In every race, there is the person who averages the most watts, hits the highest numbers, and then there is the person who wins. They are rarely the same rider. Even though our power-meter-obsessed sport has gotten to the point where it feels like the only thing that matters is normalized power or FTP, that isn’t always what wins races. Cycling is still a game like any other sport.
Take tennis, for example. The announcers might touch on the fact that Serena Williams can serve a ball at over 100 miles per hour, but that’s not the key talking point after the match. Instead, they discuss how brilliantly she placed her shots throughout the court, how she responded to her rival’s shots, how she used her powerful swing at just the right moment to hit the winning shot.
I want you to stop judging your cycling by the numbers on your power meter and start judging it based on speed. While it may be difficult to measure or quantify, speed is what wins races. Of course, the first step is training and riding enough to establish a foundation of power that you can produce as a cyclist. The FORM Method will get you there. The crucial next step I’ll teach you is how to use that power in the most efficient way possible to maximize speed and momentum. That’s what Power Control is all about.
You’ll use the terrain to gain momentum when it suits the PTZ you intend to use. As things progress, you’ll find opportunities to maintain that momentum without going above or below that PTZ.
I know I just told you not to fixate on your power meter’s numbers, but we aren’t going to throw out those expensive components and devices. Instead, similar to your own power as a cyclist, we’ll use those tools carefully to chase the elusive momentum that will help you win. There are three key Power Control concepts: Power Floors and Power Ceilings.
In my years of coaching athletes, I’ve discovered that focusing on power averages leads to average cyclists. You don’t want to be average, right?
Here’s what happens. People are given an average wattage number to hit in their workout and then they game the system. It’s only natural. They are told to ride 220 watts and at the halfway point of their 20-minute interval, they realize they’ve been doing 190 watts. So, they spike it to 250 for the rest of the lap and voila! It was a 220-watt effort, right? Actually, half of the interval was below their zone, and half was above it. I doubt that’s what their coach wanted them to do.
So, we start with the Power Floor for any given effort. This is the minimum wattage that you should not go below after you hit the “lap” button to start your interval. If you go below it, you bleed precious momentum. To build back up to the correct PTZ, you will have to push harder than necessary, wasting energy. It is more efficient to stay above that floor.
As I just hinted at, cyclists love to chase those average power stats, even if it means riding above the zone they were supposed to be in all along. But wait, if you’re strong enough to push a little harder during an interval, that’s okay, right? It might feel good at the time, or you might have the confidence to bust through that Power Ceiling, but I promise you that you’ll regret it later.
When you spike through that Power Ceiling, you’re almost always going to drop through the Power Floor right after. You max out your body’s physical capabilities with that spike, so it needs to recover by going below the floor. When that happens, you lose that precious momentum. This is one of the most inefficient ways to ride, regardless of what your power averages tell you.
Power spikes can also impact your body’s perception of the interval’s intensity. While your average might be right in your PTZ, the constant stress of going over the Power Ceiling leads it to think you are at an effort level beyond the zone. If you avoid the spikes, you’ll be putting less stress on your body.
Top cyclists have such great power control that their Power Floors and Power ceilings are very close to each other. They can precisely stay in that PTZ for long periods of time, riding efficiently, maintaining momentum, and putting as little stress as possible on their bodies.
CINCH SD Power Control Score
We have developed the CINCH SD Control Score to quantitatively measure your Power Control. The “SD Control Score" helps us understand your control during each part of the workout. This algorithm looks at the control you show with your power output during a specific effort segment.
The lower the CINCH SD Power Control Score, the tighter you kept your Power Floors to your Power Ceilings. From a progression standpoint, the CINCH SD Control Score shows the coach when the athlete is becoming efficient in a specific zone and when it is time for the athlete to increase their zone.
To interpret your performance using the CINCH SD Power Control Score use the following CINCH SD Control Score Performance Scale:
Excellent Power Control is below a 10.
Good Power Control is between a 10-15.
Ok Power Control is between 15-25.
Below average Power Control is a 25-40.
Poor Power Control is above 40.
The way to effectively use this measurement is to highlight each segment of the intervals in which you were to hold a specific watts. For an example, if your interval was 1 x 8 mins (alternate between 3 mins (240w) and 1 min (320w), you would highlight the 3 mins, look at the CINCH SD Power Control Score, then reset, then highlight the 1 min and look at the CINCH SD Power Control Score. You will get a specific score on each part of the interval and that enables us to measure your control in each zone.
*To find your SD SD Power Control Score click "activity detail" in your ride and you will see it located in the chart below the graph. It is listed as "STD DEV." Highlight each segment of your intervals or sections of your ride, not large segments as all the planned changes will result in inaccurate measurements.