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Why is it easier to wheel suck on a climb?

bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
edited August 2010 in Training, fitness and health
Never really understood this. In the TDF just passed on one mountain stage Jens Voigt was in a breakaway that was in the process of being caught by the main bunch on a long climb. Once overtaken, despite being knackered, he immediately put in an other big effort to pull Andy Shleck for as long as he was able. (Jens being Jens he did this with 110% effort for which Andy was no doubt grateful)

This just goes to show that even the greatest cyclists seem to find it easier not to be first on a climb and think it's pretty common to find it less tough to follow a wheel rather than be followed or ride solo.

And I g/uess many of us will have experienced being close to cracking, seeing a wheel go by, locking on to it and suddenly getting a second lease of life.

But why is this? I guess drag might be a factor at the speed the pros climb but didnt think it would be so at the sort of pace we ride at.

Anybody help? Any studies been done to show physical/physiological benefit of wheel sucking up a climb? Or is it just in the head?
Martin S. Newbury RC

Posts

  • PokerfacePokerface Posts: 7,960
    Even at slow speeds, drafting off someone can save you energy. Plus you can't see how strong the headwind might be when watching on TV!

    And, as you say- the psychological boost of having a wheel to follow is a big deal. It's a LOT easier to 'give up' on a climb when you're on your own. But a little easier when you don't want to look foolish if one of your mates is leading you up the hill and you don't want to get dropped.
  • rc856rc856 Posts: 1,140
    There have been plenty of times when all I've been able to do is sit on my mates wheel!
    Could survive like that but didn't feel that I had the energy sit at the front, even though we were going at the same speed!
  • bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
    RC856 wrote:
    There have been plenty of times when all I've been able to do is sit on my mates wheel!
    Could survive like that but didn't feel that I had the energy sit at the front, even though we were going at the same speed!

    Yes exactly. But how come?
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
    In trying to answer my own question I've gone back to last years Marmotte and final climb up the ADH.

    I vividly remember feeling weaker the longer the climb went on. Then just at the moment I was feeling lowest I got overtaken by a rider from Coventry, my home town. I took this as a sign, latched onto his wheel, got a new lease of life and finished strong.

    I was using a powermeter and the trace shows pretty much what happened.
    - An adrenaline fueled rush up the first couple of hairpins
    - Followed by a slow decline in power to a moment of crisis 3/4 into the climb
    - Then the wheel passes, hook on and finish strong

    Regards my question, the 10 mins before I sucked I manged 220W. 10 mins after I was doing 245W. But in terms of toughness these second 10 mins felt easier because I could forget my suffering and concentrate on something else.

    So I guess the double whammy of having something external to focus on plus some extra competition fueled adrenaline is what makes it easier to follow than be followed or ride solo.


    358f93134880b7996ddedc4ab38089235g.jpg
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • PokerfacePokerface Posts: 7,960
    Same reason why you always seem to go faster when racing a TT than just training for one. Mental focus, adrenaline, etc.
  • freehubfreehub Posts: 4,257
    I think it's easier to wheel suck on climbs because you're going slower and at a more consistent effort. I though never usually wheel suck, I just try get to the top first and claim KOM :lol:
  • ProssPross Posts: 31,674
    Pokerface wrote:
    Same reason why you always seem to go faster when racing a TT than just training for one. Mental focus, adrenaline, etc.

    Also, when you get caught in a TT even though you can't actually draft you can often hold the rider at 20m or so for a while. I think it just helps you concentrate on something other than how hard it is.
  • rc856rc856 Posts: 1,140
    bahzob wrote:
    RC856 wrote:
    There have been plenty of times when all I've been able to do is sit on my mates wheel!
    Could survive like that but didn't feel that I had the energy sit at the front, even though we were going at the same speed!

    Yes exactly. But how come?

    Just a mental thing that I can't seem to control!
    It's the same when I'm running. I think I'm going as fast as I can until someone goes past or comes alongside and shouts that I can go faster!!
  • dennisndennisn Posts: 10,585
    Pokerface wrote:

    And, as you say- the psychological boost of having a wheel to follow is a big deal. It's a LOT easier to 'give up' on a climb when you're on your own. But a little easier when you don't want to look foolish if one of your mates is leading you up the hill and you don't want to get dropped.

    +1.. it's sort of like getting dropped off the back in a crit. You just seem to lose something(desire, will power, mental attitude).
  • sampras38sampras38 Posts: 1,917
    I would say it's probably more of a mental thing, at least it is in my own experience. If you're climbing a particularly hard hill with nobody in front of you, you have to keep looking ahead and stay motivated. If you suck someone's wheel you have less to think about. Just keep your eye on the wheel and pedal. And as long as the rider in front is around the same ability, you let them control the pace.

    A mate of mine was sucking my wheel last month when we were racing each other up Alp Duez,and he was only able to stay at my pace when he was on my wheel. Once we got seperated and he had to ride alone, he struggled.
  • stonehousestonehouse Posts: 222
    Your brain is starting to slow you down, it actually makes you feel like you are more tired than you actually are. I guess it's the brain's way of making sure that you don't completely run out of energy. Plus you must have had the experience of stopping on a step climb, getting your breath back and continuing and thinking " why did I stop, this doesn't feel so bad, until you blow up again that is. The respite of getting on anothers wheel and "overriding" the brain can be a powerful thing.
  • SeanosSeanos Posts: 301
    bahzob wrote:
    Never really understood this. In the TDF just passed on one mountain stage Jens Voigt was in a breakaway that was in the process of being caught by the main bunch on a long climb. Once overtaken, despite being knackered, he immediately put in an other big effort to pull Andy Shleck for as long as he was able. (Jens being Jens he did this with 110% effort for which Andy was no doubt grateful)
    In this example didn't Jens deliberately wait for Schleck, thus getting a bit of a breather before hauling him up the mountain?
  • Bahzob, your interpretation of the plot of power as a function of time is not right. Your average power before and after grabbing the wheel may differ by 20 or so watts (around 10% of your power) but the variability of the trace suggests that this difference in the mean is not significantly different (i.e. what is the error on that average?). You can see a surge where you grabbed the wheel, but other than that there is very little difference in your power output.
  • bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
    Seanos wrote:
    bahzob wrote:
    Never really understood this. In the TDF just passed on one mountain stage Jens Voigt was in a breakaway that was in the process of being caught by the main bunch on a long climb. Once overtaken, despite being knackered, he immediately put in an other big effort to pull Andy Shleck for as long as he was able. (Jens being Jens he did this with 110% effort for which Andy was no doubt grateful)
    In this example didn't Jens deliberately wait for Schleck, thus getting a bit of a breather before hauling him up the mountain?

    Didnt make myself clear here. Point wasnt about Jens Voight's performance. It was the fact that Andy Schleck found this helpful. As you say Jens "hauled him up the mountain".

    That's my question. We all agree he "hauled him" albeit for a short while. But how did he haul him? What precisely was the benefit to the best climber in the tour of following the wheel of a close to knackered team mate?
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
    Bahzob, your interpretation of the plot of power as a function of time is not right. Your average power before and after grabbing the wheel may differ by 20 or so watts (around 10% of your power) but the variability of the trace suggests that this difference in the mean is not significantly different (i.e. what is the error on that average?). You can see a surge where you grabbed the wheel, but other than that there is very little difference in your power output.

    No i'm right. You just need to see the bigger picture.

    The climb took a total of 65 minutes.The 5 min bucket W avg before I grabbed the wheel were.
    297 280 258 254 246 232 243 239 229 213

    Post grab the 5 minute buckets to end were.
    246 244 246

    Before being overtaken I was working as hard as I thought I could but nonetheless my output was heading in one direction and that was down.

    Grabbing the wheel reversed this trend completely which makes it very significant.
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • I don't think so. Like I said there's huge variability there, i.e. your 5 min averages of ~245 have a range of >60 watts as do your averages of ~230. Looking at the big picture, your power is indeed coming down but then hits a plateau. Apart from the blip where you grabbed the guys wheel, it stays at this plateau. I would suggest that there is a big psychological component to this, but I don't think your power figures are a compelling argument for a physiological component. Of course you're welcome to interpret this how you like.
  • Simon NotleySimon Notley Posts: 1,263
    Bahzob, your interpretation of the plot of power as a function of time is not right. Your average power before and after grabbing the wheel may differ by 20 or so watts (around 10% of your power) but the variability of the trace suggests that this difference in the mean is not significantly different (i.e. what is the error on that average?). You can see a surge where you grabbed the wheel, but other than that there is very little difference in your power output.

    A good thought, but I think in this case it is your interpretation of the idea of error and significance that might be incorrect. You have assumed that the variations in the power line purely represent inaccuracy in the power measurement and therefore are indicative of the error in this measurement. If this was the case, then you would be right in suggesting that the observed change in average power is not large enough to infer a true change (i.e. there is a reasonable probability that the change was down to a coincidental series of over-estimates from the meter)

    However, IMO the variations in the power trace are probably genuine variations in power output rather than random error from the power meter (that must be one rubbish power meter if it is measurement error). If we assume that the measurement is actually perfect, then the average will be perfect (whether average power is meaningful is a seperate physical/physiological question) regardless of whether the individual measurements are variable or not. therefore, any change, no matter how small is significant.

    In reality of course, the shape of the line will be due to a combination of genuine changes and random error. However, I suspect that the former is considerable greater than the latter, particularly over the timescale shown in this graph and therefore the change probably is significant. To be sure, we'd need to look at the variability of the reading whilst holding power constant. this would give us a valid estimate of the accuracy of the meter and allow us to quantify the significance of the observed change.[/i]
  • amaferangaamaferanga Posts: 6,789
    I don't think so. Like I said there's huge variability there, i.e. your 5 min averages of ~245 have a range of >60 watts as do your averages of ~230. Looking at the big picture, your power is indeed coming down but then hits a plateau. Apart from the blip where you grabbed the guys wheel, it stays at this plateau. I would suggest that there is a big psychological component to this, but I don't think your power figures are a compelling argument for a physiological component. Of course you're welcome to interpret this how you like.

    I have no idea what you are trying to say here or who you are debating with :?

    Most power meters have a claimed accuracy of +/-2.5%. There IS a difference in the trace pre/post. Whatever the cause, there IS a physiological change pre/post.
    More problems but still living....
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