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Performance Aspirations for Joe Average

richaricha Posts: 1,634
edited August 2008 in Training, fitness and health
I did the Marmotte this year, where the fastest Brit was 6:30ish (27kph) and the slowest 13:30ish (13kph).
(I was on target for a time of 10:30 (17kph) so somewhere in the middle of the field).

What I would like to get a handle on is how much of this difference is due nature (physiology?) and how much due to nurture (training?)

Assume, I am pretty average - in terms of my natural talent - for your average sportive rider. So, if I trained, really really hard, and really really smart, what might I achieve?

In other words where is the glass ceiling, through which only the talented can cross? Is it 7hrs, 7.5hrs, 8hrs, 8.5hrs, etc ???

I know this question requires a certain amount of hypothesis. So please go ahead. Did you, or do you know someone who trained (or have you trained someone) for something like the Etape / Marmotte where you thought they had reached "your / their" peak. How did you / they do?

Look forward to hearing your thoughts. Thanks.

PS - The reason I ask is that i was very undertrained this year and i would like to get an idea what might be possible if I really went for it in terms of training for next year.
Rich
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  • RichA wrote:
    I did the Marmotte this year, where the fastest Brit was 6:30ish (27kph) and the slowest 13:30ish (13kph).
    (I was on target for a time of 10:30 (17kph) so somewhere in the middle of the field).

    What I would like to get a handle on is how much of this difference is due nature (physiology?) and how much due to nurture (training?)

    Assume, I am pretty average - in terms of my natural talent - for your average sportive rider. So, if I trained, really really hard, and really really smart, what might I achieve?

    In other words where is the glass ceiling, through which only the talented can cross? Is it 7hrs, 7.5hrs, 8hrs, 8.5hrs, etc ???

    I know this question requires a certain amount of hypothesis. So please go ahead. Did you, or do you know someone who trained (or have you trained someone) for something like the Etape / Marmotte where you thought they had reached "your / their" peak. How did you / they do?

    Look forward to hearing your thoughts. Thanks.

    PS - The reason I ask is that i was very undertrained this year and i would like to get an idea what might be possible if I really went for it in terms of training for next year.
    Yes, I have coached a Marmotte rider who went under 8 hrs (but I wouldn't say they have reached their physical peak though).

    Well considering all the multitude of variables....

    I would say that Joe Average (in terms of VO2 Max), with the right training, is well capable of breaking 8.5 hours. It may take a couple of seasons to get there depending on where one is currently.

    Certainly a Cat 3 rider is capable of breaking 7.5 hrs. I'm not saying they would, just they are capable.

    7 hrs is showing some above average natual talent.


    There you go, that's my SWAG :)
  • synchronicitysynchronicity Posts: 1,415
    I think it's almost all in the training...

    ...but obviously someone like a midget wouldn't do as good as a regular sized rider.

    While we inherit many traits etc, I think it's your environment that determines most things.

    You hear these stories for example that Indurain had an enormous heart & long femur bones, and an incredibly low resting heart rate... then later you read that most pro elite athletes have similar resting heart rates, etc.

    When you look at it, most top athletes are within 99% of each other. In the case of Armstrong & Ullrich, they were within 99.9 % most of the time
    I think that anyone of similar stature could get up to 95% with similar training... possibly 98%. The last few percentage points is where physiology comes into it I reckon. I stress that this is my own personal belief.

    But I wonder how much of the training regime (or rather the attitude towards training), is inherited through parents in relation to "the genes to make a good cyclist" (which I think doesn't carry much weight).

    My father for example never trained once in his life. So I haven't got the best training schedule. In fact, I haven't got a training schedule at all. :( Needless to say, I never performed very well in few the races which I entered. :x I'm positive that if I had a different father that was more into cycling, I would have performed better, but not due to his genes, rather due to the actual approach he would have taught me about the importance of training instead of other things.

    I.e. how seriously people take it, and the desire to WIN is more important that any other single factor.
  • You can't successfully race at the elite level without the genetically acquired physiological traits that enable you to do so.

    However, having those traits is insufficient for success.

    Nevertheless, in terms of individual performance improvement, nothing trumps good training.
  • richaricha Posts: 1,634
    Alex,

    Thans for your comments. V.Interesting.

    One of the problems with answering this question is the "which comes first, the chicken or the egg" conundrum...
    I would say that Joe Average (in terms of VO2 Max), with the right training, is well capable of breaking 8.5 hours.

    Certainly a Cat 3 rider is capable of breaking 7.5 hrs.

    7 hrs is showing some above average natual talent.
    But, presumably:
    - VO2 Max will improve with training; and
    - a Cat 4 rider could train to become a Cat 3 rider, who could train to become a Cat 2 rider.

    I doubt I have above average talent (from a cycling/endurance point of view) but can see know reason why I am not of average natural talent. Nevertheless, this is all quite promising. Perhaps if I train (really, really hard & really, really smart) I could go sub 8, perhaps even sub 7.5 hrs? My goal had been to go for a definate Gold standard (sub 8:49), now perhaps I should be raising my aspirations...

    FWIW, when tested last year after significant training, 2 weeks prior to the Etape, my VO2max was 63.0ml/K/min.
    Rich
  • richaricha Posts: 1,634
    I think that anyone of similar stature could get up to 95% with similar training... possibly 98%. The last few percentage points is where physiology comes into it I reckon.

    I think the difference is probably much greater than that. The TdF cut off time for a mountain stages can be as much as +18% of winners time.

    That would imply that if the pros can get round in 6:20, if I were to be just 18% slower I would get round in about 7:30. I'd be very happy with that...
    Rich
  • genkigenki Posts: 305
    RichA wrote:
    I would say that Joe Average (in terms of VO2 Max), with the right training, is well capable of breaking 8.5 hours.

    Certainly a Cat 3 rider is capable of breaking 7.5 hrs.

    7 hrs is showing some above average natual talent.

    FWIW, when tested last year after significant training, 2 weeks prior to the Etape, my VO2max was 63.0ml/K/min.

    Here's another data point for you. I was tested at 60ml/kg/min about 2yrs ago post-Etape, have trained a bit harder since, am still a lowly Cat 4 rider, but got round the Marmotte in just under 7.5hrs with a near-optimal ride. So, with good training and on a good day, pacing it just right, I think 8hrs is a realistic target for Joe Average. Since your V02 is way above Joe Average, you should be looking at under 7.5.
  • RichA wrote:
    But, presumably:
    - VO2 Max will improve with training; and
    - a Cat 4 rider could train to become a Cat 3 rider, who could train to become a Cat 2 rider.
    VO2 Max is only trainable to a limited degree. A rider with a VO2 Max of 55ml/kg/min will never become one with 70. Where you start is based largely on your parents I'm afraid.

    Fortunately, VO2 Max is not the only determinant of performance potential but let's just say a rider with a VO2Max of 60, while good, isn't going to ride the TdF. :wink:
    RichA wrote:
    I doubt I have above average talent (from a cycling/endurance point of view) but can see know reason why I am not of average natural talent. Nevertheless, this is all quite promising. Perhaps if I train (really, really hard & really, really smart) I could go sub 8, perhaps even sub 7.5 hrs? My goal had been to go for a definate Gold standard (sub 8:49), now perhaps I should be raising my aspirations...

    FWIW, when tested last year after significant training, 2 weeks prior to the Etape, my VO2max was 63.0ml/K/min.
    With that VO2 Max, if it has been accurately determined, you could readily go sub 8 IMO if you trained hard and smart. It will require dedication and consistency but definitely attainable

    It is certainly higher than my own VO2 Max. :)
  • richaricha Posts: 1,634
    genki,
    Thaty is a helpful point of reference. Also, adding you box hill time (6:25) into the mix gives ma a target to aim for. Last year I managed to get my time down to 6:46 (not been sub 8 this year!).
    So, with good training and on a good day, pacing it just right, I think 8hrs is a realistic target for Joe Average. Since your V02 is way above Joe Average, you should be looking at under 7.5.
    Sub 8hrs would be a fantastic goal - so it looks like a winter of hard training might just be on the cards...
    Rich
  • richaricha Posts: 1,634
    A little bit of analysis of my 2008 attempt looks like I will need a +25% increase in my speed on the climbs :shock: :shock:
    Rich
  • BronzieBronzie Posts: 4,927
    edited July 2008
    I think it's almost all in the training...
    No way - I could train every day all day and I'd still be mediocre at best. "You can't polish a turd" as they say!

    Andrew Bye (who sometimes posts on here) and was 9th at the Marmotte races at Elite level in the UK. I also know a guy who was top 30 at the Etape in 2002 who was of a similar standard.

    FWIW, my Marmotte time was 8-52 and my VO2 max was around 55 two years ago although I was of a similar level of fitness to now. My Marmotte was probably not ideally paced - I could perhaps shave some time off, although I doubt I'd get to sub 8-30.

    Interestingly, of the 9 guys in our party who rode it, 5 finished around 9 hours (+/- 15 mins). One (ex 2nd cat roadie and current Silver medalist at Vets MTB Enduro) managed 7-45. Another 2 were around 9-30 and the final one 10-30 although he has only been riding a bike a couple of years.
  • BronzieBronzie Posts: 4,927
    I would say that Joe Average (in terms of VO2 Max), with the right training, is well capable of breaking 8.5 hours.
    What is the VO2 Max for this Mr Average fella (ie well-trained amateur cyclist)?
  • richaricha Posts: 1,634
    Some Stats from this year's Marmotte for Riders from England:

    Total Riders from England = 659 [247 aged 30-39yrs]
    Average Time: 9hr48

    Sub 7:30 = 3% [5%]
    Sub 8:00 = 9% [15%]
    Sub 8:30 = 23% [31%]
    Sub 9:00 = 35% [42%]
    Sub 9:30 = 45% [51%]

    So, for me to get sub-8, I would have to get into the top 15% of all riders from England in my age category (30-39yrs). :shock: Not sounding quite so average...
    Rich
  • Bronzie wrote:
    I would say that Joe Average (in terms of VO2 Max), with the right training, is well capable of breaking 8.5 hours.
    What is the VO2 Max for this Mr Average fella (ie well-trained amateur cyclist)?
    As a SWAG ~55 ml/kg/min
  • RichA wrote:
    Some Stats from this year's Marmotte for Riders from England:

    Total Riders from England = 659 [247 aged 30-39yrs]
    Average Time: 9hr48

    Sub 7:30 = 3% [5%]
    Sub 8:00 = 9% [15%]
    Sub 8:30 = 23% [31%]
    Sub 9:00 = 35% [42%]
    Sub 9:30 = 45% [51%]

    So, for me to get sub-8, I would have to get into the top 15% of all riders from England in my age category (30-39yrs). :shock: Not sounding quite so average...
    Well that depends on what you are considering average. If you are comparing yourself to all comers, many of whom probably haven't really trained for the event or are simply riding to finish, enjoy the views, have multiple longish stops etc, rather than set a time, then sure, you'll need to be above average.

    But if you are talking about taking an average physiology and training it properly for an event of this type, that's a different story.
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  • synchronicitysynchronicity Posts: 1,415
    If physiology is so important, perhaps you can explain why riders of ALL statures are present in the tour de france?
  • bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
    I rode my first Marmotte this year. Beforehand I guesstimated 7:30 would be a sensible target as would be my first mass start French sportive (though done a lot in UK last year/this year).

    I asked around/posted on forums cyclosport and got lots of people telling me that this was unrealistic + lots of warnings about burning out on the Alpe etc.

    Well I rode it and did it in 7:34. I would have gone faster if I hadnt listened to the horror stories/unhelpful advice and saved too much for the Alpe. If(when) I do it again I will be going for sub 7 hours.

    My view: Its not nature/nurture that makes the difference, its your mental approach: specx:
    - believing you will succeed not fail
    - training with focus (+ admitting you need help with this)
    - having an intelligent plan for how you will ride on the day and riding to it (Kingston Wheeler advice above is good starting point)

    Back to OP I just wish someone had said to me "you wimp, 7.30 is for pansies you should be aiming to break 7 hours". I may not have done but would have done better than I did. In that spirt I would say:
    - I would agree with view above that for poster sub 8 hours is very much achievable and I would target ride on 7.30 pace.
    - The gold standard for the Marmotte is easy (30% get it) and is a realistic target for anyone who can ride a bike 120 miles.
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • Ken NightKen Night Posts: 2,005
    bahzob wrote:
    I- The gold standard for the Marmotte is easy (30% get it) and is a realistic target for anyone who can ride a bike 120 miles.



    Can "Joe" average really ride 120miles? I've given up telling non riders how far a typical sportive is, or how much climbing. Maybe with training most people could ride that distance,

    You're being overly modest. I'd suggest most people riding the Marmotte would not fall into the category of ordinary Joe, or even into the category of ordinary Joe cyclists.

    Part of the attraction of the Marmotte is that it's definitively hard-like the Fred or perhaps EDD. A test piece perhaps

    That 30% get gold, still doesn't make it easy!
    “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best..." Ernest Hemingway
  • richaricha Posts: 1,634
    Ken Night wrote:
    Can "Joe" average really ride 120miles? I've given up telling non riders how far a typical sportive is, or how much climbing. Maybe with training most people could ride that distance.
    Definately.

    "Joe" is your average sportive rider (in terms of natural physical/mental talent). And should be able to achieve 120 miles no problem with a bit of training.

    [I actually think 90% of the population could complete a moderate UK sportive with the right training]
    Rich
  • weedy1weedy1 Posts: 143

    You hear these stories for example that Indurain had an enormous heart & long femur bones, and an incredibly low resting heart rate... then later you read that most pro elite athletes have similar resting heart rates, etc.


    .............and a "medical programme"
  • richaricha Posts: 1,634
    If physiology is so important, perhaps you can explain why riders of ALL statures are present in the tour de france?
    I think it is that "physiology" (if that is the right term) is more complicated than stature. i.e. fast/slow twitch muscles, lung capacity, VO2max, etc
    Rich
  • RichA wrote:
    If physiology is so important, perhaps you can explain why riders of ALL statures are present in the tour de france?
    I think it is that "physiology" (if that is the right term) is more complicated than stature. i.e. fast/slow twitch muscles, lung capacity, VO2max, etc
    Dead on. Physical size (presuming they are lean) has little to do with it. But if your VO2 Max (measured in relative terms, i.e. per kg) ain't up there with the elite riders, then you'll never ride the TdF. Having that physiology doesn't guarantee you'll be able to either as there are many other factors but it is a necessary pre-requisite.

    It wouldn't matter how hard I train, how determined I would be, how many sacrifices I'd make, with my VO2 Max I could never compete at that level. It is a physiological limiter we are all born with.
  • nolfnolf Posts: 1,287
    I have no idea what my VO2 max would be (anywhere i can get it tested?) but I'd like to think with a lot of determination I could eventually become a CAT2 racer. If I can do that I'll be happy!
    What natural talents would you need to acheive this?
    "I hold it true, what'er befall;
    I feel it, when I sorrow most;
    'Tis better to have loved and lost;
    Than never to have loved at all."

    Alfred Tennyson
  • normanpnormanp Posts: 279
    It would be useful if the posters here could give their ages...
  • richaricha Posts: 1,634
    normanp wrote:
    It would be useful if the posters here could give their ages...
    I guess the idea of this post was to look into what an average sportive rider could achieve, so could apply if you are anywhere between 20 & 50. [For the record, I am 34]
    Rich
  • BronzieBronzie Posts: 4,927
    normanp wrote:
    It would be useful if the posters here could give their ages...
    I'm just shy of my 41st birthday
  • BronzieBronzie Posts: 4,927
    bahzob wrote:
    Back to OP I just wish someone had said to me "you wimp, 7.30 is for pansies you should be aiming to break 7 hours". I may not have done but would have done better than I did. In that spirt I would say:
    - I would agree with view above that for poster sub 8 hours is very much achievable and I would target ride on 7.30 pace.

    You finished in the top 350 overall of 5,600 finishers - by any definition, you are of above average natural ability I think to be able to achieve this.

    You beat the fastest guy in our group and he is, as I said before, current silver medalist at National Vets MTB Enduro (he's 40 also) - very similar physical requirements to riding a long sportif.
  • Ken NightKen Night Posts: 2,005
    normanp wrote:
    It would be useful if the posters here could give their ages...

    49, and finished in 8hr 43m for 1100th place last year-not fully fit

    ....about 10 mins longer than bahzob, on the Dragon Ride when a bit fitter this year

    Marmotte next year, here I come...
    “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best..." Ernest Hemingway
  • wickedwicked Posts: 844
    This is a fascinating thread guys keep those posts coming! A subject I have often wondered about, talent or training.
    It’s the most beautiful sport in the world but it’s governed by ***ts who have turned it into a crock of ****.
  • bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
    I'm 49 (which is good news as I get to move up an age category next year and can start subscribing to Saga).

    Some additonal points:
    - Think that question of "talent or training" misses the third and most important element which is "thought (positive and focussed)". My best cycling achievement was done on the back of relatively little training and I know the reason I succeeded was 90% believing I could. Fortunately I did not realise beforehand that forums like this existed and did not post to ask advice as I would guess most would have been warning me off.

    - FWIW my VO2max was 63.9 the one time I had it tested properly Sept 2006. However not sure how useful VO2max is in this context. Problem is I dont think (please correct me) there is a test that tells you what your "potential max" VO2max is. So knowing your VO2max is x today doesnt help tell you if it could be x+10% or x+25% next year if only you trained properly.. Bought a power meter start 2007 and think having that supercedes VO2max as useful measure of capability/ training progress.

    - Unless elite level/cat1 I dont think there will be much correlation between road race and Marmotte capability. (there may be more for many UK sportives where the emphasis is on repeated short sharp efforts rather than long sustained climbs)

    - If you dont have a powermeter I reckon the best predictor (and also good training) for the Marmotte are 25mile+ TTs. In a nutshell the Marmotte is pretty much the same as having to do 4 25-35 mile time trials intervals over 7-10 hours with varying recovery between. Pacing should be at 70-90% of your 25TT pace*. (Obviously there will be some scrawny guys who cant TT but can climb well and vice versa but will work for Joe Average). As a rule of thumb I would guess sub hour 25 should mean s 7-8 hour Marmotte (e.g. Kingston Wheeler above and me).

    * I did 75%, I reckon the guys right at the front do more like 90%.
    Martin S. Newbury RC
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