Elite Belgium Racing: from Training to Racing
Belgium Kermise Racing (BKR)
What is so unique about this style of racing is the intermittent nature of effort required to complete a race and complete a race well. This is very unique to flat and fast racing alongside a quality field over 2.5-3 hours of intensity. We look at some of the data files from this form of racing provided by Henry Penell of Satalyst-Verve Racing to better gauge the unique demands placed on the athlete.
We gain some first hand insight from Henry’s experience,
“Tough race. I was very active at the start of the race attacking and getting in almost all of the moves. After about 40min of that I decided to sit in the bunch and let Lewis and Tim do a bit. Saw a group ride off the front with Lewis in it and though I should go and give him a hand to bridge to 2 riders who were already about 30seconds up the road. Tim was rolling around near the front of the bunch so worst case he could get in any counter moves if need be.
Lewis and I, with a few others, managed to get across to the pair up the road and that was the break for the race.
We rolled through for the rest of the race and in the last 3 or 4 laps it got tough and the break was splitting and rejoining repeatedly. Had to close a few gaps and that cost me a bit of energy. As we started the last lap a few riders managed to sneak off the front and nobody was willing to chase them back and they went on to win.
Lewis and I stuck together and coming in to the final straight, Lewis led me out from the reduced group for 8th. Unfortunately we went too soon as the straight was hard to judge distance due to cobbled road taking energy out of the legs. Managed to roll in for 11th”
Firstly, it is important to preface that this athlete is utilising a Verve Infocrank, which to date is the most reliable power meter unit we have tested at our facility. Not only does the device possess validity (measures power similar to a ‘known measure’), it is reliable (measures power consistently over time and changing conditions).
This is certainly not true for the bulk of power meters, we have evidence to this effect from back to back testing completed almost daily. Infocrank’s can now be purchased through many different outlets and are easily sourced.
At present we have other elite cyclists competing in Belgium, through our Veris Racing pathway, all on Infocranks, meaning we can accurately compare BETWEEN cyclists power data something almost impossible to do when using multiple different devices.
Much of Henry’s training involves intensities at either zone 5 or zone 2, with 1 day a week of zone 3 training, minimal threshold training and some repeated sprint work completed twice weekly into zone 6. All these zones are hypothetical zones based around his Functional Threshold Power (FTP).
The chart below outlines time spent in these zones, with zone 2 and zone 6 (far right zone on the purple bar graph for zone 6) outlining the most amount of time spent in different zones. 30mins in Zone 6 is a significant source of fatigue for any athlete.
Zone 6 is above Vo2max (the most amount of oxygen uptake an individual can achieve), and as such utilises energy stores that need replenishing.
Zone 5 is the Vo2max zone and the zone that rapidly restores energy for zone 6 to function.
So whilst Henry was in and out of ALL zones all day (as evidenced in the line graph below where power is NEVER constant) his average power, for instance, across the first 20 minutes yielded almost 5 watts per kilogram of body mass (5w/kg). Yet much of this 5w/kg was completed above or below this mark.
Time spent above ones threshold (5w/kg) is very debilitating to human functioning and represents a critical stimulus inducing fatigue. So, why not train at 5w/kg repeatedly? 5w/kg is not the ceiling of oxygen turn over (or Vo2max), for Henry this is around 6w/kg (we know this as we have tested him repeatedly at our facility).
Thus we need to expose Henry to the highest amount of oxygen turn over repeatedly in order for Henry to potentially increase oxygen uptake. This involves shorter and higher intensity intervals than training at threshold (think 3-8minutes)
So time spent at zone 5 training increases ability to improve recovery between all out efforts (as it can increase oxygen uptake or turnover for recovery) and can increase other endurance variables.
Not withstanding other forms of training: like sheer volume to improve endurance metrics; some threshold based work for lactic clearance; tempo training for time to exhaustion; etc, training in zone 5 with some repeated sprint work allows for any athlete to best prepare themselves for the demands of BKR.
For comparison purposes this race, video below, is similar to the highest data we see from Perth A grade criterium events, such as The Ring Criterium Series, except this event’s duration is 3.5 times longer.
Henry contested the final sprint, but ran out of legs, being adequately supported by his team mate Lewis for the lead out. In this instance Henry’s sprint metrics were around 16% lower than normal. Again training volume and a high quality of training environment will supersede the effects of fatigue here.
There is no reason sprint fatigue would reduce over this distance with adequate training prior.