An analysis of Canadian Lionel Sanders' bike performance at the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
October 21, 2017 | TRAINING|
Lionel Sanders is known for his transparency. Rather than make a secret of his training and competition data, he often publishes the data with a critical analysis and describes what he sees in the numbers and where he sees errors or improvement potential. For his competition, the numbers are both impressive and frightening at the same time. Anyone who keeps track of their power and sees that Sanders, in his Ironman 70.3 races, will often push more than 350 watts over two hours, knows these are extraordinary numbers. Sanders' cycling time at the Ironman World Championship speaks volumes: 4:14:19 (43.13 km / h) - 4:04 faster than Normann Stadler's previous course record from 2006. Only former cycling professional Cameron Wurf (AUS) was able to ride faster than Sanders, but was unable to run anywhere near as fast as the Canadian after setting the new course record. What makes a typical Sanders performance all the more impressive is that he often is able to follow up a strong ride with one of the days fastest runs. Here's an evaluation of Sanders' bike performance from his 2017 Kona ride:
4.13 watts per kilogram of body weight
Looking at the absolute values of Sanders' bike ride in Kona are impressive: 305 watts average power (AP) and 313 watt Normalized Power (NP). The difference of eight watts between the average power and the normalized power is reflected in the VI (variability index). This value is obtained by dividing NP by AP. It is intended to show how constant the rider was on the road and give an insight into the race. For Sanders the VI is only 1.03, despite the 2,500 m of climbing on the bike route. A value below 1.1 is considered excellent. Because Sanders is almost never in a position to ride a tactical race (and probably does not want to do so), he keeps constant to his watts and holds a steady pace. His average cadence in Hawaii was 87 revolutions per minute, the maximum cadence was 116 on the descent from Hawi. In his preparation, the 29-year-old consciously worked on his cadence in order to adjust to the different sections of the route. Over the half-distance the Canadian usually hits an average cadence of 82 to 84. He had planned on riding with a slightly higher cadence in Kona and met that goal.
Sanders records his performance with PowerTap P1 pedals, which also provide information about the balance of the power output. The ratio was 48.8% on the left and 51.2% on the right.
Even if Sanders had "only" the second-fastest bike split in Hawaii, it is interesting to draw a comparison to last year's race. There, Boris Stein had the fastest bike split (4:23:04). His watts: 279 watts NP (263 AP), which, according to his data, corresponds to an output of 3.67 watts per kilogram of body weight. To put Sanders' data in perspective: the Canadian was 8:45 minutes faster (although weather conditions obviously play a huge role in that) and achieved a power of 4.13 watts / kg with his 313 watts.
Sanders pushes 349 watts to catch Wurf and Kienle
Sanders' data recording ended up in four blocks. The first was just 1:16 minutes - probably the time he took to get his shoes on once he started teh bike. The second was 2:50 (hours), so a good portion of the ride. The interesting block was the third, where Sanders found himself having lost time to Wurf and Kienle on the descent from Hawi and had to push to catch up. During this section, that was just over 12 minutes, Sanders powered through a spectacular 349 watts NP (4.68 watts / kg). After the race the Canadian was quite open to admit that this surge might have cost him the race.
Similar data from Arizona
Sanders put up similar numbers at Ironman Arizona last year, where he rode a 4:04 bike split. At that race which took place last November, Sanders did the ride averaging 315 watts AP and 317 watts NP (with a VI of 1.01), which corresponds to a power of 4.21 watts / kg. It is also interesting to note that the difference in the power distribution between the right and left pedals was even greater last year than in Hawaii. (Sanders has spent a lot of time riding rollers this year, which he feels has improved his technique.) In Arizona, the ratio was 46.7% (left) to 53.3% (right).