Thursday, September 28, 2017

Power Analysis Waterloo World Cup- Cyclocross

For the 2017-2018 Cyclocross season we will be presenting a power analysis of EVOL Racing and Apex Coaching rider Maxx Chance’s big races. Last week, Maxx got a new training tool from Stages, one of their new head units, the Dash. I am personally a big fan of this head unit and we thought we would kick off this series now that he has such a great tool. So, it was off to the second World Cup of the year in Waterloo, Wisconsin to try it out.

Last week in Iowa Maxx had a great start and after staging in the last row he was quickly into the top 40 early on. He kept it going throughout the race and finished a nice 31st battling some strong European riders. Iowa was hot, but Waterloo promised to be even hotter with temps forecasted in the upper 80’s and high humidity. Maxx staged with another last row start but was looking for a second great start in as many weeks.  The Dash was ready to go and so was Maxx.

Up the start straight and into the first corner and then…

You’ll notice in the clip that Maxx (#42 in the EVOL kit) thinks quickly and picks up the Dash that was dislodged in the melee. It is much too valuable a tool to lose. In the process of tucking it in the skinsuit, buttons were pushed which led to lost connections and our data was limited to the time up to that traffic jam. What we can take from this though is the aggression with which ‘cross races begin. Look at the peak power in that first 30 sec and the average up the start straight.

The race starts with a 1300+ watt sprint from a standstill and maintains a power above 500 for a full 30 sec before the abrupt stop. This is the key to CX racing, these early huge spikes that spike heart rate and require the ability to recovery very quickly.

In lieu of Maxx’s data I will insert mine. While I am no Maxx Chance (20+ years older, much heavier, though infinitesimally wiser) we raced on a similar course and in similar conditions. This is also from my Stages power meter and through the Dash.

The pink graph lines represent power and the yellow cadence. The spikes in power reach 700+ watts at every peak and the cadence at 90+ with sustained 30 sec efforts at over 450 watts and 90 cadence. The Waterloo course was a test of high speed lose corners and off camber dusty descents with short, punchy climbs. It was unrelenting and consistent. While many cyclocross courses feature a 2-3 min section that is the hardest, the course at the Trek factory was constantly off and on the gas and made repeatable power and fast recovery a must.

Analyzing fitness must be done differently in a CX power file. Simply looking at average watts through the race won’t quite tell the story. I prefer to look at the peaks of power. If those peaks stay consistent during the race, the rider is demonstrating some good fitness for CX. If you notice from the file above, the peaks are consistent, with some of the highest ones near the end of the race. If the rider is struggling at the back end due to fatigue, lack of fitness or conditions, those peaks will start to get lower and will show a downward trend.

As the season goes on we will tell the story of Maxx’s races through the power files. Thanks to Stages and their new Dash, we can a detailed story and teach a thing or two as well.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Using Power Data to Enhance Technical Riding in Cyclocross

A power analysis for Cyclocross 

I spent spent some time this week looking at power files from races over this season. I've had a couple athletes ask me how to read the data from a cyclocross race. This is not the easiest endeavor for a couple of reasons. 

1. power output in cross is big spikes over very very short periods of time. Dependent upon the power meter and the actual head unit, some of this data may not be recorded and maybe lost. 

2.Power data does not take into account the run or barrier sections. 

3. Heart rate data is also misleading because of the limited nature of recovery and therefore little or no drop in HR occurs during a race. 

I intend to go through several of these over the course of the next couple of months and see if I can shed some light and enhance the uses for power data in cross. 

The nature of cyclocross is that we will have sections in every course where we are at 0 for a power number. Whether that be in turns, at the start, on down hills and on run sections, we find our power and cadence at 0. a key to racing is how quickly and how efficiently we can get the power back up and be accelerating out of these 0 power sections. 

There are a couple keys here. 
1. Gear selection. Be sure to enter the corner in the appropriate gear to be able to accelerate out of it. Smaller gears with high cadence allow for more torque and subsequently a quicker acceleration to top speed. 

2. How long a rider pedals entering into a corner or technical sections and how soon they are on the pedals coming out of it. 

3. How aggressively a rider attacks the exit of a feature to get up to speed quickly. 

On this first go through I have decided to focus on how to use the data to show riders where there is room for improvement. Below are two power files from the Feedback Cup here in Colorado a few weeks ago. A little background on Feedback Cup. The course is very twisty, turny and features short drops followed by intense short hill efforts. In many ways it resembles a Short track MTB course in its technical nature and punchy style. It was a 65 degree day and it had been very very dry in Colorado.

Below are two power files from athletes I coach. The first is from a rider in the male pro field. A very good technical rider with a background in MTB. The second file is from a female rider in the pro field. She is a strong power rider without a strong technical background.  He finished 3rd on the day and she won the race. 

While the power numbers themselves are interesting and a good deal can be derived from the files in terms of fitness and overall strength, we are going to focus on a more specific feature of 'cross. Acceleration. 

Taking a look at the two files a couple things jump out. Take a look at the power spikes in the top file. These spikes are out of the ordinary when it comes to the rest of the race. The rider is jumping hard on the pedals out of features in order to get up to speed very quickly and the power spikes are representative of that. In the second file, there are spikes in power out of features but they are less pronounced and more in line with the rest of the race. 

Another interesting thing is at the bottom of the power range. In the top file the 0 power periods are short with a sharp rise in power out of them. This creates a V shape at the 0 power places. The rider is quickly on the gas out of features and their power is rising abruptly. Looking at the bottom file, the 0 power sections form a U shape instead of a V shape. This rider is spending more time at 0 power and is taking longer to raise the power out of these features. 

Take a look at your own power files from races and focus in on the 0 power sections. Is the file showing that V shape or the U shape. If you see lots of U's, focus on gear selection entering the corners so that you can accelerate with high cadence out of the features and leave your competition in the dust.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Olympic Thoughts

Mara Abbott.

I've spent a lot of time with this young woman over this past decade at RACE and at the RallySport pool. We talk about swimming and bike racing (sometimes), but mostly we talk about her passion to make the world and her beloved Boulder a better place.

So, let's not talk about how close she came at the Olympics. Honestly, she probably doesn't want to talk about it at all (she would rather talk about recycling and politics, you know...important stuff)

Instead, lets talk about how she made smart choices and challenged her fears on a hugely terrifying descent and gave it EVERYTHING through the last 8k. How she gave her heart and soul through the finish like she has done with everything in her life.

For what it is worth, I am proud of you Mara. Incredibly so. So are the young swimmers at RACE, all of RallySport and all of your hometown of Boulder.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014 Here We Come

New Year's Day is traditionally a time where many people choose to make resolutions in their lives. It make sense. A new start. Clean, unweighted by the past. Leave the past behind and move into the new you. Whether its to be faster, thinner, stronger, more patient or happier, this is the time we choose to make it happen.

The problem however, is never choosing what we want to change or when. The problem is how. Most of the time, the things we want to change are intertwined into the fabric of our daily routine and have created little relationships of their own in our lives. Its not a simple switch. There is an old adage that says, "people don't change". I could not disagree with this more. I am a firm beliver that it should be "people don't LIKE to change". Even when it is something we want to do or know we could do, our brains don't like change. It has spent years wiring itself to be good at what we do, rewiring is hard, so it doesn't "like" it.

So how do we give ourselves the best shot at a resolution? Here are a couple things that work.

1. Make sure the change you are trying to make is the change you want to make.
Any major change in your life has to be about you. It cannot be a coach or a spouse or parent telling you what you should do. (I hate that word should. It drips of failure and guilt.) You have to be trying to make changes purely because you see the benefit to them. Others can help you see it, but you have to believe it.

2. Make sure the change you are making is a change you can make.
Your resolution has to be achievable and realistic.  I'm not going to go from a mid level masters cyclist to a Tour De France winner, but I can win some local races. Look for something that will be a challenge, but if all goes right, you can reach.

3. Find those people in your life that are going to support you. 
"tell the wold your goals and you will find people that want to help"
I don't mean Facebook and Twitter either. It takes no risk to throw things up there and it will only help to fuel your guilt if you don't follow through. Tell a couple people who are close to you and let them know how you feel. Are you scared, excited, angry, what is the motivation? Having a couple confidants and supporters can keep you on task and keep you happy.

4. Be patient, but be honest.
It will take time and not everyday will be perfect. You will have bad days and you will "cheat", but get back on the path as soon as possible. Also, don't settle. This is the be honest part. Don't talk about what you have done and how that is enough or that is why you can relax. We are looking for lifestyle changes. Make the change and strive to that goal.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Don't Call it a Comeback...please.

It has been over a decade since the last time I lined up to start an Xterra triathlon. My last time was 2002 in Maui for worlds. Back then I was a bottom level professional. My main income regarding racing was teaching Xterra University for the swim portion and maybe scraping a buck or two out of the series as a whole. I left the sport because of this coaching thing I do and moved into racing bikes, where I could train a little less and race a little more.

Fast forward to 2013. I turned 40 this year, one month after my friend and founder of APEX Coaching, Neal Henderson. Somewhere during the year, he decided we were going back to Maui this year. As many of you know, I have traveled a ton this year with the US National team to Open Water races and even to worlds. Training for a triathlon was hardly my goal. However, come September, it was obvious Neal was going, which meant I had no choice.

Race Day
We were lucky enough to be staying at an athlete's house that Neal coaches named Ellen Hart. Ellen is a multi-time age champion in Kona and an all around stud woman. The house was pretty sweet and it made our prep great. Let's see for prep we...drank some beer, rode around on scooters, snorkeled, cliff jumped, body surfed and drank a little more beer. I did ride the course, well half of it, a couple times and when race day rolled around with Neal and I ready to go.

I stood on the start line trying to remember how I ever did this as a "pro" the gun went off and we were in the water. Now, I hate the swims in triathlon. Most people are going way too fast at the start for their ability and fitness and it is a shit show of pulling, scratching, fighting, and spastisity. I was not going to be one of these people. I went out pretty conservatively and went far right to get away and take a line to the buoy that made some sense. I came out after lap one alright and picked it up a bit on the short second lap. I came out of the water and ran up to transition and checked quickly to see if Neal's bike was still there, it was. Now, I would not have been shocked if Neal beat me out, but it was probably good for my professional reputation that he did not.

On to the bike. Quite simply, the bike was hard, very hard. 20% grades and fast dirt descents marked the first 15 miles. Many many people went by me.  I had a simple goal here, stay on my bike. I firmly believe that the huge battle in racing on the dirt is your brain. Your brain screams that you are going too slow or that no one else is crashing or that you have to make up time and it leads to panic. When you panic, you make mistakes. In the words of Allen Krughoff, "crashing is slower than not crashing." So I kept moving patiently. When I got to the last 4 miles, where the course gets techy and hard, I was feeling pretty good. I passed some guys in that last bit and felt like I could push it and cruised into T2 feeling pretty good.

Out onto the run with one plan and only one plan, DON'T WALK. Easier said than done, with 20% grades here too there were parts that were a death march. I am not a fast runner, but I am a strong one. On the flats, I got passed by guys that can still rattle off 6 min miles. I cannot anymore, so I kept it moving there and ran every hill. I passed a lot of guys that way, many of them more than once. We'd get to the top and they would come cruising back by and on the next hill they would crack and the tortoise passed em back. It was a fun run course. Hard and hot, but very true to Xterra form. I hit the beach with 200 meters to go, grabbed a beer from my wife and ran through the line feeling pretty darn good. Especially after 3 hours and 24 minutes of racing.

I wasn't exactly racing "off the couch", but for a guy who has ridden his MTB twice this year and has been swimming about 1k a month for a couple years, I will take it. I have to admit that part of me thought, " If I train, I can do really well" and although it may be true, I am not interested in it. At least not right now. Maybe when I am 50.

Monday, October 7, 2013


I think it may be time to bring this blog back.

Its been nearly 18 months since I have published with any frequency. However, I was talking to an athlete today and expressing how helpful it is to share with the world and it got me thinking. I do feel like this medium has helped me get my thoughts into the world and that in turn has helped me be (I hope) a present, happy force in this world.

Its been a crazy ride this past year. Ups have been way up and there have been some tough downs. That being said, I am pretty blessed to be in this life I lead and in these communities in which I am a part.

I will probably spend some time talking about FINA World Championships this summer or racing or RallySport Aquatics in time. However, today is a thank you. We need to spend more time acknowledging and thanking the people in our lives.

Thank you to all of you.

To my wife, Breeze who always puts up with me and rides the storms with me. Who deals with weeks apart and still supports my dreams. You are the best, plain and simple.

To my family. Mom and Dad and Bill who always push, challenge and support me and my endeavors. Also to my niece and nephew, who remind me without fail, that life is a joy. make it a joy.

To my in-laws. The Brown family who has taken me in as their own and to Kelley for being a great  supporter.

To RACE (RallySport Aquatics) and all of my APEX athletes. I just love watching you guys race.

To my competitors, for challenging me and showing me how to do it right...and frankly, for reminding me at times what doing it wrong looks like. 

To so many more that influence my life on a daily basis. Whether the influence is positive or negative, it shapes who I have become and how I function in this world.

Its a great, crazy ride we are on. Whatever, you believe comes next, you only get one shot at this. Make it worth every second. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

We will miss you Amy.

I haven't posted here in a long time for a variety of reasons. However, today's events make me want to write and share my feelings.

I'm sitting in a hotel in Hong Kong, staring out the window at the harbour and preparing to head out on the water to coach. I woke up this morning to the gut wrenching news of Amy Dombroski's passing. It hit me like a ton of bricks and I haven't yet been able to start my day. I did not know Amy long, nor incredibly well, but I was lucky enough to call her a friend.

The cyclocross community in Boulder, CO is the truest incarnation of a word that gets used a little too much in our world. Cross in Colorado is a community. People watching out for, supporting, loving and propping up those in it. The entire goal of our group is to not only bring more people to cross, but to create a supportive environment within it.

I as much as anyone have enjoyed that support. I stopped racing triathlon in 2003 as work got busy and I felt like I needed to "grow up" to be successful as a coach. For a few years I toiled away at the job and maybe jumped into an occasional race. Something was missing and as 2008 rolled around, I realized I missed racing. I started with a couple cross races and discovered something special was going there. I was out of shape, large, and probably didn't belong in the open field, but I was greeted with smiles, encouragement and support from the very people I was racing. I fell in love and have never looked back. I am by no means the fastest and frankly, there are many days where I still don't belong in the open field, but I never feel like I don't belong in this community.

Amy was the personification of our community. She was was she fast. A joy to watch on the bike, whether in person or streaming in fits and starts on She was the kind of racer that you just wanted to scream for and god knows many a "C'mon Amy" came belting through my house at 5:30 am on random fall weekend mornings. There was not an indifferent comment when we all heard she signed with Telenet-Fidea. We could not be happier. One of our own, in Europe with a European team. Not only that, it was the right one of us. The one that would put the best foot forward for American cross. A smiling, humble, vibrant little badger of a racer. Our badger, from our community.

It hurts that she is gone. A lot. What hurts even more is to be away from the community during this time. Frisco, Providence and cross races all across the countries should be celebrations this weekend. Celebrations of Amy, her life and her love for this sport of ours. I'm sad to be away. When I get home, I'm gonna glue up those Challenge tires in my garage that say A. Dombroski on the side walls and go ride them one more time.

We love you Amy. You will be missed.