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Case Study: Using the Best Bike Split Modeling Software to Tackle the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race

Updated: Mar 15

The Leadville 100 mountain bike race is an accomplishment that is on many a cyclists' bucket list. But at around 105 miles, taking place at over 9,000 feet above sea level with around 13k feet of gain... it is no easy task to beat the cutoff and get the buckle.

Brandon, a 60 year old former collegiate gymnast, came to me in January of 2021 with the goal of doing just that. Brandon had started road cycling about 6 years prior and had done some longer events but mostly social and charity type rides. At 5’5” and 140 lb, Brandon was a naturally smaller rider and as such, had a relatively low FTP, estimated at ~135w (2.12 w/kg) based on historical data.

Using Best Bike Split we created a pacing model to see what his potential time would be if he raced that day, with the plan of updating the model as we went along to see the impacts his increased fitness would have on the time.

Initial Best Bike Split Run

Based on the initial assessment it was estimated that it would take him 15.5 hours to finish… way over the goal time, so we knew we had our work cut out for us. Using the Time Analysis Tool we determined that he would need to average at least 105w to even come close to the 12 hour cutoff.

Time Analysis

It should be noted that Brandon was doing this on a relatively heavy trail bike that he had just purchased, weighing in at ~29lb in race day set up, something we'll come back to later. We set a goal to increase his FTP to 3 w/kg, or 190w at his current weight, a goal that could be achieved through a combination of improving his on the bike fitness and by shedding any extra weight he was carrying .

Over the course of 2021 Brandon was progressing nicely and closing the gap as we ran multiple race day simulations. By July of 2021 we had increased his FTP to 170w and his weight had come down to 130lb, for a new power to weight ratio of 2.88 w/kg… a big improvement, but still a little bit shy of our goal. Based on the updated model we knew it would be tight, but forged ahead hoping for a little race day magic between being more rested and the motivation of being around other riders.

2021 Plan power (blue) to Race power (purple) comparison

Plan speed (Blue) to Race (purple) comparison

The race started off well with Brandon banking lots of time in the early miles as is typical with Leadville between feeling good, being in a pack, and the fast road sections. But after starting out a bit too hot and it being an unusually hot day he started to give time back on Columbine and then it just snowballed from there. With a new timing format, basing cutoffs on gun time, and a new wave start, there seemed to be some confusion and based on our analyses he got pulled a few minutes early at the Powerline inbound. It was pretty devastating after putting in so much hard work over the year, but Brandon took it in stride and looked at it as more information to assist in his 2022 campaign.

Other Considerations

In gearing up for the second attempt we discussed some of the potential areas for “free speed” that would become a focus this season as we fitness gains were starting to slow. These included a lighter bike, carrying less, less time at aid stations, working on descending confidence, and pushing with a purpose during the hike-a-bike sessions.

Brandon purchased a lighter more XC focused bike saving him ~10lb and then we set off on our mission again, aiming for increasing FTP to 3 w/kg. By the end of July we had reached ~195w or 3.3 w/kg which was a big confidence boost.

Monthly FTP as w/kg from Jan ‘21 to Sep ‘22

We continued doing race rehearsals as well and comparing them to the plan to see where we were gaining and losing time.

Race Rehearsal Analysis 7/25/2022

It became apparent that fitness was no longer the limiting factor as he was losing time compared to the model on descents and in the hike a bike sections. In order to achieve his goal this had to be addressed. So in the last few weeks running up to the race we did a lot of work on descending and hike-a-bike.

2022 Race Day Power Planned (purple) vs Actual (blue)

2022 Race Day Speed Planned (purple) vs Actual (blue)

Best Bike Split plan on TrainingPeaks vs actual

Similar to 2021, and as is typical with Leadville, Brandon banked a lot of time compared to the model in the early miles of the race through increased power, drafting, and lower rolling resistance on the road sections. He started to give some time back up Columbine, but then reeled it back in during the hike a bike and the descent. He focused on minimizing stopped time and really pushed it on the rolling section after Twin Lakes inbound resulting is a time of 11:33 and getting the buckle he had worked so hard for.

If you have big goals, and want help reaching them, contact us for a free consult.


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