Sweetspot exclusively for Maratona

My question is regarding the specificity of training for an event using trainer-road plans.

My A event is Maratona Del Dolomiti in July. With 4000m climbing over 130km and a sting in the tail of Passo Giau at 10km averaging 10%.

Ive been a trainer road user for around 18months, ftp around 3W/kg. Ive completed a few rounds of Base, Build and speciality, eg for last summers 100mile sportives.

The Maratona target is just to complete it. I feel SSB II and the sustained power build put a fair amount of time into threshold sessions It seems logical that i should focus on sweetspot - building ftp whilst increasing the interval time and workout duration to target the requirements of the Maratona.

I understand that threshold and VO2 workouts will influence FTP however there will be no sprinting for me during the event. Quite the opposite, i will need to pace all the climbs at an intensity of around 75%.

Would i be better prepared doing almost entirely sweet-spot between now and July?

The short answer is to use the plan builder.

Better than what?

I’d do more than just sweet spot. Also add VO2/threshold and endurance rides.

What volume plans are you planning on doing, and are you doing additional outside rides in addition to the TR workouts?

If you are doing low volume TR plans, one thing to be mindful of is that these plans include a good amount of threshold workouts. You can dial some of these back to sweet spot if that would be too much intensity for you given additional outside rides you might be doing on top of the TR plans (this is what I’m doing).

In case you are interested in the physiology side of things, for a ride like the Maratona you’ll want as high a VO2 max as possible, and low VLaMax (combining to give high FTP).

VO2/threshold and endurance rides boost VO2max.
Low cadence sweet spot/tempo rides reduce VLaMax.

The distribution of workouts across these types of rides will depend on how many hours per week you are riding, and how well you recover. A pyramidal distribution is a good place to start. You can do this by taking a TR low volume plan, adding longer outside rides, and dialing down some of the threshold workouts to SS/tempo.

This thread is a good one to read through to learn more.

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@DaveWh many thanks for your considered reply.

I’m currently on the low volume SSB 1. as thats about all i have time for, Im away a 3 or 4 days each week. I take my bike with me though and usually get in at least one 3-4hr outdoor ride. usually around 1000m climbing depending where i am. sometimes more climbing over shorter distances.

This kind of suits me as is probably the max i can schedule. Though i probably average 7-8 hrs a week including outdoor.

So is it best to go with conventional SSB 1 and 2, Build, Specialtiy(century) plus outdoor or tailor the plan to do incrementally increasing SS and Threshold/VO2 (ie increasing interval length and workout duration).


I’ve done it, and was probably underprepared in every way but it was a great ride, experience of a lifetime! Enjoy it :smiley:

My prep was SSB1 and 2, plus Sustained Power Build, then long threshold rides in the run up (hate to admit it, but I jumped to Zwift and just did repeats up the mountain!)

With experience I’d think about (unless you’re racing it) 40k TT as a specialty, as repeated sweet spot/near threshold intervals for longish periods is what it is.

I’d also NOT run the gearing I was running then (36/52 front, 11-28 rear) and run more like what I’m running now (34/50 front, 11-36 rear) as the Giau after the rest of the day was BRUTAL for me, grinding up at 50 cadence for an hour or more! I’d also stop at the oompah band near the base of the Giau for water, as 1/2 a bottle wasn’t enough for the aforementioned effort in direct sunlight and 35c!

Hope the training goes well and have fun in paradise!

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The “easy” solution is to stick to the TR plans, and augment with outside rides.

If you know a little about your own physiology, know what you need to work on, and how you respond to training, then you can tailor the workouts.

For me, I’m swapping the TR sweet spot/threshold rides in their LV plans with longer interval tempo/sweet spot rides.

For example, rather than doing a workout like Darwin which is 4x10 at 95-99%, I’ll be doing 2x30 at 85-90%. With the 2nd 30 at lower cadence. I find these lower intensity workouts are not as fatiguing, despite similar TSS (and I’m using them to lower VLaMax).

With 1000m of climbing, sounds like your outdoor rides are not just endurance pace? Given this, be mindful of overly fatiguing yourself. The LV TR plans skew towards high intensity, and if your outdoor rides are also high intensity, it may be a bit much (another reason I swap the TR SS/threshold workouts for less intense ones).

In case it’s helpful, here’s the progression I’m following (I’m in base phase still; not doing much VO2max or threshold yet)

I’d focus on sweet spot and endurance rides up until 6-8weeks before your event. Then focus on Vo2 stuff in that final 6-8 week period. SS progression is definitely a good idea, and I would push it as far as you can go. Think works out like, Gibraltar +1, Polar Bear +1, Wright Peak +2 and Pendleton.

Mine too, as well as weekly club TTs.

My second time at The Maratona, possibly the best Gran Fondo event anywhere.

As you say, you will probably be riding the event at sweet spot or below, for all of the uphill sections (let’s face it, it’s basically uphills and downhills all the way round!), so long sweetspot workouts make sense, but I’ll be doing the full range including threshold and VO2 Max too.

I did a moving time of just over 7hrs last time, six years ago, when I was 50, so my target is sub 7 this time.

Top tips from my experience:

  1. Train hard.

  2. Include real hills in your training, if not long ones then repeats, lots of them.

  3. Do at least a handful of 4 hour plus real road rides beforehand, preferably hilly, like over 100ft per mile if possible.

  4. Do a century hilly ride, at least one.

  5. Do not underestimate the Giau after all the previous passes. Well over an hour at average 10% unrelenting gradient. If you’re flagging a bit or (as I was) starting to cramp, low gears are absolutely essential for seated climbing. I would not be happy with 34-28, I will be using lower gears to spin up this climb and I’m around 3.7W/kg. Also note that near the end, well after the Giau, is the “Cat wall” climb, short but a cramp-inducing 20%+

  6. It will be very cold before the start, so take a good gilet or a bin liner or an old fleece that can be jettisoned after you start. Or just be prepared to be very cold before you get going.

  7. Enjoy the scenery, it’s achingly beautiful in a brutal way!

Despite all my advice, I met a group from the Netherlands (ie the land of NO HILLS WHATSOEVER) and they told me they trained by riding for miles into strong headwinds plus lots of long, hard turbo sessions, and they all did respectable times, so anything is possible.

Good luck and enjoy it!

Thanks for all of your advice and tips. I need to digest then apply to my training.

Incidentally I’ve bought an Absolute Black set of chain rings. Fitted to my Ultegra cranks. I went with the 46/33. Tried out on one ride so far, initial thoughts are great! Didn’t notice the oval, the lower gearing certainly helps maintain a spin. One of my rides at home has some ~18% sections whilst still slow on the cadence I felt much lower on RPE and legs much fresher. On the descents of course I spin out at much lower speed but I intend to use the Maratona descents as rest.

At 50 yrs old and relatively new to cycling 18 months of training. I’m hoping for under 7.5 hrs moving.

Thanks again.

Hello willyroyale, how was it? I finished in 6u18, 5min PR to previous ride.

Averaged 229WNP and an IF of 0,82
When I look at the elevation corrected power is 245W. (with an FTP of 280 not too bad for a non climber profile).

Good effort, i doubt i would make it round in that time i was targeting 7 hrs. I had to defer this year due to the unknown and variable nature of the COVID travel restrictions. Will be entered for ‘22.

Any tips from your experience?

If it is your first attempt. Save something for the Giau ;-). If the bottle of fuel is empty on that climb, it will kick your ass (and legs)…And at every summit, eat eat eat (and drink).
Went a little too slow this year on the first part. So Giau and Falzarego went very good ( took over more then 200 riders in this part). So maybe I should have gone a little faster the first part.

I did it back in 2012 and had a similar experience…kept my powder a little too dry early on and gained hundreds of places on the Giau. Not sure if they still do but back then they texted you several times along the route with your split times and position in the field. The Giau wasnt quite as bad as I had expected - it was HOT and of course you hit it at the hottest part of the day and there is zero shade, but at least it is a pretty much steady gradient the entire way up so you can get in a rhythm. I’d echo the points about drinks and food as there are some water fountains on the climb but there were literally fights at them as people tried to get their bottles filled! I used a 34-28t but when I ride it again I’d take a 32t as most of the gradients on these climbs are a touch steeper than typical Alpine of Pyrenean climbs. I spent most of the day in a 28t right from the start!

When I did it the roads opened up again to traffic later in the day so the last part of the ride was on open roads again. I struggled with the heat and really suffered for the last hour - not sure if I over or under drank and fed in the end as I felt really quite queasy for the last 25km home. Not something I’ve ever experienced before or since despite doing many weeks and events up in the mountains - I suspect it was the heat in mid-July so do what you can to plan and prep for that.

I’d happily ride it again and hopefully will ride the route itself as part of a week long trip in the Dolomites next summer. It will just be a shame that some of the descents will have traffic on them next time as there was some really fun and fast descending to be had on the day itself :smiley:

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