Power Profiles: A Case Study

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How do you interpret your power profiles? What training should you plan based on the results? What should you do if your power profiles are not quite right for your chosen event?

The photos for the next few weeks come from the recent Raid Tenerife – just a taste of some of the views on the other side of the island.

Today’s blog comes courtesy of one of our regulars, Matt. Matt completed his ‘homework’ last week and noted all his powers down, and sent me the results. He kindly agreed for me to use them in this blog as a case study, so a huge thanks to Matt (some of you will remember Matt from previous Polka Dot adventures – he is a phenomenal descender, so you will remember him passing you at some speed!!!).

The week has been quite interesting here. We planned a big block of training to mimic Jen’s Ventoux event last week, but you may remember that Jen started out with a TT on Sunday, which we then followed up with 3000m climbing over 6 hours on Monday. We had a long ride planned for Wednesday so we took to the hills to complete 1700m of climbing in under four hours on Tuesday and then met the group for the long ride on Wednesday to top this off.

So this resulted in 15 hours of riding in the 3 days and around 7000m of climbing. We reckon the Ventoux event will be around 11 to 12 hours in total and has 7700m of climbing so we were a bit short on climbing but well over on time, a fair compromise!

So Monday went well for both of us, as I explained last week, but then Jen started to struggle on Tuesday after a couple of hours, just as we started a 14 km climb. She was 20 watts or so down on her chosen powers for the climb and nearly five minutes slower than the day before!

I put this down to her eating, as I felt she hadn’t eaten enough the day before after the ride and then not enough during the Tuesday ride. So she ate for Britain when we got back and she was going like a train on Wednesday! All her powers were back up and she felt great.

I felt great throughout until the final hour on the Wednesday and then I felt I was fading. This was by far the most riding that I had done since the operation and so I wasn’t surprised or bothered by this, but it just shows that I still have some way to go. This should improve once I can start training again next week!

So we learnt a lot from the sessions, but most of all, that Jen doesn’t really need to worry about the distance and amount of riding. She always has been an exceptional diesel and this was confirmed (again!).

So we re-assessed what her training needs to focus on – she just now needs to go faster!!!! So with the trips starting soon anyway, we will focus on increasing her powers for several weeks (we don’t do massive volume on the trips anyway, usually half of what the clients ride) and then once a month we will do an event practice block of three days where we cover the distance and climbing in the volume and order of the event.

This will allow us to assess each time how the training is affecting her and we should see her ride to higher powers every time we hit the three day block. As I have mentioned before, we live about 10km from the bottom of the Grand Colombier, which is a similar length, gradient and height gain to Ventoux, so we can finish up there on each of the three days to mimic more closely what the demands of the event will be.

So we had a couple of light days on Thursday and Friday last week and then hit some short intervals on Saturday to fire the legs up again. After a 3 hour ‘easier’ ride with the group on Sunday, we then had a faster climbing day on Monday including a 6.5km climb that we use on the trips here, which we rode at the higher end of Jen’s sweetspot.

So all told, I rode 22 hours this week, which was another increase on previous weekly volumes and I felt good on the fast climb today and sat comfortably in my heart rate zone at around 220 to 240 watts (according to Jen’s power meter!) I have a power meter coming next week to coincide with me starting my training again so I am looking forward to using that in France!

So that’s an appropriate segway into looking at Matt’s numbers!

Case Study in Power Profiles and Fatigue Resistance

So after last week’s blog, Matt sent me through his ‘numbers’ and asked about what he should be focusing on next in his training. Matt is competing in the Marmotte this summer and then has signed up for the Haute Route Ventoux with Andrew, (Hi Andrew, hope you are well and things are going well for you and your family) one of our guides.

So let’s have a look at Matt’s chart (sorry it is a bit blurred but this was the best copy we could do!).

Power Results Matt

Now to start with we should take Matt’s 5 second power (1109w), 1 min power (590w), 5 min power (361w) and FTP (270w). (FTP is supposed to be the power you can handle for an hour and is usually worked out by taking 95% of your 20 min power- clearly this is only an estimate as Matt’s shows – his 60 min is 15% lower than his 20 min power!)

These then need to be converted to Watts per Kilogram. Now I haven’t asked Matt his weight ( for the purpose of the exercise I will estimate it, you get the CORRECT shape of the graph even if the weight is wrong anyway, but you can work it out accurately if you wish Matt). Having met Matt before I would estimate him to be around 75kg (hope I haven’t offended you Matt but I remember you as quite muscular and powerful!!!).

So that would give his powers per kg as 14.79, 7.87, 4.81, and 3.60 respectively. We now plot these on this power chart.

Power Profile Matt

And what we get is a pursuiter profile, but with a slight twist in that Matt’s 5 min power is relatively much higher than the rest rather than his 1 minute powers, but this suggests that this is his strength based on where he is at the moment. (As I have said before, I am not interested in the category system at the side, ONLY where the powers sit on the chart relative to one another).

Pursuiter Profile

Now this is just a snapshot in time. It may be that Matt has done a lot of 5 to 10 minute intervals as part of his training recently. This does NOT define you as a cyclist BUT it does suggest what you are good at, at present, and what you may need to work on.

Now we then look at the fatigue resistance chart in more detail. For the events Matt is doing, the longer times are the most important but let’s look at all of them for interest. So the short time powers of 5, 10 and 20 seconds show that Matt has great neuromuscular endurance. As an athlete, Matt would be a good 400m runner, probably. It shows he can hold his highest powers for a considerable time. So if you are in a race Matt, sprint earlier than the others, so long as you can get a gap!

And this ties in with his 30 second powers also, which are close to his 20 second powers. His anaerobic section of the chart now shows that these powers are produced with a high neuromuscular component as his 30 second powers are then relatively much higher than his 1 min and two min powers.

So if you were road racing, Matt, you would work on this if you wanted to improve your ability to attack up a short, sharp hill or if you wanted to get across to a break and close a gap down very quickly. But this possibly shows that you are not doing any of this in training at the moment, in this 1 min to 2 min range, because you are training for a long mountainous event where this is unlikely to be needed!

The third section, the VO2max section is very interesting. this is an area of strength. Your 3 minute powers are good, with a reasonable degree of fatigue resistance up to 5 minutes but then your 8 minute powers are very high and you are holding this power for a long time relatively. This is an interesting area because this is real race winning stuff if you are finishing up a reasonable long hill.

As you may have seen in previous blogs, most people can hang on at these sorts of powers for around 6 minutes as a one-off effort, but then when you blow, you blow spectacularly! This is the area that Chris Froome would be really good at. He attacks with 5 km to go knowing that he can hold these powers for that time and most of the other riders will crack after a few minutes if they try to go with him, whilst he can carry on.

This is a quality that you have Matt. On any hill over 6 minutes long, you would be able to lift the pace further from the top than most other riders and sustain it!

And finally we have the lactate threshold section of the chart ( the title isn’t great but this is the aerobic section anyway! ) This shows your 20min, 60min and 90min powers and this suggests, as you said in your email Matt, that your 20 min power is relatively much better than the longer times.

The significant difference is between your 20 min and 60 min powers which suggests that your 20 minute power is relatively much better. This may be due to the lengths of the efforts you are making in training, you may have 20 minute hills nearby or be doing 20 min pieces in training and you may not have done a solid 60 minute effort on a ride recently.

And having a good eight minute power would also help over a 20 minute period, especially towards the end when you are lifting the effort.

The one thing to remember is that the power meter reads all your rides and simply looks for the best 60 minute effort you have made. You may not have done one – were you keep the pressure on for that period of time! So this may not be the true power unless you are doing these lengths of continuous effort  (you would know because it would probably be a turbo session or a 25mile TT – when else do we ride full on for an hour?).

But this is the area that you need to work on for the Haute Route event and the Marmotte Matt. These do have long climbs, obviously, and so holding a higher power for a longer period of time will get you a better result.

So some things that you can try. As I mentioned last week, try reducing the recovery between intervals. On the long climbs in France, we often do 8 minute pieces with 2 minute recoveries up the whole climb. You would ride at closer to your 20 minute power than your 8 minute power, but you would try to produce this for a good hour, or slightly more.

So tell the wife that you need to get away to train and head to the mountains for a week or two!! Or you can try this as a turbo session. We often fit this in to the speed day – starting with a few short punchy efforts to keep our strength in place, and then after a spin-out, hit a long hill climb to do 8 min/ 2min efforts, which you could replicate on a turbo or into a headwind on the road.

If we are doing 20 minute sweetspot intervals, we often start with 10 minute recoveries in the winter, but you can then reduce the recovery between these intervals also. And similarly, increasing the number of intervals in your session will help and will get the body to adjust to longer periods of effort.

Everyone responds to training slightly differently Matt so start off with the one you think will work and you should see your 20 min and particularly your 60 min powers improve. But whatever you try, your own assessment was spot on. More endurance will help! Thanks Matt.

So training to improve your power profile will certainly get better results than guessing what you might need or following someone else’s program, but be aware that you do get anomalies – if you haven’t done a full on effort for the length of time in the chart, it may under-read ( I know that Jen’s 5 minute power was low compared to her 3 min power but that was because we do lots of three minute efforts BUT not much over 5 minutes duration!).

And the most powerful thing of all is that after you have done a training plan for a month or so, you can see what has happened to you athletically, rather than it being based on feel! So maybe you can send your numbers in again in a few weeks Matt and let us know what training you have been doing and we can look at the change?

Pro News

Back to some solid racing this week. The highlight for me was the Tour of Yorkshire – both the men’s and women’s races. The third stage of the men’s race was awesome! A tough course, great tactics by many of the team’s (especially Dimension Data obviously), and good rides by a couple of the GB domestic pros, Matt Holmes and Mark Christian, who may well get interest from bigger teams after their rides.

The crowds were superb again and this looks like a brilliant venue for the Worlds in a few years time. This is becoming a top event!

Similarly the women’s race showed how exciting top women’s racing can be, and how strong they are as riders. Great ride from Dani King, who made the break of the day and obviously to Lizzie for her great attacking ride – a thoroughly deserved win.

Romandy was also great racing. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great which caused some shortened stages and some challenging racing conditions, but the tremendous attack by Simon Yates on stage four, and the solid TT second place that got Richie Porte the victory were great rides.

I wonder what Chris Froome will be feeling. He has not won this event every time he has entered but this might well be his weakest result in many years. I know he did a solid block of training here in Tenerife and then went straight back to race so he won’t have been fresh, but he will be disappointed with his results on the mountain stage and in the TT.

But most of all he will be aware that Richie Porte is going well and that he will get a boost of confidence from his result. He will feel he is on track to upset the odds in the Tour!!!

And now we move on to the Giro. This has become a really exciting event in recent years and promises to be much the same this year – Quintana, Nibali, Thomas, Landa, Kruijswijk, Pinot and Adam Yates are just a few of the names to watch! There is a tough course as usual with a reasonable amount of time-trialing and lots of steep climbing.

We will be there in the third week with a group of clients. We are going to be watching the two Dolomite stages, the Stelvio stage and the TT into Milan from the roadside, as well as riding many of these climbs the day before or after the riders! Fantastic!

The Week Ahead 

Sadly we return to France this week. I love France but we have had a brilliant winter here and we will be sad to go. We have a big ride planned on Wednesday, our last ride with the group here, where we will go up over the top from the Chio side, now they have resurfaced the road, and then Thursday morning we will leave on the ferry.

It is 36 hours on the ferry, so you arrive near Cadiz at about 10pm on Friday night, where we will just go straight to a hotel for a good night sleep (and some better food!). And then we have the two day drive back to France which will see us arrive tea time on Sunday.

So we will back into the training on Monday 8th May and this will be my first session where I can raise the heart-rate. I am going to be sensible to start, with a few short efforts at a higher heart-rate and keep an eye on how I feel and recover. There is a risk of Atrial Fibulation in all athletes but I have a slightly higher risk due to my operation.

If you are not sure what this is, it is well worth looking at. It is particularly an issue in endurance athletes it seems and there appears to be lifestyle issues (i.e. alcohol intake, caffeine, stress etc) that may contribute also. It is worth being aware of, if you train hard.

My recovery has been most pleasing so far ( I can even do press-ups now without any chest pain!!!!) so I am not going to be stupid just yet!

So the next week will be an enforced rest period and then we will kick off the training, in France, well motivated and with fresh legs. Onwards and upwards!

Cheers everyone. have a great week.

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