Bicycle races aren’t won randomly. It’s not just something that happens haphazardly. Bike racers that win do it with planning, pre-riding, knowledge of competitors and themselves. Winning is a planned event. You might watch a stage in the Giro ‘dItalia this week and see a race win a stage, and not think much about all the planning that went into that win. Most likely that rider picked that stage to try to go for the win because it suited their abilities, or it finished in their hometown or the team thought they were the best one to win that stage. Or…..their coach thought they could win that race so designed a specific training plan to handle that day and tactics to execute with the precision of a surgeon on the operating table.
Jill Patterson is a cycling coach at Peaks Coaching Group. She is also a great bike racer. She knows how to win. She has raced for many years and now gives back to her athletes helping become better racers. Winning racers. Jill planned to win the Gran Fondo New York this year. She worked hard this winter, planned her training to peak on the day of the race and gave herself every chance to win. Jill rode an incredibly smart race and it really goes to show all of us how important race strategy and tactics are in winning any hard event. From going up and pre-riding the course, to training specifically for the demands of the course, to understanding how to use other riders in the race to her advantage, Jill won this race through intelligence, hard work and big power numbers.
Jill’s performance manager chart shows that she built up her CTL to the highest possible and then tapered at just the right time to give herself that chance to create personal bests in her 1 minute, 5 minute, 20 minute and 60 minute Normalized power for the year. She had a solid 10 days of recovering and tapering leading up to the GFNY to make sure that she was fresh enough, but not so fresh she began losing fitness.
Jill’s has a “Power Profile” to envy. Her 1 minute and 5 minute power is nearly “World Class” and she has raced at an elite level for many years. Her FTP almost as high, so clearly she has the engine to not only ride strong for a long time, but to lay down some vicious attacks that can really create gaps between her and her competitors. Knowing her strengths and weaknesses (she can’t sprint out of a paper bag!) is critical to creating successful tactics and planning exactly when to make the winning moves.
Jill finished second last year in the GFNY and started 500 people back from the first corral, so being able to start with the front corral, really allowed her to save energy, ride in the fastest peloton and be assured that she had all of her competitors near her. This was not easy, by any means and tackling the first climb of the day, which was 6minutes long, she had to do 304 watts average for the entire climb in order to stay in the front group. Weighing in at 128lbsor 58kg, this equates to a 5.2 watts per kilogram power to weight ratio. Impressive indeed. One of Jill’s strengths is that she has World Class 1 minute power, which means that her anaerobic capacity is very high. She can dig into this energy system if needed and burn a “match” when needed, which was exactly what this was. Jill commented, “I didn’t feel like I was putting effort out on it because I was fresh and focused…I was just making sure I stayed with that front group. I’m honestly surprised to see my peak 5 min power there because it didn’t feel that way at all.”
After this, she was on cruise mode and allowed herself to sit in the peloton, save energy and wait for the climb up Bear Mountain. Having trained all winter to hold 270 watts comfortably (or just below her FTP), and having pre-ridden the climb multiples, Jill knew she had to hold 270 watts up the Bear Mountain climb in order to drop the “pretenders” and find out who the “contenders” were. She did exactly this, averaging 268 watts(275 Normalized) for 19minutes and 36 seconds or 4.6 w/kg. Read her interview to learn more specifics about how she purposefully trained just for this climb! A great athlete (and coach, as Jill is a coach for PCG) knows that they must first define the demands of the event and then train to the demands of the event. This is exactly how Jill approached this climb!
After Bear Mountain, there are numerous hills and challenges to the finish. The front group split into two groups after Bear Mountain and Jill as in the 2nd group with the other top women. In the next 2hours and 15 minutes, Jill averaged 209 watts (NP) as she stayed with the other top women. She knew she needed to stay with peloton at that point, since the course doesn’t really lend itself to breakaways. This is also where she realized that she, nor the other top women were going to be able to attack and hold off a peloton of riders by themselves especially, as there were only 3 women in this group.
Jill is not a sprinter and she knew it couldn’t come down to a sprint or she would lose, so she had planned out that she was going to attack on the climb that was around one mile long with grades up to 10% and she could use her anaerobic capacity to really put a gap on the other ladies. She also knew from previous editions that if she got into a breakaway with strong guys, they would help her to get away and stay away. Her winning attack on that hill was 44 seconds long at 380 watts or 6.55 w/kg. The climb didn’t end there, but that was the near full gas effort she had to give in order to create a gap. That final hill was 3 minutes 56 seconds long at 306 watts or 5.27 w/kg. From there she connected with James that helped pull her clear to the finish line for the win!
Knowing the course, planning her strategy on Bear Mountain and on the final hill ahead of time, really gave Jill the edge. Tactical knowledge of the course itself and then knowing that being able to go with strong guys on that climb so they would help her to the finish line is something that is unique to Gran Fondo events and an incredibly devastating move to make to the other women. Smart thinking coach!
Jill stated, “My power wasn’t super high for it, but it felt a lot worse because I was dehydrated (only had 3 bottles for the whole race) and of course tired, lol!”
Her final effort to the finish line was fast and nerve wracking as she knew that everyone would be chasing. Jill was not going to be caught and she crossed the line in first place ! Incredible effort!
About Hunter Allen
Legendary cycling coach, co-author of Training and Racing with a Power Meter and Cutting-Edge Cycling, co-developer of TrainingPeaks’ WKO+ software, and founder of Peaks Coaching Group.
Widely known as one of the top experts in the world in coaching endurance athletes using power meters, Hunter Allen’s goal has always been to teach athletes how to maximize their training and racing potential through professional analysis of their power data. This goes hand in hand with his philosophy that a power meter helps athletes discover their true strengths and weaknesses, quantitatively assess their training improvements, and refine and maximize the focus of their training.
As a coach, Hunter makes sure to look at each athlete as a whole person. He excels at designing custom programs designed to maximize each rider’s potential. He believes we are human beings working closely with other human beings, and it’s important to him to work hard to find your strengths and weaknesses and to help you improve your skills, then develop a realistic plan that works for life. It is important that a coach learn as much as he can about you as an athlete and as a person in order to better develop a plan for success. He has now coached over 400 athletes and still learns something new from each one.