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Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some basic math)
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George and Lance had Frank Schleck on The Move podcast the other day and they were talking about the varying degree of prep for the Tour de France due to variation in lockdowns between countries. Their rough consensus is you can't get in race shape no matter how much Zwift you do.

They briefly touched on, "can't imagine spending that much time on a trainer", but I think there is a physiological reason why a protour rider cannot get in shape on a trainer, whereas you and I can.

The problem is their massive FTP and watts per kilo.

For every watt that goes mechanically to the trainer from our legs, there are roughly 4 watts of heat generated. So this is how the match goes.

Let's say Nairo's Quintana is riding at say 70% FTP. If his FTP is around 6W per kilo (I don't know exactly what it is, but close enough), then 70% is 4.2Watts per kilo.

Now let's translate that. He ONLY weighs around 58 kilos, so when he is cruising, he is riding at 240W. Which means he is generating 960watts of heat.

This is Nairo basically doing no work. If he does any quality, and ratchets it up to 5W per kilo, he is generating another 250W per heat so now he's hovering at 1200W of heat...if he goes at FTP he's getting close to 1500W of heat.

This is a tiny guy like Quintana. Once we get to the 70kilo riders, at 100% FTP they are generating 1700W of heat.

So basically a protour level rider can never get tot he intensity levels as outdoors while indoors because there is not enough cooling. So until they can get outdoors they just can't do enough intensity without overheating. Thus all the guys stuck on trainers, came out of lockdown out of race shape. They can get in shape just not race shape like the Slovenians who could train as much as they wanted outdoors (same with Colombians).

I think Rappstar alluded to this a while ago that age groupers could get in shape for the level of performance we have to, but pros training exclusively indoors can never get to their real high end. Maybe for Ironman level pros its not the end of the world but for protour riders (or even ITU), there is more fitness to be had outdoor training.
Last edited by: devashish_paul: Sep 14, 20 21:23
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some answers) [devashish_paul] [ In reply to ]
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Interesting theory, gonna have to watch this thread as it plays out as I'm very interested. I am pretty much riding only indoors these days (don't worry, I do road races every once in a while, my handling skills are decent) and I kind of dread the ramp up to an IM next year, if they happen.

808 > NYC > PDX
2020 Races?: Nope.
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some answers) [devashish_paul] [ In reply to ]
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Matthew Hayman: coughs.
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some answers) [MattyK] [ In reply to ]
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MattyK wrote:
Matthew Hayman: coughs.

Sanders
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some basic math) [devashish_paul] [ In reply to ]
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Not sure I buy the heat argument, (don’t these guys have AC?) but I do think that guys coming in with just indoor riding are at a disadvantage, simply because riding on a trainer is not like riding on the road. You aren’t putting out power while navigating the road and other riders, dealing with different surfaces, cornering, all of the random changes in terrain, wind and rain, etc. Plus sprinting on a trainer just sucks. It’s not like sprinting on the road at all.

Aside from that, it’s just easier and more enjoyable to do the kms outside.

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Last edited by: JasoninHalifax: Sep 14, 20 21:44
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some basic math) [JasoninHalifax] [ In reply to ]
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JasoninHalifax wrote:
Not sure I buy the heat argument, (don’t these guys have AC?) but I do think that guys coming in with just indoor riding are at a disadvantage, simply because riding on a trainer is not like riding on the road. You aren’t putting out power while navigating the road and other riders, dealing with different surfaces, cornering, all of the random changes in terrain, wind and rain, etc. Plus sprinting on a trainer just sucks. It’s not like sprinting on the road at all.

Aside from that, it’s just easier and more enjoyable to do the kms outside.

I also don't buy the heat argument (larger amateurs put out similar watts to the small pro's with way worse (heat) efficiency)... I've even heard that some of the Spanish/Italian/Slovenian guys train outside in the heat without issues :-)
Think boredom could def. become an issue ... Uber Pretzel will get old real soon after doing that ride each day.
However I did find for myself that I've never been stronger than after last winter/spring with all Zwift rides and races, so if you can handle the hours it will def. build the fitness ... for anyone
ps, was actually quite fun to see some of the guys in the tour that I encountered in the Zwift races during spring (maybe the Zwift racing did help a little as I saw Pierre Rolland in a long breakaway last weekend :-D )
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some basic math) [devashish_paul] [ In reply to ]
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I don’t buy that either. I’m obviously far from a pro rider, but controlling the temp inside and using enough fans certainly allows me to replicate outdoor riding. Indoor humidity is what really kills me over the summer months. However, if you could set up a room with lower humidity, temp & good cooling with fans there is no reason it couldn’t work. I think the real issue comes down to volume. Pro riders often spend 25-35 hours a week on a bike. That would certainly be harder inside in terms of mental fatigue on a trainer vs riding outside.

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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some basic math) [devashish_paul] [ In reply to ]
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Where did you get the 20% efficiency figure for the human cycling power output?

I don't know for a fact whether your heat figures hold water or not, but they seem way too high to me. Under normal circumstances, not training, I'd consider a figure of about 100W reasonable for heat contribution from an occupant in a room. I have no problem accepting that will go up dramatically when working hard, but by a factor of 10-20? I'd love to see the data.

Regardless, I don't accept that this is an insurmountable problem even if your figures are accurate. All you need is a 1-2kW AC (depending on the real heat figures) to cool the room, and plenty airflow over the rider, which just requires fans. This is not such a big roadblock.

Besides, I weigh about 84kg and can manage to ride the trainer at steady state 270W+ without overheating with just fans and an ambient temp of ~20C. If my pretty basic setup is sufficient to keep me cool despite a significant insulating layer of fat, then the smaller riders shouldn't be in too much trouble with a few big fans and an AC unit.
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some basic math) [Ai_1] [ In reply to ]
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I don't know the math behind humans producing heat but I think Dev was eluding to the ~4 to 1 calorie burn. That would be 1 part of the energy going into the trainer - keeping the body alive and 3 parts going to heat or stored. The heat from the trainer might be released into the room but how much of the other 3 parts would take an expert to answer.

A standard small frame window air conditioner is 10,000 BTU or about 2.9 KW so I also don't think cooling is a problem for one person.

Put 8 people in that room then you'll need more but then you'd probably be in an indoor studio designed for riding and paid for within the team's budget.
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some basic math) [JasoninHalifax] [ In reply to ]
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JasoninHalifax wrote:
Not sure I buy the heat argument, (don’t these guys have AC?) but I do think that guys coming in with just indoor riding are at a disadvantage, simply because riding on a trainer is not like riding on the road. You aren’t putting out power while navigating the road and other riders, dealing with different surfaces, cornering, all of the random changes in terrain, wind and rain, etc. Plus sprinting on a trainer just sucks. It’s not like sprinting on the road at all.

Aside from that, it’s just easier and more enjoyable to do the kms outside.

You aren’t using your upper body either. Over an hour or two ride it’s no big deal but multiple days in a row, up and down mountains, that part of your body will be out of shape too leading to bike handling being more difficult.

I mean think about how sore your neck is the first few times you ride a Tri bike outside. Any excess fatigue is rough for this long of a race.

-----------------------------------------------------------
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Formerly Draketriathlon
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some basic math) [devashish_paul] [ In reply to ]
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Pro road cyclists need to be able to function well as a team and be capable of not only being fit, but also working together to pull off race tactics to set rides up to be in the right place and the right time with fresh legs.
You don't develop those skill alone on an indoor trainer.
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some basic math) [jaretj] [ In reply to ]
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jaretj wrote:
I don't know the math behind humans producing heat but I think Dev was eluding to the ~4 to 1 calorie burn. That would be 1 part of the energy going into the trainer - keeping the body alive and 3 parts going to heat or stored. The heat from the trainer might be released into the room but how much of the other 3 parts would take an expert to answer.

A standard small frame window air conditioner is 10,000 BTU or about 2.9 KW so I also don't think cooling is a problem for one person.

Put 8 people in that room then you'll need more but then you'd probably be in an indoor studio designed for riding and paid for within the team's budget.
Ah right, yes I agree that taking a nutrition based calorie requirement rule of thumb, and extrapolating that to heat output during a training session, seems like a significant over-simplification.
I'm curious as to the real heat output typical during such sessions but regardless, as you say, an air conditioner should be able to deal with the room temperature and sufficient fans can deal with ventilation. It could get a little noisy but it shouldn't be insurmountable.
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some basic math) [JasoninHalifax] [ In reply to ]
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JasoninHalifax wrote:
Not sure I buy the heat argument, (don’t these guys have AC?) but I do think that guys coming in with just indoor riding are at a disadvantage, simply because riding on a trainer is not like riding on the road. You aren’t putting out power while navigating the road and other riders, dealing with different surfaces, cornering, all of the random changes in terrain, wind and rain, etc. Plus sprinting on a trainer just sucks. It’s not like sprinting on the road at all.

Aside from that, it’s just easier and more enjoyable to do the kms outside.

I thought the "road feel" feature on Zwift with the Neo and the new Elite steering system took care of most of this??
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some basic math) [devashish_paul] [ In reply to ]
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You can certainly simulate the training load needed to optimize your fitness on an indoor trainer set up. No question in my mind. Obviously pro level bike racers also better spend some time out racing in the real world because they need to incredible bike handling skills to augment fitness. Its not an issue to cool yourself as long as you are not training in a sauna and have a good fan. If you take the fan away - yes you cant generate the watts because your body cant cool itself.

I agree with your math Dev - but fans and cool room will simulate outdoors.

Michael Hay - helped on the journey by the great folks at Rudy Project, Blue Seventy, Xterra, Kestrel and GURU (for the custom fit), Brooks, and Bialkowlski's TRYSPORT
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some basic math) [devashish_paul] [ In reply to ]
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Agree with your idea but not so much your heat argument.

Mentally I doubt you can replicate those bug steep mountain climbs on a trainer mo matter how well replicated on Zwift Rouvy etc.

Motivation is another factor as highlighted by Geraint Thomas.

The lack of racing is also a big factor

How many tour riders have been consigned to indoors only in last 6 months ?
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some answers) [Titanflexr] [ In reply to ]
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Titanflexr wrote:
MattyK wrote:
Matthew Hayman: coughs.

Sanders

Who Sanders?
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some basic math) [devashish_paul] [ In reply to ]
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Dev

I don’t think we even need all your fancy math to get on board with your theory. Seems like common sense that relying exclusively on one type of training is not the best way to maximize fitness for a pro rider.
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some basic math) [DFW_Tri] [ In reply to ]
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DFW_Tri wrote:
Dev

I don’t think we even need all your fancy math to get on board with your theory. Seems like common sense that relying exclusively on one type of training is not the best way to maximize fitness for a pro rider.

Agreed.

If anything it shows that Seiler is correct and the top athletes in the world spend a lots of hours training but a very small percentage of their time at high intensity. Trying to cram more intensity into less hours on a trainer does not work for most.
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some basic math) [devashish_paul] [ In reply to ]
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I will be counter to most here and agree with the heat theory. Of course my n=1 experience of indoor riding, in the winter, with the heater off and the windows open, fan blowing, and I can still raise the temperature and humidity (sweat has to go somewhere) in the room. Perhaps the only way to get around it would be riding on the patio in the winter after a strong cold front. It is also the same reason why I take a nosedive in power in the summer - Gulf Coast with its heat and humidity means most of the heat transfer is through non-convective means, so an entirely less efficient mode of heat transfer. So what happens? My internals get hotter, body works harder trying to keep me thermally regulated, and less power to the cranks. Come winter with cool, dry air, and magically I get 10-15% more power. No voodoo, just physics and physiology.

You can't underestimate the power of convective cooling. Waste heat is a real b$tch to reject. We have it much easier than those freaks of nature who do have 6 W/kg and above FTPs.
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some answers) [Titanflexr] [ In reply to ]
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You really think Sanders would be able to last the duration of a Grand Tour?
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some basic math) [tigermilk] [ In reply to ]
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We're making a comparison in early posts to a triathlete who probably has dedicated space and setup to doing work indoors versus guys who pretty much would normally refuse to ride indoors but suddenly have to cobble something together. That's a bit disingenuous to go "cough Sanders".

Most ST posters probably have better setups to ride indoors than most of those WT pros have.

Also, while Zwift is a lot better than a dumb trainer both mentally and physically (replicating terrain).........it's still not genuine. I still find that outdoors the terrain dictates more changes in output than indoors. Zwift's planet Earth having a less jagged profile.

To an extent, I would imagine this makes the game environment more workable, more enjoyable for most than a much more "zawtoothed" profile of land. Also, no matter how accurate the mapping of the real world stuff..........it's not going to be so accurate as to take care of every little 1' perturbation in the road. That adds up in real life.

Lastly, in the TdF those guys are doing something like the Alpe up to 3 or 4 times PER STAGE as climbs. The routes are like..........rolling, intermediate sprint, Cat 3, Cat 2, Cat 4, intermediate sprint, Cat 1, HC, finish. And.....repeat tomorrow.
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some basic math) [Ai_1] [ In reply to ]
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The issue is not around age groupers who are large who generate equivalent heat to a small pro. The issue is age groupers can give away 1 percent or 2 percent of fitness, whereas a pro cannot.

I definitely agree that you need race miles, but riding up an HC climb has nothing to do with bike handling. Sitting on Roglic and WvA wheel is simply an issue of sustainable watts per kilo. In any case, if you're lacking the absolute top end because you can't do it due to trainer heat buildout (and most pros don't have the set up most of us age groupers have for indoor training because normally they don't do a lot of this.

Keep in mind that a 60 kilo pro with a 6 watts per kilo FTP generates roughly as much heat at FTP as a 102 kilo age grouper with a 3.5W per kilo FTP and their bodies have less surface area for cooling that heat (radiant heat). So just physics wise the cooling is not as straight forward for a high wattage pro as for larger age groupers due to the concentration of heat buildup in a smalller body.
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some basic math) [tigermilk] [ In reply to ]
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Quote:
You can't underestimate the power of convective cooling.

You keep saying convective. However, I'm pretty sure you mean evaporative.

Convection is the exchange of heat by physical movement (eg, airflow).
Evaporation is the exchange of heat through the change of state (eg, water converting from liquid to gas).

Correctly stated, and your intended point:

You can't underestimate the power of evaporative cooling.

A window unit AC system can remove the heat in a room even at the pro rates without much trouble. They also work as a dehumidifier.
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some basic math) [devashish_paul] [ In reply to ]
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Take this from a real-world hvac engineer, your analysis as presented is incomplete. The heat generated in the space by the human (whether it is 1.7kW as Quintana or say 2.4 kW from a bigger guy), a decently sized fan with high CFM will very likely create enough convective heat transfer (don't have enough time to pull out my Incropera heat transfer book) to dissipate from skin to the space.

The most important and missing puzzle is what happens to this latent and sensible heat convected from the skin into the space. Let's just say you have a 2 ton AC in your house and you are not in the middle of July, or there is enough cold air in winter in the space to dampen some of the Joules (i.e. watts outputted over a certain amount of time) or enough skin losses in the building envelop, then the fan will see a constant influx of cold air and keep the cyclist cool assuming there is enough fan CFM. On the contrary, if you are locked in a room with no AC or any source of cooling to the air, yes, any cyclist will eventually overheat as the dry and wet bulb of the space increases (humans dissipate both sensible and latent heat, I will remove the psychrometric analysis for simplicity, but humidity and the AC system latent heat removal capacity is also important)

I am not sure about heat generation values in humans, but imagine you have a fan in front of you, the fan will generate enough convective heat transfer, the heat will go into the air space and your house, basement, or apartment HVAC system.

This is not rocket science, when we design the HVAC system of, say a basketball gymnasium, we have to consider all these factors. So with a proper fan and hvac system, this should not be an issue for Quintana nor Hayman's for example. In a closed space with no AC, then yeah, the bigger cyclist will overheat sooner than the smaller cyclist at the same effort.
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Re: Pro Cyclists Can't get In Race Shape Indoors ? (some basic math) [devashish_paul] [ In reply to ]
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