So you want to be a top Granfondo rider?

Posted by Verve Cycling on June 25, 2014 in
InfoCrank data analysis


We thought it would be interesting to review the power files of one of  the InfoCrank sponsored athletes after the recent Nove Colli Granfondo. I also rode the Nove Colli Granfondo, so found it interesting to look at our two files side by side. This event is the premier event on the Italian calendar and used by many bike shop and corporate teams as a team building exercise early in the season.


There are two courses – both tough – the long one is 205km with 3800m of climbing.  Finishing in under 10 hours is considered to be good riding.   The “short” course is only 130km long with 1875m of climbing over four colle.

Bernd Hornetz, is the current World Champion in his age group, having ridden away from a class field on the final climb up Monte Bondone to win his rainbow jersey.  As part of his sponsorship, Verve Cycling has access to his power files and we have some discussions about the numbers.  Of course his coach has many years of files and therefore is able to work with Bernd to ensure that his power to weight ratio is stable or improving and most importantly that he gets the rest that he needs to maintain good racing results.

In this event, there were constant attacks in the final kilometres but the 15 strong group ended up in a bunch sprint.  Bernd finished in the middle of that first bunch – an extremely good performance for an age group athlete – especially after what he explained “felt like a criterium” with consistent attacks and gaps to close.


Firstly for some raw numbers;

Nove Colli Bernd

Race length
Time 5 hours 58 minutes
Placing 10th place  (Category winner)
Normalised Power 283 watts
Ave Watts 240 watts
Speed 33.9 kph
Top Speed 85 kph
Peak 20 min Power  313 watts
Peak 10 min Power  336 watts


The race is in three distinct parts;

  • the flat fast start for 28km to the hills
  • the nine hills – Emilia Romagna has short irregular hills
  • the final plateau and descent and 20km flat into headwind to the finish.

The front group did the first 28km at 43kph and this was the easiest section of the race, measured by power.  Contrast that with the solid group that I rode in.   We did the same at 37.3kph.   Bernd conserved power only pushing 221 watts for that first section.


In the long course, there are nine climbs of varying length, grade and with their own characteristics.   Bernd’s power on the climbs varied between 311 watts and 256 watts with all climbs except one being above 270 watts.  Of more importance was his normalized power for the climbs –(since the climbs are so irregular, the pressure goes on and off more than a long continuous climb).


The normalized power ranged between 286 watts and 325 watts with the lowest average power climb having one of the highest normalized powers.  That suggests that the pressure was really on some of the steepest sections, but was not able to be sustained by any of the cyclists.

By the way, because we have his cadence and torque data, we know that the watts are accurate to within +-1.5 watts over the whole day.

The real strength of Bernd is shown in his power to weight ratio.  Generally, the power to weight ratio is measured using the athlete’s average weight during the event (or for ease of measurement – their morning weight) and then the average power.   There is a case for measuring the ratio using the total weight of the bike and the rider fully kitted up, but in the end the simplest is the first concept.


Bernd climbed all of the climbs at a Power to Weight (P/w) ratio between  5.11 watts per kilo and 4.25 watts per kilo with an average over all the climbs of 4.66 watts per kilo.


Contrast that with me where my Power to weight was 3.15 watts per kilo.  Because I am 20kg heavier than Bernd, I have to push out a very serious amount of power if I were to keep up.  Of course, I can’t keep up – but I can still be in the top 10% of my age group.


Bernd rode his race with an average torque of 33.6 N m.   His cadence averaged 86rpm.   I rode the shorter race with an average torque of 28 N m.  So what is the difference between a good Age-Grouper and an Elite Amateur? 15% more pressure on the pedals and 25% faster pedalling, according to this set of data.That is why he was in the front group and why I just ride respectable times.

Years ago, I asked one of Australia’s great stage riders, Michael Wilson, “What is the difference between a Pro rider and a good amateur?”   Michael replied, “They just push the pedals harder”.  Maybe Michael should have added, “And, Oh, they pedal faster too”.

Note: I also only did the short course, so Bernd sustained his output for 50% longer than I did!

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