Thursday, October 29, 2015

What does it take to complete the Hincapie Gran Fondo?

I recently had an athlete ride the Hincapie Gran Fondo. The Fondo offers routes of 15 miles, 50 miles, and 80 miles or the Piccolo, the Medio, and the Gran. Each route features 1400 feet, 4000 feet, and 8000 feet of elevation gain respectively. Over the past few years he has done the Medio, but for this year he wanted to tackle the Gran. His time was 2 hours and 45 minutes last year for the Medio. I helped him arrive to the Fondo rested and in the best shape of his life. He was ready for the challenge but knew he had to pace himself well just to finish it. His goal time was to break 6 hours for the ride. This rider weighs 157 pounds and has an FTP of 248 watts.

He rode mostly in his endurance pace over to the first climb of the day. There were some spikes in power to his anaerobic capacity and VO2max zones. However, those efforts were too short to sap his energy for the rest of the ride. He did a great job with is pacing over to Skyuka.

Then he hit the monster that is Skyuka Mountain Road (3.9 miles @8.7%). Skyuka took him around 40 minutes to complete. His effort on this climb was not at a consistent wattage. The times spent in each zone are not continuous efforts. They are rough approximations of the total amount of time he spent in each zone. He tried to ride the climb as much as possible in his tempo power zone (189-225 watts) and spent a total of roughly 18 minutes in tempo. When the climb was too steep to ride tempo, he rode in his lactate threshold zone (226-262 watts) and spent around 9 minutes of Skyuka riding at his LT power. Since the climb is so steep, he had to make several surges to both VO2max and anaerobic capacity power. He had a total of 7 surges ranging mostly from 10-20 seconds in duration to VO2max power (263-299 watts). The longest VO2max surge he had was the first surge for 62 seconds. He had a total of 2.5 minutes spent in VO2max power on Skyuka. He had a total of 9 surges to anaerobic capacity mostly ranging from 10 seconds to 30 seconds. He spent roughly 3.5 minutes in his anaerobic capacity zone (300+ watts) on Skyuka. He hit his max HR for the entire ride of 187 bpm about 20 minutes into Skyuka at the end of a 54 second anaerobic capacity surge that averaged 312 watts. His average power for Skyuka was 205 watts and a normalized average power of 225 watts. That effort up Skyuka was a tough one for him!

He coasted down the White Oak descent and rode mostly at endurance pace over to Howard Gap (1.3 miles @11.4%). It was smart of him to recover in the valley. At the bottom of Howard gap he rode at tempo power for as long as he could (176 watts for 8 minutes and 51 seconds). Then the steep grade of Howard Gap kicked in. He had to do an evenly paced 12 minute and 13 second effort at 239 watts. That is almost at 100% of his FTP! He was still able to tach his HR up on Howard Gap. He averaged 170 bpm with a max of 181 bpm. He averaged 223 watts with a normalized of 232 watts for 16 minutes and 26 seconds up Howard Gap. Even though this effort was a solid one, I believe it was the one that put him over the edge and into the hurt locker for the rest of the Fondo. A lot of people tell me that Howard Gap is the hardest part of the Gran.

After Howard Gap he once again did a great job of saving energy and riding mostly at recovery and his endurance pace over to Green River Cove (2.4 miles @7.5%). On the Green River Cove climb it looked like he was really feeling the effort of the ride. Up Green River he rode mostly at tempo and high endurance power with some spikes to anaerobic capacity and VO2max. However, the spikes were for less time and were less sharp than the spikes he hit on Skyuka. He had 3 surges to anaerobic capacity ranging from 8-24 seconds in duration and 5 surges to VO2max ranging from 10-28 seconds. I could also see that fatigue had set in with the relatively low max HR of 177 bpm. That max HR came at the end of a 24 second anaerobic capacity surge coming about 14 minutes into the Green River Cove Climb. His average HR was 158 bpm compared to an average of 166 bpm on Skyuka. That lower average HR on Green River Cove showed he was fatigued. He averaged 195 watts with a normalized power of 203 watts for 21 minutes up Green River Cove.

The final rest stop came shortly after Green River Cove. He realized he was pressed for time to reach his goal of less than 6 hours. He pushed home with an average of 153 watts, which is well within his endurance pace. He cramped up a little over 6 hours into the ride and had to stop for about 1 minute. He finished up with a time of 6 hours and 7 minutes and even had a nice 30 second kick of 250 watts for the line. His average power for the ride was 140 watts with a normalized power of 184 watts. Even though he just missed his goal of breaking 6 hours, I would call his ride a success. His moving time without stops was 5 hours and 25 minutes. That is well within 6 hours! If the rest stops went a little quicker, he would have beaten his goal time. We do not always hit our goals. However, it is nice to come close to them. That is especially true when the goal is something as epic as the Hincapie Gran Fondo ride. I am really proud of this athlete for getting his ride done and pacing it well.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

2015 Hincapie Gran Fondo

This past weekend I participated in the Hincapie Gran Fondo. I looked forward to just having a fun ride and mostly riding at a moderate pace. The weather was around 60-70 degrees and overcast the entire time, so I would say it was perfect. This route is super tough. It has three climbs in it, and they are all very steep. Each of them averages 9% in grade or more. On the way over to the first climb I dropped my phone, so I needed to stop and pick it back up. After this I saw George Hincape, Christian Vandevelde, and a few other stopped on the side of the road. I stopped with them for about 5 minutes, and we rotated to catch back up to the front group well before the first climb of the day. My goal for the day was to ride the climbs at my sweet spot pace. However, with only 4 days on the bike before the ride that was still pretty tough. At the top of Skyuka I stopped at the rest stop for a while to get some fuel and took the White Oak descent with Reid Richesin because I did not want to tackle that one in a group. We rolled over to Howard Gap with some Hincapie junior riders, and I also went up that climb at sweet spot. I felt ok during that effort. We just cruised from Howard Gap down the descent and through the valley over to Green River Cove road and the next stop. We refueled there with Infinit mix, Bonk Breakers, and some cookies. We waited for George's group to arrive and leave. On the flat road up to Green River Cove we did a pace line with Christian Vandevelde, Cadel Evans, George, and Ted King. The pace was very quick, and about 2 minutes before Green River I came undone because I just didn't want to keep going that hard. After that effort I was still able to tackle Green River at sweet spot, but I felt like I was near cramping by the top. I got to the final rest stop in Saluda and had a couple chicken fingers. I rolled from that rest stop with Reid until George's group caught us going down the Watershed descent. They were railing it. I hopped in for a little bit, but began getting some cramps for real. I decided to back off the pace then and just roll to the finish. This ride is a really tough one, and I am glad I was able to do it again this year. I had a really great time, and I look forward to doing the Road Titans 300 this weekend.