Sub-5 Century with just TR training

I was challenged in late May to do a sub-5 hour century (El Tour de Tucson). For reference, I am a recreational triathlete with zero bike races and one century ride. I’ve done my base, and made a 10% gain in FTP. In the build stage now, and I love TR at this point. My question is, can I get to a sub5 century on just TR only, or is it important to get outdoor training in as well?

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I would say absolutely yes, this is possible with 100% indoor training with TR.

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Is it a metric century? Easy! :wink:


Sweet spot base, sustained power build and century plan will be your friends in getting to that goal. Mixing in some long weekend rides is always an option and can fit in well with the plans, usually by substituting for one of the indoor weekend rides.

That event is huge. You could probably go sub 5 today if you just wheelsuck the burners.


Oh, I totally plan on wheelsucking. I’ve got a small team helping as well. There was a substantial amount of $$ placed on this particular challenge, and I want ample opportunity to get there.

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I would say no, a triathlete with minimal pack and bike handling skills would have a hard time with this. How to hold a wheel, how to rotate properly etc are skills needed to operate efficiently on fast group rides/races which can’t be learned riding a trainer indoors, especially when riding at your limit


Possible, yes. Probable, no.

Anecdotally, I consider myself a novice rider but did a sub-6 century last year in Hawaii. If I didn’t know how to suck a wheel, stay aero in changing wind directions, and understand how to manage 6 hours of nutrition on a bike I don’t think I would have even finished on the day. I came in 5th after the high noon sun came out and… BOOM!… I blew up in the heat. Hours on a trainer didn’t prep me for any of those things.

Yes, it’s possible but so is winning the lottery. IMO


We’re not that useless! :sweat_smile:

sorry i should have left the triathlete part out, any cyclist would have that trouble without the necessary experience. As it was put above, possible but not probable

Ok fair point. OP doesn’t mention anything about bike riding skills (or lack thereof). I’d amend my statement to say:

Assuming you have the bike handling skills to be comfortable in a group ride, I would say absolutely yes, this is possible with 100% indoor training with TR.

Best guess is that you’d need to hold somewhere around 200 watts for 5 hours. Due to the duration, you’d probably want to be around 70% of FTP, so looking at an FTP of roughly 285. The event isn’t too hilly (3,000 ft of climbing over 100 mi) with the main hill in the first 90 mins of the event. These numbers are assumptions I’d make for riding solo. In a large group, the average watts needed might fall to more like 150 (requiring an FTP more around 220). This is all back of a napkin math, but gives some kind of target.

Where does this leave us? Assuming OP falls near the middle of the bell curve for shape and has minimum riding skills to ride with a group, a target FTP of around 250ish combined with a team to assist and I’d feel confident of being able to go sub 5.

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If that 250ish FTP was based on a 60 min test I’d be a lot more confident, if its based on a ramp test or 20 min test I’d be very wary of extrapolating out further. Nutrition is also the biggest factor since glycogen stores will not last that duration and assuming we are talking 5 hours elapsed time there won’t be alot of room for error in that dept. That is ~700 cal X 5 hours=3500 calories. ~1200-1500 calories of on board glycogen.

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Thank you all for the input! Yes, I’m very novice with group rides. I have been and will be doing some Weekend rides with some pretty peppy groups in town (Tucson) for drafting, tactics, cornering turns, etc. I have a ways to go on this. But I wanted my riding skills to not factor into the question. Will TR prepare me for 5 hours in the saddle? If my build and specialty training goes well, I will likely reach an FTP of 240, and a power to weight ratio of over 3:1.

what volume are you doing? You could do 2-3 hour indoor rides to better prepare especially with the saddle discomfort and dialing in fit and nutrition

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I’m doing the low volume plan. 3 TR workouts a week and one outdoor ride a week.

Normally I’d say this was fine. But since this is a bet you might lose in 10 weeks, I’d look at moving to Mid Volume for the next 10 weeks. Listen to your body and dial back if needed, but you want to train as much as possible with the time you have left before the event.


If you can build up to a 2 hour TR ride, I think you should feel confident of being ok for 5 hours in the event. If you’re going to be doing group rides on the weekend to work on your bike skills, I would recommend trying to make these 3 hour rides if possible. So if the group ride is 2 hours, add on another hour or so at event wattage.

I agree what you can do for 15 mins in a ramp test doesn’t necessarily equate to holding 70% of FTP for 5 hours. I’m just trying to give a more specific back of a napkin target than the original somewhat open ended question.

If an average body type could:

  • Get a roughly 250 FTP result from a ramp test
  • Complete say Boarstone
  • Do 2-3 hour group rides
  • Do a mid-volume TR plan(s)

Then, I’d start to give better odds of doing a sub-5. What do you think?

@Thomas_Coury if you think you can do it, I think you can do it. Whether or not you train exclusively indoors using TR is tertiary. If you want to make it happen then it’s gonna freakin’ happen. Your own resolve and training discipline is the primary thing that will lead to your success.

That said, a few long rides outside to really nail nutrition, hydration, and incidentals will help maximize your chances of success.

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Not really sure I can answer the question, but I can describe what I’ve done this year. I’ve ridden largely indoors following SSB1-2 HV, Sustained Power Build HV, and SSB2 HV and, aside from a couple of longer rides outside with people, my rides were limited to 2hrs. At the end of June I did a solo century in 5:15, averaged 187w and with a NP of 207w, IF of 0.66, not sure how much I could have shaved off having a higher NP, I was being pretty conservative since I wasn’t making any stops aside from stop signs. So if that’s within the realm of your long endurance, and with the benefit of drafting, sub 5hrs is certainly doable.

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