Racing a Monument
4 May 2017
As we finish the main part of this year’s classic races, we thought it was a good time to hear from Trek-Segafredo’s head of performance, Josu Larrazabal, and exactly what it takes to compete in one of these epic one day races. Josu and Fabio Felline have allowed Today’s Plan to share one of the unique Trek-Segafredo reports, normally reserved just for the team. Note that Fabio didn’t have heart rate data for this race.
Liège-Bastogne-Liège is one of the five “monuments”, the most prestigious and centenary classic races. It’s known as “La Doyenne” (“The Old Lady”) because being first run in 1892 is the oldest. The other four are the famous Milano-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and Giro di Lombardia.
As the name says, the race is always from Liège to Bastogne and back, in the middle of the hilly Ardennes region in Belgium. In its 103 editions has have a very similar route with the last decades of modern cycling being a race around 250km with more than 10 steep climbs between 1 and 4 kilometres long making a very selective route fitting well to riders with”punchy” climber profile suitable for those short climbs.
The 103th edition last 23rd of April had 258 km, 10 categorised climbs and the last not categorised climb to the finish in Ans (Liege), with 4,200 accumulated ascent meters. The finish time of Fabio Felline was 6h24’41’’ arriving 16th and only 14’’ behind the winner Alejandro Valverde. The average speed was 40.1 km/h, being a “go & back” route the speed depends a lot on the wind but in any case the average speed in the other Classics is usually over over 38.5 km/h.
A break of 8 riders went early from the start so the early effort in the peloton was shorter than other times, 22’@firstname.lastname@example.org km/h. With the tailwind in the first part the gap went up to 13’ quite quick. Valverde was the main favourite after a very strong start of the season and being the winner in Flèche Vallone few days before so the teams were not collaborating from the beginning with Valverde’s team Movistar in the chase but when Movistar let the gap go up to 13’ Sky and Quick-Step were “forced” to help. This late chase made the race really fast until the very end because the last rider from the early break was caught only 9km to go with last 2h over 280w average just in the wheel in the peloton.
The average power of the race was 242w (5,581 kJ), but this power is not performed in a regular effort like in a flat TT or triathlon but with many efforts over that average which makes this kind of races special and one of the hardest. For example, in the last 90 km of the race are most of the main climbs in a row without time to recover, climbs from 1 to 4 kms ridden between 350-450w depending on the length of the effort.
The riders who are able to save more energy during the whole day and specially in the last sequence of climbs are those who are able to make the difference in the last climb to Ans with a late attack or sprint, in the monuments this is only reserved to the strongest riders in the world. On his 3rd time in Liege, Fabio was 16th at the finish only 14’’ from the winner, hopefully we see him between those strongest of the world in the coming years.
The highest %s of the power curve are the 86 and 88% of the 2’ and 5’ efforts respectively. This shows which kind of race is LBL, a race for the “punchy” climbers specialist in short climbs. This high values are done in the last 2 climbs of the days, the moment for which the riders wait during the whole day. The are no high values in longer efforts (>5’) because the longest climb is only 4km, neither in efforts shorter than 1’ because after 6h30’ of race only few riders are able to do a sprint close to their best values.
The high pace and the hilly route makes the race quite hard even for the riders just “sitting” in the wheel. Whilst in a flat race most of the time would be in the <4w/kg zone, in LBL is remarkable the time ridden over 5w/kg zone (2h13’ in total). Being the longest climb about 4 km (<10’), this accumulated time is reached through many repeated efforts.