Ask the Coach: Ironman Wisconsin Bike Gearing

author : mikericci
comments : 0

I'm a fairly good climber but don't want to blow up on the run. I'm 60 and have a FTP of 230 watts. Any suggestions?

Member Question

I've been reading some opinions on the IMOO Facebook page about preferred gearing for all the climbs. I'm a fairly good climber but don't want to blow up on the run. I'm 60 and have a FTP of 230 watts. I am riding a Cervelo P2 carbon with a 50/34 front ring and a 11/25 cassette. I'd appreciate any suggested gear changes from you IMOO veterans out there.

Answer from Mike Ricci
Head Coach D3 Multisport

Thanks for the great info and question! You are riding a compact set up which gives you plenty of options with regards to gearing. An 11x25 in the rear is plenty of gearing for IMWI, in my opinion. Since you are riding with watts, we can make this pretty specific to your race.

An FTP of 230 means you’ll be riding at an average of 165 on race day. How you get to that 165 is really what counts. On the out/back to the 40 mile loop you can ride steady at 165 – that’s a no brainer.

On the 2 x 40 mile loops, things will be a little more challenging. One important fact on race day is that we don’t want to let our VI get too out of line. VI is your Variability Index, the difference between your Avg Power and your Normalized Power. On a completely flat course we look for a VI of around 1-3% for a rider who is steady and doesn’t spike the watts. If you tend to stand or stomp on the pedals, it would be very hard to ride in the 1.03 – to 1.05 range. For a hillier course like IMLP, we’d be looking for a VI of about 10% or 1.10. With the long downhills and spikey hills, this is pretty common. For a course like IMWI, which some would say is harder than IMLP due to the constant rollers, you can allow yourself to go between 1.08-1.12. The key to this race is your ability to ride the hills steady, and to NOT spike the power at the crest of the hill, or at the bottom, for that matter. Learning to ride right at Zone 3 / Tempo or 82IF up these hills will keep you in check. For you this would be 190 watts. Should you ride the first lap harder than expected and see your IF drifting north of 1.12, you can back off in the 2nd half. I know this is hard to do, but if you really want to max the run, you’ll need to make sure you hold the watts in check.

In my opinion a 52x39 up front, paired with a 12x27 in the rear OR a 50x34, and 11/25 will allow you to have the ability to ride these hills evenly and keep that VI low. This in turn will allow for you to have a great opportunity to show what you can do on the run.

Suggested training:
Ride a hilly course – maybe even 2x 50 miles or so, and really work on ‘Steady watts’ on the flats – for you this is 165 watts and then capping the hills at 190 watts. You have plenty of time, training-wise to experiment with training. You can try a long hilly ride and riding above or below those watts and then a long brick off the bike to see where you stand. I would advise a 4.5 hour bike and a 1.5-2 hour run. See how your nutrition fits in and see how steady you really rode.

Good luck with your training the rest of the way!

Mike Ricci, the USAT National Coach of the Year, is the owner and founder of the D3 Multisport coaching group, through which he coaches all levels of athletes from beginner to elite. Mike is also the former head coach of the 2013 National Champion CU Triathlon Team, and has guided them to 4 consecutive collegiate National Champion titles from 2010-2013. Mike has written training plans for Team USA for the past several years, is a USAT Level III Elite coach, and has helped many athletes to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona.


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date: July 2, 2014