Bal Tab Road Race
Power like a vet? Power is a relative term as
what's a lot for one person may not necessarily be a lot for another.
To prove my point this is the first in a series of power factsheets that
will give you some insight to the differences between mere mortals such
as ourselves and the pros we watch on the telly. I hope you find it interesting.
What's Bal Tab
For those reading this outside of Jersey, and there are quite a few, Bal Tab is a five mile long road race course at the North West of our island. It's flat, although it has a few
flats, is probably as dangerous as they come, and sits on top of the
island where it's always windy. For once, there was a tail wind
down the finish straight, which had an impact, for me at least, at the end of the
This event was a handicap
race. With riders from Commonwealth standard across to vets and
ladies, we have to try and cater for everyone's needs within our
resources. It's not an ideal situation but everyone deserves a
The race was an 8 lapper which worked out at just over 40 miles and took a
time of one hour and forty five minutes. The temperature was 20
degrees and the race started at 7:30 in the morning! The first
group away was the vets, the newer riders and the ladies. Four
minutes later the seniors and faster vets began to chase, then after
that it's the Island Games and Commonwealth boys. With a total of
34 riders starting, some groups were bigger than others. As ever
in a handicap race, some were more committed to staying away than
others, while some took the option of waiting to be caught then jump and
hang on as the fast boys come past. Whatever floats your boat.
The chart above is my race
SRM output which has been smoothed to make it's visual representation
easier on the eye. If you look at the purple speed line it's
really quite easy to see the patterns of each lap. The big drop
represents the braking and slowing in to a first corner hairpin.
I also download data in to
Cycling Peaks software to give me the analysis and charts I need at the
touch of a button. There are far too many to show here but you can
look at the chart above or you can look at loads of informative stats
and numbers! Below are a selection of the corresponding numerics
for the race.
As you can see from the Race
Summary above the average race speed was 23.5 mph and we hit 37.9 mph in
the sprint, although it could hardly be called that as you'll find
later. As ever my heart rate was at the higher end of the
scale averaging 192 bpm and topping out at 220 which, believe it or not,
is still 12 beats below my max. So for me it was a comfortable
race. You'll notice it's very difficult to get this data directly
from the chart above. You can but it takes some time and a lot of
zooming backwards and forwards. Cycling Peaks software makes life
so much easier.
I tried to pay attention, but as this was only my third race
of the year things got a bit hazy. But I think after six laps the
big boys caught us and it all kicked off. They caught and went
past immediately. As far as I was concerned, I'd ridden 50 miles
the day before and was here to get some race speed in to my legs for as
long as I could.
When we were caught I'd met
my objective for the day and was ready to cruise to the finish.
Then an opposing rider jumped out of our biggish group to close the gap
to the leaders. So for one last do-or-die effort I went after him.
My "jump" can clearly be
seen from the big red and green spikes six eighths of the way along the
SRM chart above. There was no big increase in speed because it was
on one of the long false flats, in to a headwind. What's more
difficult to see on the chart is the effort involved as he immediately
opened a big gap and I had to unbox myself to give chase, then sprint
for all I was worth to get across to him.
summary to the right gives the Cycling Peaks numbers for the jump across
the gap which shows detail unavailable from the SRM chart above.
The chase lasted five minutes and took place on one of the long false
flats for two miles. I hit 764 watts, around 200 below my peak, at
the start of the jump but it quickly decayed down to an average of 222.
Obviously my threshold at this point!
I know I'm in trouble when
my heart rate goes higher than my wattage! So I was right at my limit
with 220bpm and 222 watts staring me in the face. Which explains
why I blew my nuts off and fell back to the chasers when only 10 metres
from the group that would sprint for 7th place a lap and a half later.
Still, I tried. I could now wait for the group I'd just left and
wait for the sprint. I've always loved a sprint.
Which brings me to the next anti-climax; the sprint for the
line. There were fourteen riders in our group heading for the line
on the last lap. I was fourth wheel in an ideal place being towed
along by big Mike Keirghrey; who knocks out 350 watt tests for fun.
The Cycling Peaks chart below represents the one and a half minutes
run-in to the line.
You can see the first 30
seconds where I'm behind Mike. Although I had been for about a
kilometre before! As we entered the last corner we eased off (all
lines drop) then powered out of it to head for the line half a mile
away. I don't come through and the yellow power begins to drop as
the blue speed builds. This is due to the combination of a
downward slope and the tail wind. The cadence fidgets, as does the
group, as nerves begin to shred.
Someone cracks and decides
to jump so I leave Mike to cross for the other wheel, the green cadence
drops and the yellow power spikes to a peak as I changed up a gear and
jump after them. The power settles and the cadence creeps upwards
as I get ready to jump for the line. Then I jumped, or rather I
didn't, signified by the little power jump and slow rise in cadence to
numbers on the right reflect the lines above. Just to the right of
the mid point, when the jumper took a flyer. I changed gear and
dived on their wheel the power peaked at 745 watts and the speed hit
34mph. However, we're now on a slight downward slope, with a
hefty tailwind. As we get to 150 metres from the line I pull out
from second wheel and "jump" with 559 watts, the second last yellow peak
I then back off the power
for a split-second as I go to change up a gear for a text-book sprint
finish. There, was no next gear! Not anticipating to even be
around for a sprint at the finish I'd left my 13 up block on the back
and had a 52 front chain ring on the front.
With my cadence topped out
at 116 rpm and with no pedal resistance, all I could manage was 37.9 mph
whereas I can normally hit around 43. My heart rate (red line)
averaged 201bpm for the final sprint, which is around 10 beats down on
normal. Also my cadence was down as there was no gear to get on
top of and I had no resistance to fight against. Normally I can
hit 125-140 rpm for a sprint.
In the bunch I held my place
but came in second. My normal Mean Maximal Power for a minute and
thirty seconds is 395 watts, here it was 272. Which is still less
than my vVO2max, 6 minute, power output.
What does all this mean?
This all looks, me, me, me but I'm the only one with an SRM
and the graphs to place on this page. So I'm afraid you'll have to
accept it because we need this info as a comparator for the next
For all those that raced
around me, you can see what you were also churning out for the duration
of the race. Those up the road know that they were clocking out
more to get ahead and those behind know where they need to improve to
stay with the pack.
The next factsheet will have
our comparisons with the pros. I have Jens Voigt's SRM files from
Stage 3 of the Tour when he was on the 4 hour break to Valkenberg.
They give some remarkable numbers but not in the ways you may first
Here you have a baseline for
an average bloke, who tries his best but doesn't get the time to race
train as he would like, so gets average results in races. I
concentrate on endurance and climbing for my sportives, so lack the jump
and zip I used to have. Also, I'm no spring chicken anymore.
I could be someone just like you.
Next time we'll look at the gap between Mr Average and the
rider we probably all wish to be, Jens Voigt. The areas I've
highlighted in this factsheet I'll compare with those of a pro, then
give you some more figures to make you glad you're not.
Once you've read them you'll
totally understand why we should be in awe of these giants of the road.
Ignore all the "bad stuff" surrounding pro cycling at the moment, it's
not good but it'll soon be over. We can have little input on the
happenings within the top levels of our sport; for me cycling is still the best sport
in the world and I wouldn't want to do anything else. Except be an
F1 or Moto GP pilot!