Theo Yates: The power of accurate data

BY IN Exercise Institute News On May 21, 2016

Power data enables for objective insights into what a cyclist endures during critical and non-critical aspects of racing. Most cycling athletes have a pressing need to condition oneself for the HARDEST parts of bike racing. Recently, at a professional tour in Europe, WA rider Theo Yates managed another top ten in a sprint finish. Over the last 3 stages Theo has managed an 11th, 9th and 10th, and we have managed to capture Theo’s outputs using the ever reliable Infocrank Power meter by Verve.

For those who know Theo, they also know that he is fast.

For those that don’t, Theo has an incredible peak power output amassing over 24 watts/kilogram in an all out sprint (BOOM!). Sprinting in road cycling is rarely dependent on peak power though and is better outlined by sustained peak power, such as peak (average) 6 secs or 12 sec power. Theo has always had ability as a sprinter however, we managed to improve his sustained 6 second power by 6% across a 6 week GYM program that improved contractile force and contractile rate = power increase. Theo’s strength became stronger through his own hard work.

However; sprinting in cycling rarely occurs simply as an all out 6 second effort. Instead, it proceeds a huge powerful drive toward the final 200m where every sprinter hopes to find themselves coming off a wheel in an all out 9-12 second surge to the line. A HUGE aerobic reserve is required to even get to this point – a large Vo2max output will assist in getting there. As evidenced in the image below, Theo’s final 5 mins of output were his highest for the day and for good reason. A lot happened here. Read below for explanation.

The final 5 min data file from Theo Yates 2nd top ten professional result

The final 5 min data file from Theo Yates 2nd top ten professional result.

The final 5 mins of racing saw the peloton thrust toward the line, but not without incident, as a rider crashed at the 3:24:20 mark (second arrow from right). Prior this incident, Theo had navigated his way around a dynamic peloton rushing forward at 53km/hr average. Theo’s heart rate was around 8% above threshold for the duration. Each arrow highlights a point where Theo had to produce in excess of 1,000 watts to stay in the front 1/4 of the peloton. We cannot see the spikes as the data has been smoothed to show a more fluid line, but Theo was required to repeatedly sprint at close to maximum output on 5 occasions in the final 5 mins, all the while generating a load around 12% above his threshold power. This is interesting for the following reasons:

  • Theo did not simply ride at 12% above threshold for 5 mins then sprint.
  • Theo was required to illicit multiple supra-maximal efforts BEFORE sprinting.
  • Theo’s peak power output did not occur in the sprint final but in navigating around the crash, finally peaking in the sprint to the line at 20.5 watts/kg.
  • Theo managed a 9 second maximal effort once a route was found in the final. His power here was around 18 watts/kg average.

So here we see ‘sprinting’ can involve a high VO2 max dependent drive to the finish line, inter-spaced with multiple all-out sprint efforts in navigating ones way to the front of the cue. A huge fitness base is required – not just sprinting ability.

Baring this data file in mind, it is evident there is need for similar activity when training. Repeated sprint drills and maximal efforts of 3-6 mins in nature, assist in building anaerobic endurance and aerobic capacity fitness respectively. Additionally, Tabata-type efforts (20s maximal, 10 secs recovery for 4 mins) or Fartlek intervals (10 secs maximal, 20 secs hard for 5 mins) replicate some of the demands of sprinting BEFORE the all out dash to the line.

Providing Theo can get a good run to the line, he is well placed to capitalise on his ability and improve further on his recent finishes!


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