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MSR Power Analysis: Morkov’s long breakaway by the numbers

Dirk Friel analyzes Michael Morkov's power data from the 2012 Milan-San Remo breakaway

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Milan-San Remo is a monster of a race. It may not be the toughest of the classics, but it is no doubt the longest, with the official race length at 298km. Being that this is the first really big classic of the year, every team is firing on all cylinders to try and prove their worth. The speeds were very high on Saturday (the peloton covered 57km in hour 1), which lead to a group of no more than 45 riders hitting the final climb of the Poggio with 11km to go.

Saxo Bank’s Michael Morkov was part of a nine-man breakaway that formed after 20km of racing. This is quite typical for Milan-San Remo, where a lead group attacks early and builds up a large lead before finally being caught before the race’s penultimate climb, the Cipressa.

Morkov’s group worked well together and built a maximum lead of 13 minutes. With Mark Cavendish in difficulty, the peloton caught the escapees early, with 60km of racing remaining, but even still, Morkov was off the front for an amazing 200km.

See Michael Morkov’s Interactive TrainingPeaks File Viewer.

Michael Morkov’s Milan-San Remo snapshot
Time: 7:39
Distance: 307km
Wattage: 228W avg (268 normalized power)
Training Stress Score: 397 TSS
Energy: 6292kj
Body Weight: 71kg

Even though Morkov rode a strong race and looked up to the challenge, he didn’t start the day with high hopes.

“I felt sick in the night and morning, but I hit the first breakaway and felt good on the bike,” he said.

Not only did Morkov fight through feeling sick and eventually stay away for nearly six hours, he also had enough energy to help his teammates position for the Cipressa. Once his work was done he found himself in a large group that finished nine minutes behind the winner, Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge).

Looking at Morkov’s file, we can see the hardest hour within the nearly six-hour long breakaway was after four hours of racing. Morkov had a normalized power reading of 307 watts for 60 minutes, which ended with a 12-minute effort at 392 watts as the breakaway ascended the Le Mànie climb with 94km to go.

This may have been one of Morkov’s biggest days ever on the bike with a total ride time of over seven hours. His SRM power meter also recorded 6292 kilojoules. Given a total normalized power value of 268 watts, Morkov racked up an amazing 397 Training Stress Score points.

One small detail you may have missed while looking at Morkov’s file is his amazing ability to maintain a high cadence. In fact, he averaged 104rpm for a two-hour stretch of time. His peak 30-minute cadence reading was 109rpm. Morkov has such a natural ability to maintain a high cadence largely because of his track racing over the winter months. Morkov is a former madison and team pursuit world champion on the track, as well as an Olympic silver medalist in the team pursuit.

You may also remember Morkov as the rider that placed second in stage 4 of the 2011 USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Looking at his sprint file from that race, how did the stage in Colorado compare to Milan-San Remo? Well, the Italian classic appears to have been three-to-four times more difficult than the Colorado stage, between Vail and Steamboat, which only produced 153TSS points and 2044 kilojoules.

Look for more from Morkov throughout the spring classics season as his speed, coupled with his work capacity, could lead to a top-10 result soon.