Should Power Meters Be Banned From Racing?
And personally, I’m here for it. Racing without power has the opportunity to transform racing, making it more exciting than it has been in years.
In an interview with La Gazzetta Dello Sport, the publication which gave the Giro d’Italia its start and lent the color of its pages to the maglia rosa, team manager Luca Scinto explained that he’s putting the kibosh on tech because he’s tired of riders relying on the tech to tell them how they feel. “I am tired of hearing ‘I was doing 400 watts and I still got dropped’ or ‘I couldn’t do more than 300 watts I was having a bad day,” Scinto said. According to the team’s Twitter, there will be no devices used in races at all, which seems to include GPS.
They can use devices during the training sessions but there will be no devices during the races
— Vini Zabú – KTM (@ViniZabuKTM) January 23, 2020
Many amateur riders swear by power meters for racing and training, and they have been a fixture in the pro peloton for years. Scinto will still allow his athletes to train with power when they’re not racing, but has decreed that they will race like the riders of a bygone era—without data.
Some say this puts the team at a disadvantage, as most of the peloton races with power data, but in most races, power meters don’t have that many practical benefits. Toms Skujins, a rider for Trek-Segafredo, told Bicycling that in races he only looks at “speed, distance, and time so that I know where I am in the race and if there is a sprint or a climb coming up. I never look at power during races.” Sure, time trials are a different story—many riders use power to pace efforts against the clock so they can regulate intensity—but they account for a small percentage of pro races.
Even not having GPS isn’t such a big deal, especially if the team is still using race radios (no word on that yet). Skujins told us that fellow Trek-Segafredo rider Bauke Mollema sometimes races without a head unit, relying on information from the radio and his teammates to keep abreast of sprints, climbs, and feed zones. And the lack of GPS might even be an outright benefit—without head units, bikes are supposedly more aerodynamic.
The biggest downside to banning power meters: the lack of post-race data. Even if you don’t look at your power meter during the race, it still records your ride and gives valuable information about the training stress incurred in races.
But even with all these possible negatives, think of the gains! Dumping power meters would make races infinitely more exciting. Cycling fans would be thrilled to see racing revert to the era of massive attacks and colossal bonks rather than incremental watts per kilogram testing on long climbs—just look at the excitement generated by last year’s open and aggressive Tour de France.
While it’s unlikely a small Italian continental team is going to change the character of races on its own, we can hope this power-meter ban is a step toward more dramatic, exciting racing. It should be easy to tell how the season goes for Vini Zabù-KTM—those highlighter colored kits are hard to miss.