What Wattage?!?

by Colin Peyresourde   January 13, 2013  

Hi,

I'm embarking on a ride across the Pyrenees this year with my girlfriend. I have done the Ride Across Britain and ridden in the Pyrenees previously, but my girlfriend hasn't. In order to get her ready for this trip I wanted to ensure (empirically anyway) that she can do this, and so I want to find out what sort of wattage she needs to be able to maintain. The toughest day will encompass both the Col D'Aubisque and the Col de Tourmalet. I have no doubts about myself (but a nagging wariness about the effort). She weighs around 68kg, so what so or wattage will she need to maintain to get herself up these climbs? I'm hoping to replicate this using a turbo trainer as practise towards our trip.

15 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

I don't think this question can be answered. Power required will depend on how quickly you want to do it. You could get up anything with 100W if you have a low enough gear and enough time.

If you know what power you can maintain, then you could work out what she would need to keep up with you, given your different weights.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1301 posts]
13th January 2013 - 19:44

like this
Like (1)

If you want to do both the Aubisque and the Tourmalet in one day you're looking at around 2500m of climbing assuming you start in Laruns and finish in Sainte-Marie de Campan or La Mongie.
With some bits in between and a lunch stop i guess she'd need to be able to climb at 500m/hr (vertical speed) which gives a sustainable power output of 100Watts for someone around 68kg.
As is noted above though, 100W doesn't get you moving very faster on the steeper ramps (13%)... maybe 4 or 5kph so she'd need a gear to get up something like that.

jjlowden's picture

posted by jjlowden [16 posts]
14th January 2013 - 10:28

like this
Like (1)

Thanks - it's going to be Laruns to Sainte-Marie de Campan.

There is definitely a power output required to get yourself (depending on weight) up these climbs. She's not going to set any records, but as long as she knows that she can make it up them it will keep her going.

I think want to set her a target of reaching say 150 watts for an hour, or higher.

We're going to get a triple set-up on the bike as insurance, which will definitely help.

BTW - jjlowden, have you ridden these? If so, what sort of time did you set? Your avatar pic looks in pretty good shape for such climbs.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [977 posts]
14th January 2013 - 11:24

like this
Like (1)

I did this more or less last summer, though I started in Cauterets, down to Argeles, up the aubisque, back down and through the valley to the Tourmalet. I rode well on the Aubisque, but got heat exhaustion in the valley, it was 39 degrees, and suffered with cramp up the Tourmalet.

So, make sure you are ready for that if it's hot. I think it is a very rideable distance, as long as you don't race it. 9-12 is the top gradient, with one small patch at 20 iirc. I wouldn't worry about watts per kilo so much as making sure she can do a 100 miles in the UK, which is about the similar amount of effort. Make sure she is used to dealing with cramp, knows how to make it go away and get back on the bike. The altitude does make a difference too. You mention a turbo, sufferfest videos are good, Angels, Local hero, hell hath no fury. I'd still recommend she get out and ride, there is a psychological side to being in the saddle too. For me it's about 70 miles in, you need to have ridden past that a few times before riding in the mountains, I think. Evans and Wiggle do well supported sportives at 90 odd miles, which would be a good early summer target.

In terms of logistics, there is a pretty good bike shop in Argeles, not cheap, but well stocked. The cafe on the top of the Tourmalet is wonderful! On the descent from the aubisque there is a short, but pitch black tunnel of about 200 feet, just so you are aware.
good luck

Cannondale CAAD10, Condor Terra-X and an orange Brompton.
Ride for East London Velo

zzgavin's picture

posted by zzgavin [195 posts]
14th January 2013 - 11:56

like this
Like (1)

I did the Col d' Aspin and Tourmalet in one day back in 2009. I remember it as being a wonderful ride, during which I sailed easily up the climbs with grace and beauty. Funnily enough, the blog post I wrote about it at the time (https://sites.google.com/site/tourletour/blog-posts-1/day16-ishouldhavea...)doesn't make it sounds that way...

Didn't have a power meter on, but I am pretty sure I would have been doing no more than 150W. But I also had 40kg of luggage. Enjoy the trip!

I'm riding the 2013 Giro d'Italia for charity! Check it out and follow my progress live at www.tourletour.com

Tour Le Tour's picture

posted by Tour Le Tour [91 posts]
14th January 2013 - 12:05

like this
Like (1)

She needs at least 7 watts per KG to get over those climbs, if she starts training now she should be able to get the 476 watts required to conquer the climbs.

I would recommend at least 7 hours per day on the turbo with 1 hour 450 watt intervals.

posted by SammyG [290 posts]
14th January 2013 - 12:31

like this
Like (1)

SammyG wrote:
She needs at least 7 watts per KG to get over those climbs, if she starts training now she should be able to get the 476 watts required to conquer the climbs.

I would recommend at least 7 hours per day on the turbo with 1 hour 450 watt intervals.

7W/kg would give you a good shout of winning the Tour de France. I'm not sure she needs to be *that* fit Thinking

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7038 posts]
14th January 2013 - 12:46

like this
Like (0)

I've done the Aubisque and the Aspin without keeling over, and my W/kg at functional threshold power isn't much over 2. If you've got enough gears and enough time you could get up most pryenean climbs if you can maintain 150W of output, I'd say. Probably less if you only weigh 68kg.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7038 posts]
14th January 2013 - 12:51

like this
Like (1)

Dave Atkinson wrote:
SammyG wrote:
She needs at least 7 watts per KG to get over those climbs, if she starts training now she should be able to get the 476 watts required to conquer the climbs.

I would recommend at least 7 hours per day on the turbo with 1 hour 450 watt intervals.

7W/kg would give you a good shout of winning the Tour de France. I'm not sure she needs to be *that* fit Thinking

I believe that SammyG is not being entirely serious!

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1301 posts]
14th January 2013 - 13:15

like this
Like (1)

zzgavin wrote:
I did this more or less last summer, though I started in Cauterets, down to Argeles, up the aubisque, back down and through the valley to the Tourmalet. I rode well on the Aubisque, but got heat exhaustion in the valley, it was 39 degrees, and suffered with cramp up the Tourmalet.

So, make sure you are ready for that if it's hot. I think it is a very rideable distance, as long as you don't race it. 9-12 is the top gradient, with one small patch at 20 iirc. I wouldn't worry about watts per kilo so much as making sure she can do a 100 miles in the UK, which is about the similar amount of effort. Make sure she is used to dealing with cramp, knows how to make it go away and get back on the bike. The altitude does make a difference too. You mention a turbo, sufferfest videos are good, Angels, Local hero, hell hath no fury. I'd still recommend she get out and ride, there is a psychological side to being in the saddle too. For me it's about 70 miles in, you need to have ridden past that a few times before riding in the mountains, I think. Evans and Wiggle do well supported sportives at 90 odd miles, which would be a good early summer target.

In terms of logistics, there is a pretty good bike shop in Argeles, not cheap, but well stocked. The cafe on the top of the Tourmalet is wonderful! On the descent from the aubisque there is a short, but pitch black tunnel of about 200 feet, just so you are aware.
good luck

Slight thread hijack, but what are your strategies for getting over cramp? Electrolyte tablets and more water or something else?

arrieredupeleton

posted by arrieredupeleton [519 posts]
14th January 2013 - 16:53

like this
Like (1)

cat1commuter wrote:

I believe that SammyG is not being entirely serious!

yeah sorry, was monday morning and i hadn't calibrated my sarcasm filters Smile

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7038 posts]
14th January 2013 - 16:57

like this
Like (1)

On the ride merely a bit of stopping and stretching to let the muscle recover, so that I could continue, while continuing to eat and drink including electrolytes. Once you can get off the bike =) stretching the opposite muscle group tends to help. I managed to get up the Tourmalet like this in an abysmal time, paid for racing up the aubisque

At 70 miles or so I cramp up. This is the muscle getting over tired and the calcium pathways that tell the brain about the contracted state of the muscle break down, hence the cramping from hyper-tense muscles. So, longer term I've been working on longer regular rides, my target is 50 minimum each Sunday. I've been doing a bit of running too, which I know isn't perfect for cycling, different way of using the muscles. It tires out the muscles, so that a 5k run on Saturday, then a 50 mile ride the next day feels like riding 70+ Not planning any duathlon or triathlons.

I've found no magic, just more training, so that the muscles get used to working hard for a longer time. Well that and protein as recovery within 20 minutes of stopping, I like the ZV9 bars.

Cannondale CAAD10, Condor Terra-X and an orange Brompton.
Ride for East London Velo

zzgavin's picture

posted by zzgavin [195 posts]
14th January 2013 - 17:11

like this
Like (1)

I get cramp worse when legs get cold on a long descent. Any climbing straight away after that can cause me to cramp. I guess it's just a case of more winter miles... although I don't have the incentive of riding the Pyrenees!

In response to the original subject, my suggestion would be to concentrate on expected time in the saddle and to try and replicate the time climbing that you'd do. Obviously, it'll mean repeated hill reps in this country but there's plenty of hills with that gradient. I would guard against too much time on the turbo as it won't help with core muscle strength and bike handling skill.

arrieredupeleton

posted by arrieredupeleton [519 posts]
14th January 2013 - 18:10

like this
Like (1)

D Oh D Oh I've fortunately never suffered from cramp. We may do boil in a bag sessions to help us acclimatise to the heat of the summer.....I did Tourmalet, Aspin and Peyresourde (and the obscure, but difficult Cap Neste), but that was mid/late spring and the weather was never going to cause cramping.

I use the High 5 4:1 stuff which I think is brilliant, and always keep a larder of 3 clif bars in case of bonking. I have also tried the Powerade Pro stuff, but it's disgusting.

I agree though, the longer rides really get your legs ready for those events. We did 2 hours on the turbo at the weekend (to make up for the cancellation of the Chieveley ride with EC).

Sounds like some good encouragement for her. My problem is that it's all come a little too easily to me in comparison so I have problems relating. Unfortunately my inability to properly empathise has meant it has been hard for her trust what I say. Thanks Gentlemen.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [977 posts]
14th January 2013 - 18:36

like this
Like (1)

Yeah, the hope is also to figure out a route which replicates the climbing of one if not both HC climbs in one day, but the long slow slog is different from the short sharp sprints of the UK. Still, in some ways it doesn't matter how the work is done, just that you do it.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [977 posts]
14th January 2013 - 21:53

like this
Like (1)