Thursday, January 14, 2016

The World Championships in Richmond Virginia 2015

Ben King's Breakaway Ride

Worlds. Amazing. You had to be there.   Thousands of people, incredible course, the best riders in the world and stellar bike racing.   Richmond Virginia shined and really laid out the red carpet for everyone and it was heart warming and reassuring to have drivers honking at you with “Thumbs up” and taking pictures of cyclists as they rode around the outskirts of town for the week, instead of giving you the other finger.  Ben King, local boy makes good.   Ben not only rode in the breakaway for 90+ miles, but not was he only one from the breakaway to finish the race, but he in the front group at the base of Libby Hill on the last lap.  Only then, did he lose contact with the front group, finishing in 53rd place, 55 seconds down on Sagan.   Let’s have a look at this amazing power file from the World Championships.

First off, one of the differences between the World Tour level and all the rest is the sheer amount of work that has to be done in the race, just to complete it.  Work is kiloJoules and 1 Joule is a watt per second, so 1kJ is 1000 Joules.   Ben did 6,402 kiloJoules of work in the 6 hour and 24 minute race.   For those of you that regularly get crushed after doing 3000 kJ of work, can you imagine doubling that?  This is equal to over 7000 kCalories burned and that’s a lot of burritos.  A normal Continental pro race here in the US, is between 2500-3000kJ,  and this is a critical difference between abilities of the Continental pros and the World Tour pros.   Translate this into Training Stress Score and reminder that 100 TSS equals the same amount of training stress as 1 hour at FTP and Ben did 418 TSS for the race, so the equivalent of 4 hours back to back at FTP.    Some other highlights include 7,838’ of climbing, an Intensity Factor of .81(81% of FTP for 6 hours 24minutes),  an average power of 276watts and normalized power of 323 watts.  Yes, 323 watts for 6 hours 24 minutes.  Three. Hundred. Twenty. Four.  6 hours. 24 minutes.   Can you do 323watts for 20 minutes? An hour?   How about 6 hours?  Oh yeah,  he weighs 148lbs.  So that’s 4.88 watts per kilogram for the entire race.   Those are the statistical highlights of an epic world championship race.    Let’s dig into some of the finer points.
Worlds in Richmond by Ben King.   The beginning shows his bridge to the breakaway and the initial part of the breakaway as it gets established, the middle section of the breakaway with a relatively smooth and steady pace.  The final part of the race in the peloton as the pace ratches up a notch with every lap completed.

There were three main obstacles in the Richmond Worlds’ course,  the first being Libby Hill with its’ cobblestones and serpentine route up the hill, the second being the super steep 15% gradient cobblestone climb up 23rd street and then the third was the drag up Governor’s hill, right beside the Virginia Governor’s Mansion.   Each of these were not long hills, but all were hard with the addition of cobblestones, and gradient.   Libby Hill was certainly the most packed for spectators and ignited the fireworks for the riders, with a stinging one minute and 20 second sprint over the top of the hill and then a charge to the second obstacle, the 23rd street hill, which was the launching platform for Sagan’s winning attack.   Ben’s climbs up Libby hill were hard, but consistent.  The hardest was second climb up the hill, while the breakaway was being established and Ben averaged 471 watts.  Laps 12, 13, and 14 were the most aggressive as Ben put out over 900 watts for a maximum on each of these trips up the climb.

The Sprint up 23rd street came on the heels of Libby Hill and to add insult to injury, the hill was at a 15% grade and cobbled, with thousands of people cheering at the top of their lungs.  This climb was done using in single file in the peloton and in the small breakaway, the width of the road still only allowed them to go up two abreast.  This hill while hard in the breakaway, wasn’t that decisive until the final lap, when Sagan launched his winning move.

The difference in his wattage between when he was in the breakaway and when he was back in the peloton is significant.  As you saw in Figure 1, the time Ben was in the break had much lower maximum watts with a lot more smooth and steady power output.  This is classic of a breakaway and the ability to keep your power smooth and minimizing the bursts of power contribute significantly to the conservation of energy.    The difference in Variability Index (normalized power/average power) is only 5% between the two time periods, but that is significant in a race as long as this one.   Clearly, the last 5 laps of the race were difficult for anyone in the peloton, but to survive the breakaway for 90 miles and then sit in the peloton having to respond to all the surges in power, really goes to show you just how incredible Ben King is as one of the best pro cyclists in the world.

The World Championships in Richmond were a real spectacle and Ben King put on a show.  What a great ride by a good ol’ Virginia boy that made all American cyclists proud, not to mention the thousands of Americans watching the race.   This was a special day and a very special ride by Ben.   The power that he released on this day is equal to any of the classics in Europe and goes to show that he has what it takes to win a big, big race. 

I predict his 2016 season will contain one of these wins.

Hunter Allen has online training programs available at  including some great winter plans.  Hunter attended the Richmond World’s with some of his Peaks Coaching Group coaches and got to cheer on Ben King up all the hills.  You can contact Hunter directly for personal coaching and camps.

Reprinted with permission from Road Magazine November 2015 Issue