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Colorado power: Rory Sutherland’s race to Breckenridge

Editor’s Note: Throughout the 2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge, VeloNews.com will be publishing and analyzing SRM power data from UnitedHealthcare’s general classification star Rory Sutherland, who was seventh 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.

Rumors were flying before Saturday’s tough Steamboat Springs to Breckenridge stage — word on the street was that a few of the GC favorites were putting in a longer than usual warmup before the stage. That could only mean one thing: carnage on the early Rabbit Ears Pass.

Cadel Evans started the GC fight, putting in a serious dig less than half way up the climb. By the top, a select group including Tour de France runner up Andy Schleck was inching off the front, and the main field was down to just 20 riders. UnitedHealthcare’s Rory Sutherland was one of those 20.

Sutherland’s stage 5 data

  • Total time: 4:06
  • KiloJoules: 3607
  • Average power: 245 watts
  • Max 1-minute power: 593 watts
  • Max 5-minute power: 448 watts
  • Max 20-minute power: 411 watts
  • Average heart rate: 142 bpm
  • Max heart rate: 184 bpm
  • Average speed: 25.8 mph

The effort up Rabbit Ears broke Sutherland’s five and 20-minute power records for the entire USA Pro Cycling Challenge. According to the numbers, it was the hardest he’s gone so far this week.

When the attacks began, Sutherland spent five minutes at 448 watts (5.9 watts/kilogram) just to stay near the front. The pace stayed high for the next 20 minutes, averaging an impressive 411 watts (5.4 w/kg). Sutherland was able to stay with the leaders, and was quickly rejoined by teammates who chased back on.

2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge, stage 5 Rory Sutherland power data
2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge, stage 5 Rory Sutherland power data

“It’s really surprising that the Rabbit Ears pass was as hard as it was, and it shows that Rory recovered well from stage 4 as his wattages were very impressive today,” TrainingPeaks’ Hunter Allen noted after the stage. “He again proved he is one of the best cyclists in the world.”

From the top of Rabbit Ears to the base of the last big climb of the day, Swan Mountain, it was all about recovery and efficiency for Sutherland. His team helped him ride near the front as riders continued to be spit out the back, and contributed to the chase in the final kilometers before Swan. He averaged only 206 watts in between Rabbit Ears and Swan Mountain.

The short climb up Swan saw Sutherland hold 446 watts (5.9 w/kg), and his group came within a minute of Andy Schleck, who went over the top solo before being caught again by his breakmates.

Sutherland’s best 1-minute power of the race so far came in the last three minutes of Saturday’s stage. He held 593 watts to keep himself up front and out of trouble, crossing the line just behind George Hincapie in 13th spot.

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