Chris Froome’s data compared to former Irish pro Ciaran Power’s

Posted on: December 29th, 2018

Chris Froome Ciaran Power data

Ciaran Power leads Johan Museeuw and Michele Bartoli into the finish of stage 6 of the Tirreno-Adriatico in 2000 while riding for Linda McCartney (Photo: Sirotti)

 



 

By Paddy Doran

PeakEnduranceCoaching.com

Now that Chris Froome is four-time Tour champion and the reigning Giro title holder, let’s have a look at the results of the physiology testing he released three years ago and compare them to one of our former pros Ciaran Power.

Waterford man Power returned to racing three years ago and won a race in the early part of that season. He then rode the Rás again; a race he had won twice overall when in his 20s. He is now aged 42 years old.

When I looked at Froome’s data, I thought I had seen similar results before from some riders I’ve coached.

But before we examine that issue, let’s have a look at Froome’s results.

  • 2015 test weight: 69.9kg
  • 2015 Tour de France weight: 67kg
  • 2007 test weight: 75.6kg
  • 2015 VO2 max: 84.6
  • VO2 max correlating to 2015 Tour weight: 88.2
  • 2007 VO2 max: 80.2
  • 2015 peak power: 525 watts
  • 2015 threshold (20-40 minutes): 419 watts
  • 2015 watts-per-kilogram: 5.98
  • 2015 Tour watts-per-kilogram: 6.25w/kg
  • 2007 peak power: 540 watts
  • 2007 threshold (20-40 minutes): 420 watts

The 2015 test results come from measurements taken on the Tour de France 12 months earlier and then again one month after he had won the race.

The 2007 results are from testing carried out in a lab in Switzerland in July on that year.

Froome was an anonymous young rider trying back in 2007. He was trying to make his way in pro cycling. He was 22 years old at the time and riding for Team Konica Minolta.

Froome would ride his first Tour de France the following year; competing for Barloworld and finishing 83rd overall.

 

Chris Froome Ciaran Power data

This is Chris Froome at the World Championships in 2009. He had just agreed terms with Team Sky for the following season and was much heavier than he is today.

 

Froome: 2007 Vs 2015

The interesting thing about comparing Froome’s results from 2007 and those from 2015 is how little his power output has changed but how much his weight plummeted.

The Tour champion was 75.6kg back in 2007; a massive 8.6kg heavier than he was during the Tour de France last year. (That’s 1¼ stones in old money!)

His body fat back in 2007 was 16.9 per cent.

“Frankly, for an elite cyclist that’s chubby,” said Jeroen Swart, who was in 2015 presented in media reports as an ‘independent observer’ at Froome’s testing sessions.

He is a well known sports physician and exercise physiologist at the University of Cape Town and sits on the doping control review commission in his native South Africa.

Swart told Esquire magazine, through which Froome’s data was released: “But he produced better figures (in 2007): peak power of 540 [15 watts higher than in August 2015], threshold of 420; we made it 419, so it’s one watt less.”

His V02 max in 2007 was 80.2 and was 84.6 in 2015.

The changes in Froome since his early days have landed him huge prizes in cycling but also generated suspicion for many; worsened by his salbutamol test in the Vuelta last year, though he was ultimately cleared.

However, Swart has a simple take on the transformation: “The engine was there all along. He just lost the fat.”

 

Ireland’s Ciaran Power

Below is a table outlining the test results of Irish former pro rider Ciaran Power.

The data is released here with Power’s permission and it was gathered shortly before the 2004 Olympic road race in Athens that I coached him for.

Power had trained for a period specifically for the Games. He put in a fantastic performance; riding aggressively and getting into a medal-winning position.

While the podium was not to be, he finished in a small group sprinting for 4th and ended the race in 13th place. It remains the highest placing ever by an Irish rider in the road race at the Olympics.

 

Chris Froome Ciaran Power data

Ciaran Power photographed training at the Athens Olympics in 2004, where his 13th place remains the best by any Irish rider in the road race.

 

Ciaran Power’s stats

Date 06-Jul-04
Current Result Dec-02
Size
Weight (kg) 75.5 75.2
Height (cm) 182.7
Body Composition
Sum of Skinfolds (mm) 68.7 58.9
Body Fat (%) 12 10.4 `
Lactates Jul-04 Dec-02
Power Lactate Heart Rate Lactate Heart Rate
120 0.9 101
150 1.1 118
180 0.9 130
210 0.9 127 0.9 134
240 0.8 142 0.9 143
270 1.1 144 1.2 148
300 1.1 155 1.6 160
330 1.2 161 2.1 162
360 1.6 166 2.8 172
390 2.2 171 3.2 176
420 2.9 178 4.2 180
450 4.2 184 5.2 186
480 (1min) 192
510 (1min) 191
540(1min) 195
2 min post test 8.0 12.1
Power/weight ratio 7.2 6.0

 

Ciaran Power Vs Chris Froome

You can see from the chart that Power was putting out huge watts at his peak in 2004; similar to Froome’s tests.

But the Irishman’s percentage body fat could have been a bit lower.

A key item when gauging a rider’s engine from data is their ‘lactate threshold’; a phrase explained in different ways by different coaches.

My explanation is that lactate threshold is the rider’s highest aerobic cruising speed.

This means the level of exertion they can usually maintain for up to an hour if they are a well-trained elite cyclist.

If the pace is easier than that cruising effort, you can sustain it for a number of hours and still have plenty in your tank for later harder efforts; maybe towards the end of a race.

If the pace is harder than your cruising effort, your level of exertion is putting your body into the red. Once you are there and you stay there, you will only be able to sustain that for a shorter period.

Ciaran Power’s lactate threshold in 2004 was 170-175 which equals power or watts in the region of 390 to 420 (see table).

This compares very favourably with Froome’s threshold figures; 419 watts.

Froome raced in the Tour de France in 2015 at 67kgs compared to Ciaran Power’s 75kgs at the time of this test.

So if they were to race up the long climbs of the Tour side by side at threshold Ciaran Power would be at a major disadvantage by carrying 8kgs more than Froome.

Froome was at 75Kgs for his 2007 test before he became a world beater. Interestingly, this is exactly the same weight Power was at the 2004 Olympics.

Froome’s threshold power in 2007 was almost exactly the same as in the 2015 Tour de France, though he had lost a huge amount of weight. Most riders would lose power as they lost weight.

And some of the other figures also reveal just how important weight is to Froome. They also suggest he only remains at Tour de France-winning weight for short periods of time.

He is definitely not as lean all year round; nowhere near it in fact.

For example, when tested during the Tour three years ago and then two months later; he had put on 3kgs between the two test dates. And he likely gets slightly heavier in winter.

Remember; after the Tour Froome still had plenty of racing ahead of him, including the small matter of the Vuelta.

When we look at Ciaran Power’s percentage body fat there was room for improvement.

There is more knowledge now from the performance nutrition science community about how to shed weight safely and retain power the importance of doing that.

I also have another set of test results from a rider I coached that are very similar to Ciaran Power’s.

This rider was also very successful and put in some great performances over the years. Both of them trained by heart rate only.

I have also seen other riders I’ve coached down the years putting out big watts like this.

Some were very successful with the results they achieved, but others would produce huge watts in the lab and for various reasons they weren’t successful on the open road when the flag dropped.

Some of the reasons for this, in my opinion were, are in no particular order:

  • Not being good racers.
  • Poor cycling skills.
  • Not prepared to live a sporting lifestyle.
  • Having other priorities than cycling.

 

Chris Froome Ciaran Power data

Froome is clearly a much leaner athlete than he once was; a factor Team Sky has pointed to as a huge reason for his success.

 

What the data doesn’t tell you

Chris Froome made some interesting comments in the statement he released to accompany his test results of 2015.

“The figures make one thing very clear to me – if I ever needed any reminder; natural ability is only one piece of the puzzle of what it takes to win an event like the Tour de France.

“I have always prided myself on my work ethic, dedication and perseverance but without the opportunities and support from Team Sky and Team GB I would not be where I am today.

“Team Sky’s belief in my ability, structured coaching and attention to detail have given me the platform to maximise my potential.”

So apart from all the talk around watts, it seems the most important thing is to create the environment in which people with real potential and who want to succeed can thrive.

In Ciaran Power’s case he had good coaching and sports science support for his Olympic preparation.

With the level of preparation now available in pro squads like Team Sky, he probably could have been even more successful in such an environment

Lots of people get fixated on watts and power output. But as you can see from Froome’s statement and the test results of some riders I coached; it’s one thing having the watts but another putting everything together to produce great performances on the day.

I was at a coaching presentation a few years ago where I was making a presentation and Ciaran Power was also addressing those present.

He was asked various questions about training and physically preparing generally. At the end of one such reply he paused and added with a smile: “You have to be a racer as well”.

PeakEnduranceCoaching.com

Chris Froome Ciaran Power data

Ciaran Power in full flight in Italy during the 2000 season. He will ride the Rás again next year, a race he won twice (Photo: Sirotti)

 

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