Working above vs below FTP vs time

Hi all,

TrainerRoad user for a few years now. Predominately race CX (Autumn/Winter) and Crits (Spring/Summer). Not only have I had big improvement in FTP (153 to 202 @ 55kg) but I’m continually learning about what works and what doesn’t that’s specific to me.

I find that any of the short/sharp VO2 max efforts come fairly naturally (it’s still uncomfortable!) and that I generally keep these in check by racing. I can also recover from these quickly and repeat them over and over. The bulk of my TrainerRoad workouts are Endurance based (Z2 HR) and finding this works well in between races and doesn’t fatigue me too much. I also feel more consistent on my long weekend rides.

Where I still struggle is holding anything above 85% of FTP for longer durations and this ends up hindering me come race day. I find I can break/chase the break and wind up a lot of power throughout the whole race but I cannot hold it, end up dropping back and having to sprint again to re-join the group. It also hinders me on longer weekend rides where there’s a long section of road and the group are ‘sitting in’ and holding a relatively stable speed.

Last year I did Sustained Power Build (although total opposite to my target races I felt it was my limiter). I did notice some improvements but I found I was still not increasing the time spent at higher FTP and the 2 ‘effort’ workouts each week left me fatigued at the weekend.

My plan for the Spring was to keep my endurance workouts as they are and implement one ‘effort’ workout per week (I get the other from racing and those Sunday rides aren’t as easy as everyone makes out!).

After all that, a fairly simple question… should I target workouts that are slightly above FTP and increase the time spent here over a period of weeks (is there a maximum time that is possible?) or work below FTP for a set time and increase power (to eventually work around or above FTP)?

An example would be:
5 x 4 mins @ 102% FTP - increase this to 4 mins 30, 5 mins etc
3 x 15 mins @ 80% FTP - increase this to 85% FTP, 90% FTP etc
A N Other?!

Thanks in advance for any insight.

I can’t comment on a time-at-FTP progression, as this isn’t something I have much experience in focusing on specifically, however…some questions:

  1. What volume plans are you following?
  2. How did your SSB plans go overall? I usually follow SSB MV and for me this builds a lot of the muscle endurance in that sweet spot zone that I was missing prior to TR. I race XC, and felt like I was always able to hang with people fitter than me only because of my ability to repeat hard VO2 efforts, it wasn’t until I spent more time focusing on longer sweet spot efforts that I was able to hold power for longer durations and actually “race” those same people.

I assume you mean 102%… correct?

I’d be doing SS intervals but extending duration of intervals. So say 85% ftp and start with 4x10 min intervals, then 3x15, then 2x20, then 2x25, then 2x30 etc - just build up length of intervals and reduce rest periods.

Given cx and crits all usually no more than hour I’d just try to extend these sweetspot intervals longer and longer. Ideally build up to 5-10min warm up, 1hr at sweetspot (throw in few 15 sec sprints if want), then 5-10min warm down to fit in 75min workout.

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Yes!! I’m not that good.

History of plans was:

SSB MV (Winter 2017/18). Came into the summer feeling relatively strong (possibly owing to CX racing over winter also) but didn’t progress as I’d of liked.
Sustained Power Build MV (Winter/Spring 18) As per above. Completed feeling able to accomplish the workouts but didn’t notice any improvement out on the road or in races
No plan (Summer 18). Continued 1 x SS workout per week but I admin the intervals were short
Traditional Base LV (Winter 18/19). Whilst CX racing. Came out of this feeling more consistent out on the road but still feel like I’m missing the sustained power.

I’ve now had 2 weeks off so ready to start a new plan (or create my own amended version). I want to try something different to Sustained Power Build as I did this last year and think I could target my limiters further. I will race less during the summer I want to come into CX feeling strong.

Is there an advantage of doing this as SS rather than Threshold? Immediate advantage being you can go into longer efforts from the off? i.e. I would struggle to start with 4 x 10 mins of threshold.

@gbitaraf - Exactly what you said. Vast majority of benefit but more doable and more able to repeat regularly.

Can start with 8 mins if can’t do 10. Key is progression. May well take you several months to build it over time but will massively help. Do say 2 of these workouts a week and then 1 x v02 max (not sure how often can train) and darn good start for you

You can do a lot more time at intensity with sweet spot, and recover much faster than with time spent at threshold. 10-min blocks at threshold can be tough for a lot of riders… but there are loads of sweet spot progressions in the TR catalog that you could put together. The Antelope variants are my all time favorites.

For me, this is time well spent and very noticeable in XC races where I can punch hard and then settle in at a steady but still hard pace.

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Throwing the cat amongst the pidgeons here, but what’s your bike handling like? Are you losing ground on the technical stuff?


That’s helpful - thank you.

As an aside - where does the threshold work fit into an overall schedule? I’m understanding the SS and comfortable (in the worst possible way!) with VO2 max.

I’m on the bike 5 times per week:

  1. Race or CX ride
  2. Long Sunday ride
  3. Endurance trainer ride - 60 mins
  4. Endurance trainer ride with drills/spin up’s - 75-90 mins
  5. SS trainer ride - 60 mins

Plus 2 x gym workouts and 1 x run per week

I’m hesitant to swap one of the endurance rides for another effort as I find my race or Sunday ride suffers even if I can always complete my trainer workouts. It might be something I build into next year.

I can lose some ground on the technical stuff to the top women but I tend to improve throughout the season (the muddier it gets!). I’m going to stick in 1 CX ride per week during the summer to try and maintain this. Last year I ditched my CX bike after race season and struggled through the first part of this season. A suggestion was to MTB over the summer but I think that’s something for the future if I really want to focus more on off-road.

The reason I ask is that I was finding that I was struggling on technical sections on road racing and crits, and what was letting me down was my bike handling skills. I was able to put in the huge digs neccessary to get back on, but couldn’t sustain that for race distance. I put a lot of work into bike skills (at the expense of focussing on purely power) and it really paid off. It’s an area not to loose sight of, as so many often do.


Decided to do a ‘test’ ride for this. Picked Antelope-5 which is 4 x 10 mins going from 88% - 94% with 3 mins rest between. First interval was tough but managed ok and recovered back down to Z2 HR within the 3 mins. Second interval I just about managed to hold on but then it all went a bit downhill from there and I had to dial it right down to 80% and then 70% of FTP for the final two intervals. Sat pretty much in Z4 of my HR for the whole thing.

I don’t think I’m on great form after the 2 weeks off so I will naturally pick up again over the next few weeks but it gives me a good base to work from. I want to stick to the 8-10 min intervals and not go less but I’m going to start with 85% and see how I get on. Plan would be to adjust %age and then time but don’t see the need to go much over 12 mins. Still only planning to do 1 of these workouts per week and keep the rest endurance. With the odd race dotted in I think the workload will be too much otherwise.

Appreciate everyone’s thoughts and comments. Really useful!

I’m assuming the Long Sunday ride is an endurance level ride? In which case if you do want to get in another effort ride, I’d suggest cutting 3 & 4, and replacing it with a single effort ride. The extra effort requires more recovery, and 3 x endurance rides over the week is probably taking it out of you.

Personally, I find my body really responds if I can get in 3 of a particular workout type over a 2 week period (even if it means sacrificing another ride). Whether that is SS, LT or VO2Max. Basically it just kick starts the physical adaptations, and then I can handle the increasing intervals/decreasing recovery as the workouts get harder over the progression of a plan.

Hi @gbitaraf! I would say that you may need to reassess your current ftp. If you can’t hold 88-94% for more than two 10 minute intervals then I’m afraid that your ftp isn’t set correctly. Lately I’ve been asking myself the question “Could I hold my ftp for 60 minutes if I had a gun to my head?”.

I think we as cyclists need to be honest with ourselves when it comes to ftp so that we are training in the right zones up to and just above ftp. However, I feel VO2 max and Anaeroboc efforts shouldn’t be based on a fixed % ftp as this is far more individual.

I’m going to come right out and say this: Your FTP isn’t 202 Watts!

Regulars on here will think I sound like a broken record, but if you can’t hold your FTP for at least 30 minutes, then it’s not your FTP, it was just the result of your ramp test - simple as that.

You’ve struggled to hold 202 x 0.88 = 178 Watts for 10 minutes, so I’d respectfully suggest that even that number that is actually a little above your true FTP.

There’s quite a detailed discussion about sweetspot interval length here:

Specifically, my own thoughts are in this reply:



I’m not precious over my FTP. It doesn’t influence my race results and whatever it is and any improvements (or not!) are specific to me so as long as I’m tracking it I don’t need to compare to others.

My question would be - if I adjust my FTP then it puts all my other workouts in the wrong ‘zone’ i.e. my endurance/threshold and VO2 max workouts would all be too easy? Currently I feel they’re about right (if I compare to HR which I know is variable but still useful).

What I don’t have is any actual ‘outside’ data as I’ve only just got power pedals on my road bike. I have a crit race coming up in a few weeks and I’m interested to know what sort of power I’m putting out and is required. I only have my HR data which falls between 196BPM and 212BPM during this type of event (my max is 218BPM). Of the 2 outside Sunday rides I’ve done with power then avg 20 min is 179W, NP is 178W and max is 600W.

My Sunday ride is usually about 60% endurance. It is dependant on the group. I could go out by myself and be very specific about what I target in this ride but the benefit does not out-weigh the social and group riding skills I gain so it remains a constant for me.

I do like the idea of working with a 2 weeks period rather than trying to fit everything into 7 days.

That’s good. No rider should let FTP define who they are as a cyclist.

You should probably do one of the longer tests and get a good estimate of your FTP so that your TSS is calculated correctly. Getting your FTP close to the real number is the most important thing in my opinion - all other zones should be adjusted around that.

Your power at VO2max is high in comparison to FTP, be happy with that and adjust those types of workouts to suit your ability.

Sweetspot and threshold workouts should just sort themselves out with the new FTP.