For many (me included), the biggest appeal of spectator sports like motorcycle racing or watching the Tour de France is projecting yourself into the event as one of the participants. Having road raced motorcycles for years, I know intimately the continuous sound of an engine at redline... what it's like to hang off the side of the motorcycle at over 100 miles an hour... the rush of adrenaline as my knee scrapes the asphalt. So it's easy for me to let my mind drift and fantasize that I could make starting grid for a MotoGP race, from the comfort and safety of my couch at home.
Same is true for me when it comes to bicycle racing, especially while watching the tour each July. I can hear commentator Paul Sherwen describe my break from the front as I power up the road, intent on bridging to the breakaway; "Macgowan as made his move, as we knew he would... He's definitely saved just a little bit in his tank for this final climb... this will be an exciting finish Phil!"
Could I really ride with the Tour? Not hardly. I've ridden and raced with people who could simply ride away from me with little or no perceived additional effort. And these people were certainly not able to make the starting roster for a professional cycling team. I'm guessing that few of the cyclists is I've ridden with, the ones who really impressed me with their strength/speed/endurance, could even hang with the professional team on their recovery days.
In the past my comparisons were based on direct experience (typically getting dropped) or simple perception. Now, with the availability of power indication in our classes, I can compare my power output (watts) with that of a professional cyclist and know with certainty how quickly I'll be dropped 🙁
They say that the beauty of using metrics in training is that; if you can measure it - you can improve it. But metric's also provide a tangible point of comparison we can use to compare ourselves to others.
I talk a lot about the 1 watt per pound concept that Gene Nacey uses to decide whether or not you're ready to go out and start climbing hills. Gene says " One watt per pound is the gateway to outdoor riding." Where Gene lives in Pittsburgh it's very hilly. Long climbs don't exist here in the flat-lands of Minnesota. So I like to discuss a second metric in my classes; what's your sustainable flat road speed? Or based on your sustainable wattage, what speed would you be riding outdoors?
This website has a fantastic tool for computing sustainable flat road speed, based on your individual (male or female) power output. It also has a fun chart where you can compare yourself to cyclists who race in the various categories; Cat 5 - Cat1 - all the way up to professionals.
You enter your body weight in Lbs and your Threshold Power in Watts. I know I can sustain 250 watts on a FreeMotion Indoor Cycle and I weigh 160 lbs. Here is my result.
I believe ~23.82 mph is quite close. I dug back into my records and saw my average speed for the bike leg of the Apple Duathlon was right at 23 mph. This 33k race course is dead flat. I raced it three times, partnering with my neighbor Mark who did the runs. The comparison chart shows me as a Cat 4, which was the highest I ever raced.
So how would I compare to a time trial ridden by a professional? Because the length and course of the individual time trials in the Tour De France change every year, there's some debate as to who had the fastest average speed. Local boy Greg LeMond (he's from Minnesota) in 1989 and David Zabriskie (2005) both won individual time trial stages averaging ~34 miles an hour.
Here's how much power they needed to not only produce, but sustain for nearly 60 minutes:
Assuming they both weighed 160 Lbs, Greg and David needed to double my wattage to ride 50% faster than me... astounding!
Go over to the calculator and see where your power falls and which category you would race. And if you're brave, add your results below.
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