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Power Analysis: Amgen Tour of California, stages 1-2

TrainingPeaks examines riders' power data from the opening days of the 2013 Amgen Tour of California

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The Amgen Tour of California started with two scorching hot and hilly stages. The true challenges of these stages proved not to be the terrain but the heat — dehydration of as little as 2 percent of body weight (about three pounds for a 150-pound person) can affect physical performance and raise heart rates by about five beats per minute. Dried and crusty salt stains were visible on everyone, indicating the loss of fluids and electrolytes — and certainly resulting in decreased power output. This only makes the power data we received from the race more impressive.

Stage 1: Escondido (102.6 miles)

During stage 1, the goal for many riders and teams was just to survive and finish the 100-plus degree opening day. Young American Chris Butler (Champion System) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) were gracious enough to share their data from the stage.

1. Lieuwe Westra, Vacansoleil-DCM
2. Francisco Mancebo Perez, 5-Hour Energy
3. Peter Sagan, Cannondale
35. Juan Antonio Flecha, Vancansoleil-DCM
39. Chris Butler, Champion System

View Butler’s Stage 1 data in TrainingPeaks.

Butler finished in the main bunch, just six seconds behind race winner Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil). Believing that the opening stage would likely finish in a bunch sprint, Butler’s goal was to stay with the GC contenders while conserving as much energy as possible for the demanding days to come.

Stage summary (no speed or heart rate data)
196 Average Watts
3.2 w/kg
239 Normalized Power (NP)*
81 Average Cadence
3160 KJ
209 Training Stress Score (TSS)**

*Normalized Power provides a better measure of the true physiological demands of an effort. It’s an estimate of the power you could have maintained for the same physiological “cost” if your power output had been perfectly constant rather than variable.

**Training Stress Score quantifies the workload performed by a rider based on the duration and intensity of the effort. A 1-hour, all-out time trial effort would result in 100 TSS points.

“It was incredibly hot today,” Butler said. “Perceived exertion was high. The only hard climb was the last Category 3 climb that lasted about 8 minutes, about 20 of us [went] over the top. It was so hot and I was so dehydrated every effort felt at least 50 watts harder.”

Cole Grade was indeed where Butler set his 10-minute Peak Power for the day, averaging 347 watts (5.8 w/kg) and grinding it out at 75 rpm. During this effort alone Butler burned more than 200 calories, the equivalent of a gigantic, ice cold, 22-ounce Slurpee from 7-Eleven … the thought of which may have crossed some wistful minds during the long, hot day.

The longest climb of the day, on Mt. Palomar, took Butler just over 44 minutes to complete. This is also where he set his 20- and 30-minute Peak Power values, averaging 268 watts (4.6 w/kg) and 250 watts (4.3 w/kg), respectively.

Mt. Palomar climb
44:11, 10.7 miles
254 Average Watts
4.2 w/kg
263 NP
78 Average Cadence
672 KJ
41 TSS

With several more stages in the blazing hot southern California mountains, Butler will be looking to improve his GC ranking and show his climbing ability.

Classics specialist Flecha also shared his data with TrainingPeaks. View his full power data here.

Flecha is a very different type of rider than Butler. Butler is a young, aspiring climber and GC contender, while Flecha is a seasoned veteran, specializing in the classics and other one-day races. See a comparison of the two below.

Flecha vs. Butler
5-foot-11 vs. 5-foot-11
72 kg vs. 61 kg
35 years old vs. 25 years old

Stage comparison
223 watts vs. 196 watts
2.9 w/kg vs. 3.2 w/kg
3636 KJ vs. 3160 KJ
204 TSS vs. 209 TSS
286 NP vs. 239 NP

As you can see above, the pair showed some similarities in their rides. Both finished with an official time of 4:31:39, just six seconds behind the stage winner. Both appear to have raced conservatively on the first stage, Flecha likely biding his time for an opportunity for a stage win later in the week.

The similarities continue for many of the Peak Power values set on two of the three categorized climbs of the stage. Flecha also churned out his 10-minute Peak Power on Cole Grade and his 30-minute Peak Power (309 watts) on Mt. Palomar. Heading up Cole Grade, Flecha averaged 414 watts (5.5 w/kg) at a cadence of 79 rpm and an average heart rate of 167 bpm. The ascent of Mt. Palomar took Flecha 44:14 and he averaged 309 watts (4.7 w/kg), with an average cadence of 83 rpm and a heart rate of 150 bpm.

Mt. Palomar
17.3 km (10.7 miles)
820 KJ
42 TSS
322 NP
309 Average Watts
4.7 w/kg
150 Average Heart Rate
83 Average Cadence

Stage 2: Murrieta to Greater Palm Springs (124.3 miles)

For stage 2, Saxo-Tinkoff provided race data from American and current national champion Timmy Duggan, as well as his Danish teammate Michael Morkov. Both are racing in support of team leader Michael Rogers.

1. Janier Alexis Acevedo Colle, Jamis-Hagens Berman
2. Tejay van Garderen, BMC Racing
3. Philip Deignan, UnitedHealthcare
34. Timothy Duggan, Saxo-Tinkoff
59. Michael Morkov, Saxo-Tinkoff

With temperatures of 120 degrees recorded on some riders’ bike computers and nearly 10,000 feet of climbing, stage 2 was brutal. The effect the heat had on performance can be seen through elevated heart rates. Many riders were riding at wattages much lower than their FTPs, yet their heart rates were at their threshold zones, resulting in a much higher rate of perceived exertion as described by Chris Butler in stage 1.

See Morkov’s full power data in TrainingPeaks.

Stage summary
203 Average Watts
2.8 w/kg
257 NP
3897 KJ
257 TSS
137 Average Heart Rate
86 Average Cadence

As is the standard for many UCI ProTour stage races, an early breakaway was established and allowed to gain a maximum of 12:00 before Saxo-Tinkoff assembled at the front of the peloton and reduced the gap to 5:00.

As a support rider, Morkov did his work leading up to the finishing climb, trying to protect Rogers for as long as possible. Looking at the file, it is easy to see where Morkov “pulled the plug” on the final climb after having done his job, reducing his power output and heart rate and settling into a steady pace to grind out the remainder of the brutally steep, 3.6-mile, 9 percent climb — an effort so taxing in the heat that many riders needed assistance after crossing the finish so as not to collapse. Some even required medical attention.

Morkov’s final leadout
2.3 miles, average gradient 1.6%
349 Average Watts
4.9 w/kg
348 NP
168 Average Heart Rate
102 Average Cadence
105 KJ

Final climb to the finish
3.6 miles, 9.1% average gradient
254 Average Watts
3.5 w/kg
261 NP
155 Average Heart Rate
61 Average Cadence
473 KJ

The Amgen Tour of California marks Duggan’s remarkable return to racing on home soil after breaking his leg in a nasty crash at January’s Santos Tour Down Under.

See Duggan’s full power data in TrainingPeaks.

Stage summary
203 Average Watts
2.8 w/kg
257 NP
3897 KJ
257 TSS
137 Average Heart Rate
86 Average Cadence

Duggan was on tap to position Rogers, who won the 2010 edition of the race, as best as possible on the final climb. When the fireworks started to go off, Rogers made the select group of five and would hold that position all the way to the line.

Duggan spent the early part of the final climb guiding Rogers into position, and this is where he set his 10-minute Peak Power for the stage. Just as with Morkov’s file, we can clearly see when Duggan was working his hardest, giving 100 percent to his teammate until he had nothing left to give. Many people talk about the sacrifice teammates make for each other but to see it on these two race files is truly inspiring.

10-minute Peak Power (missing data due to crash earlier in the stage, resulting in loss of sensor)
324 Average Watts
5.2 w/kg
343 NP
194 KJ
19 TSS
180 Average Heart Rate
84 Average Cadence

Final climb (‘riding it in’)
228 Average Watts
3.7 w/kg
232 NP
307 KJ
20 TSS
161 Average Heart Rate
57 Average Cadence

The first two stages at the 2013 Amgen Tour of California showed some of the toughest athletes in the world enduring the “perfect storm” of melting heat and a challenging course. When looking at these numbers, reflect on the fact that the effect of altitude can be up to a 10 percent decrease in power output, but heat can do even more damage. Some riders had to abandon within the last mile or two of the finish. It doesn’t take numbers to prove that the pros are tough — but it certainly can help to illustrate.

Editor’s note: Thanks to, we are looking at various riders’ power data from stages 1-2 of the Amgen Tour of California. Today, Shawn Heidgen, a USA Cycling certified coach, former professional cyclist, and Education Specialist at TrainingPeaks, recaps the data from the eight-day race. For more, follow Shawn on Twitter.