There is nothing like a grand tour to find the absolute limits of a professional rider. Team Sky has allowed a unique view into the race and the individual limits of Austrian rider, Bernhard Eisel, as he has released his SRM power files to be viewed within TrainingPeaks.com. As you take a look at Eisel’s daily stage power, heart rate and speed data you will get a taste of what it takes to compete at the highest level of the sport.
Not only is Eisel racing a very hard Giro d’Italia, but he is also responsible for delivering one of the world’s best sprinters, Mark Cavendish, to the finish line for stage victories. Eisel doesn’t hold anything back when it comes to his job working for Cavendish and we get the privilege of seeing exactly what it takes to hold such a position.
Life working for a multi-stage winner isn’t all glamorous pace-setting in front of television cameras. Much more time is spent struggling up and down mountain passes focused on making the time cut-off in an effort to get to the next day’s start line.
Peak Power Values
The following are the peak power values produced by Eisel during the race’s first 15. As you take a look at his maximum power values, keep in mind that he weighs 78kg. His power-to-weight ratio is also listed, which is a very important number to keep in mind since it is the watts per kilogram of body weight that truly counts, not the absolute power value. Try multiplying the watts per kilogram by your own weight in kilograms to determine how many watts you’d have to push to equal Eisel’s maximum efforts.
Peak 5-second Power: 1235 W, 15.8 w/kg (Stage 2)
Peak 1-minute: 653 W, 8.3 w/kg (Stage 6, in the first hour)
Peak 6-minute: 493 W, 6.3 w/kg (Stage 11, in final leadout for Cavendish)
Peak 20-minute: 411 W, 5.2 w/kg (Also Stage 11 leadout)
Peak 3-hours: 315 W, 4.0 w/kg (Stage 15)
Highest all-day average watts: 280 W / 325 normalized power (Stage 6)
Highest Training Stress Score: 387 TSS (Stage 6)
Three stage victories by Mark Cavendish
Mark Cavendish has thus far won three stages (2, 5 and 13) at the Giro.
Within Eisel’s stage 5 file we can see when he pulled on the front of the Sky leadout train and then swung off for the next teammate in line with about 1.5 km to go. During this one-minute effort Eisel averaged 632 W and maxed out at 927 W. His max speed was a sizzling 62 kph and he averaged 102 rpm.
Yet even faster and with even higher watts than stage 5 was stage 13, where Eisel repeated his lead-out duties. Eisel’s responsibility is to take over at 1.5km to go, and in this instance he hit the front for 34 seconds and averaged 697 watts. He maxed out at 1232 W and his max speed was 64 kph!
Team coach Rod Ellingworth gave praise to Eisel by stating, “His role was to guide the team and for sure Cavendish along the road. He helps call the shots with the sports firector. Bernie is one of the best in the world at positioning the team on the road when they are all lined out behind him.”
Max Watts: 1232 W
Peak 1-minutes: 584 W
Peak 6-minutes: 449 W
Peak 20-minutes: 377 W
The Time Trials
Eisel stayed safe and showed solid fitness in the opening 8.7km time trial in Herning, Denmark, placing 45th after having averaged 433 W for just over eleven minutes. Eisel paced the time trial well, averaging almost exactly 430 W for the entire race. His heart rate rose steadily throughout the ride, averaging 165 bpm in the first half versus 173 bpm in the second half.
Stage 4 was a tough, 32km team time trial, which saw Sky place ninth, 30 seconds off the winning team Garmin-Barracuda. “We were in the mix there for places 5-to-10. We just couldn’t go 30 seconds faster,” said sports director Steven de Jongh. “On the climb the guys put out a steady pace but it wasn’t quite fast enough.”
The climbs on this team time trial course were short, which means each team member had to dig in 100 percent, no matter where they were placed within the squad’s paceline. The benefits of drafting are minimal at lower speeds. As we take a look at Eisel’s SRM race file we can see that one of the climbs took the team 2.5 minutes to cover and Eisel averaged a massive 462 W at a speed of only 20 kph. In situations like this, each man is on his own and the team can only go as fast as the slowest rider.
Surviving the Mountains
It is no surprise that Eisel’s primary role is to help Cavendish win stages. The two were together as teammates at Highroad, have been roommates and close friends for years and they know how to work as a team for stage victories, but also as survivors in the high mountains. In order for Cavendish to win stages he first has to make it to the start line, which is often times after mountainous stages where he struggles.
Eisel is usually seen right alongside Cavendish in the mountains as they wait for the groupetto to form and then continue their motivation to make it to the finish within the time limit.
Stage 6 of this year’s race is where the Giro proper started. This was one of the hardest stages so far with four categorized climbs, three Cat. 3 and one Cat. 2. However, the entire day was undulating and the total elevation gain was a massive 3,162 meters over the 200km stage.
The day started out very fast with Eisel recording a peak 30-minute power reading (353 W) within the first hour of racing. We can also see how Eisel’s heart rate dropped throughout the stage as he and others formed a chase group by the midway point and chased to stay within the time restrictions.
Eisel certainly felt the effects of this stage for a while as he recorded a whopping 325 normalized power (np) for over six hours of racing. He also tallied 380 TSS points, which may well be his highest score of the year to date.
The big mountains began over the weekend with stage 14, where Eisel finished 32 minutes down on the winner, Andrey Amador of Movistar. Then Sunday was stage 15, where Eisel finished 34 minutes behind winner Matteo Rabottini of Farnese Vini-Selle Italia. During these high mountain stages it is typical once the groupetto forms to see Eisel settle into a pace of 300-320 W (3.8 w/kg) for several long climbs, one after another, until he reaches the finish line.
Stages 1-15 TrainingPeaks File Viewers:
Editor’s Note: Team Sky provided access to Bernhard Eisel’s power data for this story. You can visit the team’s website for more Giro stage analysis and behind the scenes stories.