Choosing % FTP for long climbs

I am riding the Triple Bypass Ride in aug. it is 3 long climbs with 10k elevation change over 100 miles. It’s also at elevation and I live at sea level.
I have a power meter and want to keep track of my normalized FTP to avoid blowing up.
Anyone know how I decide what % of my FTP I should shoot for??

I’m doing a similar ride, the Tour de Big Bear, next weekend on Saturday, Aug 7.

The two big climbs are both in the back half of the course, so the goal is to conserve energy in the first half. Taking elevation into account, I’m shooting for an IF of 0.65 in the first half and 0.70 in the 2nd half.

Target pacing for the big climbs, which are 1,587 ft @ 4% and 2,084ft @ 4.7%, will be around 65-75% FTP. My LTHR is in the low 160s, so I’ll be paying attention to HR as well, trying to keep it below 150-155. May have to adjust on the fly based on RPE.

Also bringing four 2.5 oz bottles of pickle juice in case I cramp. I’ll let you know how it goes.



IMO, when you are riding at elevation and you are not a resident of high elevation, Ignore power and go off feel and HR. If you’ve been training with power for awhile, you should be fairly well calibrated to what a Z2 effort feels like. I would shoot for that feeling(not actual Z2 power). Any kind of surge in effort will take a lot longer to recover from and will take a greater toll that what you are used to.

Also, stay up on water. More than what you would at sea level. Riding at elevation is really good at dehydrating you.


We’ve nothing serious round here but for virtual climbs up the Stelvio etc I target 80%. When I have done serious climbs in real life I’ve never had a power meter though.

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Do you know of any articles or websites that discuss this?

Don’t target 80% or you’ll be blown up and be bonking by the bottom of Loveland pass. Or well before that.

Agreed with @Cory.Rood about not targeting a % of ftp. Chances are it won’t work out well. Depending on your endurance ability, you can probably do the climbing at high z2 or low z3…but what that power actually is will change very much at 11k feet vs your power at home, and even change significantly between 8k feet and 11k feet, and with the weather conditions in the day (if it’s hot at 11k, it makes it even more difficult). I’m talking like 50+ watt difference. It’s not even good to look at a power meter because it can be so depressing.

I’d spend some time at home trying to hone what the top of z2 FEELS like in your legs/lungs after 2+ hrs on the bike and then shoot for that throughout the day.


I don’t.

The numbers I listed above came from trial and error, and then adjusted for elevation.

Everyone’s saying ride to RPE, and that’s exactly what I plan to do. The only catch is that RPE can fail you on the day of the event due to adrenaline and seeing everyone else around you go out way too hard.

This past Saturday I did a mental calibration ride, 93 miles with 6400 ft of climbing, mostly backloaded, at sea level. I noodled the first half and went harder in the second.

Rather than using power as a pacing tool, my plan is to use it more as sort of a speed governor, to prevent myself from blowing up.

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here is a link to my climb up Mt. Evans last year.

I paced this off of feel and HR. attempting to keep my HR in the zone of what corelated to ~Z2 power back home(live at ~1,000 FT)

I wasn’t pushing the limits by any means, just enjoying the ride.


Good call, but need to be aware that when coming from sea level to 8k ft, that you need to reduce your ‘limit’ by a very large amount.


Super helpful

here’s one:

Summary: prioritize climbing effort by RPE and breathing rate.

I‘d also check how you feel at 78-80% of maxHR.
If this is sustainable for 60-90min with nice stable deep breathing (check every 10min and dial effort back if necessary) this MIGHT be a good place to be (at least it is for me)

^ this is basically how I learned to climb in 2016, before getting a power meter. Except I didn’t look at HRmax or LTHR (HR at FTP), and instead simply did trial and error on 3 training centuries before a big climbing event. Here are the 4 rides with some HR data (avg and %) annotated on the graphs:

*** April 2016 ***

  • 100 miles
  • 8300 feet of climbing
  • topped out at elevation 3600’ (started near sea level)

  • Average HR of 136bpm
  • 85% LTHR
  • 78% HRmax

this HR was ‘easy’ for an all-day pace, but this was my 2nd century and I was also working out nutrition / hydration strategy after bonking two months earlier on my 1st century (96 miles / 4700’ climbing).

*** May 2016 ***

  • 104 miles
  • 8300 feet of climbing over 2 passes
  • started at elevation 5600’ and topped out at 8900’ (Mt Rose summit)

  • Average HR of 131bpm
  • 82% LTHR
  • 75% HRmax

played this one conservatively given nearly entire ride was above 6000’ elevation.

*** June 2016 ***

  • 100 miles
  • 10,400 feet of climbing over 1 pass (out-n-back)
  • started at elevation 3600’ and topped out at 8574’ (Carson Pass summit)

  • Average HR of 134bpm
  • 84% LTHR
  • 77% HRmax

this felt ‘just right’ for all day climbing in the heat.

*** July 2016 ***

  • 117 miles
  • 14,800 feet of climbing over 5 passes
  • minimum elevation 5200’ (Highway 395) and max elevation of 8730 (Ebbetts Pass)

  • average HR of 134bpm
  • 84% of LTHR
  • 76% HRmax

My estimate of FTP on those rides was 250+ watts and just under 3W/kg.

If I was going to do that ride, would take the same approach as above and simply ride with one eye on HR, trying to keep it around 135-140bpm range. From training rides at sea level, that is about 75% FTP or the border between endurance and tempo power. But your power will drop at elevation, and per the article posted above I think you are better off pacing by HR, breathing, and RPE.

Hope that helps, that basic strategy has worked well for me. The HR in bpm and % LTHR or HRmax is individual, so you need to figure out your own numbers.

Flipping it around to the hardest climbs, I’ve pushed 88% IF / 229W NP / 261 FTP with average HR of 146bpm (84% HRmax, 91% LTHR) on a 3600’ climb that started near sea level and total climbing of 8500’ over 97 miles.

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How about beat bike splits… anyone tried using this website?

Don’t do as I do… But for reference, on a ride with three 9 km climbs (2000 meters of climbing in total) , I wound up doing 85% ftp for the two first climbs, then 65% for the last one (I blame it on the unbearable 38 degree heat on the last one). The thing is, I didn’t feel like I was really pushing super hard on the 80-85% ftp climbs , and the 65% of ftp felt like I was just trying to survive the heat without overdoing it.

I think you should account for elevation and see if you can take advantage of groups in the flat sections. Also, there is substantially more climbing in the ride you mention. Perhaps 65-75% ftp at most if you feel like you can eat and recover on the descents and be carried by groups in the flats? It depends on how much altitude affects you.

Or, as others have mentioned, start easy, check HR, and keep it at an HR zone that you feel you can sustain and recover later.