Cadence Puzzle

BY KENNETH LUNDGREN

Way back when, I started my cycling life as a huge masher, just mashing up everything. Small ring? NONSENSE!!! I remember buying my first road bike and going out and just pushing these huge gears everywhere, every day… I thought small gears meant slow speeds and low power!

As a time-trialist, I now know I’m not blessed with the fast-twitch genes to be a natural sprinter. Back then, pushing 80 rpms everywhere, guess how much worse I was!!! ZERO acceleration. This hit me hard when I was as a 5. I would do the Prospect Park Cat-5 race, then jump in the P12. Well, I was getting gapped a lot after a few laps, and this big black guy from MoneyGram helped me out, guiding me back in everytime. Nice guy! This guy was FAST! He had this wicked fast cadence, churning this small gear almost effortlessly, just cruising and pulling me back into the peloton…

I was enamored. How could this be? Well, this dude from MoneyGram ended up winning the race (after helping me for several laps!). From that day on, I was Mr. High Cadence. At first, I was terrible, couldn’t go fast. But with time, you get more comfortable turning the smaller gears and the body adapts. I was able to upgrade to Cat-2…

Now, as a time-trialist, I realize you can’t really spin and be the fastest guy. My cadence in RRs is usually 105-110, just cruising. Climbing I’m at around 100. I can get away with that. But in TTs, I knew I needed to lower the cadence a bit in order to maximize the pedaling action and get some more speed out of my legs…

PowerCranks and lotsa force work has helped me get more comfy in the high 80s, low 90s… But, starting out in February, on my TT bike I was still at home at 104 rpms. This was just my sweet spot. Well, the goal was to lower the cadence a bit and see if I could go faster. I also added some more weight so I could muster that extra power when in SteadyState mode…

This year, from the rip at Cape May, I found myself at 95 rpms, too cold to shift but also trying a lower cadence. I wasn’t on form and suffered dearly. Felt fat and slow. God that hurt! (when you’re not on form and get stuck in too big of a gear, NOT A FUN TIME!!!)

At Sandy Hook, I averaged 102 rpms, cadence down 6 rpms from last year but higher than I wanted. However, I felt great and had a good ride — very fast sans the missed turnaround. I was resorting back to “old” Ken with smaller gear but can honestly say that at Sandy Hook I “felt” the best I did all year…

At Readington, my cadence was 96. I had O’Donnell chasing me and started out in too big of a gear and never shifted up. I had a good time, 3rd on the day, but felt like absolute garbage out there. But the speeds are what counts…

At the Kingwood 36k TT, I went out at 110 rpms, fearing I’d crack at a lower cadence, and coming back was 98 rpms, where I dug much harder. In the end, I won and put the most time into guys on the way back… But average cadence for the day was 104…

At High Point, I averaged 95 rpms, pretty high for this climb. When on form, I can climb with a slightly bigger gear. Last year at 150 pounds, I went up in the big ring and it felt like small ring — 96 rpms. This year at 160, I went up in small ring and it felt like big ring! In the end, didn’t have scorching time but physically I felt very good…

At the Somerset County TT, I had a very good ride, very fast. Last year my cadence was around 104, and this year I was at 98! Conditions were much slower this year and I went faster. For the first time all year, I can say I felt comfortable at the lower cadence… At Readington one month earlier, I was fast but felt like crap. Now… the training was beginning to take its effect…

I’ve been doing steady rides on the TT bike, hitting my TT loop regularly. The power has been going up and the cadence down… In March, I could do the loop in 17:00 at 320w at 104 rpms. Yesterday, I was able to rip it in 15:11 at 348w at 96 rpms, HR even lower! Best time ever, by far. So, the body (and the neurological system) is finally getting used to turning a bigger gear. Because I know this is what I have to do…

So at States, I’m hoping that at the end of the file, rpms will be 97-98. I know if it’s higher I chickened out, fearing the massive strain on the legs and instead opting to cruise steadily. If I can keep the gear lower and really grit it out, I know I can go faster. At Kingwood I chickened out. But this ain’t Kingwood — this is the State TT Championships.

I hope to really rip it. I have another hard ride Friday but I’m confident I’ll be ready for the TT. If I can put time into Jason Walters (not gonna be easy!), there is a chance I can get the GSC leader’s jersey. That’s my goal. O’Donnell is the heavy favorite to win — if you don’t know how fast he is, just start in front of him at a TT! He is stronger than me, more aero, has the faster bike, but I can’t be worried about that. You just have to go down there, dig deep, leave everything out there, and be happy if you rode to your potential.

All I want is to show up at States and perform better than I did at the previous events. The result, whatever it’s going to be, is just the icing on the cake.

Thanks for reading.

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Kenneth Lundgren's Diary | Thursday, May 29th, 2008 | | |