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Colorado Power: Rory Sutherland’s Queen stage

Editor’s Note: Throughout the 2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge, VeloNews 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. Be sure to check out the previous stage analyses.

Sutherland earlier this year. Photo: Brian Holcombe

Want to finish the queen stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge with the favorites? No problem, just put out 231 watts for five and a half hours. Throw in four minutes at 418 watts (5.5 watts/kilogram) to make the selection on the final climb. Then hold 386 watts (5 w/kg) for the next 4.5 miles, all between 10,500 and 12,095 feet. Easy.

Those impressive figures landed UnitedHealthcare’s Rory Sutherland in 23rd for Wednesday’s stage 2, crossing the line in a select chase group 45 seconds behind new GC leader Tejay Van Garderen.

The stage was by far the most difficult of this year’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge, featuring two climbs maxing out over 12,000 feet for a total of 9,746 feet of climbing. Cottonwood Pass came first, peaking at 12,126 feet. Sutherland’s power over Cottonwood was moderate — 271 watts (3.5 w/kg) for 58 minutes — and the effort was steady.

For Sutherland, the effort up Cottonwood was all about conservation of energy, saving as much as possible for Independence Pass. “Cottonwood was kinda how I expected it,” Sutherland said after the stage. “It’s a dirt climb so people focus on where they’re riding, what line, and positioning and not on attacking. I didn’t go deep at all on that one. Felt pretty good, nice small gears the whole time.”

Independence Pass was a different story. “The valley up to Buena Vista was a head/cross wind so that kind of pushed people a little harder before we even got on the climb,” Sutherland noted.

Sutherland’s stage 2 data

  • Total time: 5:27
  • KiloJoules: 4515
  • Average power: 231 watts (280 normalized)
  • Max 1-minute power: 493 watts
  • Max 5-minute power: 407 watts
  • Max 20-minute power: 371 watts
  • Average heart rate: 137bpm
  • Max heart rate: 180bpm
  • Average speed: 23.8mph

UHC’s star averaged 321 watts (4.2 w/kg) for the entire 49 minutes of Independence Pass. The effort was steady until about four and a half miles to go, when the attacks began to fly.

“I felt pretty smooth on Independence, but couldn’t really go with the big accelerations,” he said. Looking at the data, there is only one spike that would indicate a hard attack (or covering one), a brief spurt up to 672 watts; Sutherland simply upped his pace from that point onward, finding his rhythm.

That rhythm was found at 418 watts for the next 4 minutes. Sutherland then averaged 392 watts all the way to the top of the climb. That was enough to keep him with the second group going over the top, which rejoined with the leading four riders early in the descent. Those are particularly amazing figures considering the altitude — over 11,000 feet on that section of the course. “I didn’t look down over the whole thing but I imagine the heart rate was pretty high,” he joked.

“We normally see a 10-15 percent decrease in power from wattages at sea level,” said Hunter Allen of TrainingPeaks. “To see these incredible numbers only means that Rory rides extremely well at altitude and can also really crack out big numbers at sea level.”

After stage 2, Sutherland sits in 10th, 1:09 behind race leader Van Garderen. Check back tomorrow for Sutherland’s Vail time trial power file. The course starts out relatively flat and kicks up towards the end, so pacing will be vital.

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