Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Power of Cyclo-Cross

Cyclo-Cross is a unique discipline within cycling that shares many of the same demands of other disciplines, like criteriums, road races, mountain biking, time trialing and even track racing.   This is one of the characteristics of  CX, that makes it popular along with very demanding.    To be successful at CX, you must have a high functional threshold power, 
be able to time trial at the limit and over it quite frequently, have the anaerobic capacity to accelerate for short periods of time,  be able to do incredible intense short bursts of power and have the handling skills of a cheetah in pursuit.   Because of the varied demands of the sport, training for it is not just as easy as using all of the same workouts you have been using for the road racing season.  If you have spent the season doing some racing and training smart, you are going to have many of the skills needed for successful CX racing, but there are some critical aspects you’ll want to fine tune before the season starts.    Let’s take a look at some of the demands of CX, a couple of key workouts you should incorporate into your pre-season training.

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Let’s take a look at some of the demands of cyclo-cross first.  Anytime you embark on a new athletic endeavor, one of the first things you must consider are the specific demands of that event.  No sense in continuing to train for hill-climbing if you are trying to prepare for cyclo-cross!   Cyclo-Cross is characterized by:  Short, very intense bursts of power, followed by a relatively short period of very little leg muscular contractions (downhills, coasting), some running, and finally a flat out period of high power for less than a minute or two.    All the while, the event itself lasts from 45-60minutes, which makes it relatively short in comparison to most cycling events.    Once you understand what is involved in the sport, then you can start to tailor your training for it.   My co-author of “Training and Racing with a Power Meter”, Dr. Andrew R. Coggan, has preached to the masses at every seminar we have taught that one of the most important things to consider when training for an event is event specificity.  Learn and understand the demands of the event itself, that’s the first step towards planning a training regime.

Let’s take a look at a cyclo-cross power file and see what we can find in the file that will further help us develop some specific training for success in Cyclo-Cross. 

18 minutes spent “Not Pedaling” in an one hour race, means that 30% of the race was spent coasting. While this doesn’t mean recovering, it does mean that technical skills are critical to success in a CX race.

In examining just this one power distribution chart above in TrainingPeaks WKO4 software, it’s easy to see that cyclo-cross has some interesting characteristics.   This above distribution chart is very similar to how a criterium road event might look.  The first thing you notice from this power distribution chart is the sheer amount of “not pedaling”. Here, in an hour long race, 18 minutes were spent coasting, which tells us something about the course.  Most likely the course was technical and included some run-ups, and other sections that just didn’t allow for pedaling.   The second thing we see in this distribution chart is the relative even distribution of power from 200- 600 watts, with a concentration from 400-500 watts, which is significant, since this rider’s FTP is 350 watts, but the majority of the time in the race he spent at a much higher wattage than his FTP.

  Here in the graph below, we see just how incredibly ‘stochastic’ or highly variable the power in this file is.  This race is nothing but a set of ‘micro-bursts’ all strung together!   Tiny effort after tiny effort, with equally short rest periods for an entire hour, makes this race incredibly unique.   One thing to note as well is that we do not see much extended time without power, so there must not have been any significant running sections in this race.

An incredibly stochastic race, with lots of bursts, and nearly lacking in sustained power for more than even 30 seconds.   Plan for lots of hard efforts in your upcoming races.

As we examine the file even further, let’s see what we can learn by ‘smoothing’ the data over a 30 second time period.  Smoothing by 30 seconds is a good time course to use when smoothing a the power file.  This time course of 30 seconds relates well to the time it takes for the heart rate to respond to the increase in workload, along with the half-life of lactate in the blood, which impacts your ability to recover quickly.   What we see below with the data smoothed, is that we can pick out the individual laps in the race and we can also see that the upper limit of watts which are limited to a range from 350-450watts for much of the time this athlete was pedaling.
These two components will help us to design some workouts in the future to meet these demands.

By smoothing the power file a little bit, we can see the individual laps in the race more clearly.  The light blue line is at 600watts, the yellow line at 500 watts and the thicker, dark, blue line is a simple linear regression that shows the trend of the power throughout the race as this rider fatigues.

Another important aspect of the above graph is we can nearly pinpoint when the athlete was no longer able to produce the same power that he produced for much of the race.  This gives us insight into the athlete’s fitness and ‘repeatability’, or the ability to do multiple hard efforts and recover quickly.  In this case, this athlete begins to fade around 45 minutes into the race, so he needs to increase the number of intervals that he is doing in training to make sure he can maintain the needed wattage for the entire race.

Now that we have determined some of the key components for cyclo-cross success, let’s design some workouts that will help better prepare our athlete for the next event.  The first workout that is very obvious in which the athlete needs to be able to do with their eyes closed is the ‘Micro-burst’ workout.   The micro-burst workout is done by a series of 15 second ‘ON’ periods with watts at 150% of the athletes functional threshold power(FTP) and with the ‘OFF’ period only 15 seconds long at 50% of FTP.   So, 150%-15 seconds ON, 50%- 15 seconds OFF.  Repeat this ‘on-off’ cycle for 10 minutes, take a break for 5minutes or so, and then go again.  If your race is going to be an hour long, then you need to be able to do at least (6) of these interval sets without any major drop in wattage from the first set to the sixth set.  This will be great preparation for the stochastic nature of cyclo-cross.

The second workout you should consider is a variation of this workout, that I call the “30
Cubed” workout.  It’s also a microburst workout, but now the ‘ON’ period is 30seconds long at 150% of FTP, followed by 30 seconds of 50%, followed by a 30 second period of running.   This makes you get off the bike every minute thereby practicing your mounts and dismounts, along with giving you a huge burst of power as well. 

The third workout that will help the cyclo-cross rider is an hour of 2 minute efforts.
Normally when you do a 2 minute effort, you are trying to hit at least 120% of your FTP for each one, but when you do an hour of them, it’s impossible to do the that high of a percentage of your FTP and finish the workout.  So, by reducing the intensity of the effort to 100-110% of your FTP, it will help you in completing the workout, and thereby accomplishing your goal of increasing your ‘repeatability’.  Since the ability to consistently repeat a strong effort over and over is paramount in cyclo-cross, you need to address this ‘repeatability’ issue with the only thing that will help….. and that’s hard work!   When you do this workout, make sure you are warmed up well, and use your power meter to regulate your effort, as you will tend to overshoot your goal wattage if not careful.  On the rest periods,  start out by making them double the length of the interval, so 4 minutes, and then as you get better and better, see if you can do this workout with only 2 minutes rest, or a 1:1 work/rest ratio.

As you can tell from this article, cyclo-cross racing has some very specific demands to the sport.  Not only do you have to love the cold, rain, mud and to suffer, but you have to be able to put out the effort needed for the event.  With the popularity of the event continuing to rise and the demands of the sport being better defined, the use of a power meter becomes more and more important in training for a cyclo-cross event.  Make sure you race with your power meter as well, so that you can be certain that you are training specifically for your event.  By understanding the demands of the event, training specifically for them and then racing your hardest, you will be assured of a greater chance of success in this fun new popular sport in cycling.

Hunter Allen is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former Professional Cyclist. He is the co-author of “Training and Racing with a Power Meter, co-developer of TrainingPeaks WKO Software, and is the CEO and Founder of the Peaks Coaching Group. He has coached over 500 athletes ranging from professionals to fitness enthusiasts, and has helped many athletes achieve dreams and goals that they didn’t think were possible.  He specializes in coaching cyclists with wattage meters and is on the forefront coaching with cycling’s newest tool.   He has online training programs including Cyclo-Cross plans available at    and you can contact Hunter directly

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

4 Years Of TDF Data - Chris Anker Sorensen

This is the fourth year of power data that I have had the opportunity to analyze from Chris Anker Sorensen of Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank.  The data each year has come courtesy of the kind folks at SRM power meters, Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank and of course TrainingPeaks software which is a sponsor for the team.  This amount of complete power meter data on one rider for multiple TdF’s that has been shared publicly is unprecedented and really quite exciting to analyze over the long haul.  While Chris had an incredibly active 2012 TdF, this was largely due to the fact that he no longer was working for a team captain and he was free to race for himself.  In the past three years, this has really framed his data set in that he never was really allowed to open up the “big guns” and give it a shot for himself, as he has toiled along as the “super-domestique” for either Cancellara, Contador or the Schlecks.   2012 was different though and he got to take some shots at winning stages, pushing himself with attacks and really making the race for himself.   Chris featured in four major mountain stages where he placed second in one (16th stage), seventh in another (24th stage), and 24th in stage 11.  Chris was also awarded the most combative riders jersey in stage seven, after being in the breakaway from 20km into the stage and was awarded the most combative jersey for the whole 2012 at the final stage. He was 14th overall in the GC and third overall in the mountains jersey competition.  Needless to say, give Chris some freedom and get out of his way!!!!  Impressive TdF Chris!!!!!!

So, what is the difference between being able to ride for yourself in a grand tour and having to be a domestique for a super hero?   Let’s look at three critical charts that show his data over the four years to see if we can gain some insight into the differences between these two different roles.  In figure one, we see the differences between his Training Stress Score and Intensity Factor for each year.  In 2009, Chris rode the hardest of all the past four years (TSS 5637) as he had to help defend the yellow jersey for Fabian Cancellara and then the Schleck’s as Team Saxo Bank had an outstanding year, largely because of Chris’ faithful support!  In 2010, Chris did not have to defend quite so aggressively even though Cancellara had the yellow jersey as the team recognized they need to save him for the mountains, where he would be able to ride for the Schlecks again, and as a consequence his TSS dropped down to 4604.   In 2011, Chris was now in charge of getting Alberto Contador to the yellow jersey and in this year, Chris had a little more leeway to attack on his own and did so on a couple of occasions.  Chris ended up working very hard in the last week and half of the Tour, and this jacked his TSS back up to 5043 for the entire three weeks.   This year, 2012, Chris was able to sit in the peloton, rest, eat, drink and relax for the first week and that was a huge difference in energy savings than in the previous years.   That energy savings allowed him to go on attack after attack after attack in the mountains, in which he deservedly won the most combative jersey award for the Tour.   His TSS would have been even lower had he just sat in the peloton and rolled along, but this aggressiveness moved his TSS up to 4617 for the Tour, which still was below 2009 and 2011.

The next chart that is significant is the Performance Manager chart.   This chart shows just how tired a rider is getting throughout the Tour and how quickly they recover during the rest days and also in the easier stages.   The yellow bar in Figure 2 is the Training Stress Balance or TSB, and when this is positive a rider is said to be ‘fresh’.  When it is negative, then a rider is fatigued.  The higher the positive the number the fresher they are and the lower the negative number the more fatigued they are.   If we just look at the TSB for all four years, we see how quickly in 2009, Chris fatigued to a very deep level (-70 to -90) and stayed there for much of the Tour.   In 2010, Chris had a more gradual rate of fatigue and only reached the -90 level on Stage 18 and then began to rebound.  This reflects his role in 2010 as a super domestique in the mountains where he was saving his energy for those later stages, whereas in 2009 he was just a plan domestique.  In 2011, Chris fatigued quickly, not as quick as 2009, and reached his deepest level of fatigue on Stage 14, but then recovered quickly during rest days and easier days, so that he actually showed improvement in his FTP by the end of the Tour. In 2012, he never reached the same level of fatigue in the previous three years, and his TSB only reached -77.5 on Stage 19 in the time trial.   He more slowly fatigued this year than previous years, and that allowed him to be so aggressive in the last 10 stages of the tour.  Stage racing has been and always will be a game of energy conservation and with Chris’ freedom to ride for stage wins and for his own glory, he did a great job in preserving energy this year.

Now, the question remains:  Was Chris better, the same or worse in terms of fitness over previous years?   Chris’ FTP has been very consistent over the past three years right around 380-390 watts and I expected this year would be similar.   In figure 3, I plotted his Mean Maximal Power curve (Peak power across all time durations) in his athlete home page of the TrainingPeaks WKO+ software.  I plotted this year’s data against all previous three years to see if this year was better or worse in one time period or another.   What was interesting was that Chris’ neuromuscular (sprinting) and anaerobic capacity (short efforts from 30 seconds to 1 minute) was markedly lower in 2012 than in previous years.  Maybe he just didn’t train this that much this year, or quite possibly he didn’t do really hard short efforts in this year’s TdF.   When I examined the time from one minute thirty nine second to 30 minutes, Chris’ power was equal to or better than his previous years as in Figure 3, you can see that the ‘dash’ line and the ‘yellow’ line are on top of each other or within three watts of each other.   This shows that Chris was able to do higher watts in the areas that really matter for bike racing.  The next time period from 31 minutes to hour and 33 minutes, shows a small reduction in power from previous years and this is something to consider because he spent so much time off the front of the peloton, he did a lot of time in this area.  One could say that he actually was not as fit as previous years in this critical time range and only because he had the ability to ride for himself was he able to get the results.   He most likely would have been able to get those same results in previous years had been able to ride aggressively.  In the final time period, Chris matched all his previous peak wattages and this certainly was because he was off the front for such a long period of time in those stages.  Pushing the pace on the climbs and trying for a stage win, upped his wattages in the time ranges longer than one hour and thirty four minutes.

Chris Anker Sorensen has had an incredible ride for four years in the TdF, been part of yellow jersey holding teams, stage winning teams, and helped his leaders to podium finishes in Paris.   2012 was a great opportunity for Chris to give his best, ride for himself and go for a stage win.  Unfortunately, he was beaten by Thomas Voeckler on Stage 16 and placed a fine second place but certainly he turned lots of heads and impressed many thousands of fans, including the race commissaries which awarded him the most combative jersey for the entire race, quite an honor.   By understanding the story behind each year of his data, one can see how with the same level of overall fitness and even reduced fitness in certain physiological systems, but given a different role in the race, the same athlete can really impact his ability to shape the race and his own personal results.   Chris helped his team in the previous three years and certainly shaped the race, but this year, I would argue that he made even more of an impact in shaping the race by his aggressive racing style.   Congrats Chris!

Come to one of Hunter’s fall training camps or sign up for personal coaching at his website,  Hunter has a monthly power newsletter in which you can subscribe to so that you will quickly learn the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of power training and also some great insights into the best riders in the world.  Hunter Allen is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former Professional Cyclist. He is the co-author of “Training and Racing with a Power Meter, co-developer of TrainingPeaks WKO+ Software, and is the CEO and Founder of the Peaks Coaching Group.  He has online training programs available at   and you can contact Hunter directly

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

An Introduction To The LEOMO TYPE-R And Motion Analysis

By Hunter Allen

The TYPE-R is a revolutionary device that allows cyclists to measure the motion of the his/her legs, feet and the angle of the pelvis while cycling outside of a lab setting.   The TYPE-R utilizes highly accurate motion sensors that are placed on the top of the thighs (close to the knees), on the tops of the shoes and on the lower back.  These measurements are taken 100 times a second and then recorded.  They can be uploaded later for analysis. 

The TYPE-R system is comprised of three components in addition to the Motion Sensors themselves. 
  • The TYPE-R head unit records data transmitted from the Motions Sensors and ANT + Sensors and displays this data in real time. 
  • The Activity portal (website) allows the user to display, compare and analyze post workout data that has been uploaded from the TYPE-R. 
  • The LEOMO Link Mobile Application resides on your mobile device.  This allows you to initially configure the TYPE-R, select the data fields, and data pages on the TYPE-R, set up Wi-Fi Network(s) on the TYPE-R, and enter personal information in the User Profile section. 

TYPE-R Head Unit

Individual Activity/Workout view from the Activity portal (website)

Dashboard view from the Activity portal (website)

LEOMO Link Mobile Application

What do the motion sensors capture?  
The thigh/knee sensors capture the LAR (Leg Angular Range) i.e. total angular movement of the leg up and down as you pedal on the bicycle. This is the range of motion for the thigh, as measured in degrees of movement from the highest point the thigh reaches to the lowest point the thigh moves.  This generally coincides with the top of the pedal stroke to the bottom of the pedal stroke, but not always.  One would think that because your crank length is the same on both sides, you would have the same leg angle range, but you quickly learn that each leg is different and the range is dependent on the foot angle at both the top and bottom of the pedal stroke.  There are number of other factors that can impact LAR, including bone length and mobility issues in the thigh, knee and ankle.

Left/Right Thigh/Knee Motion Sensor Placement

The foot sensors on top of the shoe measure the FAR (Foot Angular Range), i.e. total angular movement of the foot as it revolves around the pedal axle throughout each pedal stroke.   Each foot moves up and down from a miniscule amount to a much larger gross movement throughout the rotation of the crank arm and this can vary based on power output, cadence, and position on the bike itself.  Exercise physiologists generally believe that less movement of the foot throughout the pedal stroke is more desirable.  Less movement translates to a more direct transfer of power to the pedals from the legs. Unnecessary movement of the foot as it revolves around the pedal axle does not effectively contribute to transferring power to the drivetrain.  By doing this energy is wasted and should be avoided.  If a rider is able to hold their foot more rigidly in relationship to the lower leg, there is less energy being consumed by the lower leg muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus). 

Left/Right Foot Motion Sensor Placement

The sacrum or lower back sensor is attached via a double-sided adhesive strips to the lower back in the sacrum area and measures the angle of the pelvis.  The pelvis will change angles based on the position of the rider on the bicycle, so that a rider that is lowering their upper body to minimize wind drag (riding in the drops) will have a lower angle contrasted to a rider that riding on top of the hoods or is standing while climbing and could have an angle closer to 90˚, which would translate to standing vertically on flat ground. 

Sacrum/Lower Back Motion Sensor Placement

What does the TYPE-R head unit capture?
Motion sensors
The data from the five Standard Motion Sensors is captured and transmitted to the head unit via Blue Tooth.
ANT+ Sensors
Along with capturing motion from the (proprietary) Standard Motion Sensors, the TYPE-R head unit can also capture ANT+ data signals.  This makes the integration of data from a power meter and/or Heart Rate Monitor to the data from the motion sensors seamless and allows for a direct correlation between the two.  Any ANT+ equipped power meter or Heart Rate Monitor should easily “pair” with the TYPE-R allowing that data to be displayed and recorded.  
GPS Sensor
The TYPE-R also contains its own GPS module, so that the route as well as other GPS data is recorded while riding.  This also complements the ANT+ sensor and Standard Motion Sensor data.  GPS data allows the cyclist to see data for a particular segment of the ride and further allows them to analyze the metrics for just that portion of the ride.

Key features of the TYPE-R head unit
One of the key features of the TYPE-R head unit is its ability to be easily customized.  The choices on the screens are nearly infinite and a user can create custom screens to display exactly what they would like to see on one of many available data pages.   While reviewing all of these screens and options is outside the purview of this handbook, there are some key metrics that you should look at while riding.   One thing that many users miss is that by touching the screen with a long press, you can cause that metric to be full screen on the TYPE-R, which is very useful when focusing on one particular exercise.
DSS (Dead Spot Score) – This will be covered more in depth in Chapter 2- Motion Analysis, but a quick explanation is that this is a score which is assigned to each pedal stroke based on the number of decelerations in the foot that occur within that single pedal stroke.  A perfect score would be 0.0, meaning that the foot doesn’t have any uneven movements throughout the 360˚ circle.   This score is displayed at the location of the movement itself on the circle.   One might use this to gain a better understanding of where in the pedal stroke there are significant decelerations and then strive to reduce them.

DSS (Dead Spot Score) from the Activity portal (website)

Foot AR (Angular Range) (Q1)  –  This measures the movement of the foot from 0˚to 90˚or 12:00 to 3:00 in the pedal stroke arc.  This is measured in number of degrees of movement the foot moves down and is important because more movement here indicates greater use of energy in transitioning from the upstroke, across the top of the pedal stroke to the down stroke.   Again, reducing this number could result in reduced energy usage.

Foot AR (Angular Range)(Q1) from the Activity portal (website)

Pelvic Tilt This is very useful to see especially while riding in a lowered, more aerodynamic position vs. riding in a more upright position.  This instantaneous feedback will help to maintain the rider in a lowered position so they can ride faster.  This is also very useful when climbing, as many riders will not stand up “tall” enough when climbing to open up their chests and move their body forward in front of the bottom bracket axle to ensure maximum body weight transfer into the pedals on each down stroke.   Riders should have a much lower angle when standing, closer to 45-55˚.

Pelvic Tilt from the Activity portal (website)

Lap review – A critical screen for any rider doing interval repeats, so that they can review after each interval to ensure they are indeed averaging the power, heart rate or cadence numbers they wanted to hit in the effort.  

Laps or Segments from the LEOMO Link Mobile Application

Laps or Segments from the Activity portal (website)

LEOMO Link Mobile Application and Use
The LEOMO Link Mobile Application is a simple to use tool that communicates to the TYPE-R head unit and allows for the setup of Wi-Fi on the head unit.  Once the Wi-Fi network is setup inside the phone app, then those settings are transferred via the “sync” to the head unit.  Any recorded Activity can be uploaded to the Activity portal (website).  The phone app is also where the user sets up custom screens and personal settings like FTP.

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