• Boris Clark

New Zealand Cycle Classic UCI 2.2 Data Crunch

Updated: Jan 31, 2020

MPS head coach Boris Clark recently raced the New Zealand Cycle Classic UCI 2.2 tour in Masterton with the EuroCyclingTrips CMI Pro cycling continental team, the first UCI registered team in Guam.


He spent 2 days in the lead of the king of the mountains competition before a mechanical ended his tour on stage 4 (Turns out he’s an expert in energy metabolism and coaching, but not tightening bolts).

We’re going to delve into some of Boris’ data and observations from the race and see what it takes to compete in international races such as this.

All power numbers are from the Verve Cycling Infocrank.


Leading the KOM, in good company


Stage 1


First 56min to base of KOM climb:

· 243w avg. 3.57 Watts per kg (w/kg)

· 295w Normalised power (NP)

· 148 Beats per minute Heart rate (bpm) (HR)

· 48.3kmh average


We can see from this that the start of the race was exceptionally fast. A 48.3km/h average speed (on a rolling course) meant a breakaway couldn’t escape and the bunch hit the base of the KOM climb in one piece. Despite the average speed being quite high the power is nothing exceptional indicating Boris hid in the bunch quite well, with only a few flurries at the front trying to get in a move or two. The average heart rate also indicates this wasn’t too hard. 148bpm is above endurance pace for Boris, but with a max heart rate of just over 200, 148bpm is still just a low tempo. The Normalised power of 295w reflects the race intensity where things are typically a bit ‘on-off’ but this still isn’t that high considering how fast the opening phase of the race was.


King of the mountains (KOM) climb

· 2min30s at 540w.

7.94w/kg

181bpm


The race started splitting a bit as the bunch hit the first KOM of the race. Boris made the front group and opened up his sprint perhaps a little too early, taking 2nd at the top and 4 points towards the KOM jersey. 540w is a pretty high output considering this is after an hour of racing, and this was a very intense effort with HR peaking over 190bpm.


Stage stats

· 2h50min

· 123km

· 217w average

· 286w NP

· 145bpm HR average

· 43.4km/h average


Stage 2


First 42min before KOM

· 218w avg. 3.2w/kg

· 295w NP

· 136bpm

· 45.4kmh average


A slower start to this stage despite a similar profile of a relatively flat lead in. A big group did get away for a few minutes but the blackspoke team rode it back before the first KOM of the day. Boris’ average power was lower for the first phase of the race on this day, reflecting the slower speed, although the normalised power was similar due to Boris making more attempts to get into a breakaway. Heart rate for this phase was lower than the previous day owing partially to the lower overall intensity of the first phase of racing, and also perhaps as a result of increased blood volume after the first long day of racing (which happened to be the first ‘long’ ride Boris had done in about 6 days).


KOM climb

· 6 minutes at 419w. 6.16w/kg

· 2m3s at 539w. 7.92w/kg

· 907w peak power

176bpm HR


Again, the bunch hit the base of the first KOM climb together. The first part of the climb was ridden at a rather steady pace, however, as attacks started with just over 1km to the top Boris followed the main move, chasing a rider down to pass him with about 200m to go, taking the 6 points at the top of the climb, and with it the KOM jersey for the day. This chase took 2minutes and 3 seconds, with an average power of 539w, taking the average power for the whole 6 minute climb to 419w.


NZCC team presentation


419 watts is a solid 6 minute power output for a rider like Boris, but is still well within what he is capable of, and the fact the average power is only this amount despite the 539w effort during the chase shows just how slow the first half of the climb was ridden, and why average power often doesn’t tell you the full story of efforts.

The power/HR contraction for the whole climb was 2.38, which is well within the normal range Boris experiences for this type of interval in training. Given HR was already elevated at the beginning of the interval compared to when this is done in training, this is a good indicator that Boris was pretty fresh after the first day of racing.


Stage stats

· 2h44m

· 215w average

· 284w NP

· 119km

· 143bpm

· 43.4km/h average


Stage 3


First 28m30s chasing breaks

· 319w avg. 4.69w/kg

· 367w NP

· 48km/h average

163bpm HR


Boris was out to defend his lead in the KOM competition on this stage, but plenty of riders were out to take the jersey off his shoulders. This resulted in a stage where Boris was covering a lot of attacks to shut down any moves which could be dangerous to his lead. This resulted in almost 30 minutes spent with an average power of 319w, with a fair bit of fluctuation in this power, as shown by the NP of 367w. With an average speed of 48km/h for the first 28 minutes nothing was likely to get away, and when a move eventually went a little bit before the KOM climb there was 1 rider in it who could take the jersey from Boris. Fortunately despite not scoring more points this day Boris held into the KOM lead for another day.


With a power/HR contraction of 1.96 for the phase of the race, Boris was still well within his norms from training in this duration of effort, a further indication that the tour had not yet created much stress, and he was still pretty much as fresh as when he started the race.


Stage stats

· 250w avg

· 307w NP

· 163bpm average

· 45.2kmh average


After around 60km the race reached the circuit in Martinborough which was to be completed 8.5 times. There wasn’t a lot of wind, but the circuit has one long straight of false flat uphill, and one straight of false flat downhill, making it surprisingly hard in one direction, and super fast in the other direction, with a hairpin corner at the bottom of the course resulting in a distinct power spike each lap. There was a large group of the front containing some dangerous riders, so there was a solid pace all day, as can be seen by the highest average power for a stage in the race so far, and a NP of 307w. Boris also showed his highest average heart rate of 163bpm for the stage indicating that while never in trouble, this stage was ridden at a pretty solid tempo.




Stage 4


First 15m38s to base of climb

· 202w avg. 2.97w/kg

· 243w NP

· 131bpm avg

· 46.9kmh avg


The lowest average power of any stage of the opening phase of the race for Boris. This was due to the unlikeliness of a break away before the start of the first climb of the day which came about 12km into the stage. 131bpm is lower than many of Boris’ endurance training ride indicating a pretty easy ride to the base of the first climb for him. Again there was only light wind, but 46.9km/h average, showing how much energy can be saved by sitting in the bunch in a situation like this. 202w would normally only be around 30km/h when alone on a flat road, but in this situation it’s 17km/h more than that!


First KOM

· 16m53s

· 376w avg. 5.53w/kg.

· 173bpm

· 402w NP (whole climb)

· 4m9s at 443w. 6.51w/kg.

· 10min peak, 404w. 5.94w/kg

· 729w, 24sec sprint to KOM


The first KOM of the day was a 7km climb, with a gradient which changed a lot. The average gradient was only about 6%, but with short steep sections, and then periods of low gradient, or even brief downhill.


The first two thirds of the climb were quite slow, as the St George team set a tempo pace. With a couple of km of climbing left those who were wanting KOM points started attacking. Boris covered these moves, but with a light gradient and light headwind up the climb making it difficult to get away, it came down to a sprint for points in which Boris didn’t score. The 4 minutes and 9 seconds from when the attacks kicked off had an average power of 443w, which brought the average power for the climb up to 376w, with a NP of 402w, and peak 10 minutes of 404w. The sprint to the top was 24 seconds long with an average power of 729w, which was no where near enough to win points!


Another day

For the whole climb Boris had an average heart rate of 173bpm, which is well below threshold heart rate for Boris, and he reported much of the climb feeling easy. However, during the attacks towards the end of the climb, Boris spent a significant amount of time with HR around 190bpm indicating a very taxing effort.


The power/HR contraction of 2.17 for the entire climb is better than many of the efforts Boris has completed in training, and his max HR certainly suggests that fatigue was not a factor at this point of the race. For the 4m9s 'attacking' portion of the climb, Boris' power/HR contraction was 2.36, which again is similar to efforts he has completed in training, and indicated he was fresh and fit.


Unfortunately after this Boris had a mechanical which put him out of the race, so that is all the data we have!


Jersey defended for the day

Take away


So, what can we take from this data? First of all, that averages don’t mean much in racing. When you look at the average power for a stage compared with the normalised power and perceived exertion, you can see the average power doesn’t tell the full story. The bunch sitting up for a few minutes when the break goes away after a frantic hour of racing and fast finish can result in the same average power as a stage which is ridden at a solid tempo all day, yet both have very different physiological consequences and demands.


Even when efforts such as climbs are broken down into smaller segments it is possible to see that you are missing the full story. 376w for 17 minutes as was ridden on the KOM on the 4th stage is a solid effort, but without analysing deeper, we would miss the 443w for over 4 minutes which is a solid VO2max effort for Boris, and helps reveal the non-steady nature of racing.


Looking at the power files from training rides they often look smooth and like they were ridden on an erg, whereas from racing the power file is up and down and all over the place. This really shows that the demands often placed on a rider in training are actually quite different to what they are training for.


In our opinion this isn’t as much of a problem as many may suspect. The aim of most training is to improve the metabolic capacities, which doesn’t need at all to be specific to the event to achieve its goal, however, the variation between racing and training files does show why it can often take a race or two to get some ‘rhythm’ back, and why making training more specific as major events approach is a wise move.


The final thing we can see from this data is where Boris was weak, and what he needs to do to improve. What is that? Well that’s our little secret for now!