Sacrificing max Sprint power for Sustained power?

Hey everyone,

I consider myself to be a “fast twitch guy” with good short power. I am good in VO2 work and have a really good punch and a reasonable sprint performance. However, my sustained power (muscular endurance) is definitley lacking in performance a lot. Therefore I would like to put more work into SS and threshold sessions to tackle my weaknesses.

My goal: I am competing in local road races. The courses are flat with a few sharp and punchy climbs (around 60-100km with about 400m-800m of elevation). Normally (not always), I am strong enough to just hang on with the fast guys of the pack. My goal is always to arrive at the finish with a reduced group and sprint for the win.

My problem: if I want to go for the win, I definitely cannot afford to lose any high-end sprint power. At the same time I want to to improve my sustained power. I know that at a certain point I have to deal with a compromise, but I am afraid of tweaking fast-twitch fibres into slow twitch-fibres permanently and lose the punchiness, which is my main advantage over competitors at the moment.
So, how much SS work will help me tackle my weaknesses without sacrificing high end power? I am thinking of incorporating one big SS or over-under session per week (around 2-2.5hours).

Some more details about me:

  • 185cm (6´1)
  • 78kg (172 pound)
  • Relatively muscular
  • around 12-15hours time to spend on training per week
  • 5-6 rides per week (of which 2 are on the trainer indoors) + weight training 1x-2x per week
  • very good 15sec power, good 1-4min power, bad 20min power
  • Event though I did never test, I think that I have a quite high Vlamax

Thanks for your thoughts!

Would you be interested in sharing your power numbers to help put good and bad in to context?

Judging by previous podcasts, when asked about this, I think Nate tends to suggest that a general raise in FTP is the best solution. This means that you’re working at a lower % of threshold when in the group and therefore have more saved in your legs for attacks and final sprints. The good thing about this approach is that you could increase your FTP by simply training your current strengths, ie V02 max sessions in build phase.

The other approach might be a more polarised one, which is becoming popular. I don’t have any experience with the latest trend in polarised training, but maybe it’s possible for you to have some really easy long days in the saddle to help build some endurance whilst not tiring yourself out for short training intervals inside.

Seems to me that the pre-requisite to winning the sprint is making the final selection, and the best way to do that is to have a higher sustainable power. Sprint training doesn’t take much to sharpen anyway, so a focus on higher sustained power while practicing sprints on your easier days (with stuff like Bays) is certainly a reasonable approach.

Without the context of your power profile, it’s tough to give in-depth recommendations. If you’re a 4.5W/kg guy with a 1400W sprint already competing P/1/2, the answer is different than if you’re a 3.0W/kg guy with a 1200W sprint competing 4 or 5.

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I would agree with @onemanpeloton about periodisation.
“The other approach might be a more polarised one, which is becoming popular”.

I would suggest one session per week work on sweet spot, with increasing duration or intervals. To retain your sprint include these efforts in your endurance rides. The two muscle types are different, but the training on both can be mutually beneficial.
In terms of duration for sweet spot, start on 5x 12 minute for an hour of effort. In a race if you’re in a break for longer just wing it like you did as a sit in sprinter.

If you’re planning to win races in sprints then you basically want to do the amount of endurance training that will get you to the finish line in the lead group without damaging your sprint beyond repair

I’m basically the opposite racer - I want a breakaway and I want it hard. I have a vastly under-trained sprint and don’t really care to train it. Maybe that’ll change eventually, but I’m relatively happy with who I am on the bike at this point

I’d suggest you spend some time doing a sustained power build program and then follow that up with specialty training that matches your current capabilities. As long as you mix in sprints a couple/few weeks before racing starts up the sprint will come back pretty quickly and you’ll be a stronger pack rider with a similar sprint

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Sure. I am around 3.8-4watt/kg depending on my Weight. So around 290-310FTP.
As I only have an smart Trainer and no powermeter on my Bike, I do Not have any particular PR Numbers concerning 1min, 5min Power and so on.

@Tim_87, find the right screen on your Garmin or whatever you use. Lap function is very useful and with no power you’ll need to know your HR zones to be at 85% HR Max for sweet spot. If no HR- then work hard enough that you’d only get a couple of words out if you had to.

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What level are you racing? 3.8-4.0 is fine for Cat 4 and 5. You’ll be amongst the strongest in the field in most races. When you start getting higher than that, sustained power at that level becomes a limitation. As mentioned, you need to make the final selection before your sprint can matter.

It’s Cat4.

Thanks so far for your answers! Confirms my thoughts. I think that one high Volume SS Session per week will not drastically impact my Sprint Performance.

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It won’t. Sprint performance is easy to lose but easy to get back. As others have mentioned, throw in four sprints in a one-hour easy session (like Bays as I said) and you’ll stay tuned up.

As you Cat up, you will find the sustained power below 4W/kg to be more of a limiter to your performance IMO.

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I haven’t done any sprint Work since starting my quest to build up my sustained power and I was still able to hit 1400+ watts this weekend in a race.


if it’s flat, and you can stick with the lead group, why not just keep winning the sprint? what is the true end goal of wanting more sustained power?



Yeah, that´s true. But it isn´t like I am arriving with a full tank. Sometimes I am really strugglig to keep up until the finish line. More sustained power would probably lead to reserving more energy for the sprint. The decisive point is to find the right balance in my opinion.

I’m in the exact same boat. If you’ve got the fast twitch and a good sprint already, you’re not going to lose it. Spend time building aerobic base from the bottom up. Long slow rides in true z1/z2. 4-5hrs of this will help to build the aerobic engine which will really help you in the longer races. Working your sprint if you’ve already got it takes maybe 2wks before full snap and power is back, it comes on really quick.

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Thanks for the great answers so far. Really appreciate it! Will definitely do long, slow rides outside (4h+) and combine it with trainer rides.

When doing stuff on the trainer to improve my sustained power, is it best to do sweet spot work (e.g. Juneau +1) or is it even more beneficial to do long over-unders like Picket Guard +2? In my opinion the over-unders could be even more effective (assuming that I am always able to complete them), because they replicate the “real world race situations” more closely.

more aerobic endurance, not necessarily sustained power. The aerobic aspect will allow you to keep more matches for later

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