From 1st Cat to Elite: A Weekly Training Diary #9. That Deep Dark Place

Performance testing is an important part of cycling. It gives you a benchmark against yourself as well as the competition. This week my competition was a group of riders keen to take my seat in the land speed record bike… those rascals. In this blog i’ll tell you about what tests we undertook and whether or not I vomited all over the Liverpool University sports science labs.

For those who don’t know, i’ve been involved with a university project for the last two years which aims to build the fastest human powered vehicle in the world.

The land speed record project is run by engineers, not cyclists. This means they need objective, quantifiable data and reasons for selecting one rider over the next. This is the third year the project has been run, so by now they have a strong idea of the qualities they’re looking for in a rider. It’s an unusual event in the world of cycling in the sense that power-weight ranks fairly low on the list of priorities. Out and out power in the form of maximum aerobic power and longer sprint efforts (30-60 seconds) are what makes a fast record attempt. None of these tests take into account experience, skill or balls (!) however these are far trickier to measure objectively, unless you have an orchidometer to hand. I dare you to google orchidometer.

So if they intend to select riders solely upon lab test results then i’d better bring my A-game unless some other freak turns up and smashes it. I use the term ‘Freak’ in the most endearing way possible. You have to have an element of freak about you these days to succeed in elite sport.

Performing in lab tests usually involves one things, pushing your mental and physical limits as far as they will go. If you chicken out it will come back to haunt you later down the line. For me, pushing those boundaries only happens a few times a year. It hurts so much that and does so much damage that forcing yourself to go to that deep dark place a few times a week just isn’t a sensible idea. However, pushing harder when your body is screaming for you to stop is how you win races and set records, so it has to be practised from time to time.

The delights that were presented to me this week involved a sprint test and a ramp test. The sprint effort is a 30 second wingate test which begins with a rolling start. Pedal fast and then aim for peak power when a huge gear is dropped on the cranks. Cling on for the next 30 seconds and try not to grind to a halt!

Watch me thrashing around in a plastic bike here:

The ramp test starts nice and easy, lovely. It then very quickly ramps up (+30w per minute) until you can’t keep your cadence above 50rpm anymore. At that point where you’re totally exhausted the sports scientists decide it’s a great idea to make you go as fast as you can for another 3 minutes. Cheers guys.

For the geeks, here are my rough scores that I jotted down whilst bleary eyed and sweaty. 30 second wingate: 1657w peak, 1071w average. Ramp test: 576w peak then 3 minutes of 442w. See the full file here

The good news is that is PBs all round and I didn’t vomit! Here are my weekly numbers and a view of how the rest of my weeks training panned out.

Back on track after rest week and increasing the CTL once more. Ramp rates are low because of an unexpected late night and therefore missing a planned commute #naughty. This means i’m behind my weekly TSS and hours target. I completed 565 out of a planned 620 TSS.

Here are the last 4 weeks power data summarised by time spent in each training zone. As you can see, the bottom section (Z1) is kept to a minimum and the majority of time is spent in Z2 and Z3 to keep the overall quality high. In fact the intensity factor for this entire week is 0.8. This means that my normalised power for the entire week was 80% of my FTP. A high quality week!

Thanks so much for reading and as always, please don’t try this at home! if you have any training or coaching questions, please get in touch. I’d love to help!

Tune in next week for another exciting episode.


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