Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Test workouts for cyclist without power meter

I am coaching a cyclist who doesn't use a power meter, and I will admit, this has been hard for me as a coach. I've gotten a little spoiled with power meters for most of my athletes. He has been preparing for Sea Otter since January, and this weekend he will be racing the road race and circuit race.

One of the toughest things for me as a coach, has been trying to track whether we are on track and seeing improvement. With road racing it can be very hard, because poor tactics can mean as much as poor fitness at times. Judging how you're doing in terms of fitness is hard if you're comparing to where you finish in a peleton. The variance of conditions isn't reliable at all.

Instead, we had to use some creativity to find ways we could measure fitness. One of the ways we did this was a few test races, which included doing a lot of attacks off the front in a criterium. He was able to attack off the front in the crit more than he ever had, and hold it for longer than he expected. All good signs.

However, well before this I knew I wanted more objective signs. So after a discussion, we chose a test workout which we felt was objective, and repeatable. The test consisted of 3 times up a local hill climb, which took in total close to 30 mins of effort, (3x10 mins). We would record time to the summit, and average HR data to compare over the season. This was the easiest way to see a power to weight ratio improvement, and improvement in HR/watts over a duration which seemed to matter for his race goals. Too often, wind or groups can affect speed, but not as much when someone is riding uphill.

So here is his the compilation of his test workouts we've been recording and the date:

TT Test Climb - Friday, February 6, 2009 Time HR
#1 9:08 177
#2 9:24 174
#3 9:30 174
Average 9:20 175.00

TT Test Climb - Friday, February 25, 2009 Time HR
#1 8:59 182
#2 9:12 183
#3 9:28 180
Average 9:13 181.67

TT Test Climb - Thursday, March 19, 2009 Time HR
#1 9:15 175
#2 9:25 176
#3 9:37 177
Average 9:25 176.00

TT Test Climb - Friday, April 10, 2009 Time HR
#1 8:28 179
#2 8:42 178
#3 8:57 178
Average 8:42 178.33

You'll probably notice his third test went horrible! We were both scratching our heads, wondering what happened. Luckily, I was able to review his training, and went with my intuition that we were fine, and it was just an off day. Clearly, his fourth and last test before Sea Otter was a clear sign that we have been doing things right. He experienced some very strong performances in some group rides like he never has had, and his recent race test was also a precursor of what we expected to see in this last test.

Whether you like power meters or not, can afford one or not, here is an easy way to test and track fitness. He is now beaming with confidence, and that's something you can't buy!

Coach Vance

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