What were the power numbers, power in zones and cadence distribution for a male U23 and women elite rider at the danish gravel nationals last weekend. Looking into the race data might give you an better idea of the physical demands of gravel racing!
In the following we will look at power data from 2 riders (men U23 and women elite), who finished 2nd and 5th in their classes respectively. As the riders competed in different classes the length of the race will differ, but they both competed on the same course, completing a certain number of laps, so the overall work demands set by the route and terrain is the same.
Men U23 rider - 2nd place
3h30min - 121km/+600m - Avg power 296W /normalized power 338W /avg RPM 89
Below you will find a chart showing how much time of the race, the rider did spent in the different power zones (based on A. Coggangs Power Zones).
Power By Zones
From the chart it is quite clear to see that power data is spread out on all zones with the following distribution.
Zone 1: Time 1:00:59 / 29 % of race time.
Zone 2: Time 0:41:12 / 20 % of race time.
Zone 3: Time 0:34:20 / 17 % of race time.
Zone 4: Time 0:26:26 / 13 % of race time.
Zone 5: Time 0:17:58 / 9 % of race time.
Zone 6: Time 0:26:33 / 13 % of race time.
This indicates that the race has been taxing all energy systems, and a lot of high intensity zone 5 and 6 work has been required.
The chart shows how cadence has been allocated during the race within ranges of 5 RPM. As you can see a lot of pedaling has been done at cadences 85-90, 90-95 and 95-100 RPM respectively 15 %, 24 % and 25 % of total pedaling time. An indication of a fairly fast race on a flatter route. The latter allowing to keep a high and smooth cadence.
Further there's a tendency to some low cadence work around 40-45, 45-50 and 50-55 RPM.
Women Elite - 5th place
4h43min - 141km/+700m - avg power 199W /normalized power 222W /avg RPM 80
Once again it's quite clear to see that power data is spread out on all zones, with the following distribution.
Power By Zones
Compared to the U23 rider a bit more time is spent in zone 1 and 2 and less time in 5 and 6. This most likely is due to a longer race distance /121 vs 141 km) and duration (3h30min vs 4h43min). Further this women elite rider was riding in a group most of the race time, whereas the U23 rider spend quite some time on his own or with only one other rider. Thus, more time most likely has been spent drafting and coasting for the women elite rider.
But the overall trend of allocation of race time in each zone is the same.
Zone 1: Time 1:38:52 / 35 % of race time.
Zone 2: Time 01:13:37 / 26 % of race time.
Zone 3: Time 0:45:43 / 16 % of race time.
Zone 4: Time 0:28:14 / 10 % of race time.
Zone 5: Time 0:16:50 / 6 % of race time.
Zone 6: Time 0:19:40 / 7 % of race time.
So, how was the cadence distribution for the women elite rider?
As you can see a lot of pedaling has been done at the cadences 75-80, 80-85 and 85-95 RPM respectively 15 %, 21 % and 19 % of total pedaling time. So a small swift downwards in RPM distribution for the women elite rider compared to the U23 rider (RPM 75-90 vs. 85-100). This is considered to be a consequence of their riding style, as same trends are seen in their training data. Although, this is still an overall good indication of a fast race on a flatter course.
Again there's a clear tendency to some low cadence work. This time around around 35-40, 40-45 and 45-50 RPM.
So, to sum up on the data from the two riders, the main takeaways are:
The gravel race did stress all energy systems, with a relative high percentage of total race time spent in power zones 5 and 6. A clear indication that apart from the strong endurance base (zone 2 and 3 work) needed to compete in a longer gravel race, the ability to put in high intensity efforts taxing VO2max and the anaerobic capacity, is of major importance and decisive for race performance.
Further a riders capacity at intensities around the anaerobic threshold (zone 4 riding) also plays a big part in gravel race performance.
Trends in cadence data shows that the race did allow for a normal overall cadence distribution, with lots of pedaling time at cadences around 85-95 RPM.
Further low cadence work around 50 RPM is needed at some point. Most likely in relation to periods requiring high force-low cadence efforts, when accelerating from low speed or overcoming 'tough terrain and demanding surfaces' (steep climbs, loose gravel, mud, sand, and the like)
In a coming blog post we will cover how to train for gravel racing, to meet the specific physical demands!