Stage 1, Durango-Telluride: 125.6 miles, 9238 feet of climbing
1. Tyler Farrar, Garmin-Sharp, 4:42:48
2. Alessandro Bazzana, Team Type 1-Sanofi, same time
3. Damiano Caruso, Liquigas-Cannondale, s.t.
17. Tejay van Garderen, BMC Racing Team, s.t.
22. Janez Brajkovic, Astana, s.t.
28. Lucas Euser, SpiderTech-C10, s.t.
Three riders were gracious enough to share their data with us from stage 1 of the USA Pro Challenge. Jani Brajkovic (Astana), Lucas Euser (SpiderTech-C10) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) all rode superbly yesterday and each has a similar goal in the race, which their power files reflect.
These three riders are all looking to finish high in the overall general classification or to win an individual stage. They’re all excellent climbers and have also ridden extremely well at elevation in the past, so the high mountain passes in the Pro Challenge should tip odds in their favor.
For all three riders, the hardest part of stage 1 was the first 20 minutes in terms of absolute wattage when their Peak 20 Minute Power values occurred. But the hardest part of the race for these three in terms of exertion was certainly the final 13 minutes on Lizard Head Pass.
Elevation makes a significant impact on your power output, and I use the following guideline to better advise riders for pacing strategies and how to adjust expected wattage levels when training and racing at elevation. For riding between 5000 and 8000 feet, reduce wattage by 10 percent; 8001-10,000, by 15 percent; 10,001-12,000, by 20 percent; and for 12,000 feet and above, reduce wattage by 25 percent or more.
Since these riders are constantly moving between elevations of 5000 and 12,000 feet, with the majority of their riding happening near 7500 feet, they should expect on average a 12 percent reduction in power output for the entire race.
In stage 1, Euser was the only rider on his team to finish in the lead group of 57 riders, showing that he deserves his role as team leader. Weighing only 128 pounds, Euser is an outstanding climber, and in those final 13 minutes at the top of Lizard Head Pass his wattage was down to 256W while riding at his threshold. That’s a 23 percent reduction in power from his sea level threshold of 330W, so not only did the elevation affect Euser significantly, but the accumulated fatigue from more than four hours of hard racing played a role in his lowered power numbers.
It will be very exciting to see how he handles the higher mountain passes to come — I have a feeling he’ll be up for the challenge.
Brajkovic had a pretty solid day as well. The final 13 minutes up to the top of Lizard Head Pass were also the most stressful for him, but he was not at his threshold and had plenty of power to spare. He averaged 288W. With his sea level functional threshold power (FTP) of 360W, even accounting for the elevation (assuming a 12 percent reduction of FTP to 316W), he was riding at only 91 percent of his FTP. As a result he was able to handle the climbing easily.
As in Euser’s power file, these wattages were much lower than in the first 10 minutes of the race, which contained Brajkovic’s Peak 10 Minute Power for the day at 339W. This was when the attacks at the head of the peloton were going off like fireworks on the fourth of July. Stage 1 was a great confirmation of Brajkovic’s form for the race, and this should bode well for him in the upcoming harder mountain stages.
Van Garderen is a proven elevation Superman. In last year’s Colorado tour, he really put the hammer down on the monster queen stage into Aspen, attacking over 12,096-foot Independence Pass and driving the breakaway to the finish. Van Garderen is back for 2012 and based on his power file from stage 1, I predict he will do very well again this year.
I am going to dub van Garderen the “king of energy conservation” from stage 1. He did not pedal for nearly one hour of the five-hour stage, spending 57 minutes coasting, resting his legs and conserving energy — on a stage that was mostly uphill. This is a very impressive skill that is learned over time and critical for success in stage races. If he can continue saving energy like this he will no doubt be fresher than his competition later this week.
What did van Garderen do in the final 13 minutes of Lizard Head Pass? He rode at 327W, which accounting for elevation was 93 percent of his FTP, meaning he is going to be giving some riders fits in the coming mountain stages. Van Garderen is clearly riding well and should be set to finish high on the GC.
Each of these three riders is gunning for a top spot on the podium at the end of the Pro Challenge, and only time will tell which will have the power to finish strongly. So many factors are involved in winning a race — especially a stage race in Colorado, with its high mountain passes. The race organizers have created one of the toughest stage races in the world, and the best rider will begin to emerge later this week.
Personally, right now, my money is on van Garderen.
I’ll continue to follow these riders throughout the week and provide in-depth analysis on their data using key metrics from TrainingPeaks software.
Editor’s note: For more USA Pro Challenge race files and analysis visit trainingpeaks.com/usapcc