Post pandemic Kona times

The pandemic was an interesting period for endurance sport – we all had nothing to do other than ride Zwift, do time trials and ride alone. This was the same for the professional triathletes who had no racing for the best part of a year. When we came back from the pandemic, tentatively in 2021 and then more comprehensively in 2022, times started getting faster and, as is often the case with endurance sports, eyebrows got raised. 

Given the history of endurance sports, the eyebrow raising was probably justified and a healthy amount of scepticism keeps sport honest (ish). The question was, given the gap in time, was the extra scepticism warranted? For this example, we will use IRONMAN World Championships in Kona for two reasons, firstly, it’s on the same course every year which is obviously not the case for something like Le Tour du France which makes performances more comparable – especially when we can normalise for the weather conditions which we’ll have a go at later. Secondly, I just really like triathlon and often use this blog to look into stuff that interests me and hope myWindsock users also share my esoteric interests. 

The first step is just to take a look at the Kona times since 2014 (because that’s as far back as IRONMAN publish race results without me having to look really hard) and just draw a line through them to today (a straight line because it works pretty well) and see if any of the performances jump out at us… 

From this, we can do a little more analysing. Firstly, we can discount Lange and Lucy Charles-Barclay’s performances as exceptional – it turns out they were within the expected values for that day. Daniella Ryf’s 2016 Kona performance, however, would appear to be the best performance of the last decade being the only one that sits outside of 1% of what we’d expect.

Going forward, the times will probably continue getting faster. In 2024 the men are in Kona (and the women in Nice due to some post pandemic location shuffling) and it’s likely that, in order to win this race, someone will have to go under 7 hours and 30 minutes for the first time. 

They’ve moved the date of Kona a bit over the years – is that why times are getting faster? 

Good question reader. I checked, broadly no but there’s one outlier – the Men’s race this year (2024) is on the 26th of October – as late as it’s been for some time (maybe ever?) and I wonder what difference this might have on the conditions. The 26th of October is the 4th Saturday of the month and traditionally, Kona has been on the second Saturday. Will these two weeks make a big difference? 

In general, Kona tends to experience trade winds, which are typically stronger in the summer months (May to September) and weaker in the winter months (October to April). Therefore, October might have lighter winds compared to the preceding summer months, but it can still experience occasional windy days, especially in the afternoon. This means, the famous cross winds on the Queen-K might be a bit gentler this time round as the race is later. Let’s have a look though…

Here we analyse moving time for the same rider conditions each year. Roughly 60% of the time, the 4th Saturday is markedly slower than the 2nd Saturday of each month. There is also a weak trend of October becoming slightly faster in general over the years – this does not fully account for the increase in finish times though. The trade winds which famously blow over the Big Island reduce in their prevalence between October and May so this might also make the Kona course easier toward the end of October.

Broadly speaking, the answer to our question is no. The trend of races getting faster is not much to do with the weather. It’s probably due to materials, decreases in resistance due to aerodynamics, faster tyres and other things. 

The upshot

In 2024, to win the Ironman World Championships in Kona (only the men are racing) you’ll have to finish in sub 7:30 according to the trend that appears to be in place. If you add up all the current records for individual disciplines and add very quick transitions we get sub 7:30. The likelihood is we will see a sub 4 hour bike split if the weather plays ball. By 2030, sub 7 might well be on the cards. One day, we will look into what that might take. 

Where power matters most and why?

Aerodynamics matter when it comes to riding fast, but pacing is often overlooked.

Personally, my favourite graph in myWindsock is “Where Power Matters Most”. This plot essentially tells you where you should ride a bit harder. This is a plot I’ve spoken about quite a lot on this blog before but today we will take a look into why power matters most – rather than where. In order to do this, we need to take a little look into what actually slows a cyclist down when they’re riding.

This is the graph that shows where power matters most. The orange bars show that if you invest energy here, you will get more return on the investment of that energy in terms of speed.

How is it calculated?

Let’s consider the factors that speed a cyclist up and what slows them down. In slowing down we have headwinds, rolling resistance, drivetrain resistance and going up hills. The things that speed our cyclist up include tailwinds, going down hills and the obvious one – pedalling. The intuitive explanation for Where Power Matters Most is simple – when the things slowing you down are on the up, and there’s not much other than your legs contributing to your speed. The old time trial adage of “minimising the amount of time spent going slowly” is key here. 

This shows a breakdown of the different forces that will impact a rider’s speed. The sum of all of these forces will tell you whether you’re likely to be speeding up or slowing down at a given instance on the race course.

The simple way to think of this is by looking at this little drawing and if there’s more red than green, power matters more. This is the same as adding up all the forces acting on the cyclist and if there’s more slowing them down than there is speeding them up – power matters more. The greater extent to which this is true, the more power matters! On the graph, a long region of uphill with a headwind will show where power matters. 

In an ideal world, we will get up to target speed and keep the green arrows and the red arrows in balance. If, when you’re riding, you imagine the sum of the green (positive) and red (negative) arrows changing and your job, when pacing, is to keep their sum as close to zero as possible by adjusting the power input through the pedals. 

The penalty for overadjustment is a blowup of course, go too hard up the first climb and you won’t have enough gas for the second. This is where myWindsock can come in handy, as we can, using the critical power model, calculate your effort for you. 

Prepare for your next race like the pros, sign up to myWindsock here

How hard is it to ride at the front of the Ironman Pro Series?

Jackson Laundry is one of my favourite professional triathletes. Everyone in the sport will tell you he’s one of the good guys – they’re not wrong either. He’s been kind enough to share his race file with us from his most recent podium at 70.3 Oceanside and it makes for great reading.

How did the race pan out?

In a field with a great deal of swim talent, most people had their money on an athlete like Marc Dubrick to lead out of the water in Oceanside, but instead it was relatively unknown German pro Magnus Manner who exited the water first. Magnus Manner is a great swimmer and this was not unexpected to anyone who knows anything, that said. Stringing out the front group, Manner led Dubrick, Canadian Olympian Matthew Sharpe and Italian Mattia Ceccarelli out of the water by a couple of seconds, with the next group half a minute down.

In the second pack, there was plenty of firepower for the bike leg ahead, with German Florian Angert and American Dylan Gillespie just ahead of a group of eight which included pre-race favourite Jelle Geens and two-time Kona champion Patrick Lange. Lange will have been pleased with this swim, but probably not much else as he took a wrong turn on the bike and was then anonymous for the remainder of the race. Further back, a number of other contenders were still in the mix, with Braden Currie down +1:05, and Lionel Sanders out in 25th at +1:38. Miami T100 runner-up Sam Long was +2:38 down, with British fan favourite Joe Skipper looking at a deficit of +3:40 out of the water.

Dubrick was first onto the bike. During the initial stretch leading up to Camp Pendleton, Geens took the initiative, swiftly manoeuvring through the field during transition and seizing the lead by the time the front group had covered the first 20km of the bike course. This would prove to be a major tactical error by the Belgian as he was unable to follow Sam Long later on in the bike. Meanwhile, further back, Long and Sanders emerged as contenders, steadily gaining ground on the leaders. Hailing from Tucson, the duo began to assert their presence in the race. By the halfway point, they, along with Jackson Laundry and Currie, had surged to the front of the pack.

Upon closing the distance, Long accelerated the pace, driving alongside Sanders, Laundry, Justin Riele, and Maximillian Sperl to initiate a breakaway with less than 20km remaining. As they entered transition, the leading quintet remained cohesive, leaving the rest of the field far behind. Geens, the closest pursuer in sixth position, trailed by +2:34, while Dubrick and Gillespie lagged a further 90 seconds behind the Belgian.

Unless Geens produced a monster run split, it seemed the men’s winner would come from this front group, with Long, Laundry and Sanders trading blows over the opening kilometres. Dropping Riele, then Sperl, then Laundry, Long and Sanders pulled ahead after 5km, before the Canadian made an early move for the win, opening up a ten second gap, which gradually doubled by the halfway point. Keeping his foot on the gas, Mr “No Limits” looked unstoppable over the middle section of the run course, and with less than five kilometres to go had a lead of over a minute back to Long, who had thirty seconds over Laundry back in third. Pushing like only he knows how, Sanders never relented despite the gap, as his lead continued to grow and grow. Taking the tape in an emotional finish, Sanders put Long and Laundry to the sword with a 1:10:40 run split.

How hard did Sam Long make everyone ride?

The race was won on the bike, with the podium all coming from that lead group. Pre race favourites Sam Long, Lionel Sanders and Jelle Geens all made their impact on the bike. Sam Long attacked, Lionel Sanders held on (before going on to win the race on the run) and Jelle Geens went out the back door. Sam Long attacked the bike very hard, and it was a select lead group of 5 that managed to hold on until the end. Our man Jackson Laundry rode with the front group, showing that on his day, he can ride with anyone in the sport.

The headline stats.

The variation between average power and weighted (think Normalised Power) power is quite high, this shows that the race had a lot of surges in it which tallies with what athletes like Lionel Sanders have said about that front group.
This graph shows Jackson’s power as a function of time. We can see that it’s far from a smooth line. The two climbs on course required extended periods of time around 400W for Jackson. Hard surges are needed in 70.3 races to close gaps and pass riders. That said, our man Jackson is an experienced 70.3 athlete so he kept himself in good position all race.
This is his power duration curve. Though his average power was around 310W, he did have a period of 30 minutes where his average power was 340W and his normalised power was higher than this. The main difference between age group racing and professional racing is this surging – there’s a big difference in physiological requirements between the kind of efforts shown here and a smooth 310W.
The modelled cda plot is interesting here. It shows us that there is a significant change in the resistive forces that was felt by the rider. The cda shoots up on steep portions of the climbs where riders get out of their aero bars as speeds reduce.

I had a brief exchange of messages with Jackson after the race and he put his bike success onto spending all winter on the turbo (he lives in Guelph, where temperatures in winter drop below minus ten Celsius). He told me that Sam was pulling very hard for most of the ride. Post race, Sam mentioned that he was worried about Jelle Geens on the run.

Interestingly, the fastest run of the day was done by Connor Weaver, down in 38th position who pulled a 1:10:01 out the bag.

Stay tuned for more ride analysis from pro races. If you want to be as well prepared as these athletes, sign up to myWindsock here.

70.3 Oceanside Course Preview

Former winner, Jackson Laundry, will be hoping to repeat what he’s done in the past and take the win in this stacked field.

This weekend, Ironman Oceanside 70.3 is set to kick off the Ironman pro series for 2024. The start list is completely stacked. 

70.3 Oceanside holds the distinction of being the longest-standing event on the current 70.3 calendar, tracing its origins back to 2002. Over time, it has cemented its reputation as the primary “season opener” for North American triathletes, both amateurs and professionals alike.

The anticipation surrounding the new series has drawn considerable interest from professional athletes. Consequently, Oceanside boasts an impressive start list comprising 117 registered pros – 80 men and 37 women. If all goes as expected, this event could potentially surpass previous records, including the 97 overall starters at 70.3 St. George in 2021, 65 male starters at the 2009 70.3 Worlds, and 46 female starters at the 2022 70.3 Worlds. It promises to be an enthralling spectacle.

We won’t do an in-depth preview of the runners and riders – you can check one out here but we will look in depth at the bike course in Oceanside, which is much less boring than most North American 70.3 races. 

The temperature

Oceanside 70.3 is always a cold race, but the lows predicted on course drop to around 8.8 degrees celsius on the bike! The main consequence of this is speed related – cold air is more dense! Luckily, it’s looking extremely unlikely that it’ll rain. 

The elevation

You can see that the course is rolling most clearly with the “Where Power Matters Most” plot. The orange boxes show us where an investment in energy delivers the most return. The Oceanside course is littered with these showing a clear distinction between the most efficient transfer of power and riding a flat time trial effort.

The wind

With a 12m draft distance, the wind coming entirely from the side will aid splitting up groups. It’s also interesting to note that the wind is blowing off the short onto the sea – which you might not expect. That said, wind speeds are low so we won’t spend too much time worrying about this.

Ronde van Vlaanderen preview and weather forecast

Our supported team, Bingoal, will be taking on the cobbles of Flanders.

The Tour of Flanders, affectionately known as “De Ronde van Vlaanderen” in its native Belgium, stands as one of the crown jewels of professional cycling’s spring classics. Steeped in history and tradition, this iconic race traces its roots back to the early 20th century. First held in 1913, the Tour of Flanders has evolved from a modest local event into a monument that captures the imagination of cycling fans worldwide. 

The race is characterised by crosswinds which has led to splits in the peloton before the “hard” parts of the race even start (it’s probably all pretty hard). 

Let’s check the route

The Tour of Flanders route for 2024 has undergone significant revisions, with race organisers opting to return the start location to Antwerp after a recent alternation with Bruges. Focusing on safety, Flanders Classics has redesigned the route to incorporate more major roads leading to the finishing circuits around Oudenaarde and a revamped approach to the challenging Koppenberg climb. 

Scheduled for this weekend, March 31, 2024, the elite men’s race will commence with a team presentation at the iconic Grote Markt in Antwerp, followed by a neutralised passage through the city covering 5 kilometres before the official start of racing. Tomas Van Den Spiegel, CEO of Flanders Classics, highlighted the anticipated spectacle along the route, particularly through notable landmarks such as the Oudaen and the bustling Meir shopping district in Antwerp, promising captivating imagery for viewers and fans alike.

This new route at the start has lead some commentators to write the race will be easier for the first 100k in the past, let’s check the forecast and some myWindsock graphics to see if that’s true.

How does the forecast look?

In terms of “unexpected action”, we know it’s going to kick off when they get to the circuit, but is there any chance of the wind blowing on the roads from Antwerpen to Oudenaarde? Broadly speaking, if we are going to see action early, the wind will need to cooperate which will mean we want it forecasted to be blowing fairly hard across this route. 

Plugging it into myWindsock, we see that this is one you’ll want to watch from the flag drop. It’s likely to be cross tail!

This, combined with the fact that the wind is blowing across the circuit, tells me that when Rouleur wrote that the first 100k would be easy, they didn’t check the wind.

“Plugging it into myWindsock, we see that this is one you’ll want to watch from the flag drop. It’s likely to be cross tail!”

This wind speed of around 16 to 37kph is enough to split the bunch at points if it’s blowing in the right direction – which it appears to be.

Why is a cross-tailwind harder?

One slightly odd thing about classics season is that cross tailwinds are harder than block crosswinds and there’s a mathematical explanation as to why that is and it’s all to do with resolving forces and the fact that, hopefully, cyclists are moving continuously forwards. 

When a force acts on a body, using a bit of trigonometry, we can resolve these forces (that is to say, break them down along component directions) it along whatever axis we like – which for our purpose we will chose a line along the motion of the rider and one that’s perpendicular to his direction of motion.

Resolving all of these forces essentially tells us that a rider on the wheel is going just as hard as the guy on the front, and the faster they go, the less shelter they get and it all gets continuously harder. With a block crosswind, this resolves to more headwind meaning a rider in the wheels gets more shelter (and as you go faster, more shelter is received). Cross tail on the other hand resolves to cross wind. 

How to watch? 

Live terrestrial coverage of the race will be available in numerous European countries. Italian national broadcaster RAI will offer live and on-demand coverage, while RTBF and VRT will broadcast the race in its entirety in Belgium. Additionally, ESPN will provide coverage of the event in many territories outside of Europe. For viewers with a VPN, accessing live coverage may be possible by registering and logging in to the broadcaster’s website. Furthermore, Discovery Plus subscribers will also have the option to log in and watch the race live through their platform. The men’s race will be available to watch from 9am UK time, the women’s race is on from 2pm. 

If you want to stay apprised of the local weather as the race approaches, click here

Why do the men run so slowly at PTO races?

The 20m draft rule is fantastic for fairer racing, and the weak bikers are paying for it on the run.

The Homestead-Miami Speedway is flat, but the wind can blow across the course and during the opening T100 men’s race, the wind blew pretty hard.

The T100 series has begun in triathlon and true to form from the other PTO races, save for a couple of exceptions, the run speed from the men has been really slow. Well, slow relative to the run splits these guys have produced in the past and myWindsock, combined with a look into the rules at other races regarding the distance they’re allowed to ride. Previously, we talked about Race Ranger and the differences it can make – but the pro men seem to have ignored this message so today we will look into the physics of race tactics at 20m… 

The rules stipulate that you can ride 20m behind the rider in front, does that actually provide any benefit?

According to CFD simulations done (check here for more details), the saving at 20m is about 3% and this will form the basis for our discussion here. There’s a point worth making though, this number is probably wrong and most definitely not constant. You won’t always be getting a 3% reduction in drag 20m off the wheel, sometimes it will be more and sometimes less. It’s just 3% under the conditions done in this simulation.

This is how the drag is calculated and there’s two things worth noting, a reduction in drag is worth more at higher speeds and it’s linearly related to the change in power.

This is the drag equation rearranged to show us the relationship with drag and power. We can see that the two are linearly related which means a 3% reduction in drag from the simulations above lead to a 3% saving in power required to ride at a fixed velocity.

How much power is saved at 20m?

The answer is 3%, so if the bloke in front is doing 370W as Magnus Ditlev reportedly did in Daytona, the man behind him is doing 358W under our fixed conditions at a speed of 47kph. If they’re at the legal IRONMAN distance of 12m from the front wheel, the following rider would be doing around 315W – it’s clear that a change in tactic is necessary to prevent over-biking.

This leads us to a key takeaway –  if the drafting distance is 20m then your in-race decision making must be different to if it’s 10m or 12m.

Ok, so should I follow a rider like Magnus Ditlev? 

If you’re riding at 20m, you should only follow a rider who you’re sure that your abilities on the bike are similar to. This is a decision that Sam Laidlow has got wrong on a couple of occasions, including in the recent PTO race – when he rode with Ditlev then blew up on the run. Riders in the T100 should cede the time on the bike as it’s clear many of them are riding too hard. 

It would also seem that the female athletes are better decision makers. Despite there being many amazing riders in the women’s field (Paula Findlay finished 25th at TT world champs and was outridden in the T100 in Miami) – the run times in the women’s field don’t appear to be any slower than at a “normal” race. 

If you remember one thing from this blog, let it be this: If the rider in front of you is more than 3% stronger than you, then you being 20m off their wheel is not an advantage, but a disadvantage.

If you want to be more informed in your race decision making, sign up to myWindsock here.

T100 course preview

In 2024, a new series has hit the world of triathlon – the PTO T100 World Tour and round one is at the Miami Speedway. Given the only remotely interesting thing about this course is how important aerodynamics are – and that race ranger will be in play – we thought we would preview it here. 

Commentators might mention the “technical” nature of some of the turns. This course is only technical to long course triathletes but these will be the athletes taking on the lap. That said, there are no features of note for this course.

Weight vs Aerodynamics

You won’t be surprised to know that aerodynamics obviously matter a lot more than weight on this course but triathlon commentators can never seem to resist discussing how athletes look or the fact that some are lighter than others (no matter how many times that relatively heavy athletes prove this discussion to be nonsense) so we thought that we would put it to bed in the context of this bike course.

This plot shows the change in speed that results in a reduction in aerodynamics. We can see that a 50% increase in cda results in a speed change of almost 6km/hr.
A change in weight behaves differently. We can see that doubling an athlete’s weight will cause a change of less than 2 km/hr. Watts per kilo mean nothing on this course. Let’s hope the commentary team can resist talking about it…

12m vs 20m and Race Ranger

Race Ranger is in force at Clash Miami. This is a device that is fixed to the front and rear of each athlete’s bike to make sure they maintain a legal distance. There are athletes who have “earned” a start in the PTO T100 from races with a 12m draft rule that don’t have Race Ranger enforcing this – so it will be interesting to see how those athletes get on.

There’s a marked difference in riding with a 12m gap vs a 20m gap and the wind direction at Clash Miami exacerbates this. As a result, this race will be a true solo effort on the bike.

Any draft that you get from a rider 20m in front will be eliminated at Miami due to the crosswinds that are scheduled to blow across the course.

How to watch

The broadcast kicks off at 1300 EST on Saturday, March 9th. The men will commence the 100km race (2km swim; 80km bike; 18km run) at the Homestead-Miami Speedway at 1315 EST, followed by the women at 1650 EST.

To catch the action, European viewers can tune in exclusively live on Eurosport from 1900 CET, while the rest of the world can access it via PTO+ and in the US on Max. will also broadcast in specific territories. The global live coverage is made possible through the PTO’s collaboration with Warner Bros. Discovery, along with various international, regional, and local broadcasters like CCTV in China and ESPN in LATAM.

If you want more detail on the courses for all the PTO events, sign up to myWindsock here.

The Paris 2024 Olympic TT

The Olympic Games are somehow here again, despite feeling as if Tokyo was last week (of course it was delayed). Let’s take a look at the TT course…

The first thing to notice is how flat this course is, and that it’s also relatively short for an Olympic TT. 150m of elevation gain over 32.4km will mean an extremely small fraction of energy expenditure is spent fighting gravity. Aero will be everything…

The course’s landmarks

The men’s and women’s time trials commence upstream from Invalides, near the Eiffel Tower, with a start on the Esplanade and a conclusion on the Pont Alexandre III.

Both men and women follow the same 32.4km route that proceeds eastward along Boulevard Saint-Germain, crossing the Pont de Sully and passing the historical Place de la Bastille. The Place de la Bastille is a historic square located in the 4th, 11th, and 12th arrondissements of Paris, France. The square is renowned for its symbolic significance in French history, particularly as the site of the infamous Bastille prison. The Bastille, a fortress and state prison, became a symbol of royal tyranny and oppression. After the Bastille we will see the riders sharply turning towards a section that meanders through the Polygone de Vincennes.

While lacking much in terms of elevation changes, the course features numerous corners, with the tightest occurring near the Vélodrome Jacques Anquetil. The velodrome’s namesake, Jacques Anquetil (1934-1987), was a French professional road cyclist, renowned for winning the Tour de France five times between 1957 and 1964. Poignantly, he was known as “Monsieur Chrono” for his exceptional time trial abilities.

The technical nature of the time trial course will lend a hand to more skilled, or braver, riders. The fact that it’s a city centre course makes recon rides difficult too – adding to the technical nature of the course. That said, there’s a noteworthy long, straight 5km stretch at the conclusion, catering to participants specialising in time trials. A section of the course where pure watts/cda will be important. 

We will have a detailed preview up for this, complete with a forecast, and all of the major events in 2024 so keep your eyes peeled. 

The route not only serves as a physical test but also provides a historical and cultural tour of Paris, encompassing landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the Place de la Bastille. The course will look spectacular on TV and the fans will be lining the course – and LOUD! For spectators attending the event in Paris at the end of July, anticipate warm summer temperatures with average highs ranging from 25 to 30 degrees Celsius (77-86 degrees Fahrenheit). This technical yet captivating course promises an engaging experience for cyclists and onlookers alike. If you want to check out the parcours for all major events in 2024, sign up to myWindsock here.

It’s time to panic train!

It’s February and the open TTs are appearing on the CTT website, and the triathlon sign ups are starting. It’s often at this point in the year where people start to think… damn, I haven’t done much training. This leads us to wonder, how quickly can you improve? Does panic training work? The rate of progress in cycling performance can vary widely among individuals and depends on various factors, including genetics, training consistency, dedication, and overall health and we will talk about all of these today. Of course, being less fit can always be offset by getting more aero and pacing better…

Some factors that might impact adaptation…

1. Genetic factors play a significant role in determining an individual’s athletic potential. Some people may naturally have a higher predisposition for certain aspects of cycling performance, such as endurance or power. Training in such a way to maximise these strengths while addressing the weaknesses will help you find low hanging fruit where faster improvements can come. 

2. Consistent and structured training is crucial for improvement. Cyclists who adhere to a well-designed training plan, incorporating a mix of endurance, interval, and strength training, are more likely to see progress than those that just randomly bash about for 10 hours a week on the bike. That said, there’s plenty of riders who have success by training like this, most notably –  Andrew Feather. 

3. Novice cyclists may experience relatively rapid improvements initially as their bodies adapt to the new training stimulus. As individuals gain experience, progress may slow down, and gains will become more incremental. 

4. Proper rest and recovery are essential for progress. Overtraining can lead to fatigue, injury, and a plateau in performance. Balancing intense training with adequate rest is crucial for long-term improvement. You can’t improve under a maladaptive training load and you need to program in time for recovery. 

It’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the rate of progress in cycling performance. Individual responses to training vary, and factors like injury, illness, and life stressors can also impact progress. Now we’ve talked about the factors that impact the progress you make – let’s take a look at some research on the matter… 

What does the science say?

Research on cycling performance improvement is extensive, and various studies have explored factors influencing progress. Here are some key findings:

1. Training Intensity and Volume:

   – A study published in the “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research” (2017) found that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can lead to significant improvements in cycling performance compared to traditional endurance training.

   – Another study in the “European Journal of Applied Physiology” (2018) suggested that a combination of high-intensity and moderate-intensity training may enhance both aerobic and anaerobic cycling performance.

Essentially, absolutely smashing yourself for very short periods of time (maybe 3-6 weeks) you can get away with large increases in volume and intensity and this will lead to fitness gains, especially in relatively untrained people but you need to be aware this is not a long term solution. 

2. Genetic Factors:

   – Genetics play a role in determining individual responses to training. A study in the “PLOS ONE” journal (2015) highlighted the impact of genetic variations on endurance performance, with certain genes influencing factors like oxygen transport and utilisation.

There are athletes with world leading adaptation to training stimulus but it’s not all genetics. On top of this, it’s possible there’s athletes who are genetically predisposed to certain training stimuli and others to different stimuli – meaning studies may look as if certain people are gifted but actually just happen to be predisposed to the type of stimulus applied in the study.

3. Age and Adaptation:

   – Research in the “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research” (2013) indicated that older individuals can still experience significant gains in cycling performance through proper training. However, adaptation may be slower compared to younger counterparts.

We know age plays a role here, and the older you are – especially once you’ve passed the age of 35, the slower those gains will come. 

4. Nutrition and Recovery:

   – Nutritional strategies, including carbohydrate intake and timing, have been shown to influence cycling performance. Additionally, adequate recovery, including sleep and post-exercise nutrition, is crucial for optimising progress (Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2017).

The most recent research says well fuelled training, with adequate micro and macro nutritional intake alongside as much sleep as humanly possible will lead to the fastest possible adaptations. Making sure that you eat enough to maintain energy availability is also important – your body cannot adapt if it does not have the fuel to do so. 

While studies provide valuable insights, it’s important to recognise the variability among individuals. What works for one person may not work as effectively for another due to differences in genetics, training history, and other factors.

In practical terms, four weeks is often a short enough time frame to see improvements. Especially for shorter duration events like a ten mile TT. During this period, you can improve your power maybe ten percent or so – especially if you’re starting fresh, but you can also massively reduce your aerodynamic drag with myWindsock aero testing, on top of this you’ll be able to pace perfectly using myWindsock too – leading to huge time savings all in! Sign up here. 

Should the UCI weight limit be changed?

The minimum weight limit was introduced to prevent the use of extremely lightweight and potentially fragile bicycles that could compromise rider safety. Bikes that are too light might be more susceptible to damage or failure during a race, especially under the stresses of professional bike racing. By setting a minimum weight limit, the UCI aims to level the playing field and prevent teams or riders from gaining an unfair advantage by using excessively lightweight materials that might compromise the durability and safety of the bike. This rule is supposed to help maintain a balance between innovation and safety in the design and construction of bicycles. The question is, does it do that?  

The UCI bike weight limit of 6.8 kilograms for road racing bikes was introduced in 2000, 24 years ago. Bike technology has obviously come an extremely long way since then and, some might argue, all the UCI has done in this time is impose more stupid rules that stifle innovation and distract from the real problems like doping and rider safety. The UCI would argue that they’re preserving the sport’s unique aesthetic or something.

Dan Bigham dislikes the weight limit…

“I would increase the minimum weight limit to 8 kilos”, these were the heretical words that flew out of Dan Bigham’s mouth on an episode of “Peak Talk”, linked below.

He qualified this statement with the fact that it might piss some people off, and it won’t be the first time he’s upset cycling’s traditionalists (or the last, for that matter). He espoused his frustration with there being “a stupid push to be at the weight limit” and he identified an interesting phenomenon. 

Cycling performance appears to be approaching a self imposed local maxima.

Maths lesson – what’s a local maxima?

A nice illustration of a local maxima from an article on data driven design which can be found here.

In simple terms, imagine you’re standing on a hilly landscape, and you want to find the highest point. A local maximum is like being on a hill where you are at the highest point around you, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on the highest hill in the entire area. It’s just the highest point nearby. So, a local maximum on a multidimensional surface is a point where the values are higher than at neighboring points, but it might not be the absolute highest point across the entire surface.

Imagine performance as this landscape, currently we are approaching the summit of the 6.8kg hill and it’s getting progressively steeper because “all we can think about is keeping the frame at 800g” as Dan said but in the distance there’s a bigger hill. The one where keeping bikes at 6.8kg isn’t a major constraint.

It’s a minimum limit, so can’t they just be made heavier? 

“You still have the freedom to make a bike that’s heavy” – something put to Dan by Peak Torque (Alex) himself. He’s right, the teams nor manufacturers are actually bound by this UCI rule and if this local maxima is real, why don’t Ineos, the team Dan works for, simply ride heavier bikes with these additional optimisations added?

One reason is bike sales, if a brand was to make a heavier frame, they wouldn’t sell any to the general public who are very focussed on weight despite it not mattering very much. Dan mentions the necessity of growth as a sport, which is something that many minority sports (particularly triathlon and athletics at the moment) would do well to recognise. He identifies fan engagement as being crucial factors – and something that’s been successful in F1 is the addition of on board cameras and extra sensors with the data being publicly available for viewers. Increasing fan engagement is the key to the financial health of any sport. 

How much difference does 1.2kgs actually make?

Road cyclists are very hung up on weight, no matter how many times we tell them that it doesn’t matter as much as they might think. Let’s use a scenario where weight matters like “the Stang”. This is a 5km climb in the north of England…

The gradient breakdown of this climb is not constant, at steeper points, weight matters more as a proportion of the total resistive forces.
This climb is a relatively “fast” climb, with gravity being an average of 66.1% of the resistance faced by the rider. These numbers are an average across the whole simulation, on flat sections air resistance will play a larger role whereas gravity’s contribution will increase on steeper sections.
On the left, we have a rider with a system mass of 83.8kg, on the right we have a rider with a system mass of 85kg. The reduction in weight causes a 6 second time saving.

There are obviously scenarios where 1.2kgs would contribute more than in this case. For example, a long steep climb – but the idea there’d be a significant reduction in the performance of your bicycle at 8kg instead of 6.8kg is for the birds in the majority of circumstances.

So, should the limit go up?

Yes, it wouldn’t harm performance, may in fact improve frame design by focussing more on aero, damping and other losses and less on trying to make everything as light as possible. Personally, I (Tom) agree with Dan on this, the weight limit should go up. What do you think?

Sign up to myWindsock here to see how much difference adding a kilo or two would make to your riding.