One Last Heart Rate Question


I have listened to a lot of the TR podcasts so I know the team’s opinion of focusing on power over heart rate. Therefore in the gym where I train which has no aircon (I end up sweating bucket by the end of just the warm up) I know using heart rate zones could be off so focus purely on the power targets as set by Trainer Road.

I am training for Le Etape de Tour in July 2020 which will be a colossal effort for someone who has never ridden anything like that before.

My background is:
Cycling for fun for around 2 years (about 4-7 hours per week traditionally)
FTP of 249 as based on the Ramp Test on TR
Completed 3-4 century rides (London to Paris, Ride London etc which are pretty flat)
Ridden Alp D Huez but slowly otherwise no big mountain experience.

I presently cycle 7 hours a week (3xTR workouts on Sweet Spot Volume 2 and a low intensity outdoor ride of 3-4 hours on Sundays of about 35-50 miles) but will aim to slowly build to doubling this time starting in March.

My question is this: in order to increase my time on the bike I will obviously need some lower effort longer rides in order to get used to being in the saddle for long periods plus in order to be able to recover for the other more intense rides during the week.
Should my present Sunday rides (and the longer mid-week rides from March) be based on heart rate in order to try to gain more capillaries (I believe Zone 2 is where this mostly happens) or just focus on a specific percentage of my FTP? If I pedal without looking at a heart rate monitor I tend to spend about 60% of an outdoor ride in heart rate Zone 3 which I keep being told by more experienced riders is ‘The Grey Zone’ and therefore I am working too hard to recover from or to get aerobic adaptions (fat burning potential) plus it will take me too long to recover from but on the flip side I am not working hard enough to improve my sustainable power or top end power.
Having looked online I see all these ‘gurus’ advocating Zone 2 riding and how much they improved by doing it for 3 months and why you should avoid the ‘Grey Zone’ (zone 3) but I am also aware that the Trainer Road Team always say to focus on power (even if my heart rate is sitting on zone 3 or 4 for heart rate). Is heart rate therefore irrelevant for improving endurance and fat burning potential when you can use power instead?

As a result of these conflicting thoughts I feel I am wasting my time and not enjoying my longer rides as wonder if they are really having the desired effect of prepping me for 80-110 mile sportives.

Any help would be so appreciated just so I feel more confident about what I am doing and what makes more sense to focus on.

Thank you in advance to anyone who can help.

I’ll let the experts give the solid answers but I’ll give my opinion. Coming from running and now cycling I always do my easy and endurance rides by heart rate. My max hr is 193bpm and I ride endurance around 125bpm to 135bpm and that happens to keep my power in zone 2. I actually prefer keeping it just under 130bpm. When running endurance I keep my hr under 145bpm

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I can only really say what I do on long low intensity rides. I start of riding in Z2 by power trying (not always successfully) not to go above the upper limit particularly when accelerating out of junctions etc and on any hills. Using those power limits I then keep my HR in HR Z2, trimming back the power to keep it there. It can be deeply frustrating but I tell myself there is a purpose to it. When I get to the stage of being able to keep the Power & HR zones lined up I’ll probably think about doing some lower cadence intervals during the ride.

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