The Big Day

Today is the big day. This morning Dan will make his attempt on the 45-49 record at around 10am central time. I will go this evening at around 7:30pm. The timing of the attempts is all based on conditions in the velodrome. It is not air conditioned so it starts out cool in the morning and gets quite hot in the middle of the day before cooling off again. Picking your start time is kind of a Goldilocks thing. The warmer it is, the less dense the air and the faster you’ll go. Until warm is too warm and it affects your performance. The sweet spot is probably around 80 degrees. We have a few people here who are making attempts at shorter records like the flying 200m, 500m, kilometer, 2km pursuit and 3km pursuit. For those attempts they want it as warm as possible for the least air density as the races are too short to worry about overheating. In other words, it’s a long day at the velodrome for the officials!

Thursday was our first day on the track. I’ve haven’t been on a steep 250 meter track since 1999. After a few laps of “don’t die, don’t die, don’t die” I settled in and it was fine. After doing some laps with the 808 front I switched to the front disk wheel. Though I did a few laps with the front disk at Hellyer on a calm morning, I basically have no experience riding a front disk in the aerobars. But again, after a lap or two I didn’t even notice it.

Here is a short GoPro clip from the bike for some 50.5kph laps.

Hour testing. @guenergylabs @ride_bmc @peets_coffee_racing

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I did a couple of efforts at race pace. My expectation coming in was to ride something like 17.8 second laps for about 50.5 kph. I had some issues in my efforts going out too hot and not feeling like I could hold my pace for an hour. I started with a 53×14. That seemed kind of big.
To better explain how the gears feel, I need to explain how an effort feels on a steep 250 meter track. Going into the corner at speed you are leaning over and your center of gravity is basically taking a short cut and you speed up a bit to compensate, then when you hit the straight away it feels like more of an effort to stay on top of the gear. For me at least, staying on top of the gear is very important. If I ride 50km, that’s 200 laps. 200 laps is 400 turns, which is 400 times into the straight away and working to get on top of the gear. If I’m slightly over geared those 400 accelerations will take their toll and I won’t be able to hold the pace towards the end.

So, in the 53×14 my cadence tended to vary between 104 and 108 each lap. That felt “heavy” to me. I switched to a 52×14 and that felt a LOT better. The catch though is that to go 50 kph will probably give me a cadence that varies between 108 and 112 between the flats and the straights. A 5 minute test effort felt very comfortable at that cadence, but don’t really know if it will be sustainable for an hour.

Basically, right now I wish I had a 52.5 front chain ring. 🙂 If I was an uber trackie I might have more choices. All I’ve got are 52, 53, and 54 rings and 13, 14, 15, and 16 tooth rear cogs. Maybe something like a 49×13…

Anyway, I think I’m going to stick with the 52×15 and go out at 18 second laps and hope I can hit the gas towards the end to get up towards 50.5 km.

Right now I think that 50 km is possible, but less of a sure thing that I thought it might have been. We will know for sure in about 12 hours.

Another thing we did on Friday was make a few test starts using a starting gate. Another first for me. I did three starts and didn’t fall down so I considered it a huge success! 🙂

Check out our Hour Record Facebook page for more information and a link to the live stream of Dan and my attempts.

Also worth noting is that on Friday, Andi Smith set a US Hour record for 50-54 women at 41.472km. She rode a really good race and I was inspired to work on my line after watching her. She did a really good job hugging the black line in the corners which I’ve been less good at. I took some time in the afternoon to work on that and I feel like I’ll do fairly well in that regard.

Also, Molly VanHouweling broke her own world record for 40-44 women with a 47.061. That’s not terribly far from the 47.773 mark that I’m going after! She rode a pretty huge gear. I don’t know off the top of my head, but I’ll try to update later. Something WAY bigger than what I’m going to ride.

Cool shot from underneath the track.

Under the track. @guenergylabs @ride_bmc @peets_coffee_racing

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Final Lab Testing – 10 days before the hour

Dan and I went in for our final round of performance testing at the UC Davis Sports Performance center in Sacramento. We got DEXA scanned again and tested on the bike.

The one takeaway from the DEXA scan is that my bone density has dropped a bit. That means I’ll be starting some calcium supplements and continue with the weight workouts once we get back from Mexico.

Our on the bike test was different this time. We started out with a metabolic test. This time we kept it short and only went up to our aerobic threshold. Though it never got hard, the data shows that my heart rate and lactate numbers for a given power were lower than last time. So, I’m more fit than I was in March. Yay!

The second part was pretty hard. We did a Maximum Lactate Steady State (MLSS) test. We took my power numbers from the Loyalton TT last month, did a rough conversion for the altitude difference. 315 watts in Loyalton is approximately 340-345 watts at sea level. Judd had me do 3×12 minutes at 330 watts, 340 watts and 350 watts. During those intervals they tested my lactate every 3 minutes. They had me do the 330 and 340 watt steps in one 24 minute block. When that was finished, they had me spin easy until my lactate got down to under 2.0. Then it was back up to 350 watts for 12 minutes. That one kind of hurt. During the 340 step my lactate climbed and then leveled out and even dropped a bit during the last three minutes. For the 350 test my lactate climbed until the end indicating that 350 is not sustainable.

From that data it would appear that my MLSS power is 345 watts. Converting that power output for 6,200’ above sea level tells me that I should be aiming for about 305 watts in Aguascalientes.

My plan is on my first day on the track in Aguascalientes to do some gear testing and do maybe 5’ each at that power in probably a 52×14, 53×14 and 54×14. From that I’ll pick the gear that feels right and do a 20’ effort at race pace. Given the limited time I think that is my best bet for coming up with a solid idea of my best hour pacing. From there I’ll have two days to rest and recover before my schedule hour attempt at approximately 7:30pm central time on Saturday July 15th.

I also had an Inside Tracker blood test on June 30th. I got the results back via email while we were in the lap and was happy to see that all of my markers were in the good zone.

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Hour update – 3 weeks to go

I am tentatively scheduled to go at about 7:30pm Central Time on Saturday, July 15th. Three weeks from today. But who’s counting…

The District/State NCNCA TT Championship is always a goal of mine and this year it served double duty as a good opportunity to put down a Marker for the hour. Loyalton is 5,000′ above sea level which is fairly close to Aguascalientes (6,200′) and the elapsed time (50′ vs. 60′) make it a fairly decent comparison for my power output. Conditions were not that great, it was 45 degrees when I started and windy, but I had a phenomenal day a set a new national 55-59 record in 50:16.

Normally I use Q-Rings on my road and TT bikes, but for this TT I used a round 53 tooth big ring. The reason being that I will of course use a round ring on my track bike and that oval rings report a higher power number than round due to the way crank based power meters measure power. For more information on that check Tom Anhalt’s blog here.

My average power at Loyalton was 315 watts. Molly Van Houweling’s data suggests about a 3% drop between Loyalton power and Aguascalientes power. Making that calculation and plugging it into the “magic spreadsheet” suggests that I might go 50.8km for the hour. Rob tells me that I actually have to ride the hour while they watch and that submitting a power file and spreadsheet isn’t sufficient for the record so take that number with a grain of salt. 🙂

BTW, it’s a new USA Cycling requirement that you need to be drug tested for national records. On my way home I met the USADA drug tester in Rocklin, CA at the Bass Pro shop for a urine test. The Reno Wheelmen had set up a tent for USADA at the event, but the DCO didn’t arrive and we arranged the Rocklin meet up. Wonder what the other customers thought as the chaperone and I walked into the handicapped stall together for me to give my sample…

Meanwhile, I’m taking care of some of the logistical issues. Again on the drug testing front, there is a known issue with Clenbuterol being used in livestock in Mexico. A number of people in big events have tested positive due to this. In those cases the root cause was understood, but I do not want to be “that guy”. You know, the one who says “I ate xx and it was contaminated”. Even when it’s true nobody believes “that guy”. To avoid that I am bringing my own protein source with me.

Clenbuterol free chicken

Also on the food front, I’m pretty happy with the new overnight oat and yogurt breakfast that @guenergy has turned me on to, so I’ll be bringing all of the dry ingredients for that in baggies, so that I’ll only need to get yogurt and skim milk once I get there. OCD much?

For the next few weeks I’ll probably do one more track workout, a hard road race and then the district elite pursuit and team pursuit championships the Sunday before I leave. It’s getting close and I’m starting to get excited and nervous.

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Another day on the track

I went to another Sunday session at the track. I did a 2km Individual Pursuit test (needs work!) and since it was calm, rode a few laps with the front disk.

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Berkeley Hills / Crockett Road Race

web tracking software

Promoter: Berkeley Bike Club

Course: A Hilly 10 mile loop through Crockett.


Course Description: There is one main thing to consider on this course. McEwen Road. It’s steep and you’re going to have to go up it a number of times.

Road Surface: The roads are all in decent shape.

Gearing: Bring the smallest gear you have. Don’t think about it, just bring it. McEwen is steep, up to 14% in places and climbs over 500 feet in just over a mile. You’ll do it a minimum of 4 times and as many as 8 if you’re a Pro/1/2 male.

Facilities: There is no water at the start/finish area. Nearby Crockett will have anything you might need.

Weather: Expect cool temperatures due to the early start and also the proximity to the Carquinez Straight. It could get warm on the Franklin Canyon portion of the course, but you’ll soon be back near the water where it’s cooler..

Feeding: The feed zone will be on Franklin Canyon Road leading up to the finish line..

Rules Specific to this race: No Crybabies!

Race Advice: McEwen Road will define how this race goes. The race will shatter on this climb, it’s just a question of which lap. You can either make it up this climb with the best in your group or you can’t. Assuming you make that split it might be possible to make something happen after you crest the climb. The group might not be in the mood to go hard after you. The catch is that you (or your small group) will need a pretty reasonable gap to hold off the fresher legs in the group behind the next time up McEwen.

If you’ve got the legs, waiting until maybe mid race when the pack has dwindled and riders are tired might be a good time for that move as there will be fewer and more tired legs trying to chase.

Another option would be to try and get away through Crockett. This is kind of a classic move as you have a bunch of riders behind not wanting to work hard leading up to the climb you’re heading towards. A concerted effort up front combined with an unwillingness to go hard behind can give you a nice gap. The question is whether or not it will be enough to hold off the group up McEwen.

And finally, if you’re feeling great you can force a selection on McEwen and go to the line with a small group.

The finish hill is a nice grind. You might be able to take it in the big ring, but I doubt that there would be any advantage to it. Probably much safer to settle into the small ring. The finish is likely to be into a headwind though so be patient and don’t go too early.

Here’s an ancedote from when I did this race in 1986. It was part of “The Lemond Series” which was a series of road races each Saturday and Sunday over the course of 5 weeks starting in early February. This race was about mid way through the series and lucky us, the 7-11 team was in town and showed up. The team that won two stages of the Giro d’Italia the previous summer… Men among boys… Ron Keifel, Bob Roll, Alex Stedia, Davis Phinney, etc.

Anyway, it was of course brutally hard, partially due to the course and largely due to the 7-11 team. I slogged my way through somewhere in the top 10 and was happy enough with that. I remember hearing Ron Keifel (one of those Giro stage winners from 1985) talking after the race. He said, “Yeah, I used the 39×23 when we were cruising and my 21 when it was time to go hard”. I used by 39×24 every single lap. There really was no other option. So, if you’re up for maybe winning a stage in the Giro your 39×23 will be fine.

Corrections and additions, please email me!

Kevin Metcalfe

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Hour Record Attempt – We have a date!

It’s official. We have a date. I will be making an attempt on 55-59 World Hour Record (okay, “Best Hour  Performance”) at the Bicentennial Velodrome in Aguascalientes, Mexico on either July 15th or 16th. We have a group of four athlete’s, Andi Smith (Women’s 50-54), Molly Van Houweling (Women’s 40-44), Dan Bryant (Men’s 45-49) and myself. We will schedule the attempts over two days as the velodrome is not air conditioned and it gets quite hot inside during the day. To maximize distance you want it as warm as you can stand without affecting your performance. Warmer air is less dense. Going when it’s still cool inside could cost you as much as a lap or two. In general there is usually a window each morning and afternoon when the temperature is in the optimal range.

The record I’ll be attempting to break is 47.773 km and was set by Jim McMurray of New Zealand in March, 2016. To do that I’ll need to ride a minimum of 191.25 laps on the 250 meter track, averaging 18.8 seconds per lap. Based on what I’ve done at sea level at Hellyer Velodrome I believe I can ride 200 laps, at 18 seconds per lap for 50 km. The schedule will need to be fine tuned as I test more and won’t really be final until doing a short test effort once we’re in Mexico. Probably a 10-15 minute race pace effort about two days before the big day.

I know what you’re saying. “Dude, you only rode 46.2km at Hellyer, how the heck to you expect to ride 50kph in Mexico?!?!” Good question. There are four parts to the answer.

  1. Altitude. Aguascalientes is 6,200′ above sea level. The lower air density makes a big difference. Yes, you lose about 8-10% of your sea level power, but air resistance increases by a cube factor as you go faster. The lower air density more than makes up for the power drop.
  2. Aguascalientes is an indoor velodrome. No wind. It was quite windy during my recent Hellyer ride, probably costing me at least 500 meters.
  3. Front disk wheel. Since there is no wind you can safely ride a front disk wheel. The front disk makes a tremendous difference, more than a rear disk.
  4. Aguascalientes is a smooth wooden track and the rolling resistance is significantly lower.

This can all be quantified and calculated reasonably well. Knowing the weather (temperature, air density, wind, etc.) and power from a ride atHellyer, you can calculate your CdA (aerodynamic drag). Knowing that and expected temperature and air density at Aguascalientes you can plug that data into a spreadsheet and get an pretty good estimate of how fast/far you’ll ride at altitude. That data points towards 50kph in Mexico for me.

As kind of sanity check I know that my 40km PR at sea level is about 3 minutes slower than my PR at 5,000′ which fits with the calculations.

My team mate Dan and I have been really lucky to have help from Gu, BMC and Inside Tracker. Gu has assigned us a nutritionist to go over our diet and recommend changes. I’ve made some changes based on her recommendations and I feel like I’ve been riding well so I think it’s helping. BMC set us up with new Time Machine TT bikes to use for the effort. Finally GU set us up with Inside Tracker to get periodic blood tests to monitor our health and nutrient levels. Many of the diet changes I’ve made have been based on those results.

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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.

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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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Ironman Lake Tahoe Bike Calculator

I’m not a triathlete, but offer this bit of advise as somebody who has lived and cycled extensively in the Lake Tahoe area. I think that a lot of people underestimate the difficulty of the climbs in this race within the context of an Ironman event. It’s one thing to do the loop in training or blast up Brockway Summit for fun, but it needs to be treated with a lot more respect if you’re going to run a marathon afterwards. I saw a lot of talk on the Slowtwitch forums before the 2013 race and got to thinking. Here is what I came up with.

To start with, you’ll need to know your FTP. Then, take 10% off the top due to the altitude. Then take 75% of that to get the average power that you’re shooting for in an Ironman event. Some examples.  For a FTP = 350W your IMLT power would be (350*.9)*.75 = 236W.  For FTP = 300W, IMLT power = (300*.9)*.75 = 202W.  For FTP = 250, IMLT power = 169W.

So now we need to consider what kind of gearing you’ll need to ride up Brockway at your IMLT power at a reasonable cadence.  To help with that I found an excellent calculator.  Punch in your IMLT power, your weight, the elevation, % grade, distance, and temperature.  Let’s start with our 350W FTP (sea level) rider.  We’re going to use a weight of 75kg (I’m a metric guy, but you can use english units if you like).  The segment data can be found on Strava here. So, 350W FTP => 236W for the climb.  Elevation at the start is 1890m.  Grade = 7.1%.  Distance = 4km.  For temp, we’ll go with 15 degrees C.  That gives me a speed of 12.74kph and a time of 18:50.  FYI, the Strava KOM is 11:59.

Okay, what kind of gear do I need to go 12.74kph at a reasonable cadence.  For me, I want to be able to spin at least 80rpm.  Find your favorite gear calculator.  Sheldon Brown’s is always a good bet.  I use a compact crank so I’m going to cut to the chase and use 50 and 36 for my chainrings.  I picked the Campy 11 speed 12×27 freewheel and found that at 80rpm in a 36×27 I would go 13.8kph.  For me, that’s slightly too large of a gear!  A 36×29 worked out to be just about right at 12.8kph.  Think about that for a second.  A guy with a sea level FTP of 350 watts who weighs 75 kg, that’s 4.67 W/kg at threshold needs a 36×29 for this course!  Sure, a person with that kind of power output could easily get around that course in a 39×25 or even a 39×23.  IF they wanted to walk most of the marathon… How about our 300W and 250W sea level FTP riders?  11kph and 9.25 kph.  At 80 rpm that works out to needing about a 34×32 and 34×36 low gear respectively.

The important thing to think about here is what you CAN do versus what you SHOULD do. My opinion is that pretty much everybody but the pro’s should be on a compact.  I can hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth now.  “But what about the flats and downhill sections?  I need my 55×11!”  You know what?  No.  You don’t.  Seriously.  a 50×11 at 80rpm gives you 47kph.  Just a smidge under 30mph.  Please tell me where you’ll be going that fast except on the two big descents each lap at 236W.  The answer is nowhere.  “But what about the stretch from Squaw to Truckee?”  Again, NOT at IMLT power.  If you do, it will be on some short section of about 30 seconds or less and if you are smart you will either suck it up or learn to spin a bit in those short fast sections.  If there is time to be lost due to “only” having a 50×11 it will be more than countered by the time you would lose trying to get over those big hills in a 39.  If you really need/want something bigger, then a mid compact with a 36×52 might be the ticket.  But frankly, in my opinion only the strongest riders will be okay even with the 36.  I suspect the charts will tell most people to use a 34.  The 34×52 combo will likely lead to dropped chains.  Trust me, you lose more time stopping to put your chain back on than you will if you are “limited” to a 50×11 top gear.

Now comes the ugly part.  How are you going to get that gearing on your bitchin Shiv or P5 considering that right now you’ve got a 42×55 crank set with an 11×23 cassette.  Answer?  Get out the credit card.  If you’ve got a standard crank you’re going to need to pony up for a whole new crank set unless you’ve got a new Shimano 9000 11 speed crank (110 bcd rings) or one of the SRM models (like my Dura Ace 7800) that has a 110 bcd inner ring and 130 bcd outer ring.  Then, if you decide you need something bigger than a 28 or 29 cog, you’ll need a new long cage rear derailleur.  It used to be that you needed to buy a MTB derailleur and it was a lot trickier picking the right one.  Now it seems most brands have a long cage version that will fit the bill.  I believe that all levels of the current SRAM rear derailleurs com in long cage versions and I know Shimano makes them too.

FYI, here’s 2013 IMLT segment:

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