Post Number: 141
|Posted on Thursday, July 31, 2008 - 06:26 pm: |
Submitted by alex on Sun 11/20/05 01:00am.
This article is the first of what we hope will be many by esteemed Medical Director and Physiologist Iñigo San Millán of the Saunier Duval-Prodir Pro Tour Team. Wanna get really scientific about your training? Consider getting the man himself in your corner here.
Power in Professional Cycliing.
Everyone is talking nowadays about power output. We all know that power is critical in terms of cycling performance. There are two ways to categorize power: Maximum Absolute Power (MAP) and Maximum Relative Power (MRP). In general terms, Absolute Power is the maximun amount of work achieved over time and Relative Power is the Absolute Power output per kilogram/pound of body weight. I would like to share some of the numbers that I have observed while working with several top european professional teams as well as top cyclists throughout these last 10 years.
First of all, it is important to remark that since power is a measurement where time plays an important role, we have to take into account the time in which that power is sustained for. We cannot sustain the same maximum power output for 5km vs 50km. In the same way, when we measure cyclists in the lab, the protocol is important. It is not the same to measure the Maximum Power in a protocol lasting 20 min than in one lasting 1h. Obviously the longer the protocol the lower the MAP.
In the Laboratory, a typical professional can have an average Maximun Absolute Power (MAP) in a test of about 450 watts. A top professional can have a MAP of about 525-550 watts. These numbers are usually seen in traditional incremental ramp protocols. These protocols last about 25-35 min. But these numbers differ between protocols. For example, a few years ago, I created a new incremental protocol focusing more on steady state loads and could see lower MAP´s. With this test, the average for a medium pro is about 400W and about 475 Watts for the top pro. That is why the election of protocol will elicit different numbers.
On the other hand, one of the essences of cycling is the fight against gravity. Most races have climbs, hills or mountain passes along the way. In these cases a high relative power is critical to be on top of the climb. For that the 2nd Power indicator, Maximum Relative Power (MRP) is essential. Typical MRP observed in professionals start at about 5.8-6.0 watts/Kg (depending on the protocol), with 6.4-6.8 being typical of a top climber. The highest MRP I have ever seen was on a TDF podium cyclist being 7.0w/kg! This value is just really amazing!
Probably many readers are wondering what is more important: MAP or MRP. It all depends on the race course you are racing.
In any race where gravity is not an issue of course MAP is what matters. But at a professional level and even at any competitive level a right equilibrium is what counts the most. I know of many professionals with MAP in the neighborhood of 475-500 watts who are very “average” pros as well as professionals with MRP of 6.5 w/Kg who are average also. For example: an 80 Kg cyclist with a MAP of 475 Watts will have a MRP of 5.93W/Kg, which is an average/low value for a professional. This cyclist will be very strong on the flats and TT but would get dropped right away on the climbs. On the other hand, a 55Kg cyclist with a MRP of 6.8 W/Kg will have a very impressive MRP but will only have a MAP of 375 watts which is low for a professional cyclist. Therefore and obviously an equilibrium of both a high MAP and MRP are observed in the Top professionals. A top professional, nowadays weighs an average of between 68-72 Kg and will typically have a MAP (with my protocol) of 450-460 watts with a MRP of 6.4-6.6 W/Kg. Both MAP and MRP are well compensated being in the high levels but not necessarily within the highest levels for MRP and MAP. One exception to this was Miguel Indurain who had one of the highest MAP, 530W, and also had, compared to the top light-weight climbers, one of the highest MRP with 6.8 w/Kg!! Something similar happens with Lance Armstrong. I don´t know his exact numbers but he would be close to 500W for MAP and close to 7-7.2 w/Kg for MRP.
I mentioned earlier “nowadays” when I was describing the typical numbers for a top pros. And I point this out because until a few years ago, the numbers where different. Todays cyclists are taller, heavier and more powerful. A while ago, many Tour de France winners and contenders where small and very light. In the last TDF, out of the top 20, only 6 riders were below 69 Kg, whereas this concentration would be the other way around 10 years ago. One of the reasons for this is that years ago, TDF stages, especially 1st week of the race, were done at a slower pace, therefore less watts of power output. This means that pure climbers with high MRP and low MAP did not suffer much on the flat and could save plenty of energy for the mountains. Nowadays, the pace is extremely fast on the flats and especially during the 1st week , with this last TDF edition averaging 48km/h in the 1st week!. This hurts pure climbers a lot since the power output they need to stay in the peloton is quite high compared to a heavier cyclist with higher MAP. As a consecuence of this, many pure climbers loose too much energy on flat stages and get to the mountain stages without enough energy left to be up front. However, in the Giro we see the opposite situation, where most top 20 GC cyclists are quite light and the mountain stages are for the most part dominated by pure climbers. The reason for this is that the pace in the Giro is slower than in that of the Tour as well as that there are not as many flat stages in the 1st week. This allows light riders to “travel” better throughout the first stages and get with more reserves for the mountains.
So, with all these confusing numbers of MAP, MRP, kilograms, average speed...etc, I hope that some readers can get an idea of the real picture about the importance of power and the different situations where a specific rider can “reign” or be a “slave”.
Anyways, I always like to say that an ant has a lot more MRP than an elephant.....but still is an ant.....
Iñigo San Millán, Medical Director and Head Physiologist
Saunier Duval-Prodir Pro Tour Team.
Post Number: 619
|Posted on Friday, August 01, 2008 - 01:08 am: |
Thanks Rob and great input as usual.
Here one critical question: Do we know the name of this team and what happened.
Well if we look at the way this person looks at training as it seems he has only one thing in mind . Power. Nothing else , Health is possibly at the end of his scale as it seems.
More interesting even is his title ( Physiologist) . Power has very little to do with physiology as it is rather a way of measuring physical information from machines and motors and what ever we produce.
As he mentioned nicely at the top it depends on the testing protocol.
So we make a tour stage of 7 hours versus a tour TT of 45 min . So is 300 watt always 300 watt , Yes for sure but is it the same physiological outcome and stress.
For all readers this article is great as we go through some physiological information over the next weeks with the Physio flow , who show , how the inner motor realy can't cope with fixed wattage ideas at all.
So power at the end just tells us , what the training may have reached , but to use it as a tool of intensity is unlikely a good idea. With exeptions you have the tool of EPO , where you can test in the lab when it works and what power you need to have to be able to compete at a tour after a Giro . Please say hallo to Ricco when you see him working out. Well 2 years ban is perfect as you remember that in that time EPO can be taken and we can reach a great structural change with a nice increase of capillarization and come back 26 years old and be up and going better than ever.
I have many tests and infos from medical directors seen over the time , and all have the same in common, they are young , believ that "running " a pro team makes them in the spot line and people believe, if the where olympic doctors or physios they know what they do.
Believe me , I was there, bad time wrong idea, minimal knowledge as you have no time and no clue and no equipment there at all.
Go back in places like Brooks, Dempsey , Hollmann and so on , that's where the real critical thinking starts and ends..
But they never come n a TV or news paper but ????
Well who does not like to be a start ( Smile )
At least as long we are young .
Post Number: 27
|Posted on Friday, August 01, 2008 - 02:30 am: |
Hey Juerg and Robh,
I have to jump in here and say something about Dr. Millian. I know him very well. He was the medical director of this team a few years ago, but resigned because he did not agree about the teamÂ´s doping politics. This is one article where he talks about wattage and testing, but in general he says that training with watts is not superior to training with hr and lacatate trends. The opposite is the case, he thinks that you can easily overtrain with wattage and has seen this many times with the pros he trained/trains. Now that I think about it, he has similar ideas (not so many though) as you Juerg. Of course you couldnÂ´t know this.
With best regards,
Post Number: 620
|Posted on Friday, August 01, 2008 - 05:38 am: |
Hallo Miha , Thanks for the correction and nice to see behind the scene thanks to you.
Interesting will be to see, whether the above article was taken from Dr. Millian and than used or "abused" by "wattage " believer to make a point with abusing a Pro Team Name , as well as a Dr. Title to justify some specific believes.
It is very common , and even we tend to go into this direction , when we feel pushed into a corner and try to make a point but have no evidence to justify that point.
There are always 2 ways we can talk ourself out of trouble,
1. We just argue with the words. Research shows that .....
2. Prof XY says that or Athlete ( gold medal winner ) XY is doing it .
Now often the discussion is over after that
You know , if I look in the mirror I am guilty of that as well as many others. ( Human weakness I guess)