By Coach Kyle Wolfe
When athletes ask me why they should get a power meter for their bikes, my answer is simple and not very original: a power meter makes sure you go hard enough on hard days, and easy enough on easy days. This is important in elite level international cyclocross because the extremes are very hard and any rider who wants to have a good day must be properly prepared.
Last weekend, Amy D Foundation cyclocross rider Rebecca Fahringer competed at the last round of the Telenet World Cup series in Hoogerheide, NED. Her Scott brand bicycle is equipped with a crank arm mounted Stages power meter which is a critical tool to help with her training prior to a race and then analyzing the data to help provide feedback afterwards.
Rebecca was up against the best of the world in Hoogerheide and found herself in the third row of call-ups, a true indication of her otherwise awesome 27th world ranking. This particular race course is very fast with almost a quarter of the loop on pavement meaning large non-technical groups and difficult passing opportunities.
From the Gun
From the start of the race you can see how quickly Rebecca’s power increases to get going; you can almost imagine how those shallow first few seconds are when she had to let traffic in front of her open up before the hard pedaling started.
The First Lap
After that start hill section, Rebecca was still caught in traffic for the first lap and you can see from the power file of her next lap that it took almost 9 more minutes of racing until she was able to reach her race long average heart rate of 181 bpm. During that lap, Rebecca hit speeds over 31 mph (a lot on a cx bike) and a maximum power of just 751 watts averaging a relatively easy 187. This is a good indication of the stochastic nature of cyclocross, either you are going wicked hard or you are coasting! You can see from the graph below how the pedaling was all or nothing!
This was a little frustrating for Rebecca as the traffic of the fast and packed group of riders made it almost like a road race with a strict yellow line rule! No passing allowed!
The Next 30 Minutes
The next four laps of the race really gave Rebecca the chances she needed to get going and start to chase herself back into a decent position behind the fastest women in the world. Here the numbers from her Stages power meter really told a much faster story: Rebecca averages 25 watts more than that first lap and reaches a peak maximum 100 watts more as well! Wow, things are getting fast now!
Headed toward the Finish
For Rebecca’s final lap at Hoogerheide, she was able to keep the speed and power up all the way down to the finish line where she was able to catch one more rider and finish 24th for the day. You can see from the graph below how there was very little coasting (other than the stairs) during this final lap and as the groups got thinner how Rebecca was finally able to stay on the gas and move up.
This result was far from her best to date, but the overall effort showed that her fitness and strength are on track going into this weekend’s World Championships in Bieles, Luxumbourg.
Training For A Discipline of Extremes
When we train riders like Rebecca for elite cyclocross racing, we see how their Stages power meter shows the extremes of power needed for such an event. There is no “sitting in” during a cyclocross race as this chart below shows:
Although it is very important to work fitness and muscular endurance when training for cyclocross, it is absolutely critical to concentrate on those super high end power zones. This is why it is important to use a power meter to make sure that racers are going “hard enough” to match those zones needed on race day. Like those old coaches always say: we race like we train.
Thank you for reading.
About the Coach
Kyle Wolfe owns and runs Finish Fast Cycling. He is considered an expert coach by USA Cycling and holds his Level 1 Coaching license. Kyle is a Power Based Training Certified Coach, a title earned through months of education, training, practice and testing that has perfected his ability to maximize an athlete’s abilities using the modern power measuring equipment. He is also recognized by Training Peaks as a Certified Cycling Coach at their national level. Kyle spent two years of managing and directing a national level u-25 cycling team has also helped him refine his skills and abilities. Often considered the best two years of his life, that program has since produced a world champion, a national champion, a professional cyclocross racer, a ProTour rider and numerous elite cyclists still racing today.