I felt a bit weird reading the title. Its like “Oh Shit. Am i not supposed to do this again? Is there like an unwritten rule where I cant have another go?” Oh well, happily as I slide into my mildly inebriated middle age, I care less about what others think all the time. I even promote Donald Trump propaganda on Facebook. If thats not a surefire well to cull your friends list I don’t know what is…
Despite my Trump Fetish, Ed from Roadcycling magazine sent me a Facebook message asking if I could answer some questions about the Hour. He actually asked last year and like a total savage I managed to not read the message for 12 months. Ed – I’m so sorry. Anyway, heres what I wrote. I felt a bit like I didn’t quite know exactly what the right way to answer was, so I went for interesting factoids, mixed in some numbers and added a sprinkle of what I consider humour.
Steve Bale is not unfamiliar with the hour record. He broke the New Zealand master’s record last year, but usually one attempt is quite ample. But Steve is going to make another attempt on the hour record in November. We took the chance to ask him a few questions.
RC: First of all, why the second attempt? Usually when people tackle the hour the general feeling is that once is enough!
Steve: Time trialling and especially the Hour is usually recognised as the most suffering you can do on a bike, but when you get older with kids, you get a better context for what “hard” really means. Changing nappies, getting up all hours, negotiating bedtime with 2 year olds. Makes 60 minutes of agony seem a bit easier.
The other thing was that after I got a power meter, I could compare my power curve to others and see what my real strength was. Being a specialist XC mountain biker for so long was the worst thing I could have done! I’m way better suited to time trialling because physiologically my short term power to weight sucks but I can push a decent constant wattage for a long time and that’s the trick for TT and Hour stuff. I kind of feel like it’s a part of my cycling I neglected and now I’ve discovered it and I want to take it as far as I can. I’m not that naturally talented but I can be pretty determined. I also feel like I owe it to the athletes I coach to Walk the Talk.
RC: What goes into training for the hour record and what will you be doing differently preparation wise this time around?
Steve: The Hour is super pure – it’s all about who has the best ratio of Power to Aero Drag for 1 Hour. You have to structure your training so you can develop your best absolute power, on the flat at your Lactate Threshold. You determine that by a Lactate Testing protocol with a power meter. Lots of people forget to train to develop power on the flat. If you are on extensions on the flat with a low hip angle, that’s a very different biomechanical action to, say climbing on the bar tops. You need better hamstrings, glutes and calves for flat power.
If you just do threshold reps on hills all the time you get great quads but suffer on the flat. Last year I did too much hill work. I could produce say 380W at threshold on a hill climb, but only around 330W on the flat because I didn’t develop enough muscle in my arse and hams. I went out and bought a weights bar and for most of the build up period I do 3 x 12 squats of about 60kg immediately after my ride. That’s helped build those muscles and they are much stronger and bulkier now. I put on about 500 grams of muscle in each leg over 6 months.
I’m a cycling coach for Fitlab, so I have really detailed systems for coaching clients that I use too – exactly the same. I train about 9-12 hours per week in general, but have highly structured workouts that give me the best bang for my buck. I don’t just ride around for fun. There’s always a purpose. 100% of the ride is planned. I’m so square I make the 50’s look like the 60’s.
With the bike, you can’t just slam the bars down, flatten your back and say “job done” because if your hip angle’s to small, you can’t produce power. If you raise the bars, your hip angle’s better for power but your drag’s too high. You’ve gotta find that perfect balance and it takes lots of expensive trips to Cambridge to figure that out. You can’t do it on a turbo trainer. There’s lots of good models online where you can plug in power and timing data and get really accurate CdA so I pore over those. I have a numbers fetish.
This time, I’m going with a much higher bar position, around 50mm higher which is giant but the power I can produce is so much better that it makes up for the drag. I’m heading in with a CdA around .23 vs .21 last time but probably an extra 30W from a combination of the position muscle developments.
RC: Have you got a target distance beyond simply breaking the record?
Steve: Yeah I want to break the Master 1 UCI World Record of 48.317km. That was set by an Aussie called Jayson Austin in 2009. The other one is I want to take back the NZ outright record from Jim McMurray. This year he added 37 metres to my 2015 NZ Record, riding 47.733km. The conditions are really important though. If I get a low pressure day in Cambridge, like 1010hPa, I could take the WR with the same power/ CdA ratio as last year, but you have to plan for the worst. Last year I got over 1030 hPa which was pretty unlucky, so it really depends. Anything over 48.4 and I’ll be crazy happy.
I really wanted to get across the idea that something that is so hard can be made easier by the context of other stuff going on in life, like the demands of having kids. The demands of children is, hands down, the biggest sufferfest I have ever endured. But, thats because I have ludicrous high standards for my kids and I love to spend the time negotiating with them, having deep important discussions and developing a relationship with them that will mean that they would love me back forever, in a completely voluntary, free market relationship. Since I decided to have kids with my wife, the only moral course of action from that point is to do everything I can to give them a great life. Its my job and I take it seriously. If you ever want a great podcast to listen to, that discusses really important philosophical issues including parenting, I really really recommend “Freedomain Radio with Stefan Molyneux” Have a listen. If you ever wanted to hear honest and philosophically valid conversations about topics that make liberals completely melt down, he’s your man.