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Team Sky’s Christian Knees (Germany) brings a wealth of experience to Team Sky including being a part of several high profile victories in 2011. That trend continues as he recently showed in his team support role at the first classic of the year, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
Knees’s coach, Bobby Julich, gives some insight into his preparation for Het Nieuwsblad, “Christian raced the Tour of Qatar, but then returned to training while other riders stayed for the Oman races. He then went down to Mallorca again and did some great training. The most important thing was that he called me and said that he was feeling very good on the bike and was ready to race. This turned out to be the case because despite being asked to do a lot of work on the front, he was still able to stay in the main group at the finish! “
Besides placing in 27th just 25 seconds behind the winner, Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Barracuda), Knees’s race file shows just how on-form he was as he set new season-high power values. Be sure to view his one-minute peak power value, which was set at 702w (compared to his previous best value of 648w during training) on the Taaienberg with 60km’s to go. This also happens to be the same climb where the winning breakaway of seven was formed which included Juan Antonio Flecha and Matthew Hayman.
Knees’s overall normalized power value for the 5-hour race was a whopping 383w and he averaged 315w. Wow! That means his normalized power was 4.7w/kg for five hours. See how long you can maintain those power values!
Knees’s high power values directly translated to a very high overall intensity, called Intensity Factor (IF), and coupled with the duration (200kms in 5hrs) equates to a very high Training Stress Score (TSS) of 353 TSS points. To put this into perspective Team Sky riders will rarely ever see values above 350TSS other than in the hardest one-day races. Most Tour de France stages top out around 300TSS (see Juan Antonio Flecha’s 2011 Tour de France race files here).
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Time: 4:53 (race time)
Placing: 27th, at +00:25
Wattage: 315W average (383 normalized power)
Training Stress Score: 353TSS
Body weight: 81kg
Knees finished the Omloop having done his job to perfection. However as you’ll see, there isn’t just one simple task at hand since the team utilizes Knees in a number of ways for maximum benefit.
Knees explains the first portion of the race along with his primary objective, “First I had to cover breaks and make sure the break is not too big and that there aren’t big teams within it.”
This can be seen within the race file as the power values are very high within the first 30kms of the race leading up to the separation of the initial three-man breakaway. The first 45-minutes had an average power of 318 watts and equated to 393 normalized power. Normalized power (NP) is effectively the stress that Knees felt as normalized power accounts for max power spikes even when he is coasting or pedaling lightly after a hard effort. This is unlike average power, which is pulled down in value when coasting and does a poor job of reflecting the stress of the overall effort.
Once the initial breakaway was established Knees had time to relax just a bit before he would be called upon again. Knees only averaged 150w for 20km’s after all of the attacks had settled down.
Knees was then called upon to help rotate at the front of the peloton, “After around 60 or 70km’s I started to work to bring the break back, at the point I started to work the break had a 12-minute lead. I worked with four other guys from different teams together and brought them (the break of three) back to within four minutes at around 130kms.”
It is very interesting to see how the power values tend to smooth out once Knees started to work with the four other riders. Within this 90-minute segment he recorded a normalized power of 390w and an average of 353w. You’ll notice that the steadier the effort is, the closer normalized power and average become, this is known as the Variability Index or simply “VI” within the file.
Once the race entered the final 80kms, and the distance to the breakaway dropped to within four minutes, the race started to liven-up as described by Knees, “It was getting nervous, getting swamped and I had a crash. I came back but then it was hard to get back to front on small roads. I managed to stay with the bunch while many guys got dropped at this point of the race.”
As Knees worked his way back towards the front of the peloton after the Taaienberg, Flecha and Hayman were already away in the day’s winning move. Knees wasn’t asked to do anymore work at the front, but he was able to still fight it out to the finish. This certainly wasn’t easy as shown by his max five-minute peak power value of 446w being set with in the final 90 minutes of racing.
In the end Team Sky’s efforts were rewarded with a podium placing by Flecha (his 5th time in six years!) and spirits were high following the first classic of the year.
Bobby Julich can’t say enough about what value Knees brings to the team, “Christian is a very unique rider that we are very lucky to have on Team Sky. He can mix it up with the best of them in the classics, but is also a very important part of our stage race team. He will be on the start line for Paris-Nice this weekend and with his current condition, I am sure that he is going to have a great race and be an important support rider for our GC aspirations.”