Are VO2max blocks worth it for gravel racing?

So I’m sitting here staring at my training-plan, like I obsessively do on a daily basis, fighting the urge to FTFP or change something.

What do you make of VO2max blocks with regards to 3+ hour gravel events? Spend more time building FTP and fatigue resistance with long-duration Sweet Spot intervals or work in a VO2max prior to racing?


The simple answer is yes, I guess? VO2max work also improves your FTP, right? Where are you in your training cycle? I don’t see why your scenario should be an “or” statement. Work on FTP, endurance and sweet spot in the months before the race and on VO2 max in the weeks before.

Are you racing it or riding it?

Always racing. Right now I see a handful of 2-4 minute climbs. Which is very normal for races in the Midwest.

In the past I have seen a lot of benefits from a focused VO2 max block, but I never quantify its effect on sustained power. What’s most observable is that my 5-minute power goes up—to be expected.

12 weeks of tempo and SS
6 weeks of dedicated SS
3 weeks of FTP
1 week into VO2max
4 weeks till race

Why I’m torn is that I feel like I might benefit more from another 3 weeks of FTP building—which feels like I cut short just so I could squeeze in a VO2 max block.

I suppose I could do both. 1x VO2max workout per week and 1-2x FTP workout focusing on intervals longer than 15 min. Going back and forth in my mind on whether I should further hone my diesel or sharpen the top end a bit.

I’m in this same battle. Should I quit vo2 and swap in ss or threshold. First race I spent 40min/160min in anaerobic zone though, it was a road race on gravel, so that supports keep building on vo2, but this weekends race when I’m distanced on the first two climbs 5miles in, my race might be more solo and I will limit time above ftp and more time in sweet spot when I as I can control the pace.

@anthonylane you know the answer to this question; where are you relative to your FTP as % of VO2.
That will determine do you need to raise the ceiling or grow underneath it.


Right now I’m at 82-83%. FTP is 320-330, 5-minute MAP is ~390w, repeatable. 405w on a great day.

The great unknown is what my power curve looks like at hour 2.5 in a 3 hour race. I know what it looks like during a kinda hard ride, but not at race pace seeing as I haven’t raced in over a year or have gone on an edge finding ride in a while.

Guess I should

Are you going to do some anaerobic capacity work?

As of right now, no. Just not enough time for that. This isn’t the only race I plan on doing for 2021, so I can re-structure my plan to accommodate anaerobic capacity work after this race.

I’m looking at the course profile and it’s a 54mi course with 2700’ of gain. It’s basically a 30 mi drag at 1% then 25 mi at -1%, with 5-6 1-3 min kickers interspersed.

From the chart here:

(Pretty sure it was from training peaks or someone else)
I think it’s that vo2 improves certain limiters that lower level intervals don’t target. You need to improve those limiters to improve in other places even if you don’t plan to target that work load.

As to your specific question and your instance, I don’t really know

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@anthonylane if I think about how it went down in gravel races I’ve won…a blob rides hard for a while…we come to a hill or some feature and somebody attacks & rides hard. Some people drop. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

So that’s hard start VO2max followed by endurance. I also like VO2max floats.

Looking at that profile it looks to me like there is likely to be a lot of action from miles 8 to 17. I’m sure you’re already planning to position yourself for those features. This race is probably going to start out hard for the first 5 miles! :smiley: You might have the final group by mile 10?


I’d add another week of v02max. Personally, I dread v02max training, but 2-3 weeks of it makes a huge difference in my racing fitness. Another week of ftp might provide marginal improvement for me, the difference between 1 and 2 weeks of v02max would be significant.

Also, it’s my experience that the first hour or so of gravel race is often filled with high intensity surges as people try to whittle down the group. Unless you are riding solo or in a chill group, I find them more peaky than a road race. Attacks on every corner, every little rise, etc. In a recent 3 hr gravel race, I had over 40 minutes in v02max or higher and 23 of those minutes where in anarobic. Most of that was in the first half of the race. Only 16 minutes in threshold.

Interesting question. I have a gravel event (93 miles +8500ft), however only the climbs are timed and the sum of your times there determines the result of the event.


I’m definitely including VO2 max work in the build up period (6 weeks)

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@anthonylane you doin the DAMn too? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Which race is it? I race gravel in Michigan, but from what I gather gravel races elsewhere must be a bit different. The races I do are generally between 40 - 80 miles and they behave like road races with a bumpy surface. If you can’t hang on the climbs and sit-in on the flats you’ll get dropped. You need short power.

There is no one type of gravel race, in my opinion. If I was using a TR plan to train for my gravel races I would use Rolling Road Race or maybe XC MTB.

Die on a hill and come home on your shield. Good luck :metal:

EDIT: Below is the power file for my last gravel race. It was short (~33 miles) but look at the IF for nearly two hours … basically it was a crit. And those efforts were dictated by a never ending series of 1-3 minute climbs. And, yes … I got dropped. Still finished top 5 in my age group, but missed out hanging with the lead group of about 10 riders. To me, this is what midwest gravel racing is.

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Fill the house, raise the roof, repeat. V02max training is necessary for all types of racing IMO as part of a periodized structure


Nailed it. This has been my experience with the gravel races I have done. I will also say that in the last two editions of this particular race, I finished 4th. The difference between 4th and 1st was less than 2 minutes and it came down to who had the bigger engine in the last 15 minutes of racing and who could hold wheels. There’s nothing worse than watching 3 guys hold a tempo that you just can’t sustain and watching them pull away.

I think the race will be decided within the first 1/3rd, for sure. That’s been the case. Gravel races always start out harder than you think.

I think i’m going to stick to the game plan and go more polarized in this last 4 weeks. Work on VO2 and then longer endurance rides. I’m not sure trying to lift FTP from below is really going to help at all at this point.

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In the past I have responded very well to a bout of VO2max work, so afte deliberation, I’m going to stay the course and pile it on while I can.

Likewise, we amateurs have a way of making things unnecessarily difficult in the very early stages. I’m fuly expecting my group to come out blazing.

@vhudacek Oh my. I am not fit enough for that. Yet. How about you and Andrew? What are you racing this year?