A tale of two races
By Dirk Friel
Team Columbia’s Marco Pinotti reached the line in the front group in Wednesday’s Fleche Wallone classic, finishing 40th, 54 seconds behind the winner Davide Rebellin. More importantly however for Pinotti was the sixth-place finish of his teammate, Thomas Lövkvist, who crossed the line just six seconds behind Rebellin.
Pinotti, for the second year in a row has shared his SRM power meter data and inside thoughts on the race with VeloNews. This year, in addition to having the chance to review the race data, we also have the opportunity to review last year’s race file and see how the two races compare:
As you’ll see, this leads to some interesting findings and if you also compete, you may possibly learn some lessons to apply to your own racing.
This year’s Fleche Wallone started out much more relaxed for Pinotti than last year’s, since he was one of team Columbia’s protected riders. Pinotti has recently displayed some top form by winning stage five and finishing sixth in the final day’s time trial of the Tour of the Basque country.
Pinotti described how this year’s Fleche Wallone started.
The View From the Inside
“The weather was good and warm and the Fleche Wallone was different in the way it developed from last year,” he recalled. “At the start there was a two- rider breakaway and the peloton was going easy for the first hour. Then the teams with the favorite riders began the chase in the peloton. The pace was fast and it didn’t let another break go with a good gap.”
That was quite different than Pinotti’s experience in 2008, when he was a member of the early break. This year, since there were only two riders off the front for the majority of the race, Pinotti could stay well protected by riding in the peloton and prepare for the final hour of the race where the decisive moves would be played out.
“In the peloton the main difficulty was positioning before the last five or six climbs,” he said. “The road became smaller and it was a problem when I was farther back (in the field), but my legs were good and I could jump in the front on the last climb before the Muur de Huy.”
As the race began to reach the outskirts of the finishing town of Huy, Pinotti began to work for his teammates.
“I pulled to catch a few riders,” he said. “The last few kilometers need to be done at high power and that doesn’t really suit me, but I was feeling well during the whole race, as I was in (last week’s) Amstel Gold Classic.”
Tactics Reflected in the Power Data
In the world of road racing often times a rider can do more with less by using tactics to their advantage. Remember the winner isn’t always the person with the highest power output.
Comparing Pinotti’s 2008 data with this year’s power data is a perfect example of how his better result was achieved with apparently lower power values. Now of course we can’t directly compare this year’s Fleche Wallone tactics with last year’s, but as a whole the way Pinotti rode this year’s race was very different than how he raced this event in 2008.
Last year, Pinotti’s team duties dictated that he cover the early breakaway which resulted in him starting the day with very high power numbers. In 2008 Pinotti’s breakaway group inevitably failed and eventually resulted in his finishing more than seven minutes behind the day’s winner, who just happened to be his teammate Kim Kirchen. Last year, Pinotti averaged 259 average watts for the first hour of racing, while this year by being protected within the peloton, he only averaged 147 watts.
By averaging more than 100 watts less than last year in the first hour of racing, Pinotti was able to save an enormous amount of energy, specifically muscle glycogen, which could then be used later during the final hour of racing. In fact, when we review the final hour of racing in 2008 Pinotti averaged 259 watts, versus the last hour of this year’s race where he was able to maintain an average of 316 watts, in large part due to his ability to conserve energy during the first quarter of the event.
If we shift our focus to Pinotti’s maximum values and overall averages we continue to see some major differences. Keep in mind that Pinotti placed only 54 seconds behind the winner this year, and seven minutes behind the winner in 2008. So you might expect to see his average watts to be higher during this year’s event, but that wasn’t the case.
Even though he placed much better this year, his average watts for the race were much lower at 222 watts, compared to last year’s 275. This is in large part due to his massive amount of work within a small breakaway attempt in 2008, and conversely his ability to “surf” in the peloton during this year’s race. One additional metric which is worth pointing out is that Pinotti spent a total of 16 more minutes in 2009 (51 total minutes between 0-20rpm) pedaling with a cadence of between 0-20rpm as he did in 2008 (35 total minutes between 0-20rpm).
Similarly, Pinotti produced a much higher overall training stress score (TSS) value of 366 in 2008, as compared to a value of 330 this year. He essentially raced at a higher percentage of his functional threshold power in 2008 for a longer period of time.
It is worth noting that his absolute maximum five-minute power value produced during the two years was relatively the same at 435w in ‘08 race, and 430w in ‘09. Interestingly, the big difference is that his maximum five-minute power value was produced within the final hour of racing this year, as opposed within the first 90-minutes of racing in 2008.