Benchmark workouts to gauge strengths/weaknesses

I’m already thinking about my training goals for my upcoming off season. I’m a triathlete (primarily Oly/half), but I’d like to focus on becoming a more well-rounded cyclist overall.

I’m wondering if there are specific TR workouts that serve as good benchmarks to gauge ability level across different zones/energy systems and determine what needs the most work.

E.g. If I can make it through “XXX”, I’m solid for sweet spot. If I I can make it through “YYY”, I’m solid for tempo. If I fail “ZZZ”, I should work on VO2 max.

Obviously there are a lot of workouts in each zone target, and by doing a bunch across each you can probably put together a good picture of relative fitness ability across them. But I thought it could be fun and informative (and most efficient) to have an “apex” workout for each that’s generally most representative of fitness in that zone.

Personal example: I’m at the tail end of the half distance triathlon base, mid-volume (fairly new TR user). I’ve had no problems getting through the sweet spot, tempo, and endurance workouts (e.g. Tray Mountain, Pioneer, Boarstone). I tend to fall apart when it comes to the sprint and VO2 max workouts though. Berryessa is 8x20s at 200% and I could only hit 185%. Even if I didn’t have to repeat reps, 200% for 20s one time alone is a lofty challenge. Today I tried Dade -1 which should be 3x3x2 at 120%, and I had to turn it down to 115%. Though I was able to do Baird -1 the other week, which is 3x5x1 at 120%.

Based on this, it seems obvious that if I want to balance out my weaknesses, I should be working on the shorter stuff. But I’ve barely touched the TR catalog - none of my workouts so far have been categorized as anaerobic or threshold. So I feel like I don’t have a complete picture, and I’d like to round out my self-assessment in the most efficient way possible.

Or alternatively, is the best approach just to look at my power curve and make an assessment from there?

As a related follow-up Q: Is there an optimal ‘order’ to prioritize working on weaknesses? E.g. if I’m theoretically below par for VO2max, anaerobic, and sprint work - does it make more sense to start with a focus on VO2 max and then work towards sprint, or start by focusing on developing my sprint capacity and then pushing towards anaerobic and VO2max?

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Generally I think it is useful to keep an eye on your workouts as it can be a good gauge of where you are at during a training block. Although be careful not to focus too much on individual workouts within a block as one can go badly for any number of reasons which could be known or unknown to you.

Look at your overall progression through a block of training, for example if you are focusing on longer interval work, is the rpe dropping for the same power across a block, does it feel reasonable to extend the length of the intervals, say 2x30min SS rather than 3x20min.

In terms of V02 intervals it is very individual and it is type of workout were you are always very close to the your failure point, therefore it is natural that sometimes that you won’t be able to do it, or that your ability to do these efforts relative to someone else is different.

As for focusing on your weakness, I would more be looking at doubling down on your strengths. You do oly and half triathlons, your 1 miniute power will not affect your performance in these races in any way. V02 sessions will still have their place but infrequently and probably not more than once a week if even that much. Your steady state power is what is critical for a good race performance, so really you should be concentrating on your aerobic base, sweetspot, tempo and peppering in some threshold work. That would be my take anyway.

I’m aware that the shorter stuff isn’t as important for my tri performance, but I’m interested in becoming a better all-around cyclist.

When I’m not gearing up for a race, I like to do weekend group rides, and I almost always fall off the back whenever a shorter burst of power is required (punchy hills, competitive sprint segments). I’d really like to be able to keep up with the old dudes. And maybe do some road races in the winter.

Plus, the off season is a great time to change things up from normal training to avoid burnout.

I think you’re after a “short list” of workouts that “set the standard” for certain types of efforts, knowing there are thousands available in the catalog. A good way to find the go-to ones is to look at the build plans that hit the type of workout you’re after. So if you want to see the go-to workouts for sustained efforts, look at the sustained power build plan; for 2-3 minute VO2max efforts, look at short power build plan.

My personal “benchmarks” are Lamark (threshold); Kaiser (VO2max); and Geiger (sweet spot).

Winchell is my ‘go-to’ for a test. The ride instructions say that it’s a great workout for when you feel on top of your game, otherwise you might need to knock the intensity down a touch.

I’ve never made it through at 100% intensity.

Yep, that’s exactly what I’m after. I tried looking at the build plans but that still feels like a lot to choose from.

I’d say make that a goal in your off-season, how long are those short bursts?

In my mind they last approximately forever, in reality they are probably around 30s to a minute. Pulls are usually in the 2-3 minute range.