Monthly Archives: April 2017

Hour Record training – 1 hour test at Hellyer Velodrome

Hour Record Test Run. Hellyer Velodrome. April 29, 2017 Photo: Craig Huffman / Craig Huffman Photography

Dan and I planned to both do 1 hour tests at Hellyer Velodrome on Saturday, April 29th.  We just got our new BMC TM01 Time Machines the week before.  I got my bike build finished on Thursday and spent a few minutes on the trainer to make sure it felt about right, but didn’t have a chance to actually ride it until Sunday at the track.

The plan was to do a full 1 hour TT to set a marker and to gather weather data to use with the models to estimate how it would convert to our chosen venue at Aguascalientes, Mexico.  We are shooting for a record attempt in the July8-16 range and are working on the logistics now.

The weather on our chosen test date was warm, but windy.  My initial plan was to aim for 46.5km, but with the wind I set my schedule to 46km.  On Hellyer’s 335.75 meter track that worked out to 26.2 second laps.  Once up to speed though I found myself consistently hitting lap splits in the high 25 second range.  It felt very comfortable so I went with it.  What could go wrong, right?  I think if it was calm that would have worked out and I might have gone close to 47km.  (BTW, the US record for 55-59 is currently 45.019 km and the World Record is 47.773km.  Both were set indoors.)  As it was though I went through 30 minutes at 46.5km, but slowly started feeling the effects of my effort and slowed over the last 20 minutes or so, finishing with 46.2km.  Still, it was 700 meters further than my initial test in December on a pretty calm day.  And I again unofficially broke the US National Record, so I was happy with the outcome.

My fitness seems good, the bike was perfect from the get go.  The wind blew my all over the track at times and I have bruises on my left knee from the wind hitting me from the right and having to use body english to stay on the track, whacking my knee in the process.

The wind was what really made me pay for my early efforts.  Early on, I’d get blasted coming out of turn 2, but was able to power through it and get back up to speed.  As the ride wore on I more and more lost the ability to recover my speed after the wind blast.  We haven’t had time to review the weather data, but it looks like the wind averaged between 5 and 8 mph.  The temperature was close to 80 and that felt fine.  That is a good thing to know as the velodrome in Aguascalientes gets quite hot during the day in the summer.  The warmer air is less dense, but that doesn’t help if you melt.  Ideally you want to go at the warmest temperature that you can handle and it sounds like about 80 degrees will work for me.

The one bummer of the day was that though I thought I pushed the start button on my Garmin (mounted behind my saddle) I guess I didn’t and I have no power data to put in the model.  I was VERY unhappy when I finished and realized that I had made that stupid mistake! Dumb ass!

BTW, this attempt was fully UCI legal from an equipment stand point.  Garmin mounted on the seat post out of sight an on a UCI legal bike, as opposed to the Specialized Transition I used in December. Also, FYI, I rode a 52×15 gear (same as December) with 175mm cranks. I am guessing that I’ll go with a 52×14 for my official attempt, but still need to do some testing first.

Based on my December ride and this one I believe that I can conservatively ride 49km at Aquascalientes and possibly as much as 50km on a good day.  We’ll know for sure in about two and a half months…



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Polarized vs. Time Crunched

Disclaimer:  I am most certainly NOT a coach.  What I know about training I learned by picking things up here and there.  From friends and competitors, internet discussion lists, and trial and error.  All that, plus more than 30 years of experience has helped me figure out a training regime that works pretty well for me.

If you frequent internet discussion lists relating to training for cycling you will see two common trains of thought.  Polarized Training, and “Time Crunched” training.  Recently Velonews produced a podcast comparing the two methods.  It’s worth a listen.

My tendency is more towards polarized training.  If I had the time that I did when I was in college I would ride more hours year round than I do now.  Frankly, I just like riding my bike and within reason I’ve always enjoyed the more is better line of thinking.

But then real life kicked in.  Working 8 hours a day during the winter when some days have barely more than 8 hours of daylight put a cramp in my riding.  I did a lot of bike commuting over the years until my office moved further away and bike commuting in the dark was no longer a smart option.  I tried to adjust.  I tried lunch rides.  Not too appealing on the frontage road.  I tried working 6-2:30, but that didn’t work out either.

Finally I settled into riding the trainer during the week when the days were short.  I tried doing “normal” types of rides and found them incredibly boring.  Riding 90 minutes at an endurance pace was pretty horrible from my point of view.  Then I started reading about 2×20′ workouts.  The context was 2×20′ @ FTP (Functional Threshold Power) which I think is pretty horrible on a trainer.  While it may be a great workout, you have to actually want to do it and then get out on the bike.

Over time I kind of fell into a routine that I think is worth your consideration if like me your winter riding time is limited.

From the end of Daylight Savings Time until it comes back in the spring, I’m on the trainer Monday through Friday. What I’ve settle on is a one hour trainer ride where I do 2×20′ in the Tempo to Sweet Spot power zone.  Tempo is defined as between 76 and 90 % of your FTP according to Training Peaks.  I call 80% of FTP my minimum power level for these intervals, well, just because.  Sweet Spot, explained here is about 88-92% of FTP.

I do about a 10-12 minute warm up, hit the lap timer on my Garmin and settle in for 20′.  To make this a bit more bite sized I break it up into 5′ blocks.  Every 5 minutes I shift up two cogs and stand up for about 20 seconds to give my butt a break, then sit down and get back at it.  Between the two intervals I ease back into a low endurance, recovery level for about 5′, then back at it for another 20′ of Tempo/Sweet Spot, then a 5′ cool down.

All in, it takes about an hour and for me burns about 1,000 KiloJoules.

Each fall when I start this regimen, it’s kind of hard.  Not death defying by any means, but it takes a couple of weeks to adapt again.  Over the winter the power level that I find comfortable increases slightly as I get more fit.  I’ll start the winter doing more Tempo than Sweet Spot, but as time goes on I’ll find myself more and more in the Sweet Spot zone.  BTW, I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT pick a power number that I’m shooting for that day and do what it takes to hit it.  If I’m tired and feel crappy, it’s closer to 80%.  If I’m feeling really good it’s closer to 90%.

On the weekends, weather permitting I go on long rides in the hills (4-6 hours each day) and will generally get in about 15 hours per week.  I don’t have any particular training goal on those long weekend rides other than to have fun, ride lots and maybe hit it hard here and there if I’m in the mood.

Some people are appalled by the idea of riding the trainer 5 days a week.  Sure, it’s not as fun as riding outside everyday, but you do what you gotta do.

This started out as something to get me through the winter in decent shape, but frankly it has turned into my secret weapon.

This is the shit that kills.  Seriously!

When I start racing in the spring I’m not “race fit”.  I haven’t done any of the really hard types of effort that are important to win races.  But I feel like I’ve got an incredible depth when I’m out there.  I just feel like I can always dig in for more and will always be in on the kill.  I may not have what it takes to “eat first”, but I will be there.  Then, when DST comes back I transition into a more polarized type of training.  Hard and easy days during the week with some higher level VO2 Max and above efforts.  That helps get me to the level where I sometimes get to “eat first”. 🙂

The last few years I’ve done a count down of trainer rides on Strava.  I just count up the number of non-holiday week days until DST comes back.  Subtract planned vacation day’s and there is my number.  This last winter (2016-2017) my number was 74.  Of course here and there you get a rainy weekend day so I generally do a few more than the count down number, but it’s fun and it helps get me through the winter.

So, back to the “Time Crunched” vs. Polarized.  I don’t look at it as an “either/or” situation.  I use both at various times of the year.  I would suggest that riders look at all of the training methodologies, workouts, etc. that they can find, try things out and find what works for them.

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Super Epic


2016 Hill Climb Nationals race report.  If it’s boring, at least skip down and check out Sunday’s ride.  It was a great weekend.

This is the first time they have held a hill climb championship and when it was announced I knew that I had to do it. The full Pikes Peak highway is a bit over 19 miles and starts at around 7,000 feet. This race does the same course as the car races do, starting at 9,000′ at Crystal Reservoir and climbing approximately 12 miles to the top at 14,115 feet.

I have a friend (Nathan Parks) who moved to Denver from the Bay Area. He rode up Pikes Peak a few years ago and gave me the heads up that a mid-compact (52×36) with an 11×28 cassette was NOT going to be enough. 10% at 13-14 thousand feet is pretty steep, even for the guys who live at altitude. I did my research on Strava and decided that I’d run a 34×32 low gear.

I flew out Thursday afternoon, rode in Denver with Carl Nielson on Friday and then drove to Colorado Springs. I purposely did not check out the course as I was advised by a friend to minimize the negative effects of going to high altitude. I didn’t like that, but figured that this wasn’t a race that would be won or lost because you didn’t know where to start your sprint.

The weather up high had been sketchy. It snowed a bit at the top the day before the race and on race eve there were thunderstorms in Colorado Springs. Race day though was clear and sunny, if a bit cold. The temperature at the top was expected to be in the high 30’s when we got there. Did I mention the 7AM start time? How to dress was a concern. I went with arm and knee warmers, booties and a skull cap under my helmet. I can undress on the move pretty well so I wasn’t worried about overheating.

Based on the chart on Joe Friel’s web site about power loss at altitude I figured that my 360 watt sea level FTP was down to 300 at the start line and about 260 at the top.

So finally, we started. Kind of slowly. Basically we putzed around for the first two miles. Even at “only” 9,000′ feet though my FTP has taken about a 60 watt hit so I was happy with the pace. The 60-69 group started 1′ behind and actually caught us, but shortly afterwards the first surge was initiated by Gary Sharp who finished 4th in the recent Mt. Evans climb. That surge put me in the position of thinking that I could handle that pace, but not for another hour. Looking at my power file, this was above my adjusted FTP for about a mile. I was a bit worried. Frankly, I came here to win this race and 15 minutes in I was having some doubts.

Sharp’s surge pulled a group of 5 of us away from the rest. When he finally pulled off I was heartened to see him huffing and puffing pretty hard. I think he dug a hole for himself with that surge. That was a mistake that I wanted to avoid. After that I started feeling better and more confident. Another rider Mark Zimbelman from Utah was riding strongly, but I was sticking to my pre-race plan of doing nothing but following and pulling through when it was my turn until at least 12k feet. No heroics down low.

As we headed up towards 12,000′ I still felt good and could hear others who were breathing harder than I was. I took a pretty good pull and got it down to 3 of us. Myself, Zimbelman and Kerry Ferrell. Still though I was careful to not put myself in a position of digging deep and opening myself up to a counter attack. Finally, up around 12,500′ I upped the tempo and dropped Ferrell and after a few more digs, eventually Zimbelman.

From there I rode a hard, steady tempo while always being mindful of avoiding going too hard and blowing up. I was pleasantly surprised that so far I had not needed my 34×32 and thought that maybe the 28 would be enough. Just before mile 9 there is a nice long break of flat and downhill. I liked that part. When it kicked back up again “all that was left” was two miles of 10%. At 13,000’… It was here that my “maybe I won’t need the 32” thought took a hike. I probably would have been okay in the 28 here, but very unhappy about it.

Inside the last km I was catching two juniors who were riding for 2nd in that race. I got to see them attack each other and sprint at the end. That looked VERY unpleasant and I was happy that I didn’t have to do the same.

In the end, it took 1:20:08 at 269 watts average.


There are a couple of pictures on my Strava file.

Back in the club.

A post shared by Kevin Metcalfe (@kevinmetcalfe) on

Afterwards I headed back to Denver. I had planned my trip with the idea of riding up Mount Evans on Sunday. I figured that I hadn’t ridden my bike in Colorado since road nationals in 1987 and who knew when I’d get another chance. I figured we’d drive to Idaho Springs and do the Mt. Evans Hill Climb course. My friend Nate had a better idea.

At 7am on Sunday Nate, his wife Flavia (7th in the Rio Olympic RR last week) and I left his house in Littleton and had an epic adventure. “Super Epic” actually.

A great weekend indeed.

Funny that in 32 years of cycling I had never ridden up higher than 9,000’ (Mammoth Stage Race), and now, in 2016 I’ve been above 11,000’ four times.  Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Pikes Peak and Mount Evans.  I kind of like it.

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