Q & A: Robbie McEwen on benefits of training and racing with power

Posted by Verve on June 2, 2015 in
InfoCrank data analysis

Robbie McEwen isn’t sure exactly how many victories he took over his long-lasting career but the former professional says it was “probably around 214”. It’s a number that very well could have been higher, if he had the kind of power meter technology that is available to professionals and amateurs alike these days.  

Verve Cycling spoke to the three-time Tour de France points classification winner about life after pro cycling and how he now approaches his training (or riding) from a more scientific perspective.

Verve Cycling: Were you a big power meter user?

Robbie McEwen: I used power meters and quite a number of different brands over the years – starting around 2003 was when I started using one for the first time. I used SRM and at Lotto we had CycleOps and then SRM again at a number of different teams. I only had it on my training bikes only and didn’t race with them. I was always a real weight weenie and wanted my race bike to be as light as possible – something that is almost a non-issue these days. It was specifically used for my sprint training. 

Verve: Is there anything specific you do now to remain fit and strong on the bike, given you don’t spend as much time training as you once did?

RM: I still do a couple of hours a day, about five days a week. The way I train has definitely changed and the way I use and analyse the information is very different. When I was racing as a pro I would look at combinations of top speed, peak power, sustained power over 10 seconds – for the sprints – but now I ride with the power balance (left-right) on display all the time. That was something, I would have definitely used during my racing career, if I had the InfoCrank, and would have also used it more for racing.

I’ve always had a leg imbalance and something I’ve had to work on throughout my whole career – to address that imbalance. Previously it was always guess work but now it can be quantified. I can now see power balance as a percentage and with the upcoming updates we’ll also be able to see the torque analysis. That would have had a huge impact on my career. That would provide a really thorough breakdown on what was happening between my left and right legs and provide more accurate information so I can work on the imbalance. I would have known ‘yes my left leg is weaker but it’s weaker in these spots’.

You can put together a very scientific rehab or training program together by using that kind of data.

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Verve: You’ve been using the InfoCrank for a while now. What is your general experience in terms of reliability out on the road?

RM: You just jump on and it’s ready to go. No calibration and there’s no weird drop outs or random power spikes like I’ve had with other power devices. Previously, you would have to make corrections to data to ensure your analysis was correct but I haven’t even experienced that with the InfoCrank.

Verve: Back during your professional years would you ride your training bike for kermesses or ‘training races’? What were the benefits of using a power meter during those kind of days?

RM: Some of those races were about four hours in length and at the end I would be able to analayse the kind of efforts I had to make, wattage wise. They are the kind of efforts you can then replicate during your usual training rides, towards the end and make those 1-minute efforts at a certain output in order to get ready for upcoming races.

The information you can get now, especially for those who target the time trial and climbers, you can really figure out precisely what you could do for 20, 40 and 60 minutes. My power training was really based around the much shorter efforts for sprints and I knew that if I could hit certain numbers in training I could win a particular race.

Now I wish I had raced with power much more just to see what my personal best wattage outputs were. My guess would be that I was doing about 1,550-1,600 watts. My 10-second power would have been about 1,200 watts.

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Verve: What do you ride now?

RM: I’ve got the standard InfoCrank with a ‘pro compact’ crankset, 52-36. I love it. There’s plenty of speed for the flats and it means I can spin up the hills, especially the steep ones around the Gold Coast. There is no reason for me to have a 53 because the range I’ve got now is far better all round.

Verve: Finally, how many races did you win during your career?

RM: I’m not sure exactly but probably about 214…

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Ready to race? Get the scoop on how to execute a race-winning move using power.

Verve Cycling supplies the InfoCrank to world-class tyre producers Michelin as they seek to obtain the most accurate real-world data to produce better tyres. Read why they chose InfoCrank here.

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