How to: Train for the Haute Route using functional threshold power

Posted by Verve on June 12, 2015 in
Training tools

Training for Haute Route

So, you’ve signed up for the Haute Route, the highest and toughest cyclosportive in the world. Now it’s time to prepare your mind and body for seven gruelling days that will push you to your limit.

If you’re lucky enough to live in mountainous terrain, the training can be quite simple. In the words of Eddy Merckx, ‘ride lots and climbs lots’. But what if you don’t have access to long climbs or don’t live near the mountains? Can you still train and have a successful Haute Route? Absolutely! You just need to take on a more structured approach, as you don’t have the terrain to dictate training.

What is the single most important thing you can do to prepare for Haute Route no matter where you live? Raise your functional threshold power! The good news is that training with a power meter like InfoCrank, anyone can do this.

Robbie McEwen still fighting fit

What is functional threshold power? Functional threshold power (FTP) is the maximum sustainable power that you can hold for about 1 hour. It is based on real results, out on the road. Knowing your FTP will give you a baseline to train from and if you train properly you can raise your FTP in preparation for the Haute Route.

Now that you know what to do, how do you do it? There are a few ways to calculate your threshold power out on the road.

  1. Do a 1-hour maximum effort. Be sure to get a good warm-up and cool down and in between 60 minutes at full gas, always trying to maintain the highest power possible. This requires a good base of fitness and a lot of mental focus and a good deal of pacing ability. 60 minutes on the rivet is a tough challenge so many people opt for option 2.
  1. Do a 20-minute maximum effort. Again, perform a good warm-up and cool down and in between go as hard as you can for 20 min. Then, take 90-95% of the average power from the 20 min effort to estimate your FTP. For most people the 20-minute test is easier to pace and push yourself through.

After you calculate your FTP, the next step is to create Training Zones. The general guidelines are these:

Zone 1 – Recovery < 55% of FTP

Zone 2 – Endurance 55% to 74% of FTP

Zone 3 – Tempo 75% to 89% of FTP

Zone 4 – Threshold 90% to 104% of FTP

Zone 5 – VO2 Max 105% to 120% of FTP

Zone 6 – Anaerobic >120% of FTP

Sweet Spot Intervals – many coaches consider these the most bang for your buck. You get the best physiological adaptations for the least effort. But these are not easy, just slightly more repeatable than maximum type efforts. Generally Sweet Spot Intervals are performed between 83-97% of your FTP. Interval lengths tend to range from 15-60 minutes. If the interval length is shorter, the target power is higher and vice versa. Remember, you want to increase fitness, so start on the conservative side and work your way up. These should be challenging but not tongue-on-the-top-tube exhausting.Now that you know your threshold power, and training zones, it is time to go to work on improving FTP. This means threshold Intervals. Depending on coaching philosophy, there are two very different training approaches, but both are effective workouts for improving threshold power.

  1. Over-Under Intervals – teaching your body to ride above and below threshold using specific changes in intensity. These are great for developing the ability to change pace and/or terrain and also to teach the body to process lactate while “recovering” at a relatively high workload. Basically, you are teaching your body to go hard, recover, go hard, recover, etc. These type of intervals are usually 9-12 minutes with the Under portion 93-97% of FTP and the Over portion 102-105%. The intervals should always start with an Under and end with an Over and the workload should be at least 2:1 of Under to Over. For example 2 min under, 1 min over.

Remember that intensity should be the icing on the cake. Too much intensity or hard interval training without rest and recovery turns into Not Very Intense. It takes time to and experimentation to figure out just how much you can handle so start slowly and err on the easy side. When your numbers plateau or even drop- it is time to take a rest.

* As the Official Power Meter Supplier of the Haute Route 2015, InfoCrank will be offering 15 lucky riders the chance to ride an InfoCrank before and during the Haute Route.  Ridden with power for years? Tell us why you want to ride the Haute Route with InfoCrank. Never touched power before? Tell us your ambitions and goals and why you should be one of our lucky testers. To apply, send an email with your answers to: info@vervecycling.com

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