Monday, March 30, 2009

Phinney's amazing kilometer

Last Friday, I needed a break. I decided to work from home, but I honestly wasn't getting much work done. Burning it at three ends. I was tired.

Tyler Phinney was going to be riding the kilometer at Worlds. I checked CyclingFans for on-line coverage, and found a link to Bingo. I tuned in to some French coverage just a few riders before Phinney clipped in. The best time so far: an insane 1:00.666 by German Stefan Nimke.

Mini-Phinney riding the kilometer like a mini-pursuit (VeloNews)

Phinney was behind his pace at 200 meters. These guys generally rip out killer standing 200's at the start of a kilo, but Tyler's just not that sort of a rider, especially at 18 years old. But once he was up to speed.... he lost a small bit of time next check, then actually began to gain some back. He crossed the finish in an amazing 1:01:611. Wow! Second place!

One rider after another came to the start, bettered Nimke's opening 200 meter time, but then faded badly in second half of the event. Nobody could match Nimke's kilometer time, but more significantly, every single one was coming in behind Phinney. Malaysian Mohd Tisin caught me by surprise, coming within 60 milliseconds, but nobody else broke 1:02. Phinney, in an event his mother said he was riding "for fun", had silver.

Analysis of official splits, taken at 250 meter increments, reveals an interesting story. The following plots compare on the x-axis the opening 250 meter time to, on the y-axis, either the total time (top), the final 750 meter time (middle), or the final 500 meter time (bottom). Click on the image for a PDF version.

Analysis of split times.
Phinney is circled yellow, Nimke green, Tisin in red. Phinney demolished the second 500 meters.

The remarkable thing is each of the top 3 riders were at best mediocre, or in the case of Phinney, DFL by a wide margin for the opening 250. Phinney and Nimke each averaged over 64 kph over the final three-quarters of the race: 40 miles per hour in round numbers. That's a nice downhill sprint for me. I can't come close to touching it on a flat road, let alone sustain it for 42 seconds after a kilowatt standing start.

On Wattage I wondered why riders appeared to go out too hard. After all, in these data, the correlation coefficient of each of the middle two splits with the final result was substantially stronger than that of either the opening or closing 250 meter splits, even after eliminating the top three. Andrew Coggan pointed out riders go out at a schedule required to medal, rather than the schedule they estimate they can sustain, as they are gambling on a super-day, rather than a typical day. It's all or nothing at this level. It makes sense. But the top three guys, it seems, didn't need to gamble. This is particularly true for Phinney, who already had his rainbow jersey from the previous day's pursuit. Each of the three rode his race, and scored.

Were Phinney to stick with this thing much longer, it's hard to believe he can't find that extra 1.7 seconds to take himself below the minute.

Friday afternoon, I was so excited about Phinney's ride I went out and did a 12.2 mile run. Not the best recovery aid: I had nothing left in the tank for Saturday's Spectrum Ride. But that's another topic.

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