Working above vs below FTP vs time

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.

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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:

Mike

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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.

Mike

I guess that’s fine, but if sweetspot is the limiter for him then I think that’s what he should work on.

I guess I just had a revelation as well. Currently my FTP is set at 275 and I’ve been doing 268/290w over-unders in McAdie -1 and they were pretty hard (4, 12-minute sets). If I struggled to hold the last interval at a 271w average then I need to adjust my FTP down to <240w. With a 240w FTP that workout will put me at 228 / 252 which sounds more like “sweet spot” and will definitely be easier to complete.

Yes, I’m not suggesting what to work on, just that when working on VO2max, the intensity should be altered to suit.

Doing longer sweet spot intervals may well be the best thing in this case.

Mike

Having said all of this and looking back over previous workouts I think last night’s ‘test’ was slightly out in that it’s come off the back of 2 weeks complete rest. I’ve looked at other workouts and I’ve completed 15-22 mins @ 85% without issue (but not repeated time and time again to make up the whole workout).

I’m going to give myself another week to settle back in. Get some data from the race and take the longer 20 min FTP test. I did suspect Ramp test targeted my strengths so it was going to yield a more positive result.

Sustained power is definitely a limiter for me. Originally I just thought I was lacking in power but I don’t think that’s the case. The power is there when I need it to be for Crit sprints or climbing short hills in CX (<30 secs) but I cannot hold it and then have to fall into a much lower state which puts me on the back foot.

I think it takes time to really dial into what limits you and it’s always a bit of trial and error but it’s continually exciting to take on new challenges and see where they take you!

Really appreciate everyone’s comments.

“He’s” a “She” btw :wink:

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Where’s coach Chad on this?! Chad, has mentioned on a few episodes now that FTP for the most part is just a baseline.

Unless you are actually training “hour power” the reality of FTP being the level of power you can sustain for an hour is misleading. If you are testing and this is the number TR is giving you as your training level stick with it.

As for being dropped in races, what’s your nutrition like? Are you taking on carbs while you ride or just drinking water? What’s your pre-race regime like? Are you tail gunning too much? Are you attacking or pulling too much?

As for workouts why not try focusing on the subthreshold areas, “over unders” I find are a huge help as we often neglect variance in cadence and power output. O/U workouts can allow us to work on cadence range and the ability to put out power and “recover” just barely under FTP.

I don’t know if you’ll find that one perfect answer but I’m certain you can find a few good points in this feed of things you maybe haven’t considered working on and they can help you grow.

Otherwise just keep lining up and getting your teeth kicked in, you’ll make gains no matter what!!

J

Yes, I listened to that podcast! I’ve listened to them all :nerd_face:

I worked on my O/U in the last build phase. I enjoyed them, similar to my VO2 max efforts so again I’ve not included them currently as assumed they weren’t an area I struggled with.

I’m pretty good with my nutrition. Well, one can assume so since I’ve been through all variations of what works and what doesn’t. I don’t have my long ride nutrition nailed (more fuel needed I expect) but for races I’m so well drilled (I’ve raced every week for the past 15 in CX and prior to that most weeks in crits or TTT’s). Outside of racing I’m pretty strict on my calories and macros.

I think I probably undersold my improvement from when I started 2 years ago. I don’t want to overhaul everything - there are certainly areas I’m now much stronger at. I have come from getting dropped in pretty much every race to being up there on the podium and actually being competitive. I just want to improve even more!

Aside from trying to improve my sustained efforts I want to try and be a bit more tactical in races. The chances of me getting dropped are now much slimmer so I don’t need to be at the front, chasing all the breaks and wasting all my watts! I also don’t need to race as much this season as I think I was probably carrying a lot of fatigue into the races by the end of Sept. I ride as part of a team so as individuals we’re not always in the race for ourselves - we may have a specific target to block or enable another team member to get points.

So much to think about! I really really enjoy it :slight_smile:

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Nope, it’s universally accepted that ftp is the power someone can sustain for between 40 to 80 mins. Most descriptions you’ll see will state 60 mins. It’s not misleading in the slightest and the Ramp test will try and estimate this power. However, in my experience, and a lot of others using TR, it doesn’t give an accurate number. This is the issue with the OP. She’s using an ftp where she’s unable to hold 90% for more than 2 x 10 mins. That tells me something isn’t right and means she’ll be thinking she’s doing one type of workout, for instance sweetspot, but in fact she’ll be doing an ftp session (or higher still!).

In my opinion, the best way to check the Ramp test is by doing an FTP session a few days later. I’d suggest Lamark which is 4 x 10 mins @ ftp with 2 min recoveries. If you can complete that without any issues and feel you could do at least another interval then your ftp is probably set right.

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Have to disagree with this. If you’re in a situation where you can’t conceivably manage close to an hour at your FTP, or at least 40min, it’s not your threshold. Unfortunately, FTP has become a vanity metric (consciously or not) for many and they’ll hang onto the highest number they feel they can justify trying every protocol in the book. It has become THE marker for improvement. A quick skim through the TR forum bears this out.

Fortunately the OP seems focused on performance improvement rather than ego and is readjusting to train more effectively.

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Perhaps I am slightly more fortunate as a woman in that we have quite a wide range of FTP’s (and P2W) within our race community that it’s not something we talk about to each other or compare. Having a power meter on your bike is only now becoming a little more common. We just get a feel for how each other work within the team and strengths/weaknesses. I could not tell you where the other girls sit in terms of FTP. I might take a quick glance at their max power after a race if they have PM but aside from that it’s fairly irrelevant. Particularly in CX where so much is down to technical skill and very course dependant.

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Well of all the things mentioned that can be influencing factors in the riders performance you’ve held onto to the mention of FTP and that’s fine.

FTP is an ESTIMATE of your power or lactate threshold for a duration between 40-70min. But to say that is a hard and fast rule I wouldn’t say is true. Looking at the introduction of VLa max we now know that we have a movable marker for high power output. Depending how the individual trains could have more or less influence on threshold power and perhaps be aiding them in being a better sprinter with a very high VLa max but not enough emphasis on threshold power?

10min intervals aren’t for everyone either and I would say that 10min efforts are a pretty lofty start point to prove anything, especially at 2min recovery valleys, that should be hard for anyone. Maybe the individual has to make separate assessments for outdoor and indoor FTP?

“My opinion” there’s way too many variables at play to suggest this is an FTP based problem.

J

Sorry dude, your other suggestions are reasonable but she also clearly describes muscular endurance being her main limiter in the OP and then later goes on to say that she can’t do 10 min sweetspot intervals.

Correct me if I’m wrong but I thought the whole point in finding out your ftp is to set specific training zones. Granted, when working above threshold the amount of time someone can sustain in relation to their threshold power will vary ie some people can quite comfortably do repeated 3 min intervals at 120% ftp while others will need to dial this down as their ceiling is much closer to ftp.

However, please again someone correct me if I’m wrong, the zones up to and including threshold are fairly standard and are generally used in conjunction with your ftp. It’s generally accepted that Threshold intervals (95 - 105% ftp) should be between 8 - 30 mins in length. Sweetspot, I know TR has shorter intervals, but away from TR most coaches will get their athletes doing 20+ minute intervals up to well over 1 hour at sweetspot. So, and I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall repeating this again, if the OP can’t complete 2 x 10 min sweetspot then her ftp is too high and her training zones are out of whack. She’d be better off retesting using the 20 min test. With her ftp set correctly she could then address her muscular endurance weakness by doing actual sweetspot intervals instead of grinding herself into the ground, failing workouts and getting disheartened.

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