When to go for a KOM on Strava

The dates and times that people achieved their PBs on the Tour de Richmond Park

As the number of cyclists using Strava continues to grow, it is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve a high ranking on the leaderboard of any popular segment. Whilst it is possible to hunt for a top performance on some obscure route, attaining a KOM (or QOM) on a segment attempted by tens of thousands of other athletes is a real challenge.

Consider the Tour de Richmond Park, in southwest London. On 17 February 2017, the leaderboard had 35,833 entries. Note that the leaderboard does not show the 35,833 fastest times, rather it displays the personal best (PB) times of 35,833 individuals – it doesn’t matter how many times you do the segment, you only have one entry on the leaderboard. The current KOM is held by Rob Sharland, who completed the 10.8km segment in 13 minutes 57 seconds.

The top 1,000 entries on the leaderboard reveal some interesting patterns. This initial blog explores the dates and times that people achieved their PBs. The first striking observation is that hardly anyone sets a PB during the winter. The following chart shows that most records were set between June and September.

monthplot

This suggests that riders tend to be in better form in the summer and that conditions are more favourable. In fact, it turns out that hours of daylight play an important role, as demonstrated by the following chart showing that most PBs are set either in the evening, around 7pm or in the early morning, between 6am and 9am. These represent times before or after work, when car traffic is lighter. Very few records are set in during the middle of the day and none at night.

hourplot

A look at the days of the week, when record are set, reveals that Wednesday and Saturday are particularly popular. It turns out the most Wednesday records were achieved in the evening with some in morning, whereas almost all Saturday records were completed by 10am.

weekplot

So the best time to achieve a PB around Richmond Park is on a Wednesday evening in August. And it turns out that Rob Sharland set the KOM at 8:31pm on Wednesday 12 August 2015.

But Rob deserves additional kudos, because quite a few riders have set their personal bests riding in groups, whereas it looks like Rob was riding solo. Nine other riders set their PBs on the same day, but these were all earlier than Rob’s. There were three other dates on which 10 or more riders achieved their fastest times. It is easy to spot those riding as a group, because they all start together and finish with similar times (show in red here). So chapeau to Rob for beating them all.

The next blog explores the prevailing weather conditions.

Author: science4performance

I am passionate about applying the scientific method to improve performance

6 thoughts on “When to go for a KOM on Strava”

  1. Rob Sharland is also a UK time trialling machine, so that helps! He put out almost 400W for that lap of the park and has joined the very exclusive 18 minute club for a 10 mile TT! But all that data aside, surely the best time to go for a single direction Strava KOM is when there’s a hurricane force tailwind! 😉

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    1. Thanks for the comment. In the next blog I’ll be looking at the historic weather conditions. You are undoubtably right about single direction segments, but the effect of the wind is more complex when parts of the course are sheltered by trees, buildings or the profile of the terrain.

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  2. Certainly an interesting analysis. I think possibly London Dynamo running their two club rides on Weds and Sat probably skew the data somewhat as there are many quick guys both past and present that make up group 1. However, there can be no denying that the specific conditions you want for quick laps are not all that common and do occur I have found in August more commonly (be interesting to see what you uncover with the next blog on that). Generally low pressure, warm and wind from the East is what you want! I am sure one of the many planned attempts en masse to lower the time will work soon, but its getting ever harder with speedbumps, increased traffic both bike and car, and of course safety is the priority when going round the park.

    I will possibly have another go when I get a chance, I am a fair bit lighter and can do a lot more power for that duration these days, so David Millars lap of 13.39 pre bumps and cobbled corners is one the cards, I hope.

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