Team Felt Triathlon Plus add power meter training to their repertoire with Stages Power
With Stages Cycling bringing power meters within price reach of a much wider market, Team Felt Triathlon Plus are hoping to make the most of their training – and the bike leg at Ironman Austria – with the technological advantage power offers.
There’s a lot of jargon surrounding power, but what exactly is a power meter and how does it work? As Stages Cycling’s Matt Pacocha explains, there’s one key element – the strain gauge.
“A strain gauge is a small printed circuit that reacts to a force input with changes in current. The gauge is adhered to the crank arm and at this point the strain gauge can measure a current change through the gauge when the arm is flexed.
“Once calibrated, the strain gauge can take a very precise force measurement. This is combined with cadence to understand power. Power is the speed (cadence) at which work (force is applied to the pedals) is done.”
Before Stages came to the market, power meters were reserved only for those with deep pockets. Stages’ neat single crank arm system is a cheaper alternative, but that doesn’t mean accuracy suffers – as the company’s association with Team Sky shows.
“The Stages power meter is just as effective as any other on the market,” says Pacocha. “Our meter is accurate to a tolerance of four watts. This measurement is static, so at 100w our meter is +/- two per cent, but at 400w it’s +/- 0.5%, so our meter has great resolution.
“The more important attribute for day-to-day use is consistency, so you can be sure that the changes you track are truly from training effect. Our simpler one-sided force measurement is more robust and ultimately accurate. We give some accuracy back when making our assumption of symmetry within a rider, but we then gain massively on the competition by using a calibrated temperature compensation system, which makes Stages Power one of the most consistent meters on the market. This is what every rider needs, from the multi-sport athlete training for their first triathlon, to the professionals we support on Team Sky.”
With a huge amount of data available for dissection by athletes – or coaches – with a ravenous appreciation of training figures, power is often seen as an impenetrable topic by the uninitiated. Benjamin Sharp, Stages Cycling power education specialist, highlights a few key advantages.
“There are several benefits of a crank-based power meter for triathlon. Knowing what power output you can maintain for the distance will allow you to pace yourself for the duration of the bike leg with reserves for the run. Furthermore, by knowing how much work you have done (measured in kilojoules), you can develop your nutrition strategy, giving you enough energy to carry into the run.
“Power also allows you to conduct aerodynamic testing. Long before your triathlon, with a set protocol, you can estimate your coefficient of drag and make equipment (wheels, clothing, handlebars, helmet, etc) and fitting (bike position) choices to make you more efficient on the bike and you get the maximum speed for a given power.”
There’s also the practical element, says Sharp. “Specific to crank-based power meters, there’s no critical equipment choice to be made. A triathlete might want a quiver of wheelsets to choose from based on conditions. This is cost prohibitive with hub-based power meters, which add significant cost to any wheelset. For some power meters, there can be a weight penalty as well. The Stages power meter adds just 20g – less than a single gel.”
If you’re thinking of investing in a Stages unit, there are versions available for Shimano, SRAM, Cannondale and FSA and home installation is no harder than a normal crankarm – simply install to the manufacturer’s specification, taking care to use the correct torque.
Once it’s on, you’ll find our guide to getting to grips with power on page 60, but there are some key first-timer lessons to be aware of, says Sharp. “My first suggestion is to learn how to zero the offset. It’s a different process for each model of power meter but is a critical step in assuring data is accurate. Fortunately, the Stages power meter hardware has built in temperature compensation and is extremely robust in a variety of conditions; giving solid data across the spectrum of temperatures one will encounter.
“Secondly, test. I’ve seen several people spend hard-earned money on a power meter and not know how to use it. For many, it’s a glorified cycling computer, spewing numbers that have little to no meaning. With the average power value from a 20-minute time trial test, you can estimate your functional threshold power (FTP). Once you determine your FTP, you can create training zones that correspond with the different energy systems at your disposal. There are a variety of resources available online to help with the process. trainingpeaks.com is a great place to start. Also, the book Training and Racing with a Power Meter by Hunter Allen and Dr. Andy Coggan is another fantastic resource.
“Finally, you can adjust your training. After downloading several training efforts and a race effort, it can be quite revealing to see that the rides that you’re doing might not actually line up with the demands of the event. Looking at the mechanical work that you do in racing (in kilojoules) versus training can tell you a lot about how similar the efforts are. Further, you might see that your power declined over the course of the triathlon, or that you went too hard (and can now associate an average watts with that) in the bike leg and had a horrible run.”
Not wanting to suffer the latter, the team will be pushing watts and poring over data in the run up to Ironman Austria – and finding out how power could become their best friend and the key to an amazing race.