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CREATED: 09/28/09 by nbehappy REPLIES: 20
nbehappy's ravatar nbehappy    JOINED: 5/23/09    POSTS: 135
POSTED: 9/28/09 7:01 PM

How many watts does a strong triathlete train at?
i read that pro riders can often maintain 450w (wtf?). i am guessing that holding 250w would put you in pretty good company as far as club riders were concerned. any thoughts?

lisalisadc's ravatar lisalisadc    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 431
RE: Watts
POSTED: 9/28/09 9:59 PM

My grandmother pushes more than 250.

karlaj's ravatar karlaj    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 201
RE: Watts
POSTED: 9/28/09 10:37 PM

Lisa, your grandmother is seriously buff then.

Define "strong triathlete" and "train at". If you mean power for long rides, I've read somewhere a tri pros pushing ~350 for 50 mi rides, dropping down to 300 for century rides. I'm sure they can hammer out 400-500W for a 40k TT. Tour riders can probably hold 350 nearly indefinitely. Many can push up beyond 1000W for short bursts.

250W I'd guess would put you in the low 20s mph range, depending on your bike setup (roadie vs. TT). Maybe someone else w/ a powermeter has a more definitive #?

vatriathlete    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 685
RE: Watts
POSTED: 9/29/09 12:18 AM

its insane, the pros basically can double or triple the best efforts of even the "good" local elite athletes..

Chad's ravatar Chad    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 116
RE: Watts
POSTED: 9/29/09 10:16 AM

Like everyone is stating here, are you talking about being able to "put out" 250w or able to sustain 250w for an entire 60-80 mile ride? Also, are you talking about "averaging" (which is different than Normalized Power, don't ask now what that is!) 250w for the ride?

Pushing 250w for 45minutes to an hour (sustained) is not uncommon on the Saturday group rides especially when they are cruising along MacArthur Blvd. But I have not seen from others with PM's or I myself ever averaged 250w on a group ride. To put it in perspective look at Chris Sorensen's power data from Stage 5 of this past year's TDF:

TdF Stage 5 SRM Power Data
Saxo Bank’s Chris Anker Sorensen
Stage 5, 196.5km
Stage Placing: 131st
Time 4:29
Average Watts: 238w
Normalized Power: 290w
Mean Max 5-minutes: 412w
Mean Max 20-minutes: 364w

His max watts on that stage were 925 as well...probably not for more than a minute or so, but still.

So his "average" watts were 238, that is pretty high and a huge jump from your everyday and even elite club rider.

Compare that with a pro's TT Power Data:

Gustav Larsson's SRM power meter Summary Data for Stage 6

Total Time: 30:57
Stage placing: Third
Average Speed: 29mph
Average watts: 486
Normalized Power: 491
Max watts: 881

Those numbers are HUGE to sustain for that long.

Typically after a Saturday ride of 56-70 miles with the group I see averages around 180-200w and that is a hard ride. Comparing with another athlete that has a PM on those rides, our Normalized Power is usually around 230 or so for a hard ride. But trying to hold 400+ watts for 5 minutes towards the end of a 100 mile ride after you have been busting your butt for 3 hours +...well that is VERY hard to do. At HP on Tues/Thur's rides I have seen sustained 400+ watts for 5 minutes when the group is clocking 25+mph...but that is only on an hour long ride on flats and the legs get a bit sore after those efforts.

I have some power data from Tues/Thurs rides and Saturday rides, but it is at home. I will try to post it to give some perspective.

vatriathlete    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 685
RE: Watts
POSTED: 9/29/09 11:48 AM

what is normalized power?

so what you are saying chad, is that the pros are basically really fast, and that the TT specialists are putting out insanely high numbers that no normal human can do for any appreciable amount of time, except for.. well those pros. :)

dsgrunning's ravatar dsgrunning    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 1425
RE: Watts
POSTED: 9/29/09 11:52 AM

Lisa ... I think that your grandmother is on the juice.

Chad ... With all of these numbers that you are throwing around, I see none from a pro triathlete. You're slacking my friend :)

's ravatar    JOINED: 5/24/13    POSTS: 0
RE: Watts
POSTED: 9/29/09 1:55 PM

I think the more impressive numbers to check out are the power/weight ratios for the pros. Bigger cyclists generally push bigger watts, but it gets equalized by the more lbs they are carting around. So a big dude who can hold 300 watts for an hour may actually be slower than a little guy who is averaging 200 watts/hour. But the pros are putting out some crazy power numbers and they weigh 140 lbs soaking wet.

Chad's ravatar Chad    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 116
RE: Watts
POSTED: 9/29/09 2:11 PM

Sean is right on point, as he should be!

Power to weight ratio becomes increasingly important on the mountains.

Here is a good short article on it -

Then what becomes important in your question is your power to weight ratio compared to other riders in the club (but this is a geeky way to talk about riding for sure!) While I weigh 68kg (150lbs) and have a threshold of 280+, what you can hold for an hour, giving me a power to weight ratio of 4.11.

An equivalent rider that weighs more, say 77kg (170lbs), if he is taller not fatter necessarily, but has the same threshold (280), would have a ratio of 3.63, that is a big difference.

Regardless as you can see from the article their cruising/recovery pace is at 4watts/kg which is a hard effort for an hour out of your normal everyday athlete!

As far as triathlete numbers are concerned...the internet if devoid of them aside from a spattering on forums and some blogs, but they talk about pushing over 300 for sprint distance efforts.

The lack of pro triathlete specific data is probably a result of biking only being one aspect of the sport as a whole...but that is just my take on it...and I could be totally off in that assessment!

mflanagan81    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 8
RE: Watts
POSTED: 9/29/09 2:43 PM

Raw wattage data is essentially useless. It is very important to know how large someone is, therefore watts/kg are a very good way to compare wattages of riders of differing sizes and weights.

With that said, in triathlon watts per frontal area are of paramount importance. Raw watts combined with aerodynamics determine speed in a TT. Fortunately, there is generally a strong correlation between weight and aerodynamic frontal area, so the W/kg metric still holds pretty well.

Fortunately, the power data referenced regarding Gustav Larsson was vetted and subsequently debunked due to SRM issues on that day. He was likely closer to 415-435 for 31 minutes that day.

When you see max power in a file, it really is the max reading. It is generally an effort of 1-5 seconds, no more. There is no way Sorenson did 900+ watts for a minute.

Normalized power (NP) is an effort to capture the amount of training/racing stress for a given effort. It uses 30 second rolling averages for each second and takes that value to the 4th power. It averages those readings over the period of time (must be greater than 300 seconds), and takes for fourth root.

What does that mean??? Essentially, it gives a good approximation of the average power you could have held in a steady state, iso-power effort.

How do I use NP in training? I generally compare my FTP (functional threshold power...AVG power that I can hold for an hour) to the NP for a given interval workout. Generally I want the NP to be pretty close to FTP.

Lots of stuff to learn about power. It is an amazing training/pacing tool!

vatriathlete    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 685
RE: Watts
POSTED: 9/29/09 2:53 PM

so for now discounting that the srm for larsson may be off. using those numbers then it would make sense why his average power would be close to normalized power since that tt effort should be in theory somewhat of an even effort.

interesting stuff.

another question for the "power people" here:

do you use the power numbers basically in place of hrt/speed data while riding?

meaning instead of saying "i'm going to ride around 18-20mph this hour" you go "i need to hold approx 140-150w for an hour"

mflanagan81    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 8
RE: Watts
POSTED: 9/29/09 3:09 PM

I only train off of power on the bike. Here is a good analogy:

Wattage is to cycling training as the weight (mass) of weights is to weightlifting.

In order to quantify what you are doing, you need an exact/empirical measurement of work performed.

HR is merely a response to a myriad of input variables. The only input which matters is whether or not you are able to complete the work. If I am unable to complete the workout goals, then I shut it down, recover, and wait to fight another day. Its virtually impossible to do this with HR/speed alone.

Aheitman's ravatar Aheitman    JOINED: 9/16/09    POSTS: 22
RE: Watts
POSTED: 9/30/09 12:51 PM

Im new to the biking world, but have a strong science/physiology background.

One better way to put it is that the Wattage is the OUTPUT
Heart rate is the INPUT
That is to say, that the relationship between the two (the ratio) is going to be a better measure of your work out.
looking at the relationship between input/output should give you a pretty clear picture of whats going on.

nbehappy's ravatar nbehappy    JOINED: 5/23/09    POSTS: 135
RE: Watts
POSTED: 9/30/09 4:14 PM

my grandmom can pull 250w too, but only if she comes out of the saddle, i'm trying to get her to save it for the sprints. she doesnt do her fair share in the peloton either. but i digress.
regrading the last comment about input and output, what about the following scenario: a newbie (me) pushes himself to hold 200w for 30 minutes. he succeeds. however, for the rest of the ride, whenever he tries to do the most minimal work- lets say 170w- his pulse shoots up to 170 or 180. that would seem to fly in the face of the notion that heart rate = input. bc in the second part of the ride i am hardly doing work but my heart has not recovered and rejects any effort.

lisalisadc's ravatar lisalisadc    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 431
RE: Watts
POSTED: 9/30/09 4:42 PM

I think that the best way to learn how to train w/ a power meter is to get a competent coach who can interpret your power output and spikes. The coach should organize a training plan after testing you (LT, power, HR). If not, some arbitrary ## like 200 Watts is your carrot that you're riding after. That may not be an accurate goal.

Chad's not a triathlete anymore, so maybe that's why he posted cyclists data. :) Training peaks posts several elite and pro triathletes' power files. See here:

Pro cyclists including his Lanceness like to aim for a specific Watts/kg. Something around 6 Watts/kg. Power #s do not replace PE or HR, probably more important though. It's like racing -- it doesn't matter that you went 22 mph, if half of the field >22.5 mph.

Grandma never gets out of the saddle unless she's getting a beer out of her basket.

Aheitman's ravatar Aheitman    JOINED: 9/16/09    POSTS: 22
RE: Watts
POSTED: 9/30/09 5:01 PM

I think the HR works as input in the Watts vs HR not over time, but as a discrete indicator of performance. That is, only at one moment during your ride will you be able to describe what your body is doing. I imagine a log shaped line curve.

Now if you looked at the W/HR ratio as the output based on the factor of time during a ride, Im imagining youd see some sort of dampened harmonic as your recovery cycles through to till the tank is empty.

Thats just me spitballing and avoiding the real number crunching I should be doing. Stupid job.

mflanagan81    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 8
RE: Watts
POSTED: 9/30/09 5:12 PM

Regarding input, wrong. In order to create the data output signal (HR) of the system (body), the body takes a whole bunch of input information and generates an output. Some of the variables which it uses as input values are the following:

-Fatigue (both sleep and muscular)
-Hydration State
-Wattage/Power Output
-Bike Position/Fit
-External Stimuli

Those are collected to generate an output.

Aheitman's ravatar Aheitman    JOINED: 9/16/09    POSTS: 22
RE: Watts
POSTED: 9/30/09 5:38 PM

My point is in agreement with yours. HR is a great summation of everything that is happening during the day/race/training period/whatever youre doing. It takes into account all of those factors (except wattage/output...Ill get to that).

But when you are training, you try to keep most of those factors consistent. When looking at a Wattage/HR comparison, what we are really trying to measure is energy consumption. The logic follows that Cardiac Output (CO=Stroke volume x HR) is directly related to energy consumption of the body. We cant measure SV while doing loops at Hains point, but we can assume its constant. Or close enough. HR is going to match the CO in a positive corrolation and becomes our defacto measure of energy consumed by the body.

Now, the Wattage/output measured by the bike is a measurement of how much energy you are putting into the pedals, not necessarily how much energy your body is using. The difference between the two, or at least the ration, is interesting- as someone who has just started swimming again, its painfully clear that pulling harder does not mean more power/speed in my swimming.

...just saying is all.

mflanagan81    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 8
RE: Watts
POSTED: 9/30/09 5:58 PM

The power meter directly measures energy consumption. By definition, it is measuring torque values, converting them to energy, and displaying wattage as energy per unit time.

Humans operate at 23-25% efficiency on the bike. This means the number of kilo Joules burned on the bike essentially equals the exact number of calories burned/used. Its not like swimming, its pretty much the same for everyone, so we know exactly how many calories we burn in a ride.

Aheitman's ravatar Aheitman    JOINED: 9/16/09    POSTS: 22
RE: Watts
POSTED: 9/30/09 6:00 PM


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