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Old 07-08-09, 12:20 PM   #1
puppypilgrim
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Climber vs. Sprinter

I'm asking because I don't know (usually in the Folding & Singlespeed forum but here for the TDF).

Why are mountains the element which separates the men from the boys? Is it because drafting (echelons and pacelines) doesn't apply here and teamwork is less a factor?

If a rider is a strong sprinter (meaning he has great power) why can't he perform well in the mountains as well?

Lastly, what makes a good climber?
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Old 07-08-09, 12:29 PM   #2
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Climbing is about sustained power to weight. Sprinting is about explosive power.
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Old 07-08-09, 12:29 PM   #3
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It takes more watts to climb, particularly if you are dragging more weight. And you have to sustain it. Good climbers are often light, but the light guys don't put out as many watts overall so they don't do as well on the flats, ie. time trials.

I could pull up a power calculator and demonstate this, but I'll let you play with one instead.

And sprinters seem to come in all sizes. You get that fast-twitch vs. slow-twitch muscle thing going.
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Old 07-08-09, 12:32 PM   #4
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Sprinters have power and "fast twitch" muscles for bursts - like the pack sprint finish. They don't have the endurance nor the "slow twitch" muscles to climb the way the skinnier riders tend to.

There are still "lead out" domestiques on the climbing stages who expend their energy pulling their team's GC guys up the mountain as long as they can, usually - but it's a much smaller group of riders doing so than in the pack sprint finishes (where the peloton tends to stay together).

On the mountain stages, you can have 3, 4, or 5 groupings as the peloton splinters completely, depending on the pace set up front and the length and steepness of the climb.
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Old 07-08-09, 12:35 PM   #5
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Any idea what the sustained heart rate on a tough climb would be compared to say an individual time trial? The reason I compare the two is that a long tough climb and an ITT are the two events which feature a solo rider.
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Old 07-08-09, 12:48 PM   #6
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Any idea what the sustained heart rate on a tough climb would be compared to say an individual time trial? The reason I compare the two is that a long tough climb and an ITT are the two events which feature a solo rider.
If you are at your limit you are at your limit, your heart doesn't care if you are in an ITT or climbing a hill...
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Old 07-08-09, 12:59 PM   #7
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Essentially 2 things are at work:

1) Speed climbing is almost completely dependent on power to weight ratio.

Speed on the flats is more dependent on power to surface volume ratio.

Thus people like Thor Husvod who's power to weight ratio is likely not that impressive (in a relative sense) can be extremley fast on the flats, but not good climbers.

2) Climbing mountains takes sustained power. Thus the common measure in looking at a climber is their functional threshold power, i.e. what power they can put out for an hour.

Sprinting takes explosive power in a short burst. Hence the common measure in looking at a sprinter is 5 second power.

It would be a very rare individual that would have an FTP equal to the top climbers, and a 5 second power equal to the top sprinters.
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Old 07-08-09, 01:15 PM   #8
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Thanks for the answers. Keep it coming guys.

Another question: Which are you likely to be more tired upon completion? An ITT or a Mountain stage?
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Old 07-08-09, 01:31 PM   #9
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The physiological difference is fast and slow twitch muscle fibres composition between riders.
In cycling, its the Ectomorph versus the Mesomorph. (google these terms for more info if you like)

If your a pro cyclist, chances are you have a large number of slow twitch muscles as it is, but the degree to which you have them differ from rider to rider. Track cyclists for example are Mesomorphs, a lot of fast twitch muscles, and it shows, they are HUGE.
Grand Tour cyclist are broken into 4 categories,
All rounders,
Climbers,
Sprinters,
and Time Trialists

The all rounders make up the main GC guys, as well as the domestiques. The GC guys are just a lot more talented. The rest are self explanatory.

To target your question a little more,
its more about power to weight ratio and psychological. Some proof is illustrated by the fact that some riders have started out as time trialists for example, or sprinters, and over years develop into somewhat of climbers.
Lance Armstrong for example, had a career before cancer, and he was not at all that brilliant a climber, he did his fair share, but was more of a "one day guy". As the propaganda would tell you, and I bring it up because it has some convenient truth to it, is that after cancer he came back a lot lighter than before, while maintaining the good part, nice strong legs. This meant his power to weight ratio was immensely better than before cancer, allowing him to stick it out with the climbers, and sometimes, even drop them.

Compare a man like Carlos Sastre to Cancellera. Carlos is a weaker man, in a race of truth (time trial), he can lose minutes on end, but when the roads turn up, advantage Sastre, because the power to weight ratio swings to his favor.

Drafting, well, it helps very slightly in mountains if at all, but barely, or should I more accurately say, the power to weight ratio thing FAR out-wieghes any mathematical advantage of drafting, (for the American readers, im not saying "there is no drafting advantage")
Obviously too, the speeds dont allow for the advantage of drafting to make a big difference.
Here is an interesting point though.
Drafting someone in the high mountains does make a difference. Contradictory? No. Because psychologically it makes a world of difference.
Proof in the pudding as an example? You know good 'ol "Big George", a man for the classics; a good all rounder. Well, a few years ago, he paced Lance up climbs, dropping and putting climbers into difficulty!! The reason is that he knew he was carrying his leader in yellow, and psychologically that gave him the will power to burn his legs and not give up, even though he really isnt meant to be a climber. So yes, team work DOES make a difference in the mountains.
Your logic about powerful riders, like sprinters has slight merit. I can use Jan Ulrich as an illustration. He had some VERY POWERFUL legs. He used his slow, powerful cadence and just deasel powered through time trials, and snapped climbers legs. He could not respond to attacks, or any explosive moves in the mountains, his power to weight ratio was against him. When climbers would attack, he just sat there and didnt even try to stand up for a violent reaction. He just used his big gear and turned it nice and steady, but ultimately, the lighter rider's power weight ratio is just too much to beat.
Realistically speaking though, psychology aside, power to weight ratio, bottom line, to answer your question.

As to why the mountains separate boys from men, well thats an easy one.

In the mountains, there really isnt a "main field" that finishes together. (apart from the groupettos, these are the groups of sprinters that finsh almost 30min behind, they just form little chit-chat groups and ride to the finish and try to make it within the cut-off elimination time, which is a certain percentage of the day's winner's time, not limited to the mountains, they have it on all stages. They just chat about girls all day and enjoy the sunshine as best as they can) So simply put, its each man for himself, and hence, each man starts to get his own time that is added up to see where he stands overall.
You will notice that in the last 3 stages that were flat, The yellow jersey and Lance position pretty much havent changed positions. (exclude the time trial). When Lance was 10th at the start of the stage, at the end of the day, he was still 10th. When he started the day 0.0 second behind yellow, he was still 0.0 second behind yellow. And im sure as you know, its because the main field more or less finishes together in a group on a flat stage, and in fact is given the same time.

Some detail on that if you are wondering what that is all about.
In fact the same time is given to everyone in the main field within the last 3km.
(if your in a second group a little behind, everyone gets the same time in that second group that separate from the first group and so on, its a group time you get) So for example, if you have 4 days in succession of flat stages, and it all group sprints, the overall GC times dont change at all. So the boys and the men stay together.
Once the road turns uphill, each man gets a separate time at the finish line so long as a second of day light is between your wheels. If you finish 3 seconds behind someone, you are not given the same time as you would in flat stages.
As you can imagine, pretty much everyone gets a different time, and so, at the end of the day, if you were tie with the yellow jersey at the beginning of the day, and you finished 3 seconds behind him, you are now 3 seconds behind overall, where as on a flat stage, if you finished 3 seconds behind the group at the line (in the group you were actually in within 3km to the finish), you get the same time. Basically, there arent much changes to people's times in flat stages, and in mountain stages pretty much everyone gets different time. So it becomes " a real race" in the mountains. And of course, the stronger man wins, provided he can climb, LOL

A little long winded and more info tan you would care for, but there it is.
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Old 07-08-09, 01:43 PM   #10
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Thanks for the answers. Keep it coming guys.

Another question: Which are you likely to be more tired upon completion? An ITT or a Mountain stage?
Thats a good one. On a purely muscle basis, its a tough call. I myself am a climber, so on a mountain stage, I would climb like there's no tomorrow. I would use gears so hard to turn so I could crack other riders both physically and psychologically while I was on the verge of cracking myself. So its only natural for me to assume the real Time Trial guys do exactly the same thing, they put an ALL OUT effort almost breaking their legs to do it, so I can imagine their legs are done for, even though its only 40km. I would lose maybe 5 min ina 40km time trial, and my legs would be "pumped" like I just did squats at the gym all day, so I cant imagine how their legs feel, after being 5min quicker! Maybe a Time trial specialist can respond

Over all though, the mountain stages are far, far, far more draining. You are talking about a good 6 to 7 hours on the bike. When I say draining, your lower back is sore, the ball of your feet are sore, the bridge of your foot is strained, your shoulders are just numb, your wrists and forearms are so tight, your fingers are crimped up, your mouth is stretched from having it open gasping for air all day for 4 hours, your eyes are sore dry and red, your dehydrated, and you cant even feel your legs really, your ribs are really sore from using your rib muscles to help force air in and out of your lungs, and your neck hurts so bad from bending it when you tuck down on the descents.
Its really just doing this for 6 hours that drains you.

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Old 07-08-09, 01:55 PM   #11
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The difference between a climber and a time trialist is the former specializes in sustained power to weight ratio, while the latter is power to drag. The former equation lends itself to improvement by reducing weight. The latter by increasing power. Hence, big guys (with low power to weight but high power to drag ratios) favor time trials while little guys (high power to weight but low power to drag) are climbers.

You'll be more tired after a mountain stage, simply because an ITT is for only roughly an hour while a mountain stage is 5-6 hours. However, the TT'ists on a flat stage in the breakaway are probably more tired than the mountain goats in a mountain stage simply because you get to go down the mountain. Whereas on a flat stage, you have to put out the power on every pedal stroke.
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Old 07-08-09, 02:39 PM   #12
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"In fact the same time is given to everyone in the main field within the last 3km."

Howzit, thanks for this critical bit of info. Although I have some knowledge of this kind of racing, I did not know this fact about racing in the flats. No wonder there isn't a huge incentive to finish outside the peloton on the flats unless you are looking for a stage win to boost your resume. Another reason why I guess the Yellow Jersey doesn't kill himself on group rides in the flat as long as the peloton stays together, the MJ cannot lose time against the other GC.

If this is true, why was it a disaster for the Contador to have been caught napping on TDF Stage 3 when a group broke away in the cross wind led by team Columbia? As long as the main peloton finished within 3 km of the break away group they are given the same no? Or since the breakaway is really a breakaway group and not the peloton, the clock keeps ticking until the 1st rider of the peloton crosses the finish line. Then everyone within 3 km of the 1st peloton rider is given the same time?

Thanks.
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Old 07-08-09, 02:41 PM   #13
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Thanks for the answers. Keep it coming guys.

Another question: Which are you likely to be more tired upon completion? An ITT or a Mountain stage?
Have in mind that ITT are ridden over short distances sometimes as little as 5 miles where as mountain stages typically last few hours to complete. I think there's little doubt where you will be more exhausted upon finish.
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Old 07-08-09, 02:46 PM   #14
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Thank you very much everyone. I am gaining a much better appreciation for the sport by understanding it. Obviously I have never been a racer so I cannot picture what these athletes go through during a race. I golf and frankly I don't consider it an athletic event. Any sport where you can smoke a cigar and drink a beer while performing its activity can't be considered athletic

I am amazed these athletes can keep going day after day at such sustained paces for a few weeks. Unreal.. I have sustained 50 km/h on the flats once -- with my electrically assisted cycle. I cannot imagine doing that on the flats solely on self-generated power.
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Old 07-08-09, 02:49 PM   #15
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In fact the same time is given to everyone in the main field within the last 3km.
Not exactly. Everyone in a group (however the commisaires choose to define that) at the finish is given the same time. If the field splits into multiple groups, each group is given the time of the lead rider of that group. Only if a rider or riders have a mishap in the final 3 km, those riders get the same time as the group they were in at the time of the mishap. It is perfectly possible to lose time in the final 3 km. In fact there's a very good chance we'll see it happen tomorrow (Friday).
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Old 07-08-09, 03:01 PM   #16
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"In fact the same time is given to everyone in the main field within the last 3km."...
If this is true, why was it a disaster for the Contador to have been caught napping on TDF Stage 3 when a group broke away in the cross wind led by team Columbia? As long as the main peloton finished within 3 km of the break away group they are given the same no? Or since the breakaway is really a breakaway group and not the peloton, the clock keeps ticking until the 1st rider of the peloton crosses the finish line. Then everyone within 3 km of the 1st peloton rider is given the same time?

Thanks.
You're misinterpreting the rule.

If you are with the main group with less than 3 km to go, and you are disadvantaged by a crash or mechanical problem, and you then, still manage to finish, you will be credited with the same time as the group you were with.

On stage 3, the split in groups developed with over 3km to go, so it wasn't covered by the rule.

Similarly, if you were riding with the main group at 3 km to go, and you got tired with 2 km to go, and then finished behind that group, you do not get given credit for their time. The separation has to be the result of a mechanical, or an accident in order to count.

The "group" is defined as consisting of riders who cross the line without being broken by a 2 bicycle length gap. If this happens, all the riders in any successive group are given the same time as the first rider in their group.
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Old 07-08-09, 03:18 PM   #17
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The "group" is defined as consisting of riders who cross the line without being broken by a 2 bicycle length gap.
But if you ever watch a long overhead shot of the finish, you'll see this has a very broad interpretation. Cavendish on Stage 2 being one example.
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Old 07-08-09, 05:12 PM   #18
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Yes, you misinterpreted the rule.

The main point I was making is that if the main field finish together, they are all given the same time. On flat stages, it is usually likely that the field finishes together, so in most cases, flat stages dont affect GC times, or at least, GC contenders dont look at flat stages as "a day to challenge" each other.

The whole 3 second thing was just a detailed part of how the field is given the same time on a flat stage. And its not if they finish with 3km of each other, what I meant was, if the field was within 3km to the finish THEN the rule is in effect. If the bunch splits up 10km to go, they are given separate times.
If half the bunch goes the wrong way around a turn or something with 2km to go (its within 3km to the finish), they are given the same time as the main group that went the right way. Like others have chimed in, if something happens to delay someone with 3km to go, they are given the same time as the bunch.

So stage 3 was still crucial, because there were 2 bunches, that would get two separate times at the finish. So Cantador lost time in the second group, to Lance who was in the first.
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Old 07-08-09, 05:39 PM   #19
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Yes, you misinterpreted the rule.

The main point I was making is that if the main field finish together, they are all given the same time. On flat stages, it is usually likely that the field finishes together, so in most cases, flat stages dont affect GC times, or at least, GC contenders dont look at flat stages as "a day to challenge" each other.

The whole 3 second thing was just a detailed part of how the field is given the same time on a flat stage. And its not if they finish with 3km of each other, what I meant was, if the field was within 3km to the finish THEN the rule is in effect. If the bunch splits up 10km to go, they are given separate times.
If half the bunch goes the wrong way around a turn or something with 2km to go (its within 3km to the finish), they are given the same time as the main group that went the right way. Like others have chimed in, if something happens to delay someone with 3km to go, they are given the same time as the bunch.

So stage 3 was still crucial, because there were 2 bunches, that would get two separate times at the finish. So Cantador lost time in the second group, to Lance who was in the first.
incorrect. The 3k to go rule only applies to riders who crash or maybe have a mechanical (not sure about that). If the group splits anywhere short of the finish line because a gap opens up, then the two groups are given separate times. It is not uncommon for a sprint to cause a split in the bunch in the last half km and a handful of seconds to be lost. Now if a group is split because of a crash, then they are given the same time. If someone (or a group) goes around a turn the wrong way, then they are SOL.

Really, the rule is there only for crashes. I'm not even sure it applies to mechanicals. It's Europe too, so some of this is left up to the judge's discretion (as opposed to the US where the rulebook has to cover each and every permutation).
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Old 07-08-09, 05:45 PM   #20
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But if you ever watch a long overhead shot of the finish, you'll see this has a very broad interpretation. Cavendish on Stage 2 being one example.
Correct, but that's the official rule.
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Old 07-08-09, 05:50 PM   #21
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incorrect. The 3k to go rule only applies to riders who crash or maybe have a mechanical (not sure about that). If the group splits anywhere short of the finish line because a gap opens up, then the two groups are given separate times. It is not uncommon for a sprint to cause a split in the bunch in the last half km and a handful of seconds to be lost. Now if a group is split because of a crash, then they are given the same time. If someone (or a group) goes around a turn the wrong way, then they are SOL.

Really, the rule is there only for crashes. I'm not even sure it applies to mechanicals. It's Europe too, so some of this is left up to the judge's discretion (as opposed to the US where the rulebook has to cover each and every permutation).
Exactly,
and Im saying the judges will give them the same time.
Riders are not allowed to pace cars either, but they do it all day.
You cannot take on board water and food with 20km to go either, but judges dont fret that stuff.

Like someone mentioned, the literal rule book, and the applied rules are slightly different.

Anyway, I think we all agree as to what the rule is, give or take judges discretion.
The point was that the field gets the same time, so GC contenders finish with the same time.
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Old 07-08-09, 09:07 PM   #22
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Gotcha all. Cannot wait till tomorrow's race.
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