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Colorado power analysis: Rory Sutherland’s prologue

Editor’s Note: Throughout the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, VeloNews will be publishing and analyzing SRM power data from UnitedHealthcare’s general classification star Rory Sutherland, who was 7th at the AMGEN Tour of California earlier this year. TrainingPeaks is providing the race data to us, as well as making Sutherland’s interactive race file available to the public on their website. All our USAPCC articles.

We start, obviously, with the prologue. The 5.2-mile course through Garden of the Gods was almost entirely downhill, starting at 6,100 feet and finishing atop a rise at 5,820 feet. The first half is the steepest and features a number of twisting, somewhat tricky corners while the back half allowed riders to lay their power down unencumbered.

The details

  • Total time: 8:35 (15th place)
  • KiloJoules: 213
  • Average power: 414 watts (436 normalized)
  • Average heart rate: 178bpm
  • Max heart rate: 188bpm
  • Average speed: 35.8mph

Sutherland rode to 15th on the day, 15 seconds down on stage winner Patrick Gretsch (HTC-Highroad). Over the first 3:40 of the course, Sutherland put out an average of 397 watts, very near his functional threshold. That’s an impressive feat considering the corners and the fact that generating power tends to be more difficult when pointed downhill.

2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge prologue: Rory Sutherland's power graph
This is what you have to do to get 15th in a pro prologue.

For the final 4:55 of Sutherland’s ride he was able to churn out 426 watts, averaging 35.2 mph. Over the entire time trial he averaged 414 watts, for an average speed of 35.8 mph.

Sutherland’s best 30-second power (his highest average over 30 seconds) came at the start of his TT, when he put out 647 watts for 30 seconds. Likewise, his best 60 seconds came at the start. Just before Sutherland hit 2 minutes, the steeper downhill began, dropping his average considerably. Despite those high 30- and 60-second figures coming early in the race, Sutherland’s highest 5-minute average came in the last section — 418 watts for the last 5 minutes. In other words, he got up to speed quickly, used the downhill to recover just a bit, and then hit the final straight full gas.

Altitude has undoubtedly already had an effect on the results of the USAPCC, but Sutherland’s power output remained largely unchanged. Spending considerable time living around 5,000 feet in Colorado certainly helped, but power guru Hunter Allen was still a bit surprised. “With the starting elevation at 6,100 feet and finish at 5,820, feet, it’s surprising Rory’s power was so close to his power when at sea level,” Allen said after the stage, adding that “this is a great sign for Rory and his adaptation at elevation.

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