Marathon at the Giro 2011
The third alpine stage, and the 15th in succession, after the tough Grossglockner and Zoncolan ones saw the first riders produce efforts for 7 hours and 30 minutes, the last ones for well over 8 hours.
Six thousand meters over almost 90 km of total climbing, resulting in about 4h of fighting against gravity, transformed the stage in an ultra-marathon, where the fuel tank is at least as important as the engine and where energy saving and distribution of the effort become crucial.
Contador, the strongest rider yesterday, knows this very well, and was able to find a few allies along the road to the finish, especially spanish riders from other teams, helping him to save precious energy in the chase of the daily attacks and keep a high regular pace on the Fedaia.
Naturally, the VAMs were all affected by the energetic expenditure and progressive exhaustion of glycogen store: 1617 m/h (5.39 w/kg) for the group of the best riders on the stretch from Malga Ciapela to Fedaia and 1700 m/h (5.66w/kg) for Contador on the final climb to Gardeccia, done in 21’50”.
The day before, on the Zoncolan, Contador managed to climb at 1765 m/h (5.88w/kg) for the 41’23” of ascent.
On such extreme gradients (12-15%) VAM values seem paradoxically inferior to the ones obtained on 8-10% slopes: in fact, even though low speeds result in less air resistance, they are also majorly affected by the deceleration-acceleration action of each pedal stroke, in line with the inferior "dead spot", forcing extra work against inertia.
All this further favors lightweight riders in a Giro course that undoubtedly penalizes athletes weighing 64-66 kg, compared to colleagues that are less than 60 kg.