Friday, February 29, 2008

Power, Power, I want more POWER!!

A focused Power training ride indoors
The pursuit of the ole w/kg. The w of k, g?? Crap-Rays spewing more abbreviations. Besides aerodynamics this is the holy grail of the Time Trialing world. It is more important then aerodynamics too. This is why you sometimes see a racer decked out to the teeth in mega-buck gear and see someone on a normal bike beat them. What does w/kg mean? Well it is Watts per Kilogram or the amount of power you put out per kilogram of weight. But you knew that right? OH no, well read on.

Well why is it so important? Well lets look at this way. Theres two ways to increase your w/kg. The easiest is to lose weight (kilograms) and the second easiest(??) is to make more watts (w). Do both in sufficient quantity over the course of a year or years and you will go faster!! Buy more go fast goodies and apply them correctly and you will go even faster.

But a Ferrari Enzo with a 120hp motor is, well it sucks!! So this is where the obsession with Power Training comes from. Its all about maximizing the motor. Its more then having a Power measuring device. Its an entire shift of your training focus when you start to train with power. Used correctly it can make your training more efficient, allowing the amateur racer to train less hours, but get more out of it. There is no substitute for big base miles and building your fitness slowly for race season, but lets be honest, were amateurs and no ones paying us to race. So its easy to not go out for that January 4 hour freezing cold ride or do 2 hours on the trainer every day.

So you can get more zone training out of a 45 minute ride on the rollers than a 3 hour ride with your buddies. At the same time that it keeps you from going too hard in December chasing king of the snow crystal primes, it also keeps you honest during sprints in August training for the State Criterium Championship.

On race day it gives you awareness of what you can and cannot do. Understanding that on race day you can almost always go faster than training. But it can help dictate your pace over a Time Trial or to keep from blowing up during a solo breakaway. You dont even need to use your power meter on race day. Correlating perceived exertion with power (and heart rate) in training gives you confidence on race day to go very hard when the chips are down. YOu dont think about numbers, you know what your body can do. A Power meter also teaches you how to go fast with less exertion. How important it is to relax while putting out a big sustained effort.

Back to the ole w/kg thing. The most important figure in the world of Time Trialing is your FTP or functional threshold power. This being the maximum power you can sustain for one hour and not a whole lot more. Its widely accepted that 5 w/kg is a must to even think about a career in cycling (or any success at the Elite level of cycling). And chances are if you want to be a pro or be on the level of a Fabian Cancellara, Tour de France or an Olympic Gold metal contender in the 40 kilometer TT you will need in excess of 6.5 w/kg!! For you readers at home, thats a whole lot of LOT of w/kg.

So this isnt really hitting home with me you say. Well lets say that two racers both can generate 300 watts for a 40k TT. Thats pretty impressive right? Using fake names, Claudio Champion weighs 130 lbs while big old Bart Lumpkin weighs 180 lbs. Who do you think is faster (and I dont mean coasting down a hill)? They both put out 300 watts ftp (for an hour)so they are both equally fast, right? But lets look at it in terms of w/kg. Mr. Champion has a ftp of 5.06 w/kg while old Mr. Lumpkin, well hes at 3.66 w/kg. Not only is Bart at a disadvantage to Claudio in power, but he likely has a much bigger frontal area as well. Even if Claudio rode his 20 lb steel road bike on the hoods, he would beat Bart on a $5000 Cervelo P3C or Felt DA!

My point now being that if Bart is a thin man trapped in an overweight body and he trims down to 150 lbs and increases ftp to 340 watts through hard training, hes getting close to being able to give Claud a shot at his bowling trophy at the Nowhereville TT.

So heres the good news, unlike your mostly genetically gifted Vo2max, your ftp is highly trainable and although if you train very hard year in and year out and train properly (with a coach, with a power meter, etc.) you may plateau at times, but your ftp can always go up a bit or be trained to peak for a given events or events.

I havent spoken much about my goals for 2008, but much like in 2006 into 2007 with coach Brent, one of my primary goals this season with coach Sean is to raise my w/kg.

So if you didnt know what w/kg is, now you do. Don't you feel enlightened?

3 comments:

Feel It: The Factory Rider said...

What's you w/kg?

Ray Huang said...

n June of 2007 I was at 4.21 w/kg ftp at the State TT. Thats was with 11 months of riding and training. I havent done anything close to 40k since, well not all out. I am currently 2 lbs lighter than last summer and hope to be another 2 lbs more by June, but with more power (fingers crossed on my MRI).

Don said...

Hey Ray - I like the new design/color scheme for your blog. It's now easier to read and navigate around.