Article written by Team Coaches Dr. Carol Austin and Trevor Court.
Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung enjoyed a superb debut to the Classics season after Gerald Ciolek finished eleventh in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (UCI 1.HC, 198.6km). Gerald Ciolek won the bunch sprint after ten riders escaped earlier in the race to stay away.
Ignatas Konovalovas raced in support of team sprinter Gerald, finishing 59th in 4h58m42s (+6:27) in the peleton that gave chase to the escapees. His role in the race was to ensure that Gerald was well positioned and protected at the front end of the field at the critical points in the race.
Omloop Het Niewsblad is characterized by power climbs and pavé (“cobbles”) in the second half or the route (Fig 1). From the 130km mark riders are faced with six short 5-6% grade climbs, and 10 cobbled sections ranging from 300m to 2.3km (Fig 1). These sections split up the field leaving riders strung out along the narrow Belgian roads. The key climbs that present the greatest challenge and dictate the race outcome are Kruisberg, Taaienberg and the Eibenberg. All three climbs are cobbled and include some very steep sections (up to 16% grade).
Fig 1: Omloop het Nieuwsblad 2013 Profile
SRM Data Analysis
The most alarming data from Ignatas’ SRM file (Fig 2) is the average temperature of only 1.8 OC Celsius. Bearing in mind that the average speed was 39.7km/h, this equates to a wind chill factor of minus 5 OC! Fast racing in normal weather conditions is hard enough let alone racing in conditions that are below freezing. Sports scientists have shown that when a muscle is cooled, its power and speed of contraction (shortening velocity) decrease. If athletes have any hope of performing it’s critical that they insulate their bodies with appropriate winter clothing (thanks Vermarc www.vermarcsport.be), and optimally fuel their “inner fire”(metabolism) with energizing sports nutrition products (thanks PVM www.pvm.co.za). Both approaches help to delay the onset of fatigue, drop-off in performance, and possible hypothermia.
Ignatas’ power data shows how tough this race was. His average and normalized power (NP) for the race were 270W and 326W, respectively, and he burnt over 5,000 calories. Ignatas’ Training Stress Score (TSS) for the race was 353 indicating that his total training load for the day was equivalent to a 3-hour individual time trial.
As expected the real race action started 120-130km into the route, thanks to the short steep climbs and cobbled sections that shattered the field into small bunches. Advance positioning at the front was crucial from both a tactical and energy expenditure perspective. Ignatas worked really hard on the climb before the Kruisberg in order to get Gerald in the best possible position. It was during this section of the race that he achieved his 20min max power of 361W (382W NP) for the day.
Fig 2: Ignatas Konovalovas SRM data file for Omloop het Nieuwsblad
T: Time, P: Power, H: Heart rate, S: Speed (kph), C: Cadence, A: Altitude (m), D: Distance (km), E: Energy (kilojoules)
Pavé Power Climbs
Racing on cobbled pavé uphill is the ultimate test for our modern day gladiators and their carbon steeds. “You need to have good speed, the right position and the right cadence because if you have too high of a cadence you jump. If you have too low of a cadence you blow. If you have the right cadence you float” says Spring Classic specialist Fabian Cancellara. You also need the right bike. Ignatas and his teamates raced the new Trek Domane 6 which is specifically designed to meet the demands of the punishing pavé. It is a bike equiped with a multitude of features focussed on delivering high performance, efficient power transfer, stability and a smooth ride.
Ignatas’ SRM data gives good insight into the firepower needed to overcome these tough cobbled Belgian power climbs, and remain in the race.
The Kruisberg climb at 134km was 1.84km long with an average grade of 4.7% (Fig 3). On the climb the peleton strung out considerably. Ignatas powered over it in 4 minutes 20 seconds with average 393W (ave cadence 82rpm, ave torque 44.3 Nm) to stay in contact with the bunch.
Fig 3: Kruisberg Climb at 134km
The Taaienberg was the next tester (Fig 4), just 2.6km after the 800m cobble section of Donderij. It is a relatively short climb of 580m with an average gradient of 6.6% and a max gradient of 15.8%. Ignatas averaged 424W (ave cadence 73rpm, ave torque 59.1Nm) up this 1 minute 50 second climb which splintered the peloton. A split of about 20-30 riders rode clear, but the peleton eventually regrouped to form a bunch of about 100 strong (50% of the starting field).
Fig 4: Taaienberg Climb at 142km
The race breaker/maker of the day was up next at 147km, the Eibenberg (Fig 5). It was on this 1.19km/4.9% grade climb that Sylvan Chavanel got away to form the winning break. He was later joined by 9 others, including Luca Paolini (36 years) of Katusha who ultimately beat Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma- Quick Step) in a two-man sprint to the line to become the race’s oldest winner to-date. Ignatas produced 396W (ave cadence 79rpm, ave torque 46.1Nm) in this 3min effort.
Fig 5: Eibenberg Climb at 147km
From past SRM data we know that Ignatas favours a cadence of around 80rpm and torque of 35-40Nm when he climbs. On race day the “right cadence” that allowed him to “float” (vs. bounce) was about 10rpm lower; around 70rpm. In order to maintain his power output (power = torque x cadence), position and speed in the group as they ascended, he had to sustain significantly higher force/torque (45-60Nm) levels. While other athletes were “blowing” out the back of the peloton unable to optimize their cadence/torque ratios, Iganatas pushed through successfully.
Ignatas’ secrets to success?
- Past experience in riding/racing on pave (positioning, momentum, cadence selection)
- Specific low cadence (50-70rpm), high torque (40-65Nm) “on-bike strength” and “strength endurance” intervals performed during his foundation and preparation phase periods
- His high performance Trek Domane 6 which ensured efficient power transfer, stability and a smooth ride.
Ignatas Konovalovas http://www.teammtnqhubeka.com/?cyclist=ignatus-konovalovas
Team MTN-Qhubeka trains and races with SRM Training Systems www.srm.de
The team is coached by Dr Carol Austin and Trevor Court of Activeworx www.activeworx.co.za