Most riders have something they feel is their strong point. Even if they don't, riding partners will still attribute something to them as their strength. We all have things we suck at too. The differences in strengths among guys I ride with have become quite apparent in the last couple weeks.
Today, Steve Gauthier, Dave Penney and I went out for a lunch ride. We didn't really have any plan for this ride, not even a route. Steve had his fixed gear and wanted a little intensity. Dave did some intensity yesterday. I was still reeling from 9hrs of racing and riding my MTB over the holiday. See where this is going yet?
The last time the three of us got together for a mid week lunch ride, we averaged 24mph. That included hills and a lot of stop lights. These rides can best be described as fartlek. Attacks from stop lights, sprints over small hills, killer pulls and bits of recovery here and there. One of my lunch ride trademarks is to string Steve and Dave out up a modest hill at very high intensity, then not let up on the power over the top. Even though my power doesn't change, the other two are not expecting a dramatic acceleration over the top. Then I relinquish the pull. I get paid back for it though.
Steve is the sprint specialist. I wouldn't be surprised if he could peak upwards of 2000W on his track bike. He is all Type-II (fast twitch) muscle fiber. On an equal basis (fresh legs), he'll gap me in humiliating fashion in anything under a minute. Anything over a couple minutes, well, he tries at least. What is most impressive is how quickly Steve's ATP battery recharges. It only takes a minute or two, and he can unleash another explosive rip-your-legs off 10 second burst. Perfect for crits, as long as he doesn't stay up front too long. His specialty is the track, where most events are very short. The only way I have the remotest chance at taking Steve in a short effort like this is to work him over good on a few big hills first, like 600ft Chestnut Hill.
Dave is the endurance specialist. Dave doesn't have the explosive power of a sprinter. Rather, he is more like a diesel. If an event goes more than several hours, few riders I know can hang with him. Dave has proven this time and again on our 6-Gaps rides. More recently, Dave unleashed his slow fury on me at the D2R2 ride. Results show he was second fastest rider completing the 112 mile route in 8:07 total elapsed time. Interestingly, he started at 6:15am, 15 minutes behind main group, yet caught us in about 75 minutes. He must have hammered. Our pack was not poking along. Towards the end of the ride, I could tell Dave was bored with my pathetic pace. He was just getting warmed up. I was a cooked krispy kritter. Dave must have both very high cycling economy (efficient calories to kilojoules conversion) and well adapted ability to burn fat during endurance events. He should really get into 24hr racing.
So then there's me. I have neither sprint legs nor all-day endurance. I have something in between. My sweet spot falls somewhere in the 5 to 60 minute range. I surmise I have developed good ability to both process and tolerate very high levels of lactic acid. Having a very high tested VOmax helps. My mother, who does not regularly exercise but cross country skis in the winter, readily outskis others that are younger and try to stay more fit. The genetic code for mitochondria are encoded on the X chromosome we inherit from our mother. Perhaps my mother is genetically blessed with copious mitochondria in her muscle tissues, and I inherited this from her. Mitochondria combusts glycogen and oxygen to make ATP, which in turn fuels muscle fiber contraction. Because my aerobic power production is quite high and my weight moderate, I'm a decent climber. In fact, climbing is really the only thing I don't suck at. I may have to give time-trialing a try though. I might find I don't suck at that too.
So now for the quiz. Can you match the riders to power vs. duration profiles in the graph? Of course you can. Steve is the blue line, kicking everybody's butt in the short distance. Dave is the red line, starts low, but drops slowly, and after 8 hours he is not loosing any power. I didn't plot Steve out to 8hrs, as I'm pretty sure he's never ridden that long. I'm green in between Steve and Dave to start, then pop out on top in my sweet 5-60 minute zone, then fall back in between Dave and Steve again after 3hrs, except now Dave is on top.
It is amazing that we can ride together at lunch at all, given the disparities in our abilities. But somehow we know each others strengths and weaknesses to a tee and we play off them. Wicked fun.