Belgium RR data breakdown

All year I have opted to run my rather heavy  powertap wheel instead of lighter wheels just so I can geek out with the data afterwards. Racing power files are always the most interesting because you can generally push above and beyond when driven by adrenaline. This one was especially interesting because it was the first time I have raced at sea level (or close) in a long time. Even on my training ride the day before, I could see that the power numbers were higher and with less effort.

A couple things played into the quality of my fitness coming into this race. First, I had more rest than I have all year due to my injured leg. While I did get a long weekend of training in Breckenridge the week before, none of it was much more than a tempo pace. I was actually very worried about my high end power and I knew that with the race featuring mostly short, steep climbs, I was in for a world of hurt if my top gear decided to misfire. Secondly, I have been training and racing between 5k and 12k feet over the past few months and Stavelot since just over 1200 feet.

Race by numbers:

Race time: 2:55:37

Race Distance: 107K

Average power: 294

Average Normalized power: 356

I picked a few of the peak power numbers and listed them below.

Best 2 min: 518w

Best 5 min: 486w

Best 15 min: 422w

Best 120 min: 325w

Now lets break down the race a bit.

– The first major climb of the day was the L’ancienne Barriere. This came at 40k into the race and is a fairly mild climb at at about 5k in length and and average gradient of 5%. Its a big open road, and really the only potential problem on this climb was the wind. I sat in as close as I could to the front and tried to stay steady and remain comfortable. My goal was to be as close to the front as possible for the descent.

Time: 10:50

Average power: 375

– The second climb came very quickly following a fast but fairly safe descent. Unfortunately, the descent was so easy that I lost a ton of positions by being way to laid back. I came into the second climb, Cote de Brume-Sud, way to far back. Its a short, steep and narrow farm road that I had ridden the day before and I was sure it was going to make a selection. I had to fight my way through the gutter and sometimes in the dirt to pass people and barely got on the front group by the descent. The descent is steep and dangerous. It winds down through some little villages on narrow cracked roads. This climb did make a small selection but it just wasn’t long enough to thin the group to much. It didn’t help that there is a rather long gap to the next climb which allowed a number of riders to get back on.

Time: 4:40

Average Power: 485w

– The move  was actually made about 7k from the bottom of the third climb. A small group got up the road, and when I saw a rather strong looking italian rider try to bridge, I made the effort to follow. Only one other rider came with me and we quickly had a strong group of three riders working together to bridge up to a group of 7 riders. We worked well and caught the break right after the base of the 3rd climb on the day. Because we shared the workload, the average power numbers were a bit lower at 373 watts but the normalized power was 414 to the base of the climb.

Time: 9:10

Average power: 373

Normalized power: 414

-The 3rd climb on the day is a bit more famous. The Cote do Spineux is about 3k long and has quite a few gradients over 12%. We hit the bottom at full gas knowing this was where we had to separate ourselves from the main pack. If we let up now, we could easily be caught. I went to the front of the group and put the hammer down to be sure we didn’t give the chasers any hope. We then had a short steep descent and then a few kilometers of rolling terrain before we hit the cobbles for the first time in Stavelot. Having lost one bottle earlier, I made sure to put my full bottle in my jersey pocket through the cobbles. We rode straight through town and began the 4th climb of the day.

Time: 8:00

Average power: 441w

– The 4th climb was the famous Cote de la Haute-Levee. I believe this climb is used in the Liege – Bastogne – Liege classic held in belgium every spring. This was an amazing climb mainly due to the spectators. The whole climb was lined with people screaming and yelling and even running on the road next to us. It was an amazing feeling and literally gave me goose bumps all the way up the climb. The climb is just under 4k long and has a significant portion that averages over 10% in gradient. I was starting to worry a little about my hydration at this point and did my best just to sit in and not make any unnecessary efforts.

Time: 10:30

Average Power: 406w

– The 5th climb come very quickly following the descent. The Col du Rosier is 4k long and takes us to the highest point of the race. We actually rode this climb fairly slow and to be honest with my lack of water, I was glad that I could save myself for the later, more important climbs.

Time: 10:30

Average Power: 387w

– The penultimate climb was the Cote d’Aisomont. This climb is definitely featured in the Liege – Bastogne – Liege classic and it was the location of my greatest error of the weekend. The climb is 4.5k with an average gradient of only 5%. I figured at this point we were going to be fighting it out on the final leg crusher and I should save as much energy as possible. Near the top the only guy left in my age group (Simon Collard) attacked and went with one other guy from an older age group. I was a bit to far back to respond and we had a headwind which made me think that as a group we would pull them back before the final climb. I stayed calm and maintained a comfortable pace in our group of now 8 riders. Boy was I wrong! No one else wanted to work and I ended up burying myself all the way to the base of the final climb.

Time: 11:10

Average Power: 369w

– The final climb is another famous accent. The Cote de Stockeu (Eddy Merckx climb). This climb is just over a kilometer long but it seems much longer. The average gradient is 12.5% with many ramps up over 21%. I pre-rode it the day before and I knew it would be a leg crusher. At this point I was feeling a bit defeated after my stupid and very costly error. I still wanted to finish strong and I gave it everything I had left on the final climb and then the short descent into town and the finish.

Time: 4:20

Average Power: 440

Conclusion

My biggest mistake was not chasing Simon when I had the chance. I waited to long and at the moment I thought I was doing the right thing. In the end I had to be happy with the ride. For the most part, I felt very comfortable on all the climbs and really the only thing physically holding me back was my lack of hydration towards the end.

 

Next step

My goal for the next month is to somehow get myself onto an elite  or pro continental team. I believe the only thing holding me back from impressing a good team is my lack of experience. In the past year I have made leaps and bounds and have learned more about myself and racing than I thought I could. My power continues to improve and with another solid winter of training under my belt I truly feel that I can be competitive at the professional level inside the U.S. This would be  a dream come true!

After a week of rest following my return, I finally put my bike back together today will do some light and fun training for the next month. On top of this I will be working on strength and balance in the gym and hopefully correcting some of the leg issues I ran into this past season.

I have put together my race resume and will be sending them out this week so hopefully I will get some responses. Thanks to everyone for your support.

Brett

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