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Zone 6: the hill climb thread

ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 25,302
I am training for the Hill climb season, so I tend to do one or two short climbs full on most of the times I go out. I have worked out an FTP of around 250 using the 2 x 8 minute method, because I don't have access to 20 uninterrupted minutes.
This gives me a zone 6 around 300-375 Watt. I was reading coaches put a limit of 3 minutes in zone 6, but I routinely do 4 and I've done more than 5 on one occasion... does it mean my FTP setting is wrong or am I just going way too hard?
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  • pblakeneypblakeney Posts: 13,154
    My interpretation is that Z6 is your red zone so I guess the coaches are probably about right and you are pushing too hard.
    Or, your FTP is too low. You'd need to be confident that it is correct. That said, I don't get too precise about mine as it is only a spot test at a moment of time. I dare say my FTP would be different on each of 3 consecutive days if I tried it.
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  • N0bodyOfTheGoatN0bodyOfTheGoat Posts: 4,256
    edited 30 June
    What adjustment formula do you use on an 2x8min effort to give an FTP estimate?

    Taking my very nothing special power stats from the last 6 weeks...
    1min 474W
    5min 336W
    8min 320W
    10min 310W
    15min 295W
    20min 290W
    30min 281W
    45min 260W
    60min 248W (part of a Zwift workout with 40min workout followed by easy recovery, so useless guide to a 60min effort)

    I'm currently working on an estimate of ~275W (95% of best 20mins), so my zone6 is 331-412W, but it's from 30th March and I don't think I've tried an all out 20min effort since... So I wouldn't be suprised if it's lower now.

    Given I'm still picking up the pieces after mild COVID-19 in late March which left me wrecked for at least 9 weeks, which wrote off my Jan/Feb gains, I was surprised to do 333W up a climb for ~5min15secs last Monday https://www.strava.com/activities/3655622726/analysis/4493/4807

    You have a turbo these days IIRC, ideal place to do longer intervals if outside isn't practical. https://whatsonzwift.com/workouts/build-me-up/week-1-pre-training-plan/ ERG workout should give you an idea if youyr zones are in the right ballpark.
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  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 25,302

    What adjustment formula do you use on an 2x8min effort to give an FTP estimate?

    Taking my very nothing special power stats from the last 6 weeks...
    1min 474W
    5min 336W
    8min 320W
    10min 310W
    15min 295W
    20min 290W
    30min 281W
    45min 260W
    60min 248W (part of a Zwift workout with 40min workout followed by easy recovery, so useless guide to a 60min effort)

    90% of 2 x 8 min average

    My number are similar to yours for the short efforts, then they drop
    1 min 471
    5 min 329
    8 min 280

    anything beyond 8 minutes is not "my best"... maybe I am just a good "anaerobic bod"

  • N0bodyOfTheGoatN0bodyOfTheGoat Posts: 4,256
    edited 30 June
    All I was getting at in my post is that a 5min effort in my estimated zone 6 is consistent with a recent ride, even though I had already done two zone5 efforts of ~9/5mins beforehand and then followed it up with a ~20min zone4.

    Unless you know all your comp hills are sub 8mins, you better get extending that interval training duration ASAP, while I need to get a lot more restrained with the carb snacks to lose ~3Kg+ I've gained since Covid to have any hope of managing a 4W/Kg 20min effort.
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  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 25,302

    All I was getting at in my post is that a 5min effort in my estimated zone 6 is consistent with a recent ride, even though I had already done two zone5 efforts of ~9/5mins beforehand and then followed it up with a ~20min zone4.

    Unless you know all your comp hills are sub 8mins, you better get extending that interval training duration ASAP, while I need to get a lot more restrained with the carb snacks to lose ~3Kg+ I've gained since Covid to have any hope of managing a 4W/Kg 20min effort.

    All comp hills are sub 8 minutes... I am doing Dovers/Saintbury combo, which are 5:30 and 7:30 respectively for me... I am doing Whitelaf, which I hope will be sub 5 minutes... then I am doing another one in Worcestershire, which will be a 4 minute job... then if I qualify for the National, that one is 3 minute something. They are all around 4.8-5.2 W/kg times
  • marykamaryka Posts: 745
    edited 30 June
    Less than 3 min for the national if they use the same course they've used in other years (when it was just an open). Was only just over a 3 min climb for me! Even though our Dovers/Saintbury times are similar, you will surely be a lot faster over the very short duration climbs than I am.

    On the topic of zone 6 (which I would take to be Friel's zone 5b/c), 300-375w is a massive spread really? I never used FTP or total time in zone to determine interval power for short stuff. I usually went with 90% of my best peak power for the duration when I used to do those types of intervals, with appropriate recovery depending how long the duration was. I would need quite a bit of recovery for 3 min intervals (about 4x the interval length), not as much for 6 min intervals (about the same as the interval length). The amount of intervals I would do was based on overall fitness -- so 5-6 intervals if quite fit, 3-4 if not quite top level fit -- regardless of interval duration.

    Obviously my power for 6 minutes would be quite a bit lower than for intervals of 3 minutes, where 6 min would be maybe 10% over FTP and 3 min intervals nearer to 30% over FTP. My FTP at my best was set to 250w so that would be ~275w for 6 min and ~325w for 3 min. But if you're doing them all at well over 300w then it sounds like you just have a lot of anaerobic capacity, whereas I don't. And probably also your FTP is too low. Maybe more testing of the W'/Monod variety would reveal a more accurate power curve than the 8 min FTP test for you.
  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 25,302
    Thanks Maryka, very helpful
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 9,033
    edited 1 July
    You might just have a more steeply sloping critical power curve than some people. Mine is the opposite - my threshold and 5 min are OK but my 1 min and shorter is completely woeful, on the Coggan power chart (like Maryka says - you might have good anaerobic capacity).

    Not sure about the < 3 mins thing though, that's around VO2 max (120% FTP roughly) which I had always heard was what you could sustain for the 3-5 minutes-ish (here is a link to a paper which found 4 mins plus or minus 30-40s under lab conditions https://www.researchgate.net/publication/216230264_Reproducibility_of_Cycling_Time_to_Exhaustion_at_VO2_Max_in_Competitive_Cyclists ). You don't normally see prescribed intervals longer than 3 mins though, so perhaps that's what the coaches were meaning in that context, maybe?

    That and your FTP could be set a bit low.
  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 25,302
    I prefer the idea of being good anaerobically... it's good to be good at something... :D
  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 25,302
    I'm just not very good aerobically... there you go, earlier today I churned out my best 20 minutes effort on road (I don't have a turbo setup)... about 245 Watts. So I've never actually managed an FTP of 250 on a 20 minute test and I am not sure if I had 20 "better minutes" I would do a lot better. I'll have to conclude I am an anaerobic type, like a lactobacillus...

    https://www.strava.com/activities/3702169115
  • N0bodyOfTheGoatN0bodyOfTheGoat Posts: 4,256
    edited 2 July

    I'm just not very good aerobically... there you go, earlier today I churned out my best 20 minutes effort on road (I don't have a turbo setup)... about 245 Watts. So I've never actually managed an FTP of 250 on a 20 minute test and I am not sure if I had 20 "better minutes" I would do a lot better. I'll have to conclude I am an anaerobic type, like a lactobacillus...

    https://www.strava.com/activities/3702169115

    Given you're ~67Kg going on the Strava ride info, that's still ~3.6W/kg for the 20mins including a number of junctions.

    How often have you done "all out" 20min intervals since 23rd March?

    How often have you done 5-8min intervals since 23rd March and have your power figures for those intervals improved?

    Do you use a heart rate monitor and have any idea of your Lactate Threshold Heart Rate?

    If you've not been doing any sort of structured training as regarding FTP improving, you've got heck of a better chance than I of doing 4W/Kg+ for 20mins.
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  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 25,302
    edited 2 July
    I've done a few 20 minute efforts as part of 10 TT simulations... they are all around 230-245 Watt, there is no real improvement, possibly because I didn't do anything to improve it.
    On the other hand, power on the shorter efforts has gone up significantly. Given the right "bump" I might be able to finally do one minute at 500W soon, in March 400 W for a minute was as much as I could do... figure for a 4 minute effort (from climbing Edge hill) have gone up about 25 Watts in 3-4 months from around 320 to 347W, in hill climbing money it's more because I've also lost 5-6 kg.


    No HR monitor, I think it slows down people in the high zones as they get scared of hitting big numbers...
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 9,033
    See I am totally the opposite, it's very depressing.

    My best 20 minutes is about 4.2 w/kg (@ 71kg), but over 1 minute it's only 433 (6.1 w/kg). On that Coggan power curve thing a "par" 1 minute power for my FTP should be more like 570-580 watts (8.2ish), which is completely unimaginable. Sprints are even worse! Like, off-the-bottom-of -the-chart worse...

    My 5 minutes is alright cos I guess that is where the balance starts to get more aerobic.
  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 25,302

    See I am totally the opposite, it's very depressing.

    My best 20 minutes is about 4.2 w/kg (@ 71kg), but over 1 minute it's only 433 (6.1 w/kg). On that Coggan power curve thing a "par" 1 minute power for my FTP should be more like 570-580 watts (8.2ish), which is completely unimaginable. Sprints are even worse! Like, off-the-bottom-of -the-chart worse...

    My 5 minutes is alright cos I guess that is where the balance starts to get more aerobic.

    Yeah, we are all different and I am lucky climbs in this country rarely exceed 5 minutes... :D

    It's also the reason I want to do hill climbs, over other forms of racing... I could be good at it (in my age group), whereas my 10 mile TT times are depressing, even considering I don't use any aero help. I think today's 26:30 is probably my fastest 10 miles ever.... go figure
  • marykamaryka Posts: 745
    Have you never done a longer climb in the Alps or whatever that you can use to come up with a better FTP estimate? I can certainly put out more power in a climb than on the flat for any duration. Even on Zwift with a smart trainer my power is better climbing than on the flat. So I wouldn't use a flat power output for my FTP as it just inflates the NP/TSS/CTL for all the hilly rides I do.
  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 25,302
    maryka said:

    Have you never done a longer climb in the Alps or whatever that you can use to come up with a better FTP estimate? I can certainly put out more power in a climb than on the flat for any duration. Even on Zwift with a smart trainer my power is better climbing than on the flat. So I wouldn't use a flat power output for my FTP as it just inflates the NP/TSS/CTL for all the hilly rides I do.

    Yes, but I don't have power data, I only got a power meter in February. My best VAM on a long climb is 1000 on a 650 mt climb in Italy... so maybe 250 Watt or so for the 71 kg I was at the time

    https://www.strava.com/activities/1490817528

    I should do better now
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 9,033
    maryka said:

    Have you never done a longer climb in the Alps or whatever that you can use to come up with a better FTP estimate? I can certainly put out more power in a climb than on the flat for any duration. Even on Zwift with a smart trainer my power is better climbing than on the flat. So I wouldn't use a flat power output for my FTP as it just inflates the NP/TSS/CTL for all the hilly rides I do.

    Yep Alpe du Zwift is a good acid test for your FTP test result accuracy...
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 9,033
    edited 2 July


    No HR monitor, I think it slows down people in the high zones as they get scared of hitting big numbers...

    I just switch my Garmin to a different screen when I am going for it. Although sometimes it's an encouragement to pick it up a bit.
  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 25,302
    I did the National course last Saturday as part of a ride with some friends... it gets very steep in the middle and caught me a bit off guard... I was hoping to go up with the 36 inch gear, but had to shift to the 32 inch eventually. Should be able to hold the 36 in race conditions.
    Anyway, 350 Watt (5.2W/kg), 3:36 minutes, more or less what I expected, 37th out of 2400 in my age category on Strava. If I was to qualify for the National, I might do a 3:15 or thereabout... nothing that would bother the fast guys.

    https://www.strava.com/activities/3744964253
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 9,033
    Nice! That's a good effort.

    Be interested to see what your FTP is because I'm surprised it's only 240-250 as you suggest.

    If you were to combine your power profile and mine you would have one quite well rounded rider!
  • prawnyprawny Posts: 5,414
    I’d be amazed if your ftp was only 250. Zwift had estimated my ftp as 270, I did a ramp test and it came out at 270, then I did a Tour de France event flat out took 1.08 at an average of 268w so I’m confident it’s correct and my absolute best 5m power is 320w.

    I’m sure if I could manage 350+ for 6mins I’d be looking at an ftp nearer 300w.
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  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 25,302
    I guess we'll never know... I have a TT at Mallory Park in August, that might be a good estimate. Not that it matters, training for these hill climbs is all about going hard for a couple of minutes... with not much control
  • N0bodyOfTheGoatN0bodyOfTheGoat Posts: 4,256
    You should get yourself to Prestatyn for an intensive week's hill rep training to tackle this beauty...

    https://www.strava.com/segments/2322472 (hits ~33%)

    Wish me luck, I've got a few days up there (seeing family) coming up very soon!
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  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 25,302

    You should get yourself to Prestatyn for an intensive week's hill rep training to tackle this beauty...

    https://www.strava.com/segments/2322472 (hits ~33%)

    Wish me luck, I've got a few days up there (seeing family) coming up very soon!

    Nice... and you are not far from Bwlch Penbarras either... :D
  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 25,302
    rustled up another 5 watt on my my 1 minute power output... 476 now... not far from the 500 target...
    I did 512 W for 47 seconds, so maybe all I needed was 13 seconds "more hill"
  • zest28zest28 Posts: 295
    edited 23 July
    It depends. In structured workouts, 3 minute blocks of zone 6 is really pushing the limit indeed. Those types of sessions are the hardest workouts I have ever done.

    However if you are fresh and doing a single effort, it is possible to do a 4 minute Zone 6 as I see track cyclists do this.


  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 25,302
    zest28 said:

    It depends. In structured workouts, 3 minute blocks of zone 6 is really pushing the limit indeed. Those types of sessions are the hardest workouts I have ever done.

    However if you are fresh and doing a single effort, it is possible to do a 4 minute Zone 6 as I see track cyclists do this.


    Yes, as Maryka says above, I find the shorter the effort, the longer it takes to recover. I have done rides where I hit one 2-4 minute climb full on 350-400 Watt and then I am incapable of doing another similar effort.

  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 25,302
    Yesterday I did a TT at Mallory Park, so no junctions, it's all head down and push. My best 20 minutes were 255 Watt, so that would give me an FTP estimate of 242 Watt, which is probably realistic.
    That said, I can do 1 minute at 200% FTP, make of that what you want... :)
  • DeVlaeminckDeVlaeminck Posts: 6,146
    255 ave. round Mallory with the bit of descent and the hairpin round the top has to be harder than 255 on a trainer I'd have thought.
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  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 25,302

    255 ave. round Mallory with the bit of descent and the hairpin round the top has to be harder than 255 on a trainer I'd have thought.

    No, the TT course cuts out those bits, it's just an oval, pretty much flat... see here

    https://www.strava.com/activities/3920172933
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