The Human Engine
Humans perform a wide range of tasks, some requiring substantial power expenditure. When they are participating in sports, we called them athletes. Training enhances their levels of expenditure and determines their ability to compete.
When we take about someone as being powerful, we mean more than simply able to accomplish a task, we mean able to accomplish the task faster than others.
Professional vs. Amateur Sports
My college hockey team was ranked fourth nationality. I asked a team member what would happen if they went up against a professional team, and he answered they would get “killed!”
My obvious question was why, and he responded the difference between professional and amateur athletes was their ability to execute at high speeds. This is an ultimate objective of training in any sport, including cycling. Even for musicians, speed of execution is an important distinguishing feature of professionals.
Many cyclists can make the Alpe d’Huze climb under non race conditions, but the ability of a Tour cyclist to accomplish it as the last part of a 110 mile stage makes them more powerful than other cyclists.
Measuring Individual Fitness in terms of Power
Scientists are always looking to “explain and understand” physical phenomena. And one of their questions is what makes one person more powerful than another. They have built equipment to measure performance in labs, as well as cycle devices that can record race condition metrics.
Much of their analytics is based on understanding human physiology, and specifically on to what degree muscles can perform under stressful conditions. A fundamental metric for quantifying fitness level is the ability to produce power as measured in Watts, their ability to perform a specific amount of work per second.
While we are interested in cycling, we should remember that an athlete’s ability to generate power enables them to perform over a range of sports. However, this does not happen magically. They need to train, and their competition level may be determined by their physiological characteristics. No matter how strong a cyclist is, you will find it difficult to conceive of one moonlighting as an NFL lineman.
How are ranges of fitness quantified?
Significant amounts of research and testing have gone into quantifying the ranges of human fitness levels in terms of power output. One such table has been developed by Andrew Coggin and defines the table based on fitness level, and the ability to perform at that level across four scenarios ranging from sprints to endurance rides.
These will be the source we use to make representative models of Cyclists at these various fitness levels. While we may be discussing cyclists, it is important to remember that these numbers strictly estimate the power levels the athlete would be expected to produce.
Next Topic: Cyclist Physiology
The following table is an expanded version of the the previous table and color coded by estimated cyclist training levels. Temporarily inserted here.