By the Numbers: Gavin Mannion’s Tour of Utah Stage 3 Individual Time Trial
The individual time trial is all about preparation: mental, physical, and mechanical. Data from the individual time trial is some of the easier to analyze because the output is a steady sustained effort. Although it is a sustained effort, a huge amount of preparation goes into the day.
Mental Preparation, part 1
Weeks ago, a GPS file of the stage 3 Big Cottonwood Canyon course was created and distributed to riders. This gave them a sense of the demands of the day, allowing them to adjust their training accordingly. But, it is still important for the riders to see and experience the sensations of the route for themselves, so they went and trained over the 9km climb that made up stage 3 of the Tour of Utah.
The evening before the ITT, one of the most crucial questions to address is the one of equipment choice: what would give the team’s riders the biggest possible advantage. We use the Best Bike Split application from TrainingPeaks to take into account the weight of the rider and bike, the road surface, the gradient of the road, wind speed and direction, as well as other atmospheric conditions. On Gavin Mannion’s bike, we decided that our Shimano C40 wheels, due to their light weight and good aerodynamic profile, were the correct match. Each of our wheel sets and bikes, as well as select riders have been tested at the Faster wind tunnel earlier so that we would have the information needed to factor into these decisions.
Mental Preparation, part 2
Come race day, with the image of the course in his mind, Gavin was able to set himself up mentally for the suffering that was to come. Due to the heat, he needed to balance his need for a warm up with not overheating before the race start. Looking at his Pioneer power meter data on TrainingPeaks, we can see that Gavin’s warm-up starts with 5 minutes easy pedaling, before moving into a 15 minute progressive effort, slowly bringing his power up to his lactate threshold for this altitude – the maximum intensity that he will most likely be able to hold in the race. Mannion rides easy for another 4 minutes before a bigger acceleration above his race target power for 1 minute 20 seconds.
Gavin finishes his warm-up 15 minutes before the start of his race, jumps off the trainer, takes off his headphones, goes back onto the team bus, prepares his skin-suit, TT helmet, and makes his way up to the start area where the race officials weigh his Orbea bike to make sure that it is above the legal weight limit of 6.8kg.
1:15pm ticks over and Gavin is off! Looking at his race file from his Pioneer he does a great job of pacing. To the first time check he averages 328W – which is significant for Gav considering his weight and the altitude of 7800ft (2400m) – and is 9th fastest, 23 seconds behind the leader at that point. In the final 3.8km to the finish altitude rises even higher, from 8500ft (2600m) to 9200ft (2800m). At this elevation, he is losing about 10% of his lactate threshold power due to the lack of oxygen for his screaming muscles. Over this section, Gavin averages 332W and is the 3rd fastest, finishing 3rd on the stage and he is now 2nd overall at the Tour of Utah!
We analyze to learn
What would Gavin have needed to do to have taken the win from Rally Cycling’s flying Rob Britton today? In checking his pedaling efficiency with at Pioneer’s Cyclo-Sphere site, we can see that on the lower slopes of the climb where it was flatter, he was producing a bit of negative force in his pedaling stroke, reducing his positive power output. This improves as he hits the steeper slopes and his natural climbing pedigree comes into play. This is where Best Bike Split comes back in: if Gavin could improve his watts by just 3% and/or be able to improve his aerodynamics he would have been close to the victory. Using this information, we now have targets to use with Gavin in future races to hopefully see him on the top step.
For now, the Tour of Utah continues with 4 stages and plenty of climbs to get up – this race isn’t over yet!