Sprinters do well in ultra endurance?

I want to pose a question to the community on wether sprinters can be suitable for ultraendurance:

I am 33 year old relatively fit man, working out 10 hours a week, hovering at around 4 watt/kg. As a rider type I am definately a sprinter/puncheur, at 1.78m and 75ish kg, im not heavy, but not top climber material either. I am a muscular guy, even without any strength training, with ave-inspiring quads and calves. These “assets” however, seem to not give great rewards on threshold power.

After having worked out with relatively good structure for 5-6 years now, I find it really hard to actually increase my threshold any further, and have sorta accepted that this is the level i can realistically expect.

Over the last 2 years, i have performed well in sprints and punchy races, while climbing and TT-work seems to not be my forte. However, after recently having completed both a unltra endurance run and an extreme 70.3 triathlon, both around 7 hours, i find that i perform really well in these (top 3%).

I am wondering if you have seen any link between muscle strength/size and ultra endurance. My muscular build seems not to aid me significantly on climbing and threshold events, but on the ultra-endurance ones, competing over long durations at or below sweet-spot speeds, it seems I am able to better maintain intensity towards the end of the race.

Is it likely that this observation is due to my muscular build, or is it likely due to other factors, such as proper pacing, nutrition etc. In the world tour, i feel i see that the long races such as roubaix, vlandern, world champs often are dominated by rather muscular, punchy and robust guys such as Kristoff, Sagan, Cancellara, Van der Poel, where as strict mathematics on threshold power should theretically give the advantage to the timetrialers such as Dumolin, Roglic etc. Am i onto something?

Is your experience for threshold and over/unders based on a ramp tested FTP or a longer test? Can you hold that for at least 30-40m+? If not then you’re in the club of people who have their FTP overestimated by the ramp test. Sounds likely as you describe that you’re good at anaerobic efforts.

Overestimated FTP leads to threshold work being too hard, so you do less of it, and gravitate to the workouts you are good at - endurance, VO2max etc. so your strengths get stronger but you don’t effectively work your weakness.

Any of this ring true?

It seems like you’ve already answered your question if you consider yourself a sprinter and are getting good results at longer race durations.

4w/kg is a good level and you’re going to go up a hill at the same speed as another 4w/kg rider regardless of your/their physiology.

What do you mean when you say “at or below sweet-spot speeds, it seems I am able to better maintain intensity towards the end of the race.” ? You can maintain intensity better at the end than other riders? Or better than yourself at different intensities? Below sweet spot should be an intensity that can be maintained for a pretty decent duration, regardless of muscular build, since sweet spot is based on an individuals FTP.

There’s definitely value in being robust for the classics but that is more a question of parcours and terrain than endurance. A lot of GC and TT riders don’t handle the cobbles well (although there are exceptions). I wouldn’t be surprised if Kristoff’s FTP is higher than that of Dumoulin and Roglic.

Maybe you could share your power curve?

I see that i could clearify abit more.

My point is really that when looking at the powercurve, we usually stop the surve at 1 hour, so that threshold w/kg becomes the end point of the curve.

Usually you would see a trend that people have their peak performance either at the short span (5sec) or at the long span (1h).

My powercurve would be something like:
5s: 1300
1m: 685
5m: 400
1h: 300

As such it is quite clear that my best powers are 5sec and 1min, however i wonder if my 6 hour power is more competative than my threshold, and if there could be a tendency towards punchers and sprinters doing well at long events, when its not treshold power, but more muscle endurance that counts, with their robust legs and muscles.

If you look at the TR power curve then select “endurance” you can see the curve extend to your longest ride.


My curve isn’t too dissimilar to you, but I’m 80kg.

5s - 1330w
1min - 577w
5 min - 345w
1hr - 272w
5hr - 183w
10hr - 164w

Again, it depends what you mean by “doing well at long events”. Plenty of grand tour “sprinters” would do well at endurance events compared to the average rider. Likewise, you could be doing well at long events purely because, despite being a “sprinter”, you’re threshold is higher than other riders’ or your fuelling strategy is good or you have good muscle endurance (probably a combination of all plus more) but none of this is necessarily directly related to carrying muscle because you can find someone who is equally good or better at these things who is carrying very little muscle mass.

I think we often get too caught up in what kind of rider we are. People like to be sprinters or puncheurs of time triallists because that’s what are heroes are. But, for the average rider, we haven’t reached our genetic potential and therefore we could train ourselves (and maybe already have done) to be any one of these types of rider.

I remember someone online once mentioning that they’d done some sort of sportive organised and lead by Mark Cavendish. They speculated “he climbs really well for a sprinter”. This person seemed to have lost sight of the fact that GT sprinters are still hugely aerobically capable and would beat the average man at any sort of endurance pursuit.

Don’t type yourself until you’ve been doing this for about ten years. And even then…

First, a 1-minute effort is still about 50% aerobic – that’s why 100m swimmers do so many easy laps. Yes, working on technique, but also working the aerobic energy system that is half of their race (for runners, the weight-bearing impact changes everything, so they can’t do much aerobic work).

A 2-minute effort is about 60-65% aerobic. Get out to 4 minutes and it’s now 70%+. What cyclists think of as “short anaerobic efforts” are still primarily fueled by aerobic metabolism.

If you have good 2-minute power, you could become an ultra rider if you wanted to – not as good of an ultra rider as a guy who has a 350 watt threshold but can’t crack 700w for 5 seconds, but you could do fairly well nevertheless. It would just take several years of training to emphasize the lower energy demand (calcium-calmodulin, if you want to get all technical about it) aerobic pathways, and give the 2min blast-offs a rest.

I saw myself as a FTP, pure TT power guy for years. In the last three I’ve changed my emphasis to 3-8 minute power. I’m better at that now than the TT efforts, though my FTP is still about what it was.

We are malleable.