Saturday, September 13, 2008

29 Alberto Contador On The Angliru : Climbing Speed & Power to Weight Ratio

One can only sit back in astonishment and marvel at the speeds at which the breakaway flew up Angliru. Once again, Contador teaches his rivals how to tame mountains.

Anyone want to take a guess at his VAM for this climb? I'm pretty curious...

Okay, lets see if I can do it.

The EUROSPORT recording above kicks off right from the 4K to go banner. Assuming it is live like it says and there wasn't any cut and paste job by the uploader, Contador took about 15.5 minutes to get to the top at 1600m (5250 feet), as he crosses the banner there and proceeds towards the downhill. Referring to slope information for the mountain, the altitude difference between 4k to go and the top is roughly 500m. 15.5 minutes to climb 2 miles? Think about how steep that road was. VAM will be proportional to steepness. In this case, you can pretty much guess that it'll be in the high range.

So for the given altitude change (not for the whole climb) and from around the point he accelerated from Valverde and Rodriguez :

Ofcourse, there'll be an error percentage + or - something, but c'mon, it can't be huge. Nevertheless, a VAM of anything close to this number is bloody frickin remarkable!!!! Anyone disagree?

For a perspective, just remember - when Marco Pantani climbed the Alpe d'Heuz at record speed in 37 minutes & 35 seconds back in 1997 , he produced a VAM of around 1791!! And the climb was only at 7.9% average as opposed to Angliru's 10.13%, but oh well....he must have taken the pill too.

Finally, according to the evil Dr. Ferrari's method (and I have no idea where he digs this from), one can get an estimate of Contador's power to weight ratio (PWR) by dividing his VAM by 300. For the sake of calculation, lets take 1930 as his VAM.

That'll be just sufficient to be one the top climbers in history, eh?

Multiply that with his recorded racing weight of 62 kg, and you can see that he roughly produced around 400 Watts or close to it during those 15 minutes.

Don't grill me because of accuracy issues. I'm just giving you the numbers for the idea.

* * *


  1. Anonymous5:23 PM

    interesting! i wonder what gearing he used. the kid was flying!!!

  2. Anonymous5:58 PM

    A little on the high side I think, butok thanks for posting this!

  3. I have my doubts about the time he took. It may be more than 15 mins. This number is an overestimate. Still pretty impressive though.

  4. I hear it was a 34x30 on the rear... At least that is what Eurosport said. Almost sounds like MTB gearing :)

  5. Thanks Ryan. Pretty low gear if its true. Consider 17-24% though. I imagine this climb was introduced so late in pro racing due to the poor gearing options they had years back.

  6. Anonymous6:52 PM

    ryan : you sure about that? who makes a 34-30 cog set for road?

  7. Anonymous7:11 PM

    for a pro cyclist, contador looks to have very less musculature on the legs. a big gear won't suit him.

  8. Perhaps 15 minutes sounds reasonable. I read that it takes pro's around half an hour to climb the last 6.5 kilometers. and the easiest stretch has a grade of 12%. Woww!!

    David Millar probably caught a flight back home buhahahaha

  9. Anon @ 5:23


    Astana team mechanics told PEZ on rest day that all the riders were going to use 34/53 compact with 11-28 at the back. Last I checked 50-34 was compact, can you outfit a 53 chainring to that inspite of all the BCD issues?


  10. Anonymous7:42 PM

    from my experience with SRAM, they very good durable components and excellent range of gearing. the others have only realized lately how important this is to riders.

  11. Ron, thanks a ton for that Brain Man video!!! Amazing.

    Also, this is a really cool calculation on Contador . . . just incredible. I remember Simoni broke the record last year at the Giro, but I am sure this is the new record. Contador put out my threshold power, after two weeks of racing, and he weighs THIRTY POUNDS less than I do! Pretty crazy stuff.

  12. Also, the highest VAM will result during the steepest climbs because, obviously, wind resistance has the least effect so all power is going directly into increasing potential energy. Simoni broke the record last year on Monte Zoncolan by doing 1850 . . . however, he did this for the entire 40 minutes! I would be curious to see Contador versus Armstrong versus Simoni versus Pantani when they are/ere in their primes!

  13. Nick, the golden boy from Princeton!

    Yes, you're right. Steepness also dictates VAM. I guess you could backward project and see what Contador's would be on a ave. gradient of 7% that is the alpe d'huez. But there's probably no point in comparing with Pantani's, that guy came from the dark ages of cycling.

  14. Nick : I was almost thinking....Contador after the injury he took to his head in the past probably transformed him into a savant!! He's brilliant on the climbs!

  15. Anonymous11:40 PM

    Contador's VAM on the Col de Peyresourde in the 2007 Tour was 1642...... seems he's in peak form for this year's vuelta....

  16. Anon, thanks for the info. Thats interesting. The col is what, 6% average?

    Found a video of that stage.

  17. So, if Ricco was doing these numbers, he'd be called out. Why no cries of doper for Contador?

  18. Brettok : There could have very well been a test conducted yesterday on Contador. Lets wait and see if anything surfaces. Good point, I'm not discounting anything at this point.

  19. The numbers are a rough estimate. I would imagine Contador's VAM to be in the late 1800's but again, we havent seen such consistently steep climbs much before so its possible he did cross 1900m/h. This is also only for the last 4K, which is the steepest. The entire climb is some 9-12K long and so the average VAM probably is not unbelievably high.

    Ricco getting caught, even though late, was pretty reasonable as his reference VAM's for early that year never showed anything close to what he put out in the Giro.

  20. Anonymous1:19 AM

    A few notes:

    The gearing used by some riders (53x34) is not a big deal for BCD issues - you can put a 50, 53, 55 on a 110 (compact) chainring; the reason people use compacts is to have a smaller chainring for climbing - 34 Vs. 39. A 34 is physically too small to be attached to a normally spaced crankset since the perimeter is too small to fit in the existing holes. The only thing that suffers is front shifting due to the big ramp between 34 and 53 teeth. Typical front derailleurs recommend a 14 tooth difference.

    VAM is proportional to steepness. If a strong climber was doing stairs instead of a bike race his VAM would be even higher (say, 1:1 ratio of climbing to forward movement). This is because the steeper it gets less energy is used to overcome aerodynamic drag AND he travels less actual distance. El Angliru is tremendously steep, but not that long in distance (12.2 km, 10.3% grade, 1,248 m altitude gain) compared to say Le Col de Galibier (35 km, 5.5%, 2,000 m altitude gain). At the same power/weight, the VAM for Angliru would be much higher than for the Galibier (Armstrong posted 1,450 m/h on the Galibier). 6.4 W/kg is less than some top climbers have posted in other Grand Tour climbs. The infamous Ferrari's magic number was 6.7 W/kg for a Tour contender.

    Before you point the "doping" finger, do some research. Can't assure any of these guys aren't in the juice, but VAM is hardly the parameter to judge it.

  21. There you go. Thanks Rod. I'm really not interested in started a doping discussion here.

    Due to your input, I'll be switching my 50T chainring to a 53 on my compact setup. 50-11 is not enough for downhills for me.

    Interesting thing I learned was that back in 2002, Heras used a triple chainring with just 12-25 on the back. Thats something.

    VAM certainly can be a factor to judge suspicious performance. If you have past baselines for a particular climb, and the yearly historical data for a rider, I'm sure you can make a good assessment of his performance. For example, anything at or over 1800 m/h in a traditional Pyreneean stage is a signal for something wrong. Hence, Piepoli got pulled out after he rode Hautacam early this year.

  22. Anonymous1:38 AM

    But Piepoli didn't dope!!!!

  23. I gotta get some sleep here... so last comment.

    Anon : You're right, I didn't realize he didn't fail a drug test. I only said that if race officials want to make a case, VAM can certainly be one of the data in their arsenal.

    Rod : I calculated PWR using Ferrari's number "300" as opposed to any readings from an actual powermeter.

    Gooooooood nighttt ya'll !!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. I'm not pointing a finger at Contador (though his Puerto/Bruyneel connection could be enough to raise suspicion) but what I'm saying is it seems that some riders, when doing a great ride, get labelled a doper, yet others, who do those kind of rides over and over and dominate (for up to seven years!) are lauded for their hard work, talent and preparation.

    Funny, after posting this morning, I was out on a ride with a mate, and we were climbing one of the big climbs that is popular. He went away and smashed it up the climb, I was back a little and ended up catching a group of riders who were struggling up. When I re-joined my mate at the top, he said that as he passed some of the slower riders, one yelled out "are you on drugs?". Seems anyone who is faster than anyone else, even on a Sunday ride, is under suspicion, rightly or wrongly.

    PS Armstrong doped! ;-)

  25. First of all thank you for posting the eurosport video. I hadn't seen it, yet. Looking closely I think it is shown in higher speed. Watch the movements of the spectators. They are clapping and moving fast. Great calculations.

    Now let's see just for fun: I climbed Mt Mee (Brisbane) today. 6 km at 6% average gradient. My average power output over the last 15 minutes was 196 Watts or 3.34 Watts/kg. I'd better loose a few more kilos and gain some strength hey? :-)

  26. Bret : Weekend rides with trends are putting on that nature, agreed. If you do too well, you put something funny in your drink last night. If you did too bad, you didn't train enough, lost fitness, didn't hydrate...etc etc...and it comes down to getting yourself disgraced.

    Groover : You're kidding, right? They're moving fast because its Contador climbing and its drunk fans on both his sides. ;)

    See now before telling us your wattage, you could have multiplied it by 3 to make it look cool :) Lost your chance now. ANyway, even my PWR is somewhere around there the last time I checked. You're doing good.

  27. It's inspiring to watch...

  28. I think you are about 60 watts too low with your estimate.

  29. Anonymous3:31 AM

    You cannot directly compare a 15 min climb with Alpe d'Huez more then 30 min climb. VAM for shorter work loads will always be higher.


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