Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wrapping up the season

With the end of the season upon me I wanted to change something up for a while. The 2008 season was the first season that I used a power meter extensively and found it an incredible training tool. I was much more accurately able to perform intervals, estimate difficulty of rides and learn about proper pacing. The precision at which I was able to train really appealed to my pragmatic mind (although I also believe in not following the numbers – riding by feel and not by a wattage) and I believe that I'm a much stronger ridder now because of it.

For 2008 I used a PowerTap SL 2.4 on my road bike – having the road bike with the power tap gave me the easiest platform (over my mountain bike) for doing intervals etc... but it did come back to bite me by the end of the year.

During the build up to the 2008 season I spent a lot of time riding my cross country bike on as technical terrain I could find. I would create a difficult loop with rocky climbs and tough descents, record conditions and time my runs as the weeks went by. However, as the season went by, I spent more time riding the road bike (with the PowerTap) with only racing and one other session each week being off road. By the time September came along, a lot of the skills I had worked on over the winter had eroded and I was not longer as sharp off-road. My fitness and strength was by far the best it had ever been but my lack of off road riding was telling. (The UCI C2 race I attended in Scotland a stark reminder for me – a podium should have been mine)

There are two things that I have changed (or will change soon) for the coming season.

Firstly, I bought myself a more sturdy (more travel, heavier) bike for riding in the winter. I love riding my xc race bikes. Super nimble, super fast and so so light (my Full Suspension S-Works Epic in racing 'colors' is 9.5kg with proper tires). But I had become used to protecting my bike as I rode – 450 gram tires and light weight components need a certain subtlety while navigating a course which had also lead me to become a bit of a chicken on the bike. With all this in mind, I picked up something that would handle a few “over cooked” corners, drops and boulders yet still be ride-able enough that I would use if for the 80km off road winter spins – I found something that fitted the bill perfectly and rode it all October and November - more on that in a later post.

Secondly, pretty obviously, I'm going to start using a PowerTap SL Disc hub off road – starting by building up a reasonably sturdy XC rear wheel and using a Garmin Edge 705 as the head unit. I'm a huge fan of the training benefit of using power and am really looking forward to seeing how an off road race looks from a power point of view and being able to feed that back into my training so that I train more wisely. For example, maybe in races (lets take some theoretical race), I spend 50% of my time freewheeling and 50% at around 400 Watts (close to my Threshold) and spinning my legs at 85 RPM. Performing drills at similar cadences to what I actually use in the races would be better than doing the 'same old' drills at 70RPM. This is a massive simplification of the techniques that I use - for an introduction, head over to Training Peaks and jump into some of the articles.

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