Power Profile with Sara Poidevin
Posted by Andrew Davidson on March 30, 2022
With the UCI WorldTour race season well underway and the highly anticipated “Spring Classics” on deck, I had a chance to touch base with Alberta’s own Sara Poidevin. Sara is currently in Europe racing with her EF Education - Tibco - SVB team. She was kind enough to share some insight on her life in the pro ranks and how she implements a power meter and power data into her training and racing, to help her perform at the highest level of the sport. You can cheer on Sara and the rest of her teammates as they tackle the infamous Belgian cobbles, bergs and crosswinds this Sunday (April 3, 2022) at the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), one of professional cycling’s historical monuments!
When did you start using a power meter for training/racing purposes?
I started using a power meter for training in 2012. I borrowed a Power Tap from the Calgary Cycling Centre. It was built into the hub of the rear wheel so it was quite heavy and the long cables were wrapped around the shifting cables on my down tube to connect to the computer.
You were already doing an impressive European race schedule with your previous team, Rally Cycling (now Human Powered Health), having moved to the WorldTour full time this year with EF Education-Tibco-SVB, what are some differences in your training or racing?
Most of the differences in my training are in the specificity of the efforts that I practice so that I am prepared for the races on my schedule, rather than in the number of hours I’m riding. The races we do are pretty full on from the start and starting to get a bit longer, so we’re racing between 3:30-4 hours most of the time. The type of racing also changes through the season, so in the early season classics, I would aim to be prepared for lots of short punchy efforts for example.
The differences in racing being based for the majority of the season in Europe is in the load of each race, which is generally much higher overall. That is to say, the pace is higher from the beginning, since there are more teams and riders involved and the terrain is usually more challenging, and there is more time spent doing high intensity efforts, rather than having a few key moments in the race where the intensity is high. My total race days will also increase this year, which is an important consideration in training and recovery. Recovery will be really important to prioritize this season, as I will have to learn how to manage a busy schedule and how to get myself to bounce back quickly.
What would you say are some of the most beneficial aspects of riding with a power meter?
Using a power meter in training is super valuable to ensure training is very measured and that I’m hitting specific targets. Having lots of experience in training with one, I have a good sense of feel but having the power data to back that up is really useful in measuring the workload of a ride, and of a block of training. Using power data from racing allows riders and coaches to better understand the demands of racing, and therefore to prescribe training that will be effective in preparing for different races. Having power data is also really valuable in measuring progress and in creating goals and challenges for myself in training.
Some riders use power data when racing to gauge their efforts, others prefer to ride more by feel. What’s your approach to power data during a race?
I stay away from looking at power and heart rate during races. My race screen shows the map with the route, time, and distance. However, after the race, I enjoy looking at the data!
Do you work with a coach or other team staff to devise power-based training sessions?
I do work with a coach for training and use a combination of efforts with power targets. Other workouts are done by feel, while still recording power, which allows me to focus on the effort rather than numbers and to get a sense of form and fatigue when comparing perceived exertion to power output.
What type of training efforts do you enjoy the most and which do you find the most challenging?
I enjoy longer efforts, maybe 5 minutes + the most. I find sprints the hardest!
What’s an example of an interval session you might do using power as a guideline?
A workout I did recently was 20 minute over/unders, where I have a range of power at tempo, then a power target for a harder 15-60 second (different for each set of efforts) “over” effort, then alternate back and forth. For example, the first effort would be 2 minutes at tempo, then one minute harder tempo, second set 90 seconds light tempo, 30 seconds Z5, third set 1:45 light tempo and 15 seconds Z6.
It’s great to see the growth that’s happening in women’s cycling across all disciplines. What advice would you offer to any young girls/women looking to get into racing?
For girls and women getting into racing, I would say that racing and training is an awesome way to build confidence if you approach race days and training days with the intention of giving your best effort on the day, rather than on results. I think that women and girls can empower each other through sport, whether or not they are competitive, by challenging and encouraging each other to give their best effort on the day.
There are undoubtedly some unique challenges to pursuing a professional road cycling career at the highest level, if you call Alberta, Canada home. What are a couple strengths you feel your development here have given you?
Training for cycling in a mountain town definitely taught me to be a gritty rider! The cycling community in Canmore and Calgary are super tough and you have to put up with hard weather conditions and lots of trainer time, which just seems normal if you grow up in that environment!
- Name: Sara Poidevin
- Hometown: Canmore, Alberta
- Years racing: 7th year racing professionally
- Favourite place to ride at home: Lake Louise Parkway
- Career accomplishments: 14th at Worlds in 2018 and top U23 rider; Best Young Rider at Tour Cycliste Féminin de l’Ardeche and Tour of California 2018; Colorado Classic win 2017