Improve Your Power
With the advent of affordable and accurate power meters, wattage is all the rage.
With the advent of affordable and accurate power meters, wattage is all the rage. Although power meters have been around for years, they’re finally starting to become standard equipment for competitive and recreational cyclists alike. Naturally, as well as unfortunately, simply having a power meter won’t make you any stronger, but when used wisely, you can make massive performance gains.
Many things can be looked at with a power meter, and with the manufacturers packing so many features and graphs into the software, it can become quite confusing. Let me simplify this for you. It doesn’t matter how much power you can generate in a sprint if you’re not there to bump elbows with the lead bunch and participate. Sit up all night and sharpen your elbows as much as you want, but what’s going to get you to the sprint with the lead bunch is your max sustainable power. Athletes with a high sustainable power and a good head win races, plain and simple. In many amateur races a split in the field occurs long before the sprint is in sight. This split is often dictated by terrain, weather conditions, or commonly a grueling pace set by strong teams and individual riders. This split is the most important part of the race for many riders in the peloton. Generally the riders that make the split won’t only have the max sustainable power required to stay with the lead bunch but also the ability to repeat this effort as the breakaway matures. This is the point where the data you collected with your power meter can become extremely valuable.
Power meters and the data they collect are just as useful in racing as during training. Outside of knowing what level of power you’re able to produce and how long you can sustain that power before you fall apart, the data collected can provide invaluable information for directing your training. This is particularly true when it comes to increasing your max sustainable power (the power you need to make it into the breakaway or through the winning selection), your max repeatable power (the power you need to handle or initiate surges), and your sprint power. The first step is dissecting race or strenuous group ride files and noting the power required at key points (splits, hills, breaks, sprints, etc.) or more generally, the physiological demands of the event These demands are relatively easy to isolate if you’re placing markers at key points while racing. This is assuming you can see straight enough to press the correct buttons.
What you’re looking for in past files are the areas where you ran into difficulty or where the split occurred. Early on in the race these splits will more often be forced by a consistent high pace rather than the explosive efforts required for smaller breakaways, so what you’re looking for in the files are the longer periods of higher power outputs. Identify the power you needed to produce while you were holding the pace, then make note of how long you were able to hold