“Oh the power and the passion

(Midnight Oil 1982)

The TA race series in retrospect, what did we learn?


I think you all know I have a passion for cycling, and for racing! (I’ll get to the power bit later)

I see every race the same way: Once you’re on the start line, “There’s never an excuse, but there’s always an opportunity”. The virtual race series was no different!! To quote Richard Harris from the book, ‘Against All Odds’ (the incredible story of the Thai cave rescue), “how you react to something makes a difference, it determines whether you’re going to enjoy it or not. It determines whether you’re going to be good at it”.


The race series was an opportunity, in so many ways, and it depended on how you looked at it, as to how much you got out of it. It pitted rider against rider! Didn’t it? Well maybe!

Did you win? Come Second? Come 10th or 20th? No matter where you came, the possibility for variations in an individual’s set up meant it was difficult to compare one rider to another! So I’ll say again, “it’s how you react to something that makes the difference”!

Therefore, the rider who came in at one end of the field may have benefitted more, or less, than a rider who came in at the other end. In other words, where you came in the series may have little relevance as to how much you got out of it!


So let’s explore this further and I’ll see if I can explain my reasoning here.


Firstly, there were the different categories:  Zwift, Windtrainer and Outdoor. In the outdoor category there could be variations in the bike (road or TT), the conditions (road, weather) and the course (location, surface, traffic, stop lights, undulations etc..).

In the Windtrainer category, variations in tyre pressure, roller tension, tyre tread, and rider weight can be causes of inconsistency. (A good tip here is when using a windtrainer, try and standardise your set up so it can be comparable from session to session – talk to a coach about this)

In Zwift (and to an extent the other categories) much of the outcome is determined by power! Aaaaah the P word, Watt you say? 🙂 🙂 🙂


So now we come to it! POWER, and despite Greg’s protestations in the race commentary, the methods by which it is measured makes a difference! It makes comparing one rider to another difficult and riddled with inconsistency!

In Zwift (and I’ve never liked things that start with Z, except Zebras, they’re ok) you either use your own power meter or are given an assumed power based on other metrics (speed, weight, terrain). The difference between power meters themselves, their accuracy, calibration, mode of measurement (crank, pedal, hub) already imbues a source of variation.

To add to this that some riders were using ‘wheel on’ trainers, with or without power meters, while others used ‘wheel off’ smart trainers of various makes and models. This, in turn, has an effect on the amount of advantage Zwift allows for power to weight ratio, aerodynamics and drafting. To quote Steph in commentary, “you need to ride like a parasite”. But this is not as simple as just sitting on someone’s wheel, and is a vital skill in bike racing that Zwift also does not really take into account.

Oh and don’t forget heat, and the concept of Cardiac Drift that Scott was talking about, and the follow up article in the NL. (I now look at a fan as a performance enhancer)! Some riders’ set up allowed for a greater cooling effect, and thus an advantage.


Sooooooooo……what does this all mean?

It means the results of these races don’t necessarily translate to what would happen out there, in the real world, in a real race, with wind and riders and bumps and holes and hills and corners…


We CAN learn a lot from them, and I’d like to quote someone with exceptional wisdom here, “Power, is how hard you push the pedals, Heart Rate, is how hard you push yourself

Oh hang on, that was me…. 🙂 🙂 (Greg really liked that bit)


In other words, over a 6 race series, regardless of the category, the opportunity was there to compare yourself to, well, yourself! Maybe, as much as we are all so fond of power these days, we should re take at the usefulness of Heart Rate and even ‘perceived effort’, then compare these to your power readings (if you have them). After all, in a race you won’t be spending all your time looking at your watch (or shouldn’t be) so by using training sessions to match HR and power to perceived effort, becomes a really useful exercise! Not only this, but you could have tried different riding positions (more aero, less aero, TT bike), different cadences and gears, and noted how this affected all your metrics. Maybe you could have discovered a new ‘race pace’, ie. your optimal and most efficient gear and cadence! See what I mean? There is soooo much that you could learn from these races, and it didn’t really matter where you placed in them.


The idea and intent of training is to improve. You won’t improve unless you try things. And you won’t improve if you don’t push yourself, and HERE is the other great benefit of these races! These races gave us a chance to push ourselves, to find our limit, and to know how that feels. To be able to push yourself to the limit of your ability is a great skill and an enormous benefit in a race. In my case, I rode outdoors, and had the opportunity to go from the road bike to the TT bike, and use different wheel sets on different types of courses. My last race was on a velodrome with TT bike and disc wheel in a pursuit race and was really fun.

The point is, I then looked at my power, speed, HR and cadence for each set up and the results were really interesting! But that’s for me to know! We ARE racing afterall!


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