Just like Craig Alexander did in 2011, super-runner Pete Jacobs used an uncharacteristically strong ride to set himself up to win the 2012 Ironman world title. Jacobs described his ride this year as “very different from previous years,” and the data recorded through his Sram Quarq power meter reveals just how extreme an understatement that was.
1. Swimming at the front of the pack allowed Jacobs to settle into a rhythm immediately instead of frenetically chasing onto the big lead group. As a result, Jacobs was able to keep himself at the front averaging 301 watts for the first 30 minutes without any dramatic sprints, well within his 360-watt threshold.
2. Jacobs was forced to make 13 different 30-second bursts above his 360-watt functional threshold power in the first 1:40 of the ride to stay at the front of the 20-plus-person lead group. “I really don’t like doing the spikes [in power] that you see early on, but you’ve got to make it up quick; otherwise, guys jump in and you end up at the back of the train and it just gets harder and harder,” he said after the race. He only needed two more such bursts the rest of the way.
3. Jacobs’ power climbed to its highest point between the 50K mark and the turn-around point, averaging 309 watts for the section including the course’s longest climb up to the town of Hawi.
4. Topping out at 75 kph on the descent from Hawi, Jacobs spun out his biggest gear–54-tooth chainring and 11-tooth cog–and lost a little time to the athletes around him. To pedal in these conditions, Jacobs would have had to maintain a cadence of nearly 120 rpm.
5. Most of the front group couldn’t match this long, sustained increase in effort and fell off Jacobs’ pace. For the first time in his Ironman career, Jacobs was doing damage on the bike instead of trying to hang on. With Marino Vanhoenacker ahead of him and everyone else in his rearview, Jacobs was able to settle into a steady rhythm. “Once the pack split up and I could get out in front and get out with a smaller group of guys, it was easier to ride a more even pace,” said Jacobs. The spikes in power went away and he settled into an average power of 267 watts for the return trip.
Jacobs took advantage of the open road in the later stages of the bike. His 30-second average power never went above 306 watts for the final 70 minutes of the ride, an incredible mark of consistency.
Jacobs opened a major advantage over many more highly regarded cyclists in the second half of the ride despite holding less power than he did in the first. He didn’t attack to earn a gap; he was able to fall apart less than the others, perfectly setting up his run to the Ironman World Championship title