour de France due to continuing recovery from 1987 hunting accident
1989 – Fourth Tour de France (1st Overall; 1st Place – stage 5, Individual Time Trial; 1st Place – stage 19; 1st Place – stage 21, Individual Time Trial on Champs Elysees)
1990 – Fifth Tour de France (1st Overall)
1991 – Sixth Tour de France (7th Overall; 1st Place – stage 11)
1992 – Seventh Tour de France (withdraws – stage 14)
1994 – Last Tour de France (withdraws – stage 6)

Robert G. Thorne

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for your response Ross,

It is really refreshing to be able to have a sensible, collegial conversation about some of these topics with other knowledgeable people. Based on my own reading from a variety of different published sources, including interviews of LeMond, I have long felt there is significant support for the idea that LeMond himself seems to contend and you have summarized in your response: "EPO hit the peloton [in the early 1990s] and [LeMond] was not using it."

I would like to suggest a scientific approach to some of the current debate that is likely to dramatically heat up in the coming months regarding alleged past doping offenses by LeMond (as suggested by Armstrong) and Armstrong (as suggested by Landis, LeMond and others). If memory serves, the sort of comparison of performances that I would like to see has already been touched on by David Walsh in his books, but he is not in a position to evaluate these two riders and their past history in a neutral fashion using climbing data from the Tours. Armstrong's history is well known. In an effort to stimulate more interest and debate, here is a brief summary of Greg LeMond's history that I have selected to make my points (principal sources - an excellent on-line interview of LeMond about his pre-Tour history, found here: http://www.bikeraceinfo.com/oralhistory/lemond.html; LeMond's Tour results from http://www.letour.fr/2010/TDF/HISTO/us/index.html; and Wikipedia):

Robert G. Thorne [PART 1]

Anonymous said...

[PART 2]

Greg Lemond - Selected Cycling History:

[PRE-TOUR]
1975/76 – Began cycling at age 14/15 (prior to this, competed as a freestyle skier; started cycling to get in better shape for skiing)
1977 – Won 27 out of 47 races entered on the U.S. Junior circuit; Junior National Road Champion; 1st place, Junior World’s Trials; “learned about the Tour de France”
1978 – spent two months in Europe racing, winning “most of the races [he] rode” in Switzerland (1st place twice), France (1st place twice), Belgium (1st place three times and 2nd place twice) and Poland (one stage win and 3rd overall); saw part of Tour de France in person for first time; decided the Tour and European top level cycling was “what [he] wanted to do”
1979 – 3 medals at the Junior World Championships (First ever American to be Junior Men’s UCI Road World Champion; medal in Team Time Trial; medal in track cycling – individual pursuit)
1981 – 1st Place overall in Coors Classic (along with two stage wins)
1982 – 1st Place in Tour de l’Avenir (along with three stage wins); 2nd Place in UCI Road World Championships
1983 – UCI Road World Champion; 1st Place in Criterium du Dauphine Libere (along with three stage wins)

[POST-TOUR – only Tour de France racing highlighted]
1984 – First Tour de France (3rd Overall; Best young rider; 1st Place – stage 3, Team Time Trial)
1985 – Second Tour de France (2nd Overall; 1st Place – stage 21, Individual Time Trial)
1986 – Third Tour de France (1st Overall; 1st Place – stage 13)
1987 – hunting accident, April 20 – missed Tour de France due to recovery, surgeries required
1988 – missed Tour de France due to continuing recovery from 1987 hunting accident
1989 – Fourth Tour de France (1st Overall; 1st Place – stage 5, Individual Time Trial; 1st Place – stage 19; 1st Place – stage 21, Individual Time Trial on Champs Elysees)
1990 – Fifth Tour de France (1st Overall)
1991 – Sixth Tour de France (7th Overall; 1st Place – stage 11)
1992 – Seventh Tour de France (withdraws – stage 14)
1994 – Last Tour de France (withdraws – stage 6)

Robert G. Thorne [PART 2]

Anonymous said...

[PART 3]

So, what points would I like to make from all of this? 1 - LeMond was always an excellent cyclist from the first year he got on a bike; 2 - He was preeminent in the Tour de France from the moment he first raced it until his decline which clearly began during or before 1991. Interestingly, this is right around the time when you might expect EPO to start to infiltrate the peloton so that even a rider with several percentage points superiority to all others would no longer be able to compete for the G.C. like he once did. I think your analysis of the effect of EPO on distance running is very telling in this regard; 3 - If someone is contending LeMond used EPO to win the tour in 1989, then based on the comments in my earlier post, I would expect we might see a change in ability if we compare LeMond's 1984-86 performances pre-EPO to those after EPO became available. When I look at his record, I do not find evidence to support a change in ability UPWARD post-EPO; indeed, it looks to go in the other direction. LeMond was 29 years old when he won his last Tour de France in 1990. It is of course possible, perhaps even probable, that complications from the 1987 hunting accident shortened LeMond's peak-level career but if we look at the ages of domination of Indurain (last Tour win at age 31) and Armstrong (last Tour win at age 33, two months shy of 34), it is hard to argue, particularly in light of his prior record, that LeMond should not have been able to keep up once he turned 30.

What would I like to see? I would like to see someone study and compare power estimates and other indices of performance for LeMond pre- and post-EPO (1989 approval of Epogen) and Armstrong pre-1986 (early racing career before stage III testicular cancer) and post-1998 (comeback and Tour de France dominance). Let the records of performance speak for themselves.

Whatever anyone wants to think of LeMond, he deserves some reconsideration of his past performances in the manner countless people have used to dissect that of Lance Armstrong's. Perhaps there is something interesting that could come out of that type of an analysis, if it is possible to do it.

I grew up doing triathlons in the early- to mid-80's and can still recall the surge of motivation I felt when I would see a short 1/2 hour or one hour recap of the Tour de France on the only weekend American television show to provide any coverage (ABC's Wide World of Sports I believe it was). I would immediately run out (when it wasn't raining in Seattle), hop on my bike and do a practice TT. I was never really any good on the bike (my weakest of the three events) but I sure admired the beauty of the races in Europe and, much later, had the great fortune of standing along the Champs Elysees when Greg LeMond rode by for his last Tour win in 1990. My blurry pictures of him flashing by in yellow have not survived but my memories have. I, like many others, started out loving the exploits of Lance Armstrong (I knew of him from his amazing triathlon career in the late 1980s when he competed side-by-side with the Pros of the sport as a 16 year old). It is a pity that the sport of cycling has such a sordid history along with all of the beauty and great performances. But, in the end, you and others like you are making a difference by using objectivity and careful analysis to make points based on the best information available. The sport is about to have an even brighter light focused on it, I am afraid, and it is even more important now for people like you to do supporting work. Sorry for the long post! Thanks very much for all your impressive efforts. Please do keep it up. Perhaps someday I might want to join you...

Robert G. Thorne [PART 3]

Anonymous said...

[PART 3]

So, what points would I like to make from all of this? 1 - LeMond was always an excellent cyclist from the first year he got on a bike; 2 - He was preeminent in the Tour de France from the moment he first raced it until his decline which clearly began during or before 1991. Interestingly, this is right around the time when you might expect EPO to start to infiltrate the peloton so that even a rider with several percentage points superiority to all others would no longer be able to compete for the G.C. like he once did. I think your analysis of the effect of EPO on distance running is very telling in this regard; 3 - If someone is contending LeMond used EPO to win the tour in 1989, then based on the comments in my earlier post, I would expect we might see a change in ability if we compare LeMond's 1984-86 performances pre-EPO to those after EPO became available. When I look at his record, I do not find evidence to support a change in ability UPWARD post-EPO; indeed, it looks to go in the other direction. LeMond was 29 years old when he won his last Tour de France in 1990. It is of course possible, perhaps even probable, that complications from the 1987 hunting accident shortened LeMond's peak-level career but if we look at the ages of domination of Indurain (last Tour win at age 31) and Armstrong (last Tour win at age 33, two months shy of 34), it is hard to argue, particularly in light of his prior record, that LeMond should not have been able to keep up once he turned 30.

What would I like to see? I would like to see someone study and compare power estimates and other indices of performance for LeMond pre- and post-EPO (1989 approval of Epogen) and Armstrong pre-1986 (early racing career before stage III testicular cancer) and post-1998 (comeback and Tour de France dominance). Let the records of performance speak for themselves.

Whatever anyone wants to think of LeMond, he deserves some reconsideration of his past performances in the manner countless people have used to dissect that of Lance Armstrong's. Perhaps there is something interesting that could come out of that type of an analysis, if it is possible to do it.

Sorry for the long post! Thanks very much for all your impressive efforts. Please do keep it up. Perhaps someday I might want to join you...

Robert G. Thorne [PART 3]

Anonymous said...

[PART 3]

So, what points would I like to make from all of this? 1 - LeMond was always an excellent cyclist from the first year he got on a bike; 2 - He was preeminent in the Tour de France from the moment he first raced it until his decline which clearly began during or before 1991. Interestingly, this is right around the time when you might expect EPO to start to infiltrate the peloton so that even a rider with several percentage points superiority to all others would no longer be able to compete for the G.C. like he once did. I think your analysis of the effect of EPO on distance running is very telling in this regard; 3 - If someone is contending LeMond used EPO to win the tour in 1989, then based on the comments in my earlier post, I would expect we might see a change in ability if we compare LeMond's 1984-86 performances pre-EPO to those after EPO became available. When I look at his record, I do not find evidence to support a change in ability UPWARD post-EPO; indeed, it looks to go in the other direction. LeMond was 29 years old when he won his last Tour de France in 1990. It is of course possible, perhaps even probable, that complications from the 1987 hunting accident shortened LeMond's peak-level career but if we look at the ages of domination of Indurain (last Tour win at age 31) and Armstrong (last Tour win at age 33, two months shy of 34), it is hard to argue, particularly in light of his prior record, that LeMond should not have been able to keep up once he turned 30.

What would I like to see? I would like to see someone study and compare power estimates and other indices of performance for LeMond pre- and post-EPO (1989 approval of Epogen) and Armstrong pre-1986 (early racing career before stage III testicular cancer) and post-1998 (comeback and Tour de France dominance). Let the records of performance speak for themselves.

Whatever anyone wants to think of LeMond, he deserves some reconsideration of his past performances in the manner countless people have used to dissect that of Lance Armstrong's. Perhaps there is something interesting that could come out of that type of an analysis, if it is possible to do it.

Robert G. Thorne [PART 3]

Anonymous said...

Very sorry for the last two inadvertently sent posts. Please remove if possible.

Cheers,

Robert G. Thorne

Anonymous said...

hi

i dont't know much about the calculations you made, but i did notice that this years tour de france contador and schleck never did a clime on full capebillety.

Because the other climers did't form a thread. They just looked at each other ( so when they weren't attacking each other they were consolidating) whitch is always the case in cycling.

Schleck and Contador didn't went slower becouse they could keep the pace high, they just found that they could't break each other, so there was no reason to keep it up.

I don't understand how u can think that the average speed a rider does at a clime says anything about his capebillety.
in a race there are always relatively easy parts and short hard parts ( because of attacking/counterattacking)
this way the same clime done in 20 minutes with lots of accellerations and stops can be a lot thougher than one done in 15 minutes at a steady pace.

It could be that in earlyer years there were more top climbers and helpers ( maybe becouse of doping )
so the climbes were done faster.

eather way, i'm not convinced

becouse the average speed of an etappe never says if it was a hard day or not.

excuse my language, i'm a foreigner

regards

DaveR said...

I have searched and searched, and I cannot figure out how an equation using only VAM (meters/hour) and agradient factor (unitless) can yield and answer in watts/kg? The units just don't work out.

Anonymous said...

Very sorry for the last two inadvertently sent posts. Please remove if possible.

Cheers,

Robert G. Thorne

Don Gustavson said...

Your mention of the lance-ferrari goal of 6.7 watts per kg sounds incriminating, whereas I thought they used that gauge only in their climbing tests (10 mins or so i believe?) While this analysis of the Tourmalet climb is good stuff, you can't compare it to what someone was aiming for, but rather what someone in the past actually achieved in a race. What was Lance's VAM on Alpe de Huez in the ITT in 2004? What was Contador's VAM on the Arcalis last year? What was Jonathan Vaughters VAM when he broke the record on Ventoux, then what was Mayo's when he subsequently broke that in 2005 in the Dauphine. Not rhetorical questions at all, i'm just curious as I really don't know.