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Tour of Japan – Hucker racing the feared Keirin School circuit

The UCI 2.1 Tour of Japan always attracts a high quality field and this year was no exception. With World Tour and Pro Conti teams it is always a David against Goliath proposition for us at AvantiIsoWhey Sports, but, it is one we relish as was shown in Taiwan the guys in the team are World class and can win even when the operating budget is much smaller than the big budget teams.

In this article we are going to look at the data from Robbie Hucker the winner of the recent Tour of Taiwan and focus in on the data from the feared Keirin School circuit. Known to be one of the hardest circuits in professional cycling it consists of 10 laps of what can only be described as hilly terrain.

In this first Ride graph the toughness of the course can be seen with over 370m of vertical gain each lap it is really a case of repeated VO2 and anaerobic intervals with very short recovery periods. The main bunch gets whittled down by sheer attrition and in this particular stage only 70 finishers remained and made the time cut out of 120 riders.

I have smoothed the data a little in this graph and added each laps specific data for review. What I have also done is shown the power data for each lap with the zero or non pedalling data removed. This gives a greater insight into the actual average power used by Robbie a 65kg athlete on each of the climbs. On only one lap did he climb below 5 watts/kg and the average power used when climbing was 5.4 watts/kg or 348 watts. The first and last laps were the hardest and fastest with the climbing completed at 5.6 – 5.7 watts/kg or 370 watts. Remember that this is the average climbing power and the real demands were often much greater.

To look at a lap in a little more detail I have selected the first lap when the Iranian teams Pisgamn and Tabriz lit it up from the gun to try and split the race apart and cause maximum damage. A specific warm up was needed for all the riders before this stage to be able to go with this early type of attack, those positioned too far back or not fully warmed up would be having to bridge across gaps and dropped wheels. When the pressure is on like this sometimes the elastic stretches and the race can be over before it has even begun.

Robbie was positioned well towards the front and was initially helped and supported by Chris Hamilton in his first race back after being hit by a car only 7 weeks before, suffering a smashed wrist and broken ribs.

As you can see by looking at the single lap it is really 3 tooth like climbs between 1 minute and 2m:40s long. I have created the 3 ramps of each lap into specific intervals and the data can be seen below the Ride graph in the table. The first 1minute and 8 second ramp was completed at 445 watts or 6.5 watts/kg with a spike of power up to 654 watts at an average of 92 rpm. There was then a short 40 second recovery before starting the next ramp. This was a 2 minute 14 second effort with an average power of 394 watts or 6.2 watts/kg and a high of 703 watts. You can see by looking at the graph that most of the time Robbie is on and off the gas responding to attacks and surges within the group. There are 4 power spikes in this one effort alone over 700 watts, the ability to produce and recover from these short anaerobic efforts are what can limit performance and are critical to road racing performance. We train for these with under/over on/off type efforts on climbs and the ergo. Nothing quite simulates the exact demands of a race situation however, so, getting some racing in is crucial to performing in this sort of event. Again there is then a short 50 second recovery on the downhill before the fireworks really started in the final ramp of the circuit. This was a 2 minute and 39 second effort with an average power of 454 watts or 7.0 watts/kg and 3 big spikes in power up to 875 watts, again it is easy to see that nearly the whole climb was way above Robbie’s current threshold.

To then put this and the other 9 laps into perspective we can look at the combined power data from each of the laps. Here we can see all the stats including Speed, VAM, W/kg as well as average and max data for the race. When viewing the data like this the true scale of just how hard this particular stage is, a quick look at the intensity of each lap show that only twice in the race did the intensity drop below 0.9 or 90% of Robbie’s threshold power, this is quite staggering.

Finally, we will look at the power tab which displays all the max values for the race as well as showing the percentage of time in each relative zone. This is some amazing data, Robbie’s adjusted power was a staggering 343 watts, this represents the theoretical cost of the ride taking into consideration the average power, but, also the physiological cost of all the efforts. Robbie had a very good efficiency for the race of 2.2, this is the adjusted power divided by the average heart rate. This is quite a high figure as most riders come in under 2 with a high percentage between 1.6-1.8. The T-Score for the 3 hours and 27 minutes was 295 again a huge score and load with over 3200kJ burnt in the effort.

What does this all mean? It means that firstly Robbie is an amazing athlete with an incredible ability to repeatedly surge well above threshold and recover again and again. As I also coach Cam Bailey who came second on the stage, but, was in the break all day this data has a similar total load, but, as Cam was able to ride at a more sustained pace there were less attacks and surges. Cam’s data is again phenomenal and what both athletes were able to sustain for the 3 hours and 30 minutes was more than most club A Grade athletes’ could sustain for 20 minutes.

I hope this has shed a little light onto just what it takes to be up at the pointy end on the feared Keirin School Circuit at the Tour of Japan.

Mark Fenner (Fenz)

Head Coach

I’ve been involved with cycling since I was 10 years old. My passion for cycling has led me to race both road and mountain bikes in England and Europe, which led me into learning more around the science behind the sport. I love helping others achieve their absolute best – I’ve lectured Sports and Exercise Science, Anatomy and Physiology in England, been an outdoor educator and motivator at The Scots College and have received several qualifications from degrees to certificates.

 

Feature picture of Robbie Hucker – Credit: Neil Walker