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Olympian Ben Kanute kicked off his 2021 season with a third-place finish at Challenge Miami last Friday in a race that was action-packed and hotly-contested. While race favorite Jan Frodeno took the title, the race that unfolded behind him for the remaining podium spots was fast and frenetic. At one point on the run course, there was a pack of four men—Lionel Sanders, Kanute, Chris Leiferman, and Rudy Von Berg—all running together, knowing that the final podium spots would be determined by who could outpace and out-smart the others. Sanders toughed it out in his trademark style, running away from that pack to take second place, and—interestingly—Kanute made the decision to drop back from that pack when the surges became too much, which from a spectator’s point of view looked (to us, at least) like he had been dropped, but as you’ll see below, it was actually a deliberate tactic on his part. He was able to conserve energy then rally in the closing miles in order to run down Leiferman and snag that final podium place.
Kanute, who raced at the 2016 Rio Olympics and finished second at 70.3 Worlds in 2017, is coached by Jim Vance who has shared with us his athlete’s bike and run files from the race (see below), together with some insights and analysis on how things unfolded.
Vance said: “Ben’s race was very solid and impressive all-around. He led out of the water with a strategy tied to the winds and the current to create gaps and separation. On the bike, he knew he needed to keep position close to the front, while saving something for the run, yet trying to maximize the gaps on chasers like Von Berg, Sanders, Leiferman and more.”
Here’s Vance’s breakdown of Kanute’s bike file. His ride time was 1:24.21:
- Kanute held 4.5 watts/kg for 1 hour 24 minutes
- 13% of the overall time he spent above FTP (Functional Threshold Power), which equates to 11 minutes total (Vance said: “That’s impressive!”)
- 44 surges over FTP in 1 hour 24 minutes
- There was a standard deviation of 89 watts from the mean of 316 watts, which means there were a lot of surges, but he still held an average cadence of 94 RPM
- There were many drops in power due to the turns and technical nature of the course
- The biggest surges happened in the first 17 minutes as the riders all shuffled for position
- The ride was volatile early on, then you can see from the file that the surges get smaller, and steady efforts happen between technical sections (U-turns, etc.)
- 1,605 calories burned on the bike alone!
And here’s Vance’s analysis of Kanute’s run file. His run split was 55.11:
- His first mile off the bike was 5:34 as he established rhythm
- When Kanute decided to run with Sanders, Lieferman and Von Berg, his pace for those two miles was 5:19 and then 5:15
- As soon as he realized the pace was too hot running with that group, he dropped off and ran 5:39 for the 4th mile, which was his slowest mile of the race
- He was smart to not try to sustain the pace in the first few miles with those athletes, the surges were massive (as you can see in the graph). He decided against taking another similar risk until the final two miles, when he chased and caught Leiferman for third place
- His fastest mile (Mile 9) was 5:10, which was when he passed Leiferman to gain third place
Vance concluded: “Ben’s ability to perform so solidly across all three disciplines—and keep himself in position for the duration of the race—was exceptional. He showed he is an athlete who is always going to need to be accounted for as he races from the front. His recent run improvements show athletes will need to take more risk and push harder in order to beat him.”