Races › Arena Games
22 Sep 2020
5 min read
One of the problems with elite triathlon events is the lack of data. All we as fans see are the split times for each discipline. This is good, up to a point. But as anyone who has ever done any triathlon will know the distances can be unreliable. Every bike leg is different. Was that run actually 10km? My Garmin says differently. How can you accurately measure an open water swim anyway?
Thus, the process of comparing yourself to the pros and gauging whether or not you should write to your country’s Olympic Selection Committee and demand that they reconsider you is always tricky. If that run was only 9.5km, then perhaps I’m not really that far off?
But now, finally, Super League has come to the rescue. We have verified distances. We have split times to the millisecond. We have speed and pace data over time. And we have power and cadence data.
Well. I can go one better there for starters. I can tell you what it takes to beat a World Champion. Vasco Vilaca came over the top of 5 time World Champ Javier Gomez in the bike leg of the final race to take the win, and elevate himself into second place in the overall standings. How did he do this?
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Well, clearly you’ve got to be there. To put himself in contention with Gomez, Vilaca ran at a pace of 3:08 min/km (on a curved treadmill no less, which are estimated to be 30 seconds slower per kilometre, so adjust that down to around 2:40 min/km in real terms) and then swam 200m in 2:11 (1:06 min/100m). If you can do this too, please respond in the comments – Macca might be willing to give you a start in the next Super League Arena Games. Needless to say, this is after already completing 2 triathlons previously, with minimal rest.
In the final bike leg Vilaca averaged 5.5 watts/kg over 5 minutes to beat Gomez, but the secret to the win really lay in his superior tactics. As you can see in the graph below, Vilaca (in the blue) and Gomez (yellow) were largely equal power wise for roughly the first 4 minutes and 45 seconds. Both must have known then that it would come down to an all out sprint to the line. However, the 20 year old Portuguese outwitted his rival and allowed Gomez to take the front when the Spaniard made his bid for the line with 30 seconds to go. As you can see Gomez was putting out about 550 watts, with Vilaca managing to sit on his wheel at (only) around 450 watts. With about 15 seconds to go, Vilaca made his move and upped the wattage to over 700, managing to move past Gomez and take the win.
Impressive tactics from the young athlete, showing confidence and a wherewithal beyond his years to outfox the experienced Gomez. Whether this was due to their relative experience on Zwift, I’m not sure, but either way it has elevated the profile of Vilaca considerably. He’s one to watch out for. Especially now after taking second place in the ITU World Championships.
Yes, it’s obscene really isn’t it. Far faster than is strictly necessary.
On the women’s side Jess Learmonth was the stand out performer, destroying the opposition in a dominant performance and winning all three races. And looking at the data, this is clear to see. Below we see the data from the first bike leg. Learmonth (blue) came out of the swim in first place (2:12 for the 200m, at a pace of 1:06 min/100m), and had a 8 second lead at the start of the bike. The chasing pack of 4 athletes – Klamer, Barthelemy, Taylor-Brown and Kingma – formed a pack, but never made any headway into Learmonth’s advantage.
As can be seen, Learmonth was by far the most consistent from a power perspective. She averaged 5.2 watts/kg over the first bike leg, over 300 watts, with the other athletes rarely ever coming close to matching her consistency. Maya Kingma (orange) can be seen making some attempts to break up the group of 4 and try to bridge the gap – most notably at around 4 minutes – but ultimately those attempts were futile in the face of the wattage laid down by Learmonth.
Yes, she was the fastest swimmer, the fastest biker and the fastest runner, both individually and on average. It was a really impressive performance from her. Untouchable. Below is the run from the second race, and Learmonth’s numbers can be seen at the top of the graph – rarely was anyone in the race moving as fast as she was.
Interestingly, you can see how all the athletes were slowing down throughout the run, evidence of the difficulty of running on those treadmills perhaps. Taylor-Brown was the notable exception here, she got progressively faster throughout and even finished with a 30 second sprint at the end, recording the fastest pace of any runner at this point.
Yes! He was in the lead going into the final race, but came last and dropped right down the leaderboard. And looking at the data it appears that he didn’t really put out a sprint at all. Schomburg (yellow) peaked in the final sprint at around 500W, whilst Niechslag and Hillebregt were closer to 800W. Perhaps he was too exhausted at this stage to muster a similar attack.
Sadly for the German, this was the lowest wattage of the 8 sprinting for the line, and he faded to last place in the final race whilst Nieschlag took second and the necessary points for the Championship win.
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