Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Lanterne Rouge

Last night, I decided to join up with some of the Team Reel Theatre guys as well as many other Boise club riders for the weekly Tuesday Nighter. I usually don't participate because I ride MTB on Tuesday nights with some friends, but this week I decided to hit the road for a change of pace. Normally the route for the Tuesday Nighter varies, but for the next couple weeks, the route is a half Bogus or Bogus Light: riding up Bogus Basin road to the forest service sign, eight miles and about 1900 feet of climbing.

The reason that the route is fixed is because the Olympic time trial route is very similar in distance and profile to a half Bogus, so Kristin Armstrong has been using the Tuesday Nighter to prepare for the Olympics. It's not like she even knows my name or anything, but I've seen her and said hello out on the road, and she's very nice and down to earth.

So I'm giving this big introduction just 'cuz I think it's cool that last night I got to ride with a world champion and Olympian. And it took her all of 0.8 second to drop me. Srsly. We were all just bunched up, chatting with those around us, wondering when the ride would start, when the guys at the front, including Kristin, started riding. By the time I got clipped in and made my first pedal stroke, there was already a gap.

It was really hard not to chase and try and catch up with at least the very end of the pack, but I knew from experience that I needed to just stay within myself and ride my own pace, or I would blow up. A little way up the road from me, I saw Kimberley from the Bob's Bicycles team, who was pedaling at about the pace I wanted to be going. So I pulled in next to her, and we chatted a bit about how it's hard not to chase.

My best efforts to stay within myself notwithstanding, I still had started faster than I wanted to, and it took me a good ten or fifteen minutes before I was at the pace I wanted and my heart rate was back where it needed to be. Once I got into a rhythm, I was able to sustain it through the steep sections and had enough left to push hard at the end. At one point, I saw Nate on the switchback above me, and I really wanted to catch him but ended up about 20 seconds behind. I finished in 42 minutes even, good enough for a personal best and on pace to get to the top in under 1:20. (My best is a little over 1:20, and I'd like to get to a 1:17 or so.)

If you've been reading long, you know that I've been trying to lose weight in order to become a faster climber. My weight loss goal is eight kilos, or about 18 pounds. So far, I'm down about six kilos, or 13 of the 18 pounds. According to what Michele Ferrari told Lance Armstrong, losing 1% body weight while maintaining the same wattage will allow a rider to climb 1% faster. I was a little concerned that I was losing wattage, because my experience does not bear this out. So I headed over to to see what Tom Compton had to say on the topic.

The 1% weight loss = 1% faster theorem would probably be valid if weight were the only variable in the equation. Unfortunately, there's also aerodynamic drag (however minimal that is at climbing speeds) and rolling resistance to consider. By Tom's math, a weight loss of 1 kilo or 1.25% of body weight for an 80kg cyclist will only yield a 0.75% faster time, at least on a hill with a profile like Bogus Basin Road, which I used for my analysis. So my eight kilo weight loss will only make me five minutes faster, rather than the eight to nine minutes I had hoped for.

The good news is that my wattage is apparently increasing a bit rather than decreasing, because on Saturday, I was five minutes faster to the top than I was at the beginning of the season, versus the three and a quarter minutes predicted by analytic cycling based on my weight loss to date. Today I was three minutes faster to the half way point versus the predicted 96 seconds. The really bad news, though, is that to yield the 10% improvement I was after on weight loss alone, I would need to lose a little over 13 kilos or about 30 pounds. Increasing my wattage now seems a lot easier than losing another 17 pounds.


  1. It's hard to suppress the chase instinct, especially if you're the only one getting dropped. Independent of the data -- are you feeling stronger-faster-better as you drop the lbs? I've got a similar goal, and I'm definitely noticing an improvement in how I feel I on the bike.

  2. You missed a great MTB ride. We rode Double Hulls last night and this morning... It was a blast with perfect trail conditions!