Finding (and fixing) my weak points

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Above is the power numbers from the first 5 minutes of a UK Cat 3/4 Criterium. It’s quite a short and tight circuit, with big accelerations out of each corner. This 5 minutes represents the 4 laps that I managed to hang on to the group - I know they slow down after 5 - 10 minutes because I start to catch them on my own.

Now, I understand the tactics - stay near the front to avoid the surges, get in the draft, inside of corners - I’m getting there. I can corner pretty well, I rarely touch the brakes and end up catching people (free positions). I clearly need extra fitness, but do I prioritise aerobic or recovery from hard efforts?

I’m 90 KG, with about 20-25% BF (guesstimate) and FTP of 244 W on a TACX Neo ramp test or 255 W on a long climb with a left side crank. During this first 5 minutes, I average 322 W with 600-1000 W surges out of every corner (about 13 corners until I got dropped). My theory is that, at a higher FTP, I would recover much more quickly.

My question is: Do I keep going with the criterium training plan or, due to my relatively low W/kg, should I go to Sweet Spot Base/Sustained Power Build?

I think my mistake at the start was doing the low volume base and build, I can schedule medium volume within my week now and increase the weekly stress to something that will cause adaptations.

First off, I’d guess your FTP is a bit higher than you think, as I doubt you can do ~136% of FTP for 5 minutes.

Raising FTP will certainly help you hang longer (seems you’re already pushing a high % of FTP so it’s the base that needs work not the top end). Losing a few kg would help as well, weight isn’t a big penalty on flat roads but on a course with a lot of bends and accelerations it makes a difference.

I’d have thought going back to SSB with more volume would be a good move. Doesn’t necessarily have to be MV plan e.g. You could do Low Volume (or 3 of the MV workouts) but supplement with a long outdoor endurance ride and maybe one crit or race-type group ride which will maintain your top end power, enable you to continue to work on cornering and positioning, and monitor progress against other riders. If you do want to trim a few kg then I think it’s also easier to run a calorie deficit while doing mainly SS and endurance work than when doing the higher intensity work which can really beat you up.

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I’m impressed by how close your NP and average power are considering the surges. It’s a small-ish window for NP, but still I’d have expected a larger disparity - so good on you for smoothing the efforts out on the turns

To me the answer to this question depends more on where you are in your season than your weaknesses. Given you’re in the UK and I presume your racing season is getting close to ending it isn’t likely that what you do with your training right now, in the middle of July, is going to impact things a ton for this year.

What races do you have left this year and when are they? When does your race season start next year?

If you are racing through the end of September or October maybe going to build or base makes sense - if your last race is the middle of August less so

I take the long view on training - so in my head I’ve already got you wanting to start a full base/build/specialty progression sometime this fall - which means from a mental fatigue perspective going to base now and then starting another base cycle pretty soon afterwards sounds kind of miserable to me. But if you’re racing CX and won’t be going back to build until…idk, February - then maybe Base makes more sense now

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I think I get round on my anaerobic system until I get dropped basically, I’ve got a decent sprint (in comparison to my endurance) of about 1000 W for 17 seconds but I obviously need to replenish that energy somehow.

I do much better on the longer courses because of the momentum but my local one is very tight. Some of these guys are 30 kg lighter than me, which is about 30% less power needed out of the corners!

Thanks for the feedback, I think I’ll go with the advice and do SSB with the odd race thrown in to remember how pain feels!

That’s a really good point. I’m booked in end of august and the season lasts until November - really wanted to get just one 10th palace finish this year! It could still happen, but it’s getting time to plan for next season (this was my first season).

As mentioned in previous comment, I’m going to take the advice and try and build a decent aerobic engine over the next year or so - I always used to think go hard or go home but that’s probably why I haven’t increased fitness since 2015! (running)

In terms of getting that British cycling point on my license, I will have to find a track with less corners and sit in for a sprint finish! Thanks again

@ellyp, where in the UK are you based? Id look for a race on a motor racing circuit as the bends will be fast and suit your characteristics better. second the comment about doing a SSB1 and general build, either low or medium volume with road endurance rides .
I would also advocate CX racing to enhance your bike handling and give some high end work and tolerance to pain. It will take a winter to get in shape properly for next road season.

Motor racing circuits often have reasonable (short) hills in them. The perfect circuit for someone with a weight disadvantage, good short power and lowish FTP would be an airfield 4 corner circuit - flat and super wide so the corners don’t scrub much speed and the bunch stays together.
It sounds like you’re thinking about next year already. If you have races for a month or 2, why not just keep doing what you are doing? You aren’t going to move your FTP massively in the short time left on the season, but you can probably still learn quite a lot of the intangibles of pack racing (so long as you are having fun). The off season is a reasonable length to get base/build done in time for next year.

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I will make it my goal to join one CX race before the year is out! Might have to borrow a bike :slight_smile:

Looking at the high volume short power build plans, it seems that a lot of the work is sweet spot/endurance with a few VO2 workouts thrown in - pretty much SSBMV plus a race every week. I still think I have beginner FTP gains to be had, I believe the reasons I didn’t get any FTP improvements until about 6 months in are as follows:

  1. Volume too low - SSBLV was probably too easy and I was substituting workouts with a high intensity session about once a week.
  2. FTP not set correctly - I probably have made gains but started off decreasing due to an incorrect estimate.
  3. Sleep - my sleep was terrible, I now aim for 8 hour a night of solid sleep (9 hours of “sleep”) and this is where I think I saw my biggest fitness increase.
  4. Alcohol - I never used to have a drinking problem (it was always other people’s problem) but then it became my problem when my fitness wasn’t improving. I’m not saying I’m an alcoholic but, when I have a drink, I like to get hammered! Had a stint where I didn’t touch a drop and then the sleep and nutrition, therefore the fitness, improved.
  5. Consistency - like with any good habit, it takes a while to get to a level of consistency where it has a meaningful effect. Still work to do on that front!

Like I mentioned, I have a pretty decent 30 second power (700 W) compared to FTP (250 W) and it’s also easier to do sweet spot out on the road, in the nice (ish) weather, because the time in sweet spot seems to even out the fluctuations. If I have to hit 200% FTP for 30 seconds, it’s no good if I’ve just crested a hill. I’m currently renovating my shed into a pain cave so am actually struggling to get on the trainer and will be for another few weeks!

I’ll definitely keep an eye out for aerodrome and longer circuit races to get my single point by Novmber!

I don’t understand the combination of points 1 and 2 - sounds like you were doing low volume sweet spot work at too high an FTP - this would mean 3 hours of threshold work and give a significant load. How much volume were you doing before you started SSBLV? LV should be sufficient to get some gains if your volume before wasn’t significant.
The other aspects you mention make sense, and possibly explain why that much threshold work didn’t give you much benefit.
Check out the power profiles here to see how your profile stacks up: https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/power-profiling/
The basic chart implies that at 2.78W/Kg FTP, your 5 second power would be expected to be about 13W/Kg, which is around 1200W. It may be that your power profile is actually relatively rounded, and it’s just that you need to drag your FTP up (or your Kg down) to get better results - don’t pigeon hole yourself into only pack sprinting just yet. :wink:

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Not sure about 1 and 2, can only think it goes with point 5: consistency is king!

Completely agree with you, I think I just like the idea of being a sprinter because of nationsnumber1beast :stuck_out_tongue:

The main problem I have with sprinting is that I’m just not very good at it - the power seems to be manageable but my back wheel hops all over the road! The main thing is finishing the race in the pack at this point, then I can start worrying about what position I finish. I purely want to race crits, I think they’re a hoot and the ultimate measure of where I want my fitness:
Fit enough to keep with fast riders and strong enough to put some major watts down at the end of it all.

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@ellyp , There are a few recent podcasts that cover sprinting technique, look for those with the abundantly haired Pete on them. Basically your weight is too far forward when out of the saddle, so learn to keep your backside further over the saddle when putting the power down and holding your core and arm circle braced and firm. i believe a new sprinting technique video is due out shortly.

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