The shorter they are the harder they fall

Got another alert from Strava last night. Seems I just lost another KOM. This one has me concerned. I’m not sure I’ll be getting this one back.

The segment is the Woodland Way Sprint Climb… or is it the Woodland Way Burst? This is an example of one of the annoying things about Strava. These two segments are basically the same thing with the later being a bit shorter than the former. There is also a Woodland Sprint Interval which is shorter still. I removed my 7 second KOM from that leaderboard because I realize there was absolutely no way I went up that segment at 56 mph!

That leads us to a second thing you have to keep in mind when you are looking at the leaderboards with your mouth dropped open as you consider some of the times posted. In some cases you may even think that someone rode through the segment in their car. However, that isn’t always the case, and the shorter the segment the more likely you’ll see these wildly varying times.

The point is, it takes time and distance to make up a segment. Time is measured by the distance. Gimpy GPS data can lead to suspect time. My 7 second climb up the first part of Woodland Way is a perfect example. The more real estate Strava has to work with, the more accurate the time will be. Throw is the fact that Woodland Way is heavily covered in foliage and Woodland Sprint Interval can be a Strava tracking nightmare.

I had this confirmed from Strava when I once created a segment called Wellington Wall. I was frustrated because people were actually getting the KOM (which is a tough one to claim!) by simply riding down a perpendicular street. I went to Strava to see if I could find out what was going on and they let me know that the segment was too short. Also, it was in a wooded area that at times led to errant GPS readings.

So, I went back and increased the length of the segment. It is still a tough one with an average 17% grade! However, there are no longer any false-positive KOMs.

For this reason, I’m putting my focus on the Woodland Way Sprint Climb. While the Woodland Sprint Interval segment was the first created of the three, it can’t be trusted to be an accurate leaderboard. Woodland Burst is longer than the Interval, but I figure if you get the Woodland Way Sprint Climb, you are probably going to land the Burst anyway.

I am going to give it a try, but I’m not holding out much hope on this one. I know how hard I’ve gone up this segment. That one second looms large!

That is the other thing about short segments. The shorter the distance the less you have to work with to gain speed. The amount of speed you need to shave off a second grows each time a rider chops it down. At some point, you reach the lowest time humanly possible.

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When I took the KOM back in 2012, I crossed the segment in 41 secondsĀ at 25.9 mph. I had to put out 710 watts to make it happen. Yesterday, Nathan Race knocked out a 40 second time at 26.6 mph. Strava shows he averaged 861 watts for the climb with a max of 1404 watts!

It doesn’t matter if Nathan did it in 40.9 seconds and I do it in 40.1 seconds. It still shows up as 40 seconds on Strava. Best case scenario there is that I manage a tie.

To get down in the 39 second range will require me to average over 27.5 mph. That will require quite an increase in power output! The closest segment I’ve done recently to this is the Walker Wimps. It is the same distance, but most of the climb is at the end instead of the start — kind of the opposite of my target segment. Also the average grade is 7% while Woodland Way Sprint Climb is 3%.

The question becomes… “Can I put out around 900 watts for 39 seconds?” My lungs and legs are screaming at me just thinking about it! However, I’m thinking that is what it is going to take if I’m to reclaim the crown.

Here is my one hope. You see, I’ve never actually set out to claim this segment. I landed the KOM back when I was attempting to get the KOM for the Cleveland Loop. That means I was not going all out up the climb because I was having to conserve a bit for the best time over a 2 mile effort. I landed the Cleveland Loop KOM that day with a time of 6:15 and then reclaimed it at 6:05, but I’m pretty certain I’ve lost it for good to Christopher Uberti (a continental professional who races for Smart Stop) who owns the KOM at 5:02.

Well, stay tuned… I’ll go for it and hopefully won’t die trying!

UPDATE: So what happened when an attempt was made to take back the KOM?