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Gazzetta dello Sport scrutinizes Horner's power data at the Vuelta

Cycling News
September 13, 2013, 11:44,
September 13, 2013, 14:01
Second Edition Cycling News, Friday, September 13, 2013
Vuelta a España, Stage 18
Chris Horner (RadioShack) is a man on a mission

Chris Horner (RadioShack) is a man on a mission

  • Chris Horner (RadioShack) is a man on a mission
  • Chris Horner (RadioShack Leopard) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) climb to the finish
  • Chris Horner (RadioShack)

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Italian newspaper claims the American produced 6.83w/kg on the Peña Cabarga climb

Italian sports newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport has scrutinized Chris Horner's performance during Thursday's stage at the Vuelta a Espana, calculating that the 41-year-old American produced a record breaking VAM of 2034 and a power-to-weight ratio of 6.83 watts/kg on the climb to the finish at Peña Cabarga.

Gazzetta reporter Claudio Ghisalberti said that Horner covered the 4.9km climb In a time of 16:40 at an average speed of 21.240km/h, producing an average of 437 watts. That was 20 seconds faster than Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and 25 seconds faster than Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Horner failed to take the race leader's jersey by just three seconds but could go on to triumph in the final two mountain stages at the Vuelta.

According to Gazzetta Horner's estimated VAM of 2034 apparently beats those set by Contador (1926) and Rodriguez (1903) on the Cuitu Negru climb on stage 14 of last year's Vuelta. Roberto Heras set a figure of 1900 in 2002. A reported tailwind helped the riders on the climb of Peña Cabarga and could be a factor in the high numbers.

VAM stands for 'Velocità Ascensionale Media' or Average Ascent Speed, with the infamous Dr. Michele Ferrari one of the first to use the calculation to compare riders' performances on climbs. Ferrari has coached Lance Armstrong and many other riders over the years and has been widely accused of doping by witnesses who gave evidence in the USADA investigation into Armstrong and the US Postal Service team. He was given a lifetime ban after opting not to fight the charges, although he has always denied any wrongdoing.

Gazzetta dello Sport claim that physiological experts agree that a 6.2 w/kg is natural limit of performance, with age often reducing an athlete's ability. Horner will be 42 on October 23 and is one of the oldest riders in the professional peloton.

Pseudo science?

Indirect performance data calculations have sparked much debate and argument in recent times. Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford dismissed similar calculations during the Tour de France as pseudo science. However French sports physiologist Antoine Vayer is convinced power data and VAM can be used to indicate unnatural performances.

According to Dr. Ferrari the road surface, drafting from teammates and other riders, hairpins and the wind can greatly affect performance, power data and VAM. He claims on his 53x12 blog that road surfaces can cause a variation of 6-10%, while wind can have a similar affect.

Horner races with an SRM power metre and the SRM website has published data from stage 10 of the Vuelta, when Horner won alone on the Hazallanas climb. The data shows he produced 390 watts in the final 4.5km of the climb, significantly lower than the calculations by Gazzetta for the Peña Cabarga climb.

The Chicken More than 1 year ago
Yeh, I think the tailwind explains it. BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA,
wrinklyvet More than 1 year ago
That's a strange noise for a Chicken to make - even the original authentic Chicken, MR.
rastymick More than 1 year ago
Actually, a strong tailwind on a 5km climb can make a huge difference - I'd say definitely 30-50 seconds. Horner averaged 6.83 watts/kg on a 5km climb, the other guys lost about 20sec and as Horner is lighter than the other riders, their w/kg figures must be similar. The only thing I'm wondering is, can a 42 year old guy really be so strong?
kevinzamora More than 1 year ago
I don't think he's as light as Purito or even Nibali, but I do agree a strong head wind can be a big help, though I don't know and probably we'll never know how strong it was (if there was one). And as much inspirig his performance may be, it really is pretty odd that he found the best form of his life at such age, and the fact that he's a contemporary rider of some of the greatest known dopers makes it even more uncomfortable... hope he's clean and saves cycling another slap in the face
vsaluki More than 1 year ago
Looking at Horner's picture from yesterday's climb, I have never seen him that lean before. I'd like to know what his weight is right now. He is normally at 140. But I'm betting he is well below that right now.
aqua lung More than 1 year ago
i saw him in utah last month, could not believe how lean he is, there was not much there. i'd say less than 140lb for sure.
Bouldered More than 1 year ago
137lbs prior to the Vuelta start. Likely 135-136lbs now...
Jesus from Cancun More than 1 year ago
Actually, it does. During his Live Update, Charles Pelkey reported a very strong tailwind during the climb. It was said before the outcome of the stage was known. Who knows. Horner could be 'tuned up', but the tailwind excuse works for me so far.
NashbarShorts More than 1 year ago
I have no disillusions that Horner has never juiced up.... but, he only won by 20sec. If he is worthy of scrutiny, then why aren't the other riders only a few meters behind him??
vrusimov More than 1 year ago
All four put up dpVAM bars at Pena Cabarga...
Jeff41 More than 1 year ago
Because the race ended, had there been another 2 km of climbing at that gradient he would have took out more chunks of time, I like Horner but I have to question how he is destroying the younger and proven best climbers in the world at his age ???
wrinklyvet More than 1 year ago
Well, there weren't 2km more climbing so don't you think the riders including Horner took the position of the finish line into consideration when calculating their effort as best they could? As a result your argument about further chunks of time over greater distance is slightly spurious.
Gary_K More than 1 year ago
It's not spurious, it's ridiculous! Since when do you go too hard so as to blow up 2km before the line, or do you know your power limit so well you time it perfectly? As a pro rider, all of them should know the latter!
Chemainiac More than 1 year ago
Stalky More than 1 year ago
Rodriguez and Valverde, the two closest finishers in terms of GC, are not that far behind Horner in age. And I wouldn't call them the best climbers in the world...
Terrence Martineau More than 1 year ago
"And I wouldn't call them the best climbers in the world.." then obviously you don't know jack about cycling! they are certainly among the best in the world... Rodriguez dropped Froome in the final mountain stage of the Tour.. are you insane... on super steep pitches Rodriquez is considered one if not the best in the world...
vsaluki More than 1 year ago
Rodriquez is one of the best on short steep climbs, but there are probably five guys that are better overall climbers than Rodriquez and Valverde. Despite Rodriquez best performance of his life in this years tour, in general, Froome, Quintana, Contador, A Schlecht, and Nibali are better climbers. It will be interesting to see how well Rodriquez does in tomorrow's long climb. That will be a good measure to show if his overall climbing has improved in the last year or two.
Chrono More than 1 year ago
Andy Schleck IS a better climber than Rodriguez, says vsaluki. What recent performances show this? I haven't seen any.
Terrence Martineau More than 1 year ago
vsaluki - let's get back on point... before a few days ago, where did Horner sit on your list?? Andy Schleck, really?? Rodriguez has not just shown his ability just this year.. he podium in the Giro and Vuelta LAST year.. except for one bad day where he was out maneuvered, mostly tactically by Alberto Contador he went pedal stroke for pedal stroke with Contador and was able to overhaul him on all, but that one bad day he had... so on your list if you adjust for REALITY, I think he's sitting at 3rd or 4th position... I think that qualifies him as one of the best in the world on really steep climbs I think even long ones I think it's a toss up between Quintana and Rodriguez..
Cance > TheRest More than 1 year ago
I will consider Rodriguez the best on 1-3km super steep climbs, where he can just go all out from the bottom. However, when it comes to longer climbs, he is probably not the best in the world. I think one of the reasons Valverde and Rodriguez aren't performing top level, is that they are very tired after a long season. It seems to me that both of them lack just some percentages. Rodriguez performance today happened on a super easy 5-6k climb, that was pretty flat, so the fact that he can win stages like this and not stages like the one before, only suggests that he is not in top form...
bikerbruce More than 1 year ago
Relax TM. People listen to your points. If you demean others, it reduces your credibility.
Snitor More than 1 year ago
33 and 34... Horner is 41, almost 42.. I say they are far behind Horner in age, though I am not saying they (or any other rider in the peloton) is clean.. That I just don't know..
mspgrandi More than 1 year ago
Horner gained 20 secs in the final 1.5km. Not good with maths but I think he means he was going around 5km/h faster than the rest. On a 20pc steep slope that is a lot.
rastymick More than 1 year ago
5km/h ??? - the difference in speed would be about 1.5km/h - still quit a lot considering you are going against the best in the world
erader More than 1 year ago
plus he's in his 40s
Bouldered More than 1 year ago
Because the race ended? Really? That's your position? Didn't it end at the exact same place for everybody?
Gingerflash More than 1 year ago
"physiological experts agree that a 6.2 w/kg is natural limit of performance" This is incorrect and misleading. This figure, from Aldo Sassi, relates to anaerobic or lactic threshold. It is a power output that can be maintained for a long period, usually 45 minutes or longer. In shorter efforts, of course riders can manage more. What is Griepel's power-to-weight in a 20 second sprint? Probably about 20w/kg. Does that mean he's doiping? Of course not. This was a 16 minute climb. The riders will have been anaerobic by the end; riding way beyond anaerobic threshold. It's not surprising they managed more than 6.2w/kg.
wrinklyvet More than 1 year ago
So, given that the figures offered by Gazzetta dello Sport are meaningless in this context, why are so many people deluded to think they are some kind of scientific proof?
rastymick More than 1 year ago
That's just what the media are doing all day long... publishing lot's of rubbish and then selling it as science. I like Nibali a lot, but if he would have accelerated on that last km and gained 20 sec on (a just not as great) Horner, there would be no "superhuman performance" article from la Gazzetta
Bouldered More than 1 year ago
Tony M More than 1 year ago
So much for Claudio of the Gazetta.I learnt my maths some 60 years ago but some things dont change and my calculation for 4.9km in 16m40s equals 17.6km.p.h not 21.24 km.p.h. If he cant do the simple sums why should anyone trust his scientific mumbo jumbo.
radmember More than 1 year ago
Your math is spot on, but I have seen references to the climb at 5.9k which would make the avg speed 21.24. Can anyone shed some light on the actual length of the climb whic was timed? Thanks
Slicky More than 1 year ago
Gingerflash - you are so right
Coach Hawk More than 1 year ago
Not saying Horner is or isn't doping, just a comment on the "physiological experts"--they also proved that running a sub 4-minute mile was physically impossible as well as many other amazingly wrong "proofs" throughout the years.
dhbemis More than 1 year ago
"Physiological experts agree that a 6.2 w/kg is natural limit of performance". I'd like to get a bit more detail about that statement. Surely they mean there is some _time_ limit that 6.2 w/kg is naturally sustainable. Not that it's impossible at all. Just like Gingerflash said.
Terrence Martineau More than 1 year ago
This is correct, but c'mon man... they guy is obviously on a new 'program' this year...
Jesus from Cancun More than 1 year ago
Or maybe he is a protected leader this time, rather than the one pulling the peloton for 150 kms.
Terrence Martineau More than 1 year ago
oh.. yes... so being clean, but protected allows you to beat the record setting performances of past dirty riders.. ok, yeah.. sorry.. that makes perfect sense... lol.. that's what you guys are missing here.. this is not about winning.. sure if everyone is clean, sure there will be some reshuffling of those that where hyper responder to the dope 'de jour', BUT everyone's performances should drop.. if you have people that are supposedly clean still performing at that 'doped' level you know something is not kosher.. and this is the case with Horner...
Bouldered More than 1 year ago
I guess your obviously and my obviously aren't the same. Obviously, you must have some inner view of the peloton that the rest of us obviously don't have.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And as it is an indirect evaluation, it's the same as a "guess". Even a small tailwind (like what was reported that day) can have a major effect on "observed" performance. A lot of the VAM has been classified as hokum in a lot of Human Performance labs across the world. We all know that Hormer dopes with Geritol. (that's a joke people)
GuyIncognito More than 1 year ago
6.2w/kg is a figure calculated for longer climbs, not 15 minute ones like this. That said, Horner's performance quite a long way past what's credible. He murdered the record time for this climb. It's becoming normal, really, that old dopers desperate for a contract have these performances at the Vuelta. The funny part is seeing the same people who claimed Cobo was a doper now claiming that Horner is clean when the same arguments they used against Cobo also apply to Horner.
Snitor More than 1 year ago
Not defending Cobo, but the arguments are stronger now.. More than 30 seconds stronger, I would say..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
That is pseudo science and it doesn't take much to prove that these calculations are not so linear. Just take a couple riders to a lab test theirs vo2 max and watts and you will see that vo2 means nothing
GuyIncognito More than 1 year ago
Congratulations. You're agreeing with Vayer and most other sports physiologists who do these calculations and have campaigned for years that VO2max is meaningless despite several team managers swearing by it.
oxide23 More than 1 year ago
I'll be pretty depressed if Horner turns out to be another doper. I wish that all these dopers would leave my favorite sport alone. Nice to see Roche riding well too, he's becoming a more well rounded rider. It's been a very exciting Vuelta all in all. Whatever the outcome for who gets the final victory, the last few days will be excellent.
Mathew Mitchell More than 1 year ago
I'm still not decided one way or the other on Horner. His performances do ring alarm bells, but it's not like he's demolished the rest of the competition....however after being on Saunier Duval/Astana/Radioshack he's almost guilty by association from those days. I can't decide fully one way or the other. I'm waiting for a moment where it becomes blindingly obvious like Landis' solo break in the Tour a couple of days after cracking.
Niels Johan Thissen More than 1 year ago
Landis put in that solo break the day after he cracked...not a couple of days later...not that it matters but still - it's about the facts right? I don't know about Horner...the guy is 41, yeah ok - so is Voigt...he had a pretty lame 2012/2013 (first half) due to injuries...he always showed great promise...Lance actually 'hated' him for that promise right? I don't know - give him the benefit of the doubt I would like to say...
mspgrandi More than 1 year ago
Voigt isnt winning stages at the grand tour.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Voigt won a mountain stage in Colorado last year with a 120 km break, beating the pack by almost 3 minutes, after climbing Independence Pass (up to 3800 m in elevation). Sure, it's not a Grand Tour, but Jens has never been a GC contender.
Broth3r More than 1 year ago
I really wonder why people still think doping is a matter of opinion.
Bouldered More than 1 year ago
Excellent response, Broth3r. It's turned into an opinion-based forum with people with zero evidence spouting pseudo-science to pseudo-scientits, and it makes me throw up in my mouth just a little.
B_Ugli More than 1 year ago
Forget science. Common sense tells you that for a rider in his 40's to be performing as Horner has done recently is simply unbelievable. In fact even if you take away the fact he is in his 40's it would still be unbelievable, his age just makes it even more unbelievable.
sime72 More than 1 year ago
mspgrandi More than 1 year ago
There have been over 6000 stages of a grand tour (giro vuelta tour). Before this year no rider aged 41 has ever won one stage. The oldest grand tour winner ever is 36. Without accusing horner of doping if you cannot see the anomaly in his performance you must be on crack
wrinklyvet More than 1 year ago
No need to insult anyone here! Apart from which, please tell us how many riders of 41 have been team leaders in a grand tour?
kevinzamora More than 1 year ago
wrinklyvet - that probably makes it even more unbelievable...
marcello More than 1 year ago
Brilliant wrinklyvet
Gary_K More than 1 year ago
How many people ran sub 4 minutes before Roger Banister? How many broke 10 seconds for the 100m before Jim Hines? So those breaking frontiers are all doped, or just more scientific, motivated, dedicated, make more sacrifices? Suspicious it may be, but let time give him the benefit of the doubt for now!
SourKraut More than 1 year ago
Ah yes....common sense is a fail safe path to truth.
wrinklyvet More than 1 year ago
No, I am afraid that common sense proves nothing either.
Prospero Gogo More than 1 year ago
Sounds like a comment from someone in their 20s! I for one (being 42) don't believe in common sense, never have.
dfawatts More than 1 year ago
True stuff. I'm approaching mid forties and still getting PBs without anything more than a cup of tea before I ride. It's always good to give the young 'uns a hard ride.
Bouldered More than 1 year ago
I guess if it makes "common sense" to you it must be true. How could another, dissenting opinion, possibly be true if only one version of "common sense" is fact?
GoatHerd More than 1 year ago
Plus at this point he`s got NOTHING TO LOOSE. Ban a rider on the verge of retirement? Not so scary. He probably is thrashing the others because none of the younger guys are juicing. Plus he`s probably justifying it w/ something on the lines of "just getting my youth back", like all those hormone-replacement muppets.
wrinklyvet More than 1 year ago
Do you really think that's the kind a blaze of glory a mature person would want as his possible exit from the sport?
GoatHerd More than 1 year ago
Mmm.. It`s a tough one. I must say I`m devided on this. Because one could spin what I said around, & say that Horner NEVER WON a tour because he refused to cheat...
brianbarber More than 1 year ago
Jens Voigt is still schooling kids half his age.
Terrence Martineau More than 1 year ago
and when is the last time. Jens won a grand tour or a high mountain stage in a grand tour? oh, that's right.. never! there is a difference between being bold and benefiting from people miscalculating your resolve and crazy tactics that only sometimes end up paying off... it's not really that Jens is better physiologically that the young guys, he's just more risk taking and when he commits he goes all in.. not everyone is willing to do that.. but stack him up head to head drag race on a mountain or a TT where you can compare who's physiologically better and he's not even close to being among the best in the world..
Joeyjojojr More than 1 year ago
Jens is a deisel engine. Of course he's not gonna fly up mountains. Horner is a climber...a STEEP climber, not just long gradual climbs. You could see that in today's stage. Wasn't steep enough for him. And your head to head TT suggestion actually makes Horner's argument for him. Compared to the other GC contenders, his TT was terrible. But he's not a time trialist. He's a climber...a STEEP climber.
Terrence Martineau More than 1 year ago
Jens wins because of crazy, unexpected tactics.. not because of raw ability.. that's the point... on raw ability he's not anywhere near the top of the sport in any discipline you'd care to use...
marcello More than 1 year ago
Jens is absolutely near the top of the sport in terms of talent. Witness all his wins. The guy has more power than probably 90 % of ALL pros. He is a monster. I get sea sick watching his swaying style however, and his interviews aren't as charming as reported, but the guy is pure power. He is absolutely elite. There is a small percentage of the peleton who can do what he does. He has won many mountainous stage races in Germany and France.
Broth3r More than 1 year ago
As a molecular and cellular biologist, comments like these make me cringe. Common sense is relative. No two humans have the same values to hold as "common sense", and to rely on it is stupid. Furthermore, willingly choosing to ignore science is intolerable - not that I consider these calculations to hold any merit.
Terrence Martineau More than 1 year ago
blah, blah, blah... I have almost.. 30yrs bike racing experience... people don't bloom at 42... it doesn't happen... people that bloom at 42 are cheating.. it's as simple as that.
Broth3r More than 1 year ago
...are you being intentionally dense?
lechia More than 1 year ago
Comments like this bring nothing to the discussion, Broth3r. Most of the comments here try to equate amateur guys who's never cycled to pros who've been training all their lives. Sudden transformations to humanly impossible performances (from previous mediocrity) are unfortunately clear evidence of cheating. Amstrong, Wiggins, Froome, Horner....
Bouldered More than 1 year ago
Terrence, your personal limitations as a cyclist are irrelevant. End of discussion.
Gary_K More than 1 year ago
I never had you as being so short sighted TM. Age is no barrier to performance if you finally find what works for you and you have a team supporting you 100%.
Terrence Martineau More than 1 year ago
these guys are funny... Lance Armstrong: "Finally, the last thing I’ll say to the people who don’t believe in cycling, the cynics and the skeptics: I'm sorry for you. I’m sorry that you can’t dream big. I'm sorry you don't believe in miracles. But this is one hell of a race. This is a great sporting event and you should stand around and believe it. You should believe in these athletes, and you should believe in these people..." blah, blah, blah... can these people really be that stupid to still be falling for this stuff.. if it seems to good to be true.. 9 out of 10 times it's because it is!
Mike Jacoubowsky More than 1 year ago
Actually, Lance was pretty careful in his wording in that speech. You can believe in the athletes, the endeavor, if you accept the rationale that doping is part of what it takes to survive a 3 week tour and put on a spectacular race. Many people still watch and enjoy sporting contests in which they know that doping is going on. How many people held their breath anxiously each time Barry Bonds came to the plate, even though they knew in both their hearts and minds the guy was juiced? And I'd say that takes an even larger leap of faith or stupidity or whatever to "believe" in, because while many players were juiced, it doesn't seem to have been as universal as has been the case for cycling. Still, it was with a sense of relieve that I believed things were (and I think actually are) getting cleaner in cycling, and that the day might come where I wouldn't see someone pull something like a "Ricco" where it just looks so incredible and you're just holding your breath hoping that it's real.
Northumberland More than 1 year ago
Exactly what I thought listening to Horner's speech, deja vu- how sad for us that we are so cynical and don't have the spirit to believe. Old guys talking about improving there strava segment times- slightly different to a twenty year pro.
Title_shot More than 1 year ago
American cyclist beats Italian cyclist. Italian press attacks American cyclist. Classic.....
wrinklyvet More than 1 year ago
And they join with the Americans who attack American cyclist! Someone is very keen on using the self-destruct button.
lechia More than 1 year ago
Speaking of Ango-Saxon "conspiracy", did you see how Clarke waited for Horner and then gave it his all to drag him up the mountain for a minute or whatever he could? What the heck was he doing helping a guy on another team, sprinting op the mtn, destroying himself in the process? It's not like he was hoping for a stage win. There were 5 guys ahead of him up the mountain.
vsaluki More than 1 year ago
Chris has a lot of friends.
Gary_K More than 1 year ago
Perhaps he (Clarke) just dislikes Nibali? 'Looking for a new team' tactics? Offered up a sum of money to do some bidding? Team manager instructions as 'organised' between DS's?
Andrea Cerri More than 1 year ago
No he's not like that, Though I don't like Gazzetta much, we are used to see Italian cyclist beaten, last year we had a Canadian triumphing and, I assure you, we were happy for him. But Horner did something unbelievable for a rider who has always been on a mediocre level compared to GT contenders. I undestand and sympathise with the americans "tifosi" need of a clean hero after all those liars, but I fear that Horner is very suspect, And this has nothing to do with beating Nibali, but a lot with defeating cycling races.
Prospero Gogo More than 1 year ago
The incontrovertible evidence that Horner is doping is the fact that he smiles all the way up a climb. I have trouble finding a picture where he isn't. There was a study in the Journal of the American College of Psychology showing that people who smile in competition are definitely cheating. :)
wrinklyvet More than 1 year ago
Good one - the most scientific proof yet !! ;-)
garysheu More than 1 year ago
He always "smiles". That's just the way he looks.
wrinklyvet More than 1 year ago
rainwatrs More than 1 year ago
Cat on a tin roof, dogs in a pile nothin left to do but smile smile smile
CesarTrouble More than 1 year ago
That post definitely made me smile. :)
Broth3r More than 1 year ago
I smile when I'm suffering. It's my tell, apparently.