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Power Analysis: Amgen Tour of California, stages 5 and 7

TrainingPeaks examines riders' power data from two of the climbing stages at the 2013 Amgen Tour of California

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Stage 5: Santa Barbara to Avila Beach (116 miles)

On a day that should have been for the sprinters and one without a GC shake-up, stage 5 of the Amgen Tour of California provided an exciting and unpredicted finish. Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Leopard) affirmed his legendary status again, taking the win and foiling the sprinters’ plans as he launched the winning move with just 5km to go and soloed to the line. Michael Morkov (Saxo-Tinkoff), who placed 56th, again shared his SRM power data from the stage with TrainingPeaks and VeloNews.

1. Jens Voigt, RadioShack-Leopard
2. Tyler Farrar, Garmin-Sharp
3. Thor Hushovd, BMC Racing
56. Michael Morkov, Saxo-Tinkoff

View Morkov’s SRM data in TrainingPeaks.

As expected, an early breakaway escaped before the only categorized climb on the stage, the San Marcos Pass. The climb may not have been enough to split the main field but it definitely took its toll on the riders. Morkov averaged 299 watts up the 7-mile climb, cresting the summit in just over 32 minutes with the main group.

San Marcos Pass
7.1 miles
299 Average Watts
4.2 w/kg
314 Normalized Power (NP)*
13.4 mph
139 Average Heart Rate
84 Average Cadence

*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.

About 60 miles into the race, as the sprinters’ teams gathered at the front to begin the chase in earnest, a fierce crosswind buffeted the peloton and the predicted outcome of the race was lost in the wind. It was during this windy section that Morkov set his peak 12-minute power of the stage, fighting to keep contact but ultimately unable to make the lead group, finishing 56th — 1:07 behind Voigt.

Morkov’s power output between the largely steady state climb and the erratic crosswind section was very different. An erratic, “up-and-down” effort was required to stay in position in the winds, while Markov managed a steadier output on San Marcos.

Morkov had over 30 spikes above 600 watts in the 14-minute crosswind section, compared to just a couple at the end of the 32-minute San Marcos Pass climb. For the 14 minutes in the crosswinds, Morkov pushed 357 watts (5 w/kg) with a NP of 381 — a difference of 24 watts, indicating the high physiological effort of his frequent surges. Compare this to the difference of only 16 watts between average power and NP on the San Marcos climb. The percent difference between the average watts and the normalized power is also known as the Variability Index (VI).

With about 34 miles to go, a severe crosswind caused chaos and trouble for some of the top GC contenders, including race leader Janier Acevedo (Jamis-Hagens Berman). The UCI WorldTour teams smelled blood in the air and rallied their strong men to the front (including team leaders), causing the peloton to shatter into several smaller groups before Voigt’s winning attack. All in all, the effort of the day cost Morkov over 3,700 calories — the equivalent of nearly 10 of California’s popular In-N-Out hamburgers at 390 calories each.

Stage 7: Livermore to Mount Diablo (91.4 miles)

With a mountaintop finish on Mount Diablo, riders with GC aspirations knew that this would be the last opportunity to move up in the overall standings, as the final stage on Sunday would be mostly flat and would likely end in a bunch sprint. 24-year old Chris Butler of (Champion System) shared his SRM race data from the stage.

1. Leopold Konig, NetApp-Endura
2. Janier Acevedo, Jamis-Hagens Berman
3. Tejay van Garderen, BMC Racing
28. Chris Butler, Champion System

View Butler’s file in TrainingPeaks.

The young American had a plan for the stage: Get into the early break and hopefully hit the final climb with a big enough gap to hold off the chasers and move up in the overall standings. Butler executed the plan perfectly and made the break on the first KOM of the stage, Morgan Territory Road. Butler put everything into this effort, hitting all of his peak power values of the day from 2 to 20 minutes, and holding an impressive 377 watts (6.3 w/kg) and 390 NP for 14 minutes as he worked hard to establish the break and get away from the chasing field.

The break, including Butler, started the final ascent of Mount Diablo with only about a minute lead on the chasers. Butler did not give up, however, despite having been in the break for the majority of the stage. Instead, he dug deep and put out his peak 30-minute power heading up Mount Diablo, fighting all the way to the line.

Mount Diablo climb
10.1 miles
335 Average Watts
5.5 w/kg
335 NP
81 Average Cadence

Unfortunately, Butler’s effort was not enough to hold off the climbers and other GC contenders, but he still finished 28th on the stage, 2:17 behind winner Leopold Konig (NetApp-Endura).

Look for Butler and many of the other American pros that raced in California to compete in Chattanooga, Tennessee this coming weekend at the Volkswagen USA Cycling Professional Road & Time Trial National Championships. The intense racing they experienced in California will be an asset after a rest this week, which should allow their fitness and form to peak for an exciting nationals.

Editor’s note: Thanks to, we are looking at various riders’ power data from stages 5 and 7 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.