Season Wrap Up, Fitlab Results and Something So, So Scary

It’s getting close to the end of the main part of the cycling season for me. Now that I’m here I’ll tell you what my primary goals were and if they happened Here’s how it went and a bit of analysis that I took away from each. One thing that I’ll mention up front is that its been a good season and I passed most of my goals. Like anyone, I wish I could have done some things better, and part of this blog is about honestly documenting those things and some ideas about resolving them. Maybe you have come across some of the same issues and I hope this can help you improve too if there is something here that’s useful to you too. IMG_3130 The number one thing that improved my riding this year has been training with power and using the testing, analysis and coaching from Fitlab to make improvements in the real world. Have a look in past posts to find out about Fitlab if you like, but in a nutshell, Fitlab uses a scientific analysis of your primary physiological data and gives you a plan, based on your goals, that will make you faster. Heres a link to it:   


I like to make my testing data open to view, because it might be interesting to you to know what kind of engine it takes to achieve certain results. I don’t naturally have amazing aerobic physiological capacities but I’ve discovered it’s worth investing in maximising what you’ve got. At the risk of extreme levels of narcism I will present the following as a kind of pictorial evidence: Steaky Calves: 15615496110_2bfa3aec0f_z I started on Fitlab in March 2014. Here’s what my power curve numbers looked like then, and now, for the top 4 stats you might look for for going fast in an MTB race. Best Power/ Weight at threshold: 4.6 w/kg vs 5.2w/kg 30sec power: 633 vs 762 Watts (20% Increase) 2min 30sec power:   383 vs 456 Watts (19% Increase) 5min power 356 vs 402 Watts (13% Increase)  Now, in that time my weight went from 79Kg to 74.5Kg. That effects power to weight too of course and so here’s the practical effect on theoretical 10% climb, with the horsepower increase and the weight decrease taken into account, using the calculator from good old Oh, FWIW, the weight loss and the power increase were worth about equal proportions. 1: 5.5 sec     2: 28 sec     3: 44 sec OK, so let’s take a tough XCO course, with about 180 metres climbing per lap and see how that translates in the real world. Let’s say that vertical distance is made up by the three examples above, which is quite similar to the NZ Cup 2 Wellington this year – how much faster am I really? Well, I was 77.5 seconds per lap, times 5 laps. That’s 387.5 seconds. That’s 6.5 minutes.  So, if you really want to reduce that down further, I paid for 3 sessions of Fitlab testing and analysis, which was $450. So I exchanged $450 for 6.5 minutes per raceGenerally, that’s the difference between the first 3 or 5 places, so, say the difference between coming, say, 4th, and winning. I have no idea if theres any better value for money for going faster out there. You could spend $20,000 on a bike and it wouldn’t make even half that difference. But here’s the downside – you have to actually follow the plan. Even if you add on the cost of a power meter it’s still a bargain. Fundamentally it got me THIS:            1. NZ MTB Cup Master 1: 1st                                                          2. NZ MTB Champs Master 1: 1st 10830715_409809399184335_7633929669372763173_o10509537_10204937562750818_7165611822145008798_n

IMG_3106Oceania MTB Master 1/2: 3rd

Karapoti Classic Pro Elite 5th


Photos from Barking Cat Photography, Alan Ofsoski, Russ Baker and Oli ‘Roadworks’ Brooke-White respectively

The NZ Champs course in Rotorua was exactly the same and at same time as last year, so handily, represents good data points for comparing the start and the end of my ‘Fitlab Year’. Now, last year I was in Pro Elite, and I only got through 3 laps before I was pulled before I got lapped. My average lap time was 18:26. This year, on the same course and same conditions, I averaged 17:30. I did 4 laps total this year and the last one was 18:10. OK, so that’s almost exactly 1 min improvement per lap – just marginally under that generalised calculation above, so that fits the model pretty well especially since there was no really long climb that would fit that 5 minute condition. It’s also pretty pleasing considering it wasn’t a particularly friendly course for a dually.  It doesn’t sound like a hell of a lot, but 4 minutes for a 4 lap race is pretty huge. NZ Cup 1: Wanaka: 1st NZ Cup 2: Wellington: 2nd NZ Cup 3: Auckland: 1st NZ Cup 4: Taupo: 2nd NZ Champs Rotorua: 1st Oceania MTB Champs: M1/2: 3rd Karapoti: 5th I know it looks like I’m holding hands with the guy in the Oceania’s Pic. I’m not really. Now, that’s a pretty gross self aggrandising shrine of self worship if ever I saw one. I get that. However, it does represent the outcome of the following stats from my training in 2014:

337 Hours: 295 Rides: 116,500 metres climbed (13.2 Mt Everests!) 8,227 Kilometers ridden.

997039_518363774977070_3108908564061653366_n3 hour ride on turbo with only Taylor Swift songs available to listen to – back in August – permanently scarred. 

That’s quite a bit of sweating in the garage on the turbo trainer and pukey interval sessions for a 37 year old with a sore back and 2 kids. On top of that is the analysis and planning time too. I’m the kind of person who likes to figure out what I traded for what. I think the only money I won this season was $100 at the Karapoti. I’ve picked up a heap of spot prizes and cups and medals and stuff and that’s awesome but financially, well, you know… pnp-header-logo One thing that really helped though, was that my Club, PNP, graciously assisted with my costs for attending the Oceania MTB Champs, and made it possible for me to go. That meant a lot to me so thank you PNP, and all the members that directly and indirectly helped me make a dream come true! Also, can I just say I’ve had some awesome battles with a guy named Gavin McCarthy this year. He has always been a great opponent over many, many years, but is annoyingly gracious and pleasant. It makes it very hard to have any aggressive feelings about him and want to beat him. He has been a really good friend this season to me, and I’ve enjoyed riding with him and sharing ideas about training. Thanks for your support Gav it actually meant quite a lot to me to hear compliments from a guy with your ability and success in the sport. He’s the guy in the red and white Wheelworks kit on my right in the National Champs Photo. Wheelworks makes basically the most premium wheels on the market bar none. I can’t afford them, but that’s only because they basically are the Ferrari of the wheel world. Just the best of the best. Gav works there and makes the wheels with Tristan. 999775_584986394875873_767658073_n Also, I’d like to thank Capital Cycles, and Paul Davies, the owner, for their support this season too. Recently I walked in because I wanted to buy a new Stages Power Meter. I haven’t seen Paul for ages (I used to work for him a looong time ago at Pin’s Cycles – which I don’t think exists anymore). But he welcomed me with open arms and was just so great to deal with. The team at Capital are really so friendly and helpful. I know the shop looks like it’s full of fancy top end gear – for me it feels like walking into a Bentley dealer when, lets face it, I’m a Toyota kind of guy. But if you go in and have a chat there just isn’t any holier than thou attitude just nice people that know what they are talking about.  I’m really proud to be at least a little part of the Capital Team when I put on the sparkling team kit – I chose this white version and I think it looks pretty cool. So thanks Capital Cycles. capital_ss_jersey_white_lrg-800x600 OK, couple more things. You all know MTB isn’t just about the climbs, and power to weight, its also about speed on the downs. Well, I switched to dual suspension this year to do something about that, and you can read my post about the bike I switched to, the Hongfu FM036. I call her ‘Me Julie’ – yes that’s an Ali G reference. Get it – My Dually/ Me Julie. Oh, how I giggled at my genius with that one…I’ve nailed my fastest ever descents on Julie and it’s one go those things where the equipment really makes a difference.


NZ Cup Taupo: Photo Petrica Strainui


Here’s the scary bit.

So there has been a bit of new interest in the Hour Record in general, since the UCI changed its regulations about a year ago. It means that now you can use modern aero equipment (within limits) and its attracted several pro road cyclists to have a crack. The world record is currently held by Rohan Dennis at a little over 52km. Well, I’m gonna try to break the Wellington record this weekend. It’s held by Nick Warren on our beloved (read old and rough) concrete velodrome in Hataitai. He rode just over 41KM just over 1 year ago, and one guy has already tried and failed to beat it (Pat Crowe-Rishworth) Since I’ve been able to understand my physiology better, I’ve figured out that time trialling is probably ultimately my thing. That means I can put out reasonably good power for a good long time, but my top and low end sucks. I top out at about 1050 watts in a sprint which is the equivalent of trying to drag race with a diesel Volvo. With an automatic. And 5 kids in back. And a couch on the roof. You get the idea… If I’m allowed to, I’m going to blast some tunes in my ears during my attempt, with the goal of making the pain more bearable. I tried it out this last weekend and I think it helps. Here’s my playlist for my attempt: Bring The Noise/ Anthrax; 2; Cinderella Man/ Eminem; Almost Famous/ Eminem; Act of God/ Fear Factory; Best of You/ Foos; Destroy Everything/ Hatebreed; Spitting Venom/ Hatebreed; Rollin’/ Limp Bikkies; Blood and Thunder/ Mastodon; Old Wounds New Scars/ Overkill; Threshold/ Slayer; Here Comes the Pain/ Slayer; Only One/ Slipknot; Knife Party/ Deftones; Bodies/ Drowning Pool; As Diehard as they Come/ Hatebreed. I’ve spent some decent time in the last 6 weeks or so tweaking my gear and understanding the power requirements in the velo. An interesting thing that you have to remember is that the Hour Record is based on laps. That means that your absolute speed isn’t as important as the time it takes you to do a lap. I know – sounds like the same thing right? But it isn’t. There’s this black line around the bottom of the velodrome, and that’s the line that measures the distance. The Wellington Velodrome is 333 metres long – if you ride on the black line – but – obviously any deviation means you are riding a further distance to do a lap. That means that in practice, your ground speed is a little bit higher than your lap speed, because no one can ride perfectly on the black line the whole time. So, if I want to ride say 42KM, I actually need to average about 45Km/h. Pretty big difference ay? OK, lets have a look at what aero tweaks I’ve done and the difference it makes: I’ll standardise units to represent speed vs watts for comparison. Yes I know that conditions vary, but I actually noticed not that much affect on speed when you fudge the numbers over several laps. Most days I was on the track it wasn’t that windy anyway…Oh, one more thing is that you have to remember, its harder to produce watts in a really aero position. I know I can do at least 350 watts FTP in a normal position, but when your hip angle reduces, it brings it down. In my case, by about 50 watts. Its worth it for the aero. I started out on my road TT bike with standard spoked wheels, regular jersey and shorts and standard vented helmet. In that condition, I got a ratio of 6.7 (watts per km/h) Add Skinsuit: 6.4 Add Improved Aero (from video analysis): 6.3 Add Aero Helmet and deep section rear and front wheel: 5.95 Add improved placement of computer and no gloves and trying to keep my shit together in general: 5.9 So, what does that mean. Well, in short, it means to beat the record, I need to output an average of about 260-270 watts, instead of 302. IMG_2775 The old track bike with some mods for the Hour. Clip ons. Chinese track wheel. Ultegra 6700 crankset with Stages power. 6800 pedals. Zip 303 front. I’m running 53 x 15, which gives me about 45km/h at 99 RPM. No water allowed. I’m running a pretty conservative setup I don’t want to push the hip angle too much. I’d like to walk again…Chain is KMC 410 1/8. It’s most important feature is that it is purple.  That 30 or 40 watts is very significant when you want to vomit copiously at 47min into the attempt. It really, really does matter. Here’s my planned schedule based on what I know about my ability and the tests I’ve done. 0 – 30min: 270 watts 30-45min: 290 Watts 45 – 55min: 300 watts 55-60min: 340 watts Now thats probably a little bit conservative, but I want to have the option of turning the dial up if I want to, rather than having to turn it down. Lots of armchair commentators believe that attempts like Jack Bobridge’s failed, is that he didn’t stick to a negative split strategy. i.e. he started too fast. Jack Bobridge has more talent in his left pinkie finger than me, so I’ll reserve judgement. All I know is that I’d prefer to have more to give near the end than be struggling to turn the gear… I’m scared that despite my best planning I’ll fail in front of my friends and family. I’ll do my best though. Steve


OK, I’m writing this a few days later. I’ve done it last night 6.30pm Tues 24 March 2014. My original attempt was rained off on Sunday, so I rescheduled. It was hard but actually not as hard as I thought it would be. The outcome is yippee I did it and it was a wonderful night. Here’s the cut and paste from my Facebook glurge:

Well, tonight at 6.30pm, I was lucky enough to extend the Wellington Hour Record by 839 metres or 2.5 laps of our mighty Wellington Velodrome in tropical Hataitai. It was quite a calm evening – by Wellington standards – and a nice 18 or 19 degrees which made the conditions quite good.

The ride pretty much managed to stay to schedule – I had planned to start out at 280 or so watts for the first 30min but after starting a bit quick in the first couple of laps I restrained myself a wee bit andt hen settled into a pretty solid 295-305 watts for most of the ride after the nerves settled which felt pretty comfortable. The only major variation was upping it to about 320 watts for the final 5 minutes. The cheers from the great people who came to watch really helped! The power was a little lower than I’d hoped, but the position tradeoff with the hip angle is probably worth about 10% so that’s probably OK. 

One thing that stands out is how tunnel visioned I seemed to get. I knew it was happening and was kind of fine with it but it felt funny to have everything blurred on the periphery with just the lines to concentrate on. That was a bit new to me.

My computer stopped registering the laps properly part way in (I guess the GPS went out a little bit) and so read several laps lower than actual so I had to stop worrying about that and concentrate on my watts and the signals I had arranged with the timekeeper which was a huge help.

At the end I was surprised at how good I felt. I don’t really know if I could have given any more, and my heart rate and power (averaging 162 BPM and 303 watts) where pretty well on what I think physiologically I could deliver for the hour, but I felt pretty decent at the end too.


Nick Warren handing over the new Hour Trophy. Top bloke and extremely complimentary. Thanks Nick!

Coming around at the end and high-fiving the line of spectators and friends and family was a dream come true!!!

If you are thinking about having a go I’d highly recommend it it’s a really interesting new challenge to try.

So there you go team. Feel free to have a nosey at the Strava file of my ride today if you are interested.


War Face On

If you are interested here’s the lap times graphed and with a trend line. There’s a nice negative split trend going on there so really happy with how that went.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 9.29.24 am

When I finished it was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had to have everyone there cheering and high giving and having my beautiful family there to congratulate me. It seems like a very selfish thing and cycling is sometimes like that but I really really hope the people who came along enjoyed watching me empty the tank on the track last night enjoyed watching as much as I did riding it. I gather Jason Mccarty won the beer sweepstakes with a brilliant guess of 41.9KM at the halfway mark. Well done mate!!




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