By: Heather Nielson
I wrote about FTP awhile ago and its’ relationship to heart rate and fitness in a previous post and thought I should write a little more about different kinds of thresholds. The last several years, threshold, FTP, LTH and the like have been written about, talked about and thrown in everyone’s face so much that I feel like a lot of cyclists and bike racers have become overly obsessed with that power number and have come to think of it as the magic number that would suddenly win them bike races or get them that new PR at their next century ride or strava KOM; but that just isn’t true.
There are so many factors that go into winning a bike race or putting in your best time at an event or hill climb, not JUST having a fantastic FTP or high watts/kg (which is actually a far more valuable ratio than just the raw FTP power number). Of course having a competitive (for your event) FTP is a great indicator of your overall fitness level and fatigue rate but if you haven’t trained for your specific event that will inevitably include other power thresholds then you’ve left out the other higher level fitness factor that will lose you the race or event.
A good example is, let’s say you’ve been able to stay with the front group of riders in that long road race or century ride and there’s one last hill to climb and someone attacks and you either can’t follow the attack OR you can follow the attack but your ability to hold their wheel going up the hill leaves you in the dust and chasing until the finish because they were able to put out higher watts/kg than you up the hill and ‘win’ doesn’t mean they necessarily have a higher FTP than you. In fact, their FTP could very well be lower than yours! However, if they were able to conserve more energy than you throughout the race and have trained their 3 or 5 minute wattage threshold at the end of a race because they trained specifically for that event then they will have a better result. Who cares what your FTP is if you didn’t train specifically for that event?
To continue to use that example, if you know that your key event that you want to do well in has several climbs throughout the ride that are between 3-5 minutes then your training should include your ability to climb at competitive (for your field) wattages for that period of time inside of a pace that is at race pace; so probably very near threshold or tempo. Remember, it takes time to build your overall fitness or threshold and then it takes more time to build your ability to ride over that threshold and then come back to recover and ride at tempo again. Make sure you are training with specificity for your events, that you are consistent and as always, allow for proper recovery!
Remember, it’s not just brute strength that wins a bike race or that next KOM. It’s putting together the right combination of strength, power, speed, tactics, mental toughness, weather, terrain and many more factors that get you the best possible result for you!