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By February 12, 2021February 13th, 2021No Comments

Challenge Wanaka is one of the most spectacular courses in the world and I love racing in my own backyard. This year will mark my sixth year of racing Challenge Wanaka and for the first time in many years, the course has changed, and the event is now based at Glendhu Bay.

Photo: Roy Schott

The new bike course includes five laps with each lap gaining 237m in altitude.

I’ve been contacted by quite a few people in the past couple of weeks, asking my thoughts on whether the course is better suited to a time trial bike or a road bike.

The reason many are pondering this, is to do with the undulating terrain (constant ups and downs) and also because it’s a five-lap course, naturally this will lead to congestion.

I couldn’t give them a straight answer, so on Sunday the 7th of February I went out with my coach Val Burke and put it to the test. Being in the middle of a training block, I definitely wasn’t riding with fresh legs, but we did our best to create a, accurate test scenario between the performance of the FELT IA time trial bike verse the FELT AR road bike on the new bike course.

Photo: Roy Schott

We conducted the testing as follows:

  • It was a beautiful day with no wind – therefore we didn’t have the effects of wind contributing to the result.
  • We completed the test within two hours without any significant increase in ambient temperature.
  • Hydration and nutrition pre-testing were controlled and the same for each ride
  • 4 tests were performed on each bike in the following order:
    • Lap 1 FELT IA (time trial bike) – Glendhu Bay to Treble Cone 9kms
    • Lap 2 FELT AR (road bike) – Glendhu Bay to Treble Cone 9kms
    • Lap 3 FELT AR (road bike) – Treble Cone to Glendhu Bay 9kms
    • Lap 4 Felt IA (time trial bike) – Treble Cone to Glendhu Bay 9kms
  • Between laps, I rode at 50% max hr back to the start area. I spent 10minutes hydrating, taking on nutrition and ensuring my lactate and was close to baseline.
  • Lactates were taken before and after each test.
  • Effectively the combination of lap 1 or 2, combined with lap 3 or 4 amounted to 1 complete lap of the Challenge Wanaka bike course.

Photo: Roy Schott

The Results:

Lap 1 vs Lap 2.

The Felt IA time trial bike performed better than the AR road bike. The time difference was 19seconds and my normalised power was 10watts lower on the IA (meaning I produced a faster time for less effort). HR’s were the same on both laps.

Lap 3 vs Lap 4

The Felt IA time trial bike was 26 seconds faster than the Felt AR road bike. My normalised power was 20 watts lower on the Felt IA. Lap 3 and 4 had less climbing, and less overall altitude gain for reference. This enabled me to ride in aero longer, which is likely the reason for the bigger speed differences seen on the IA.

Photo: Roy Schott

Other notes

I produced significantly less lactate post time trial ride, compared with the road bike on both the out laps and the return laps.

If we combine lap one and lap four (the time trial legs), I was 45 seconds faster on the Felt IA time trial bike, resulting in a 3% faster time compared to the FELT AR road bike.

 Photo: Roy Schott

In summary

I’ll be riding my time trial bike at Challenge Wanaka. Historically I have always chosen my time trial bike for any 70.3 or half distance event, however this event with its new course definitely challenged my train of thought.  But now I am very confident going into this race that for less effort, I’ll create more speed and faster time with less lactate build up and a lower average heart rate.

Photo: Roy Schott

My suggestion for those that ride a road bike more than a time trial bike; there was a 3% difference in time between the two types of bikes but there will be a lot of congestion on the course because of the five laps so if you feel more comfortable on your road bike and you’re not looking for a top three result (i.e. you’re just happy to be out there riding), then I’d perhaps consider sticking with the road bike.

Hope everyone has a great race and I’m looking forward to racing Challenge Wanaka.