Is this a realistic fitness gain for leadville?

Hello everybody, I got into leadville and my mindset is that if a sub 9 is potentially achievable then I will dedicate my entire training to that goal, but if not then I don’t care what my time is so long as it’s under 12, and I won’t abandon my current training that is focusing on XC season which we are currently in in AZ.

From what I’ve been reading in various forums it sounds like I would need to get my FTP to 4w/kg to be able to at least make it possible (I know it’s just one part of the equation, but I think it’s the only limiter that is questionable for me to achieve by august). That would require me getting my FTP to 336W, currently it is at ~280W.

I have been riding 5-10 hours a week for the past 18 months. My FTP was 194W when I started. I did some zwift FTP building program that saw my big initial beginner gains and I was around 250W around this time last year. I then started doing a more detailed training plan using sufferfest workouts that took me to about 270W by April of last year. I then spent the summer not following any training plan and just doing zwift races and tons of MTB in Canada for fun. My FTP probably dropped some, but not sure how much as I didn’t do another test before I started a 12 week program in october (I used 270W as my FTP for the training), I retested at 273 in December at the end, and have currently been in a structured plan since then and have gained some since which I’m estimating at around 280W currently.

Given that I’ve been following a structured plan and have already stopped with the big initial gains, is adding another 50+W in 7 months while also building the necessary endurance a realistic possibility? (id be looking at doing something like the SSHV,Powerbuild,XCmarathon TR plan) I have time in abundance so getting in volume (and 8-10 hours of sleep a night) isn’t an issue, (neither would getting to leadville 3 weeks early to acclimate, and I seem to not be as bothered by altitude as most people already). I’m also 42 years old, which I’m sure doesn’t help.

If that is a pretty daunting and most likely unrealistic task, then I’ll be happy to focus on the XC races then build my endurance and still have a blast in leadville and dedicate myself to a sub 9 at some point in a future year. I just know I need to start a plan now for leadville if that’s going to be my sole focus, so I need to make a decision, and lack the experience to know what’s realistic. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. Cheers!

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I don’t have advice on this but am interested to see what other people say. I’ve gone through similar changes over the past year, am at the same FTP, and have made getting to 4w/kg in the next year a goal. I also started a 12 week program in October, but my FTP was ~260W then. I’ve since gotten up to 280W and am really hoping to get up over 300W by May. I ride a mix of disciplines but most of the races I plan on doing this year are enduro.

I know I could stand to lean out a bit but doubt I could shed more than 5-10lbs. Even though my percent body fat has been going down my weight has stayed roughly the same due to I assume putting on more muscle. Targeting FTP like you and letting my body composition follow seems like the best approach.

Comparing to your approach I’m doing the following program progression:

  1. October - General Power Build - 12 weeks
  2. January - Sweet Spot Base Mid Volume II - 6 weeks
  3. February - Short Power Build Mid Volume - 8 weeks
  4. April - Gravity Mid Volume Specialty - This takes me into my first races in May

My guess is people are just going to say eat healthy, get enough sleep, and follow the suggested training plan progressions. I hope there might be some better insight than that though and advice on whether either of our goals are realistic. Cheers and good luck!


Those numbers are somewhat similar to @Nate_Pearson’s.

I think he said it took him about 1.5 years to go from 275w to 340w, or thereabouts.

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Increasing FTP by 56 watts in around eight months is a really big goal and since you think you’re done with the ‘new to consistent structured training gains’ it feels very ambitious.

I think instead of focusing on an FTP target you would be best served by focusing on your training consistency, recovery, and nutrition as these are the logical progression in my opinion. Build a process you can sustain and follow it. Don’t make any major adjustments in volume or reduce your recovery time - you’ve got a fairly limited time frame and being consistent and adhering to your plan will get your FTP as high as feasible


That’s a lot of additional watts on top of the great gains you’ve already made. Since it sounds like you’ve done some good training for the last year+, I would expect gains in the future to get harder and harder to get. You might get there eventually, but you really only have time to get through one complete training cycle between now and Leadville.

Have you had a dexa scan or know your body fat %? If you can attack it from both sides of the equation, it might dramatically increases your chances for success. I figure every lb of fat I’m dragging around that course is worth at least 60 seconds and probably closer to 90.

Finally, I wouldn’t give up on a sub 9 just because you can’t get to 4.0w/kg. As a bigger guy, your 3.8w/kg could be better than a smaller person’s 4.0. There are several spots on the course where raw wattage matters and little guys suffer. I think 4.0w/kg is probably the right “over/under” wattage target for sub 9, but there are plenty of guys doing sub 9 with lower FTP’s


Thanks for all the replies everyone. I was worried that might be a bit unrealistic :frowning:

I think I’m going to go ahead and train for leadville anyway, I’m kinda excited at the thought of doing a big block of sweet spot, and its probably not going to effect me that much anyway in the remaining mountain bike races. I enjoy training, might as well spend more hours doing it, heh.

"Have you had a dexa scan or know your body fat %? If you can attack it from both sides of the equation, it might dramatically increases your chances for success. "

I haven’t had a dexa, maybe I should, but the calculation was with losing 5-10lbs already and from past experience it seemed like whenever I started to get below 185 I would lose power and it wasn’t worth it. That was 20 years ago so maybe my body composition has changed, but either way there isn’t a lot more there to get anyway.

I was at roughly 3.7 last year and went 8:45 at Leadville and had a ton left - I felt sub-8 was possible. It’s not what your FTP is, it’s what can you maintain for 8-9 hours, you’ll be at SS on your maximal efforts.


In my area, you can get a dexa scan for under $50 and it provides a quick definitive answer to the body comp question. I was amazed how much fat I had to lose (even on my skinny arms and legs) and it was pretty motivational. I’d also recommend “Racing Weight” by Matt Fitzgerald as a great reference and additional motivation for getting as lean as possible.

Every extra lb of fat is painful baggage on that Leadville course. I did the Leadville stage race last year and I was really kicking myself for not getting a little leaner (I missed the red coral cutoff by 5 minutes). Good luck in your prep, I’ll be there with you in August.

As mentioned, you can get sub-9 even with your current watt/kg, assuming all goes to plan as well as it can. Keep making gains and give yourself a little more buffer. I think I was between 4.4-4.5 watts/kg last year at Leadville and finished in 8:17. I feel like to get sub-8 I would have to be closer to 4.7 watts/kg. I had an epic day with only a few issues, broken spoke, not eating enough inbound around pipeline. What helped me a lot was long SS intervals at the end of a longer ride to simulate working through that uncomfortable feeling. I live at sea level and have zero mountains near me for training for reference. Best of luck!

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if you’re stoked on the idea of the training for Leadville - that’s your answer. I don’t think your FTP goal is realistic but as others have said, that may not matter. You keep mentioning the XC races secondary, just something to consider, you seem more excited about Leadville. You should prep for what excites you.

Also - if you can dedicate the time you mention for training without burnout, that volume will serve you well for shorter distance racing as well. You’ll obviously need to change your focus via a build and specialty phase at that point.

My suggestion is to have more of a process goal for Leadville. And consider how different the experience of XC v Leadville is: what do you want to really nail?

One more thing- the atmosphere at Leadville is insane! As mentioned above, be excited for that and train for that goal. You will still crush XCO races. The crowds, the views, the race meetings, and more make this race unlike any other! Enjoy the process and remember the fun when it is all over!

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Be cautious with making FTP the focus of your metrics. It is an important measure but for something like Leadville TTE (time to exhaustion) is a really important measure. Being able to hold a percentage of your FTP for long periods of time is going to be a key to your success at Leadville.

Other important factors are going to be your nutrition, fluid and electrolyte management for an 8+ hour event at altitude - much different than what you will do during shorter XC races. Prepping for the altitude also key.

Good luck! You will have a blast at Leadville. It’s a fantastic event and is well worth all the time and effort to prepare for.

Following up on this discussion. I was able to make my goal of 300W last week, which is a month and a half ahead of what my goal was. I hit 297W on 4 hours of sleep and decided to round up to 300W. I’m on a mid-volume build now and am pretty optimistic that I’ll hit the 4W/kg mark at some point this year.

Hilbert, how’s your progress going on this since you were the one that originally brought this up?

I’ll allow it :wink:

I just tested at 301 on tuesday after finishing the sweet spot blocks…so I’m actually feeling pretty good about it, I should be able to get to 3.7 at the least by the race, and I can hold lower power efforts for a lot longer which is probably more important anyway…hopefully the face happens

Nice work on your gains, I’m assuming your may races were canceled tho? :frowning: Definitely looking good for your 4w/kg by end of year tho!

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That’s awesome and congrats on your progress as well!

I think I’m in a similar boat with being able to hold lower power efforts for longer. I’ve been swapping an outdoor 40ish mile road ride for my Sunday ride and feel like that’s easy now, even when I’m trying to really push. I also find that I can do a ton of short high power bursts, but have a bit more difficulty when they’re 120%+ FTP for over 90 seconds. I think that’s normal though and will improve with the short power build I’m doing now.

Yep, all my May races have been cancelled and I’m questioning whether much of any racing will end up happening this year. I’m going to keep the rest of the races on the calendar though and use this year as a learning experience. I figure I’ll learn what it takes to get to my goal and it’ll be easier to get back to or maintain that fitness for future race seasons. Either way I’m feeling great about my improvements and really hope we all have a chance to race this year.

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