What power numbers to look at during race?

Been using TR for a few months now and I’m enjoying it. That being said, I’m still trying to get a handle on outdoor rides and my power numbers. At the moment, I’m looking at 3sec average, but I’m curious to what people are doing on race day and what you suggest looking at. I’m hoping just to keep an eye on it so I don’t blow up too early. For context I’m doing XC Marathon racing, this one on the lighter side of about 35 miles. Been racing for a long time, just hoping this adds a piece to the puzzle and gets me a few places higher on the board. Thanks!

I’ve had 3s avg displayed for many years until this year. I went back to speed time and distance as my fields in races and just go by feel during the race.


XC is just different. Definitely trail dependent… but around here you are either crushing 300-500 watts or “Z1” flying downhill (not) recovering . With so many sharp turns, ups and downs I rely on RPE, but races are 18 to 20-ish miles and are 75-90 min on average.

Interested to see what people say for longer rides. Doing a 50 miler soon and curious if pacing XC by watts is even realistic?


NP, lap NP and IF…


I glance at my heart rate on occasion, but racing is purely RPE for me.

I only use power for training.


None. Look at the wheel in front of you and try to pass it. Repeat. :wink:


I find power not a good metric when there are hills involved. I go by heart rate. I know if I’m hitting 95+ percent of max heart rate for very long on a climb, I’m going to blow. it’s time to back off. I can feel it RPE


I think like you said it really depends on the terrain. If it’s rocky, technical, etc then you’re likely only getting tiny snapshots that aren’t relevant at all to your overall effort. But if you have long fire road sections or transfers and you’re alone then power can be helpful to make sure you’re not letting you adrenaline get the best of you and you’re pushing way too high.

I don’t have much (any really) XC experience but it’s probably similar to crits. In bunch racing, power is not helpful at all. But if you’re in a small breakaway then I’ve found it helpful to reel my pulls in to make sure I’m not doing 200% on the front. But in the end RPE is still king.

My minor MTB experience is once a year on what is a glorified gravel race (Iceman) that has many 5+min gravel road sections where it was helpful to have power to make sure I wasn’t going way over the limit. But I didn’t look at the power for 75% of the race.

If you’re worried about blowing up and don’t trust your RPE then I’d probably be more likely to look at something like NP over the course of the race but I’ve never tried it so idk how helpful it would be.


XC marathon racer here as well. I mostly race by RPE. Using have time (helps with fueling), distance and heartrate displayed. Only glance at heartrate.


Yeah another XCO / Marathon racer - I firmly pace by heartrate and RPE.

In fact, frankly, I’d say that most racing happens by RPE.

Can I hold on? Yes/No (Don’t need power for this)
Will I blow up? Is my HR above 175?
Can I go harder? Is my HR below 165?
Repeat until race over.

Power is for analysing the race after! =]

I quite like lap time as well to get a feel for how I’m going.

The only time I ever look at power is if I’m off the front for an extended period of time and need to pace myself on a sustained climb.


I use 3s power and normalized power. As others had said, some courses do not lend themselves to pacing with power, but I still lean on NP for most of my racing. It’s at least a sanity check on whether an effort is sustainable or not.


A lot of great suggestions here and many point to RPE… So what RPE do you all race at (also specify race length please)? I too find Watts hard to look at while racing MTB. HR seems a little easier and fluctuates less. So in relation to RPE, what HR are you at too?


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For longer races I absolutely pace climbs by power. Note that I’m trying to stay with groups for an aero benefit, but I’m racing the clock not other racers. (I am monitoring RPE and HR too, but power is primary)

I’ll hit the lap button going into a climb, and watch my NP and AP for that climb as compared to target. And, I’ll monitor NP for an entire event or longer segments too. Leadville for example, I have climbing pace targets on my top tube for all the uphill and longer flat sections on the course and those get treated as a new lap

Good way to not smoke yourself early in the race. Then, drop the hammer at the end if you still have any left.


I’m on the ban wagon of “your either in the race or not” and just try to stay with the lead group pack. Once I pop I do a mix of RPE and HR, try to keep myself in the functional threshold area with HR and base my efforts on RPE.

I only train with power as a reference, but during an event I typically don’t look at it or reference it until after the race.


In a race, don’t watch power, watch the wheels or open road in front of you. Power can/will limit your results.

Power doesn’t win races.



All of my RPE :rofl:

I go as hard as I can for the situation. If I see a 10ish minute climb ahead, I climb like I need to last 10 minutes. If I can grab a wheel on a fast section, I grab that wheel, even if it means i think im going too hard.

Bare in mind, I’m not racing to finish, I’m racing to win (I virtually never do). But that’s what I’m doing. Now I also think my brain and body are a little different, it’s insanely difficult for me to go “too hard”, I think my central governor is pretty in tune. Your results may vary.

I’ve used this strategy for up to 100 mile races down to a 1 hour ProXCT. I am racing True Grit 50 this Saturday (Vail Lake ProXCT the following Saturday). I podiumed the True Grit 100 a couple years ago (low turn out year).


So, how do you choose the RPE for a long climb and/or know what your NP target is? 100 mile is going to be a lower RPE and a 35 miler with 4k climbing is a different RPE. Or am I wrong?

Somewhat experience and comparison to other long ride testing and other races to see what I can manage. I see what other racers have done, what my coach advises, and then I go out and hammer myself for long tempo and “test rides” in the heat of summer too.

For example, Leadville this year I’ll go out at 85-90% of my (altitude adjusted) FTP for the first two climbs. 80-85% on the next big flat section. 85% on the next (BIG) climb, etc. But that’s a 9 hour race for me interspersed with descents, some pace-lining on the flats. Last year there, I was a little too conservative and had a little too much in the tank, so these reflect a little bit of a bump from last year.

Shorter Race I’ll go out hotter on shorter climbs. So yes, climbing target absolutely differs dependent on where in the race and length of the race.

Really you have to try it and see what works. I have two races as “B” events this year that while shorter, give me a chance to see what I really have…


What do you more experienced race-types think of this: My A event is 125 miles with 16,500 feet of climbing. There are 8 timed climbs. The first one comes up early. Last year I did it in 7 minutes at 113% of FTP. Is that clearly too much effort too early, or is it more of an “all depends” situation? I’m just looking to improve over last year.

There is no chance that I’m going to gain anything by staying with a group that early. The course is too climby for group dynamics to work for me and my 88 kilos.

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On long races with no intention to win but finish as quick as I can, I would RPE on long sustained climbs and find my “I can do this all day feeling” and then after 3-4 min take a look at my power to see what “zone” I was in to make sure I was not hammering it too hard and verify via HR that the pace made sense.

I will play that game all day until the last 1/8-1/4 of the distance/race and then give it “all” I have within reason for the finishing miles/time.

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