Monday, September 19, 2011

Planning for 2012 Fondo

This years Fondo was substantially slower than last year. 

By my estimates, looking at GPS logs and power files... The front peloton was 2-4 minutes slower than last year because of the headwind from Squamish to Whistler, and people NOT in the front peloton where slower by 5-8 minutes or more (proportionally longer the farther back you where...)

Compared to last year, the front peloton and all of the small groups of riders getting shelled off the peloton where kept together by the headwind. Last year there where break away riders who finished ahead of the main (small) peloton. And behind the peloton where lots of small groups that where stretched out.

This year the front peloton was much larger and stayed together (except for us shelled riders...) And the shelled riders couldn't do much except try and work in small groups. If you got off the front then typically your group quickly caught back on as you worked into the wind.

Looking at the two years... the first conclusion is that if you want to finish in under 4:00 hours, then you need to start with the main front peloton and stay with it for as long as possible. My estimate for this year is that if you stayed with them until Britannia and then continued on at your best pace you had a reasonable chance of getting in under 4:00.. 

The second conclusion is that staying with the front peloton requires maintaining a race pace in the main peloton. This year the average speed to Squamish was just over 36kph and we got there in about 1:50... 

The third conclusion is that the pace of the peloton is roughly Cat 3/4, but the distance overall means that most Cat 4 riders get shelled off leaving mostly Cat 3 riders at the finish.

The difference between riding in the peloton at that speed and in smaller groups following at lower speed is primarily the difference between racing and time trialing. Racing means low power output mostly while in the draft, but then moderately high anaerobic bursts to get up the hills. Time trialing mode means high aerobic output with low variation and little to no anaerobic work.

At a guess, in the peloton to Squamish, 160-200 typical, 400-450 up the short hills, 350-400 up the long hills. Overall average power about 210 watts. Outside the peloton, about 200-240 typical, 300-330 watts up the hills, overall 220 watts average.

So yes, probably lower "average" watts in the peloton... for higher speed. But the cost is lots of anaerobic matches being burnt.

My better numbers for this year came from precisely three things:
  • they neutralized us to the to of Taylor Way, I might have been able to stay with the peloton non-neutralized, but it would have been hard
  • lots of long hard rides with anaerobic training (the fun and friendly hills of Belcarra Park)
  • the Tuesday Crits, 12 reps of 50 second 450 watt intervals in 25 minutes... great way to build endurance, repeated weekly from May to September
Overall my 5 second power went from 820 watts last year to 920 this year.. attributable to the WTNC's..

I've signed up for next years Fondo already. The goal for next year is another 10 minutes off, under 3:40. To do that I need to hang with the peloton until about Daisy Lake or better (I lasted until Alice Lake this year.)

The difference in training for next year will be to switch to Cat 3 races (I've raced Cat 4 for years...) primary differences are slightly faster up the hills and more times up the hills. Typically Cat 3 should be 1-2kph faster and where Cat 4 races last about 1:30-2:00 Cat 3 races are 2:00-2:30. For a typical Spring series race that means 8-9 laps when the Cat 4 (C group) is doing 5-6.

Which probably means I'll get popped off the back, but overall it should get my 5 second and 1 minute power numbers up, and give me more endurance for them. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gran Fondo - Starting Stategy

In the 2010 edition of the Gran Fondo Whistler there was a definite advantage to starting at the very front of the first start chute. The first group went out fast and there was a lot of selection in the park and up Taylor Way. If you started more than a minute or so back you really never had a chance to bridge up to the front riders.

This year the front group was neutralized through the park and to the top of Taylor Way, resulting in a very large (400+) riders effectively starting together ....

This makes the starting strategy a lot different. Remember that your time is measured from when YOU cross the start line to when YOU finish. If you start two minutes back and then finish one minute behind the first people across the line... you will record a better time.

So that begs the question, how FAR back could you safely start.  This video provides some interesting ideas.

Global TV Helicopter Video of start

It shows the big bulge at the front of the race going through Stanley Park. Followed by a steady stream of riders .... but other than the big bulge there appears to be a lot of empty space behind them. I suspect that you could have started in the four hour chute, probably 3-5 minutes back on start time... and still easily have moved through the riders to get to the front group before it got up Taylor Way.

This would give you a 3-5 minute buffer against the people who started at the front....

We'll have to see if the organizers change things next year. If they use the same starting procedure (neutral to the top of Taylor Way) it wouldn't actually be a bad idea to use the elapsed time from the starting gun for any riders finishing in the first group at the finish. This would even out the effects of where you start as long as you start somewhere close enough to the front that you can get to the front group of riders. But wouldn't give you an advantage for doing so.

Anyone out there who started in the four hour chute can let me know what it felt like to them this year.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Strava Widgets - Join your club!

Cool Strava stuff... If your club members "join" their virtual club in Strava then their rides are available via two different widgets:



Gran Fondo Whistler 2011 - by the numbers

On September 10, 2011, Stuart Lynne and seven thousand other people rode to Whistler.........

The official results are available here as a PDF..

I munged those back into a Google Docs spreadsheet here for those interested in doing some numerical analysis.

Rider Summary
The riders where neutralized until the top of Taylor Way. To some extent prevented the selection of stronger riders that occurred last year where the "front" sprinted through the park, over the bridge and up Taylor Way. Resulting in a much smaller lead group.

Roughly (my guesstimate) about 400 plus riders ended up as a very large group on the Upper Levels. This resulted in, by Horseshoe Bay in the riders mostly taking over both lanes of the West Bound highway. We where supposed to only use the inside (far left) lane, but there was the lane, there was no (as in Zero cars) and the group was averaging about 35 kph. It just sort of ended up looking like it was safer to ride over there than fight for space with two hundred plus riders (with more than a few sketchy ones in there!)

There was some selection all along the Sea to Sky Highway.. Possibly down to 350 by about Furry Creek. There was some serious damage done there and again coming out of Britannia Beach. My guesstimate is maybe 250 at Squamish. Average speed to there > 36 kph.

I was in a group of about 20 at that point and we couldn't see the front group. But there where some motivated people at the front pushing the speed up > 40 kph... and we managed to catch what looked like the main group at about Alice Lake.

Unfortunately I got "self selected" out at that point... Preferring (bad mistake) to ride my own pace. I managed to do it faster than last year... but not fast enough. I knew that to finish in 3:45 I needed be averaging 33 kph at the end and that I wouldn't be able to pull it up by much in the last 30km...

And about then we noticed that not only where we climbing a long hot hill, but against a head wind. That coupled with the small groups following at this point was the reason falling off the main group was a big mistake. They had the fire power and numbers to maintain their speed. The smaller groups had neither.

This is shown in the histograms. No one off the front this year... It stayed more or less together until the finish.

Overall my time for the last half was just about exactly the same as last year. Although the climbing to Daisy Lake was faster, the final 30km was actually slower. I wasn't passed (that I can remember or noticed) riders once once on the Cheakamus climb until Whistler. I did catch up with a few riders in this segment.... but not that many.. More than 10-20? Certainly not by much!

Overall my placing fell from fell from 289 overall to 260th (roughly 5000 finishers). And since there where 75% more riders this year, that is of course better. I was 49th out of 1221 finishers in the 50-59 group compared to 48th out of 770 last year.

  • Official Time 3:50:03
  • Overall 260th - 5000 vs 289th 
  • 50-59 - 49th - 1221 vs 48th - 770
The initial group (~70 riders) had (with the benefit of hindsight and armchair quarterbacking) a huge benefit from keeping all the strong riders and working together to keep the pace very high in the head wind. And they missed last years best times by about 5 minutes.

Outside of the initial group, on average for most riders the ride was substantially slower.  Possibly by as much as 10-15 minutes.

Personally, I was hoping for under 3:45 and missed that by 5 minutes. But looking the overall picture, I can adjust that down by probably about 5 minutes to equate to last year. So I think I achieved my goal (with reservations). I'll look at power numbers and do some analysis of that later in the week.

Histograms Showing Finish Distributions

This Histogram chart shows all finishers in ten minute intervals. Roughly speaking the peak is between 270-300 minutes... 4:30-5:00.

This Histogram chart shows the first half hour finishers, about 460 riders in one minute intervals. Note the peak at the beginning. Roughly 70 riders finished as a group within the first three minutes. Unlike last year there where no riders off the front.

Contrast this with 2010. Some people off the front, then much smaller groups that dribble in.

Strava Segments

The organizers didn't do split timing this year... which was a shame, the numbers from that where interesting... But with the ever increasing numbers of people riding around with Garmin computers on their bars its Strava to the rescue. It collects uploaded GPS files and then allows you to create ride segments for smaller sections of your ride. And then it will find all available rides that "match" that segment.

So here are some segments of the Fondo. I've tried to eliminate "overlapping" results... i.e. where people did the same route and managed to match into the Gran Fondo route. This is done by matching the exact start (half block West of Burrard on Georgia) for on segment and the exact finish sequence for the rest.

There still are some rides listed there where not the Fondo. And some that where on Saturday but part of the Giro. So don't assume that all the results are for the ride.. You can see the dates for the matching rides if you have a Strava account (free signup.)

To Brennan Sports Center, 50% distance. Ignoring Marty Lazarski (Giro rider) we can see that there was a tight grouping, large number of riders arriving within a few minutes of 1:48.

From Brennan Sports Center. Smaller group at 1:45 (last half time only!) and then more riders coming in over larger intervals.

The last 30km segment. Same comments as above.. gaps increasing and lengthening.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Gran Fondo - split times for 3:45 and 4:00 finish

Assuming the same checkpoints as last year...

In other words... all things being equal... riders finishing in four hours last year went through Brackendale at 2:05 and Cheakamus at 2:46.

The other way to pace things is to figure out the average kph you need to achieve your goal time. Then monitor that in your bike computer. You have to start high, for 4:00, about 34 kph at the first checkpoint, 31kph at the salt sheds and 30.5 arriving at the finish. This method may also be subject to error if you stop and your computer only does the average against moving time not actual elapsed time (common.)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Cobble Hill RR - 3rd 55-59

Last BCMCA race of the year at Cobble Hill. I've done this every year since 2007 and by at about 2kph this was the fastest the 50-59 group has done the race in that time.

Previous years average speed has ranged from 33 to just over 35 kph. Today was hot and fast, average 37.1 kph.. About 8-10 seconds faster up the hill as well.

Luckily the steady diet of Tuesday nighters made the climbs reasonably doable even though difficult at the "new" speed standard :-)

The pace cause a bunch of normally strong riders to drop off... but there was a bunch of new "entry level" 50's guys who pushed the pace all day and where in at the kill making the final sprint fairly busy (race downhill on dodgy pavement and then sprint for 200m!)

I still managed to stay well towards the front for the final finish and took 3rd for my age group.

A small group of 40's caught us in the last lap and walked away from us on the final hill climb... including Claire Cameron. We simply couldn't hang on to them. They apparently averaged 40+kph to be able to catch us.

Very small amount of leg twinging during the last lap. I think from the hill climbs in the heat. Hopefully a slightly lower pace next week well get me through the Fondo with out any (cramping!)