USA vs. Brazil: A Race Up Alpe d'Huez
So Esporte Clube Pinheiros, a training facility in Sao Paolo, Brazil, has arguable the best amateur triathlon team in the world. It is also home to the Brazilian olympic team, and my coach Marcelo who is now the director of the team. He invited me to race yesterday at 6pm with 40 of the athletes he trains with. This included two athletes who have gone below 9 hours at KONA and s a 3x Brazilian olympian pictured below:
So I said ok, I’ll race. They said it would be 40km and the course showed a nice rolling course with moderate climbs. The race started at 6pm and I was the only American. Marcelo said the beginning would be like a mountain bike race, everyone goes full gas so I needed to sprint in order to catch the front group and take advantage of their draft. Even in the video game, the creators have programmed in a draft equation, so it helps a lot when you can sit behind other riders. The race started at 6pm and I pushed hard! 500+ watts and I saw the lead group slowly pull away. I couldn’t understand it, maybe I didn’t push hard enough soon enough. After about a minute I slowed down as I didn’t want to fall apart before the end of the race.
I had an RX bar an hour before the race, started drinking electrolytes within the hour. 30 minutes before I took 177 mg of caffeine and 5 minutes before a 100 calorie Maurten gel. I was in the zone and ready to push. 6 minutes into the race my legs felt have and on the verge of cramping from that hard effort at the beginning. I looked at my HR and saw it was around 175. The highest I’ve seen on the bike this year was 185, so I was hoping my physiology was that of the elites I read about in the Mcardel Katch and Katch book and I was able to hold 90% of my max.
We continue into the race and I’m frustrated because the person behind me is 45 seconds back, and in front I had a couple around a 15 second gap. I quickly caught a rider but 5 minutes later he fell back and again I was alone. Then, a turn for the worst. The computer automatically changed my course for alp d’huez. I DID NOT SIGN UP FOR THIS! I had already pushed for 20 minutes at around 320 watts and I knew this climb would take me around an hour. I took a big sip or my electrolytes, cursed the Brazilians, and convinced myself not to quit.
I started my climb. The game format is cool at the screen shows the 21 turns of the famous climb in France. The game will tell you your average watts for each of the 21 sections, and gives you a timer for your current elapsed time. I started my ascent and it was all alone.
20 minutes into the climb I started to pass some of the Brazilians. I thought my threshold power would be somewhere around 4 w/kg but I saw I was floating around 4.3 at 178 bpm. I decided to test the waters and stay there. With only a couple turns left, my heart rate actually began to drop a bit. It lowered to 174, 173 and I knew my legs just couldn’t keep up. I dropped the resistance and brought the cadence higher and I was able to maintain the power and give my legs a little rest. 3 turns left to the top, and my trainer disconnects!!! My avatar stops, and I quickly grab the remote, reconnect, and then get back on my way. 30-45 seconds lost, but I stood up on the bike, gave myself a little sprint and continued up the mountain. The final stretch I stood and rocked the bike back and forth. I felt like Chris Froome with his awful form and wide elbows trying to make it to the top. I saw one rider coming up from behind pushing 5.8 watts per kilo, and I knew I could maybe hold him off, so I kept standing and pushed to the end. I made it to the top and climbed alp d'huez in 47 minutes. The total ride of an hour and 6 minutes I pushed 322 watts, equaling 4.18 watts per kg. I was happy, so happy to be done.
Here are some images from my files.
In the end, I was happy, even when my coach Marcelo sent me a message asking “what happened!?” I need to learn more about the sprint in the beginning. The good news, I passed 2 athletes who went sub 9 hours at KONA. Their exact words, “That American passed me hard…he is good.” That made me happy.