Author Topic: Realistic power goals?  (Read 7145 times)

quixoticgeek

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Realistic power goals?
« on: July 13, 2018, 05:54:15 pm »

I've been thinking about my riding plans for next year (I have to start booking leave soon), and while I am enjoying cycling the flat lands, at my current power level, and weight (95kg), the moment the road tilts up, I'm slowing to a crawl, and in many cases walking. My low power (ftp not measured, but I'd be surprised if it's over 150W). To get up a 10% incline of any length at anything approaching respectable (say 10kph), is going to take a good 300+W. Obviously as my weight goes down (9kg gone since March!), the amount of power needed to lug my carcass up a hill goes down, but even at 70kg, it's >250W for said 10% incline.

I'm going to get myself a power meter and start training properly to increase my power, but I like to set myself targets. I'm wondering therefore what is a realistic achievable FTP for an amateur training on her own without the guidance of a personal trainer. Is a 300w FTP a target that might be achievable?

J

PS I appreciate every person is different, so this is very much speaking in generalisations, but I would be curious to know others thoughts on this.

J
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cygnet

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Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2018, 06:02:44 pm »
Power people will be along, I'm sure, but if you're going to train with power, measure your ftp first and set targets from that rather than reaching for an arbitrary decimal number.

Buried somewhere around here is talk of fast audaxers having an FTP of 3 to 3.5W/kg
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mattc

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Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2018, 07:57:04 pm »
Predicting how much power you (or other rider-on-the-internet) could gain from a perfect training plan is like guessing how tall you are:
we will be right ON AVERAGE, but individuals will vary hugely.
Has never ridden RAAM
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Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2018, 08:12:31 pm »
Even if we knew how old you are, how much training history you have in cycling and/or other endurance sports, how mcuh time you have to train/recover and a whole bunch of other stuff, we'd still be taking an absolute random guess! :)
If you want to work with power, get a power meter, test your current FTP and work from there. I suspect it would take several seasons to take an untrained cyclist to their peak FTP. Mine's gone from 171 to 261 in 9 months of solid Trainer Road, and though the rate of improvement is going to slow to a crawl at some point, I've no idea how much further I can push it. :) The absolute numbers don't really matter though, what matters is fast and how long you can go, and there's more to that than how many Watts you have.

quixoticgeek

  • Mostly Harmless
Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2018, 08:16:17 pm »

Thanks for the answers. I suppose what I was trying to see is if the response was "are you nuts? that's Van de Breggen or Vos territory!" vs  "sure, if you work at it..."

J

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Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2018, 08:43:50 pm »
Check out Strava and you can see what the professionals do. Some of them have power and some don't - this is Gracie Elvin's page for Wednesdays Giro Rosa stage (and there are >30 other riders connected to that ride):
https://www.strava.com/activities/1695467134

This is a good primer in terms of W/kg for men and women:
https://cyclingtips.com/2017/06/just-good-female-pro-road-cyclists/

Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2018, 08:18:16 am »
If you have never trained before then you will almost certainly see a large jump in FTP quite quickly.  You also need to define what you mean by training and how much you want to invest (time and money).

Whilst you can train outside and get faster there seems to be general agreement that in a time strapped society indoor turbo training is the best return on time invested.

Personally I would recommend a direct drive turbo with an erg mode but they are heinously expensive.  Also if you have a power meter you can get away with a really cheap turbo as your accurate power will come from your meter.  The Erg mode on a direct drive does make intervals crisper in my limited experience.

I prefer Trainerroad to Sufferfest as I can watch netflix whilst doing my session.  Another that i like is BigringVR which has the best Real Life Videos with incline so that you can go up a real mountain and almost breathe the fresh air.  There is also Zwift but I ride for myself and do not particularly like the large volume of people.

The trainerroad baseline plan will start you off and then something like the sustained power or century build would set you up for touring next year.  Any of the sweet spot based training plans will do however.  They also have good practise built in about cycling technique to become more fluid and efficient.

More experienced people will be along soon but I hope this helps.

Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2018, 10:49:18 am »
When training for our team Raam I got a power meter and started training using it. There was definitely an element of training yourself for the training to start with in that it took a while to get the hang of actually doing an FTP test to get an accurate number. Some people I know get their best numbers out on the road, but I've always got better numbers on the turbo trainer. I found Watts/kg a better overall measure when losing weight too - adding power while losing weight was hard! I have a copy of 'training and racing with a power meter' by Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan which, whilst being complete overkill for what I actually wanted, has a useful table of reference numbers for Watts/kg for everyone from an untrained non racer to international pro. For reference, the table starts at 1.5 W/kg for an untrained woman non racer. I went from 2.36 W/kg on my 1st FTP (female fair eg Cat V racer) to 3.53 W/kg (boundary of good/very good eg Cat III/Cat II) in just over a year.
California Dreaming

Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2018, 10:52:08 am »
I attend ( and sometimes help out at) a Wattbike studio. I’m a Wattbike trained and accredited instructor. I see real world accurate figures from a range of riders, racing cyclists, triathletes and and sportive type riders.

A true ftp for an fit rider who has trained for a couple of years will typically be around the 180 - 250 Watts. Their Strava ( calculated on speed etc) may show more, but it’s only a properly tested, calibrated test that is really real. There are some gifted individuals that can put out a lot of power with little racing of course, but they are rare in my experience.

As noted above, training for power is much better done on a Wattbike or calibrated trainer. A very well known rider ( big time trial winner) near here reckons on 80% Wattbike, 20% road in winter, and at least 50% Wattbike in summer. It’s difficult to ride to a programme ( and you need a programme) on an open road unless you live in the uninhabited part of the Fens.

I know a few very successful PBP and other long event riders. None of those do much other than just get in miles, and miles, and miles. If I can persuade one into the studio I’ll do an ftp test, but I’m confident that it won’t be very high as they are adapted to long rides not a 1 hour ( definition of ftp) effort. Personally, for what I understand you are aiming to do, I’d be doing long rides, and getting a core fitness programme in a good local gym. Backs and arms often give out before legs!

Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2018, 12:16:09 pm »
I'd agree with the above. My FTP (around 240) becomes virtually meaningless on the 3rd day of a 1000k ride!  It's miles in the legs that count more for long distance stuff. Also agree about core strength training being important.

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quixoticgeek

  • Mostly Harmless
Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2018, 03:29:30 pm »
As noted above, training for power is much better done on a Wattbike or calibrated trainer. A very well known rider ( big time trial winner) near here reckons on 80% Wattbike, 20% road in winter, and at least 50% Wattbike in summer. It’s difficult to ride to a programme ( and you need a programme) on an open road unless you live in the uninhabited part of the Fens.

I'll reply to all the other points and other posts in due course, but on the above point (my bold). I'm not in the fens, I'm the only place flatter. Noord Holland! one of my regular routes not far from here has a 5km length of road with no junctions, no lights, and next to no traffic. Depending on the wind, it's a great place to get down on the aero bars and just do an all out for about 12 mins. (Am trying to get it as a segment under 11 mins...) This is just one example, but there are plenty of other roads of similar quality, and if I'm willing to go a little further afield, I can get to a 12km straight, junction free road.

The only thing I don't have for training locally, is hills...

J
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Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2018, 08:32:49 pm »
I'd agree with the above. My FTP (around 240) becomes virtually meaningless on the 3rd day of a 1000k ride!  It's miles in the legs that count more for long distance stuff. Also agree about core strength training being important.

It might feel meaningless, but all other things being equal a higher FTP means you'll do 1000 km more quickly (or at the same speed more easily).  If you look the winners of races like the TCR, their routines involve as much high-intensity training as endurance training.

You can look at it another way: it's probably possible to maintain an average power of, say, 180 W for 1000 km with an FTP of 350 W (if you're sufficiently adapted to endurance), but no way is that possible with an FTP of 250 W!

Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2018, 08:36:56 pm »
As noted above, training for power is much better done on a Wattbike or calibrated trainer. A very well known rider ( big time trial winner) near here reckons on 80% Wattbike, 20% road in winter, and at least 50% Wattbike in summer. It’s difficult to ride to a programme ( and you need a programme) on an open road unless you live in the uninhabited part of the Fens.

I'll reply to all the other points and other posts in due course, but on the above point (my bold). I'm not in the fens, I'm the only place flatter. Noord Holland! one of my regular routes not far from here has a 5km length of road with no junctions, no lights, and next to no traffic. Depending on the wind, it's a great place to get down on the aero bars and just do an all out for about 12 mins. (Am trying to get it as a segment under 11 mins...) This is just one example, but there are plenty of other roads of similar quality, and if I'm willing to go a little further afield, I can get to a 12km straight, junction free road.

The only thing I don't have for training locally, is hills...

J

If you're training for power, being in the aero position probably isn't helping.  You can get a longer workout by sitting upright (you'll be going more slowly), and you'll produce more power in that position as well :)

Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2018, 08:43:25 pm »
If you're training for power, being in the aero position probably isn't helping.  You can get a longer workout by sitting upright (you'll be going more slowly), and you'll produce more power in that position as well :)

Definitely.  Once you've built the power then you can become more specific and learn to apply it when aero. The only blocks where I've not gained power in the last year have been when I've been doing them aero.

Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2018, 09:53:58 pm »
Don’t know about the power, but we’ll done on the weight loss!  :thumbsup:

Samuel D

Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #15 on: July 14, 2018, 11:01:10 pm »
A 300 W FTP is probably not a realistic goal. Most female professional racers don’t have that much power. A lot of male racers don’t have that much power, although I guess most pros do.

The internet can be dispiriting when power figures are bandied about. The biggest boasters are naturally the ones with most to boast about. Many of them will be large people who neglect to mention their size. And since it’s the internet, many claims are exaggerated.

On the more uplifting side, power does not equal speed. Tight-fitting clothes, an efficient bicycle (not necessarily expensive or fashionable), an aerodynamic riding position, and optimum drafting in groups go a long way toward speed. A lot of long-distance cyclists do not see these low-hanging fruit, so those who do have their performance flattered.

quixoticgeek

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Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #16 on: July 14, 2018, 11:47:20 pm »
On the more uplifting side, power does not equal speed. Tight-fitting clothes, an efficient bicycle (not necessarily expensive or fashionable), an aerodynamic riding position, and optimum drafting in groups go a long way toward speed. A lot of long-distance cyclists do not see these low-hanging fruit, so those who do have their performance flattered.

But power does equal speed when the road tilts up. Even with the lowest possible gear I have (28/34), and a cadence of 60, I'm doing 6.3kph. To do that up a 10% incline is ~208w, at my current weight. If I can get down to a target weight of 80kg, that's ~179w. If I want to maintain a 15kph for a whole audax, and have a chance to have breaks, I'd need to go a lot faster than the 6.3kph. If I wanted to do an SR permanent where I have to average 10kph, then doing 10kph up a 10% for an 80kg rider is ~288w.

I've used 10% here, as a bit of a magic number and I appreciate that while a hill may have bits that at >=10%, they typically don't average it for the whole length (with a few notable exceptions[1]). But even if we picked 7.5%, 10kph/80kg rider == ~221w. For a 95kg rider it would be ~255w.

In the context of a solo ultra endurance rider, in anything but the flat with a tailwind, Power is everything.

Please prove me wrong.

J

[1] Topical notable exception: the Zoncolan. It's an average of 13% for 7.8km. with peaks of almost 30%. Run the numbers tho for 13%, based on a minimum cadence of 60, on the 28/34 above, a 80kg rider doing the 6.3kph would need to pump out ~230w. But that assumes a constant 13%, on the bits that hit 20% we're at 350w. Obviously the 350w would only need to be for shorter efforts, so not done at threshold, the rest of the climb would be. And that is assuming the slowest speed the bike can reasonably be pedalled at. Please prove me wrong.
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Samuel D

Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #17 on: July 15, 2018, 09:54:26 am »
But power does equal speed when the road tilts up.

Sure. But climbing is only a portion of most rides and often a small portion.

I haven’t checked your calculations but they seem to be based on a minimum cadence of 60 RPM in a certain gear ratio. If the choice is between sustaining impossible power and pedalling at an unauthorised cadence, your body will make the same choice every time. So the concept of a minimum cadence is artificial. This is especially true if you practice climbing out of the saddle (some cyclists find this hard for reasons that aren’t clear to me) so that you can climb efficiently and not strain your knees at very low cadences if needed, far below 60 RPM.

In the context of a solo ultra endurance rider, in anything but the flat with a tailwind, Power is everything.

Power is obviously very important, but the other factors I mentioned play a role too, particularly when you have significant airspeed. And they’re typically much easier to improve than power.

And as was said above, power over an hour (FTP) does not accurately predict power over two days (although there’s some correlation). Training your body not to need a constant drip of sugar would be a good start. Then solving the problems of discomfort and injury on long rides.

Focusing on power seems a bit misguided to me because all of my long-distance (not very) rides have been limited by things other than power.

Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #18 on: July 15, 2018, 10:02:12 am »
Maybe you need a smaller gear?
300W is a lot, but it's not necessarily unachievable.  If you were to weigh 75kg (for the sake of simple numbers), 300W would mean 4W/kg, putting you at the top end of the Women Cat 2 racer category according to the chart I posted earlier. Clearly that is achievable for some people, whether that's achievable for you only you can tell.
It also depends on what sort of events you want to do. While you're right that for climbing hills power/weight is most important, on the flat, power/aero is the key.

quixoticgeek

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Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #19 on: July 15, 2018, 12:21:49 pm »
Maybe you need a smaller gear?

Smaller than a 28 front with a 34 back? I've already mixed MTB and Road kit to get this low. While I could maybe goto a 26, I'd then reach the max limit of the front mech. In theory I can put a 36 on the back. But now we're into the territory of a slowing to the point of being unsteady.

Quote
300W is a lot, but it's not necessarily unachievable.  If you were to weigh 75kg (for the sake of simple numbers), 300W would mean 4W/kg, putting you at the top end of the Women Cat 2 racer category according to the chart I posted earlier. Clearly that is achievable for some people, whether that's achievable for you only you can tell.
It also depends on what sort of events you want to do. While you're right that for climbing hills power/weight is most important, on the flat, power/aero is the key.

I just want to go up hills at more than 6kph, and ideally without having to get off and push. Not too fussed about my speed on the flat. What I have now is plenty fast for my needs, and if I can improve my performance going up, then my flat performance will improve as a natural side effect.

J
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Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #20 on: July 15, 2018, 02:52:40 pm »
disclaimer:  I failed to complete LEL due to heart problem but I did pay for training for 12 months and learnt a lot.

Sweetspot training improves the ability to work at just below FTP for hours on end.  Adrian Timmis (google him) suggested doing two 20 minute intervals at 80% of FTP with 5-1-minute recovery and up the power by a couple of per cent every ride.  Brings a steady increase in power and endurance which is great.

My eureka moment was discerning a difference between hills and flat.  on the flat I work at a power which keeps me in zone 2 HR so whatever the situation, in terms of wind, rain or peloton I do not let my HR go above 132-134.

When it comes to hills anything in the UK I can go up at 180W knowing that, whilst my HR will after 20 minutes start to climb, I can manage it for pretty much forever.   Certainly my cadence will drop and I will be doing ~60rpm but it is trained to be at that power for over an hour at least.

Hills are about practise as far as I am concerned now.  I spent a year going up every incline at 180W then powering to 400 for the last 50 yards.  Best training I ever did.  In Holland I would adopt the least aerodynamic position, straight into the headwind in a high gear and churn out your equivalent of 180W at 50-60rpm for 20minutes.

If you have access to a direct drive turbo or a watt bike do a climbing session the same.

Also have a look at the fat versus carbs pages in health.  whichever  you prefer train fasted before breakfast.

Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #21 on: July 15, 2018, 03:21:07 pm »
Check out Strava and you can see what the professionals do. Some of them have power and some don't - this is Gracie Elvin's page for Wednesdays Giro Rosa stage (and there are >30 other riders connected to that ride):
https://www.strava.com/activities/1695467134


That can't be right, surely: 108W average over the ride? ???

Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #22 on: July 15, 2018, 03:55:11 pm »
A 300 W FTP is probably not a realistic goal. Most female professional racers don’t have that much power. A lot of male racers don’t have that much power, although I guess most pros do.

Assuming a body mass of 60 kg, that's 5 W/kg, which most female pros should be quite capable of.

But yes, 5 W/kg for a normal (female) person is a very lofty goal, and not realistic without some really serious dedication.

Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #23 on: July 15, 2018, 04:02:49 pm »
300W is a lot, but it's not necessarily unachievable.  If you were to weigh 75kg (for the sake of simple numbers), 300W would mean 4W/kg, putting you at the top end of the Women Cat 2 racer category according to the chart I posted earlier. Clearly that is achievable for some people, whether that's achievable for you only you can tell.

Bear in mind that most female cat 2 racers probably weigh more like 60 kg than 75 kg, which means an FTP of 240 W.  The power-to-weight numbers in that chart assume *lean* bodyweight.

The corollary of this is that the best way to increase your power-to-weight is simply to lose weight – assuming you have some to lose.  Fortunately that's quite compatible with increasing your power output anyway – training will will do both of these things  :)

Check out Strava and you can see what the professionals do. Some of them have power and some don't - this is Gracie Elvin's page for Wednesdays Giro Rosa stage (and there are >30 other riders connected to that ride):
https://www.strava.com/activities/1695467134


That can't be right, surely: 108W average over the ride? ???

Looks like her power meter died at 90 km, so the final 25 km are apparently 0 W, including the big climb!

Re: Realistic power goals?
« Reply #24 on: July 15, 2018, 04:29:27 pm »
I've used 10% here, as a bit of a magic number and I appreciate that while a hill may have bits that at >=10%, they typically don't average it for the whole length (with a few notable exceptions[1]). But even if we picked 7.5%, 10kph/80kg rider == ~221w. For a 95kg rider it would be ~255w.

Unless your hills take an hour to ride up (i.e. 1000m in one go), you don't need an *FTP* of those numbers (which is usually defined as what you can sustain for a full hour), you need a peak output of those numbers, which is a very different and much more achievable goal.

(in fact you can probably do it already in short bursts, so what you're looking to do is increase how long you can sustain it for)