Saturday, July 08, 2006

I Could Ride in the Tour de France!

I've been having a blast watching this year's Tour de France. Admittedly it's not quite the same with Basso and Ullrich out but I know a lot more of the riders compared to previous years and my 6-year-old son has been watching with me which has been great.

The fascinating thing about this year's tour is that some of the riders are equipped with SRM power meter cranks meaning that we have a complete data log for their entire ride (including heart rate, speed, cadence, and power for ever second along the way). It's incredible to examine the data file and see how much work they do at times and how little work they do at other times. In a recent ride in which Christian Vandevelde (American and member of the CSC team) finished in the pack, his average power for the 5 hour ride was a mere 177 watts with an average speed of nearly 26 miles per hour. Considering that it takes a solo rider roughly (and I mean very rougly) 200 watts to go 20mph on a flat road, the effect of being in the middle of the peleton is dramatic.

Consider the following: I did a solo ride today in which I tested my 20-minute power output capacity. I was able to average 320 watts for 20 minutes at an average speed of only 22.5 miles per hour (it's definitely not a flat course but none of the hills are particularly long). On a pancake flat course and in the drops, 320 watts on a solo ride would probably equate to somewhere around 25 mph. Vandevelde's last 20 minutes of Stage 5 were completed at an average power output of "only" 266 watts at an incredible 32.2 miles per hour! Unbelievable!

Based on these numbers I could theoretically have finished this stage in the middle of the pack! Assuming I had enough endurance after 5 hours to put out 266 watts for 20 more minutes, that is. The obvious difference between me and Vandevelde is that a 5 hour ride at 180 watts is essentially a recovery/endurance ride that he could easily do every day for three weeks straight. While I could likely complete a 5 hour ride at 200 watts I'd be pretty tired the next day.

Regardless, it's cool to think that I could--for one day, at least--hang with the pro peleton on an easy, flat stage so long as there were no (1) significant hills, (2) turns at the front, or (3) breakaways my team was responsible for chasing down.


Blogger Flatman said...

Now that would be cool! If only they would just let us in...

July 11, 2006 6:01 PM  

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