Hour FTP effort

Does anyone ever ride their FTP for an hour?

By definition, your FTP is the most power you can pedal in one hour. Most tests for FTP estimate by taking a 20 minute effort and reduce by a small percentage, or using a ramp test.

After a 20 minute max effort, I don’t feel like I could do any more (I know, that’s the point), but can’t image doing that three times longer, even at 97% of the level. And aside from an hour record attempt, I don’t know when anyone would have reason to do it; TTs are usually shorter, road races aren’t that sort of constant effort, and I’m not sure the training value.

To rephrase the question: An hour-long FTP effort sounds completely miserable, and if you’ve done it, I’d love to hear about your misery!

This is a bit of a pet subject! :slight_smile:

This is the way my coach makes me do FTP tests. It’s absolutely hideous.

A minor correction though: FTP isn’t quite defined as ‘hour power’. It’s the max steady state power you can hold for approximately an hour: 40-70 minutes is the range, depending on a lot of factors.

It’s interesting to note how the different test results compare. I haven’t done a ramp test in a while, but when I last did one it came out at pretty much exactly 300. Per the 20 minute test, take 10 watts off that, though again it’s a while since I’ve done one. In my last test, I held a normalised power of 284 for 48 minutes.

It is a very particular kind of suffering!

Finally, being well rested makes a massive difference. I know as fatigue builds up over a 5-6 week training block, the power I can ‘access’ over that time drops by 20-30 watts over that period. I know it’s time for a break when 3x15 intervals at 100-102% are impossible.

2 Likes

If you want to do an hour FTP test, I recommend joining a Zwift race up Alpe de Zwift. The constant grade ensures a hard effort and the race aspect means you continue to give it your all.

5 Likes

I do now and then as a benchmark for my training. I’ll try ride a 35-40km TT full gas. I don’t ride with a power meter so have to go off heart rate and feel. FTP I measure on an indoor bike. The efforts have varied in how they felt. Some have felt pretty good, just a hard consistent effort where you get in the zone and just stay there with the burn in the legs building up slowly and consistently to the end. Others have been absolutely horrible - I knew 10min in to the last one that it was going to really hurt.

Agree with @Mintaerobars that what and how much training you’ve been doing leading in makes a massive difference. As does how the legs are on the day! A forum member in another topic was extolling the virtues of long intervals at FTP. I’d recommend a training block of that before going out and trying for 60min.

I say give it a go if it’s something you’re intrigued by. Always nice to have a different challenge for yourself

So… this isn’t entirely correct.

Your FTP is NOT the power you can maintain over an hour… FTP is something that, in a well trained athlete, translates to roughly the power that you can maintain at a steady state effort for an hour but that’s not actually what FTP is.

FTP is functional threshold power, a measure of your anaerobic threshold level… which is the point at which an effort causes your blood lactate to accumulate faster than it can be metabolized via the cell to cell lactate shuttle. It’s the functional threshold between an aerobic and anaerobic effort. Actually measuring this involves blood sampling and respiratory exchange testing every few minutes at increasing outputs.

The common one hour FTP measure we all know is sort of a poor man’s equivalent meant to bring a reasonably comparable field testable measure to everyone without access to a traditional lab but it introduces a lot more wiggle room. If you’re a well trained athlete, then your 20 minutes max multiplied by 0.95 will correlate pretty well with your lab tested FTP… if you’re a twice a month weekend warrior who rides the couch harder than you ride the weekly club ride, then it’s likely closer to a 20 minute max multiplied by 0.85… if you’re totally untrained and hopping on a bike for the first time in ten years, you’re gonna be closer to a 20 minute max times 0.75.

So, for a highly trained and tested athlete like Ganna doing a 50km TT… his lab tested FTP is the exact spot at which his physiology will start to accumulate more lactate than it can shuttle and create fatigue induced power losses. For the rest of us playing along at home with power meters and a strava account, it’s a ballpark measurement with a lot of wiggle room and your average cyclist isn’t going to be able to hold their 20 minute times 0.95 power for a full hour.

10 Likes

Nope. I’ve done 94% of my estimated FTP for a hour and a half as part of an uphill race once, and recently about 91% of it for a hour and a quarter over rolling terrain (so normalized was closer to FTP). I need to be relatively fresh and well motivated to do that sort of thing.

Anyway, the whole defined as 1 hour power kind of doesn’t make sense for the purpose of determining training zones. If you’re looking at FTP as a maximum power where your heart rate and other physiological parameters will stabilize then not everyone will be able to hold it for a hour.

How long you can hold a high percentage of FTP, let’s call it, endurance, is trainable and improves performance but being able to ride at 80+% for longer didn’t translate for me to a significantly increased FTP. Someone with less endurance but the same threshold power will do a 25 min uphill climb at the same speed as me, and they should use similar training zones even though I might be able to ride at threshold power for a hour and they can do it for 45 minutes.

Imo, the concept of critical power (which highly corresponds with FTP as it is typically measured) and W’ which capture aerobic and anaerobic capabilities in a better way.

1 Like

Very enlightening. This explains why I feel like I “test well” (similar to being in high school and getting better SAT scores than one should based on how smart they are). I know that if I do a ramp test, the result will be so high, I won’t be able to do Zwift workouts without lowering the target level.

For some context, this thought arose because I did a 2x15 FTP workout in Zwift, and was able to maintain an average power level higher than my set FTP. I was thinking, does this mean I should raise my FTP for training purposes? No, because for 15 minutes, I should be able to outride my FTP, right? But as you point out, it’s all complicated.

1 Like

If you have an outside route that you can make a 35km-40km Strava segment within that isn’t too subject to stoplights, you can ride that segment all-out once a week. Like head-spinning, ready to fall into the ditch. At first you probably won’t know which way you’re feeling but after a while you’ll know when you’re riding stronger versus weaker regardless of wind/weather or whether you PB it or not.

45m-60m outside TT efforts all the time. Sometimes ends in blowing up because you need to skirt the line between blowing-up and not. Not any more miserable than 20m because it’s the same objective of riding on the exact limit.

Curious about racing: if your experience in races makes you question the training value of racing… what is happening in your races? If it’s so easy it doesn’t provide any training value you should be on the podium, or winning every time and upgrading category. If it’s so easy but you’re not scoring points/on box then you need to make it hard. If everybody else wants to ride around like Sunday sight seeing attack them and force a break. Racing ought to be just as miserable as any FTP test, more so in it being a hundred moments of death versus one slowly accumulating collapse. When it’s easy, attack!

Outside of a TT, if racing feels like an FTP test than you’re racing above your current ability. Racing is like a fast group ride with about 20-30 minutes of tasting blood.

I’d add two notes to tbro’s comment that “…if racing feels like an FTP test than you’re racing above your current ability.”

  • It’s okay if it does - you’ll likely get dropped within the first few attacks but stick with it, go beyond red every race and you’ll get faster by racing with people who are above your ability.
  • If your races feel relatively easy like a fast group ride - that means there’s room to make it much harder. Attack, get your gap, try to create a break and go max effort to try making it stick to the end. Or go with anyone else’s attack to try creating that break. These are the kind of efforts that are in the “hundred moments of death” or “20-30 minutes of tasting blood.”

And if racing is so easy you question whether there’s any training value, make it your own TT effort. Solo break - the best win of all. Change your mental approach from “boring slow race I’d be better off training” to “race announcer is going to call me to top step by saying ‘winner by solo breakaway…’”

1 Like

I think my caveat, having tested like this for a while is that while an hour FTP test is arguably the gold standard fitness test, and gives you a very useable number, it’s not always measuring exactly the fitness you need.

I race cx and have an eye on masters crits this spring as for some reason I have a decent sprint (my bike handling is crap, but anyway…). What you really need in cx is the ability to go well over FTP for the first few minutes, then generally settle in at high tempo with 15s-45s bursts over it periodically, then straight back onto that tempo. Obviously, there’s a crossover, but it’s not quite the same fitness needed as for a 25mile TT, for example.

I haven’t done a road race in over 15 years, but it’s a not dissimilar pattern, albeit over a longer period and with more ‘down time’.

To a degree, all of this (as well as the need to taper a bit for the test, ideally) is why I’m probably moving away from the 60min/40km effort as my primary method of testing going forward.

I’m not even sure, for the purpose of determining training zones which hit certain parts of your physiology, that one hour tests are the ideal way to go in about it.

1 Like

I hate the 20 minute test! You have to do it like 5 or more times just to learn the pacing and you have to have a ballpark idea of where your FTP is going to land.

And I’d never do an hour. I don’t have anywhere around me with flat terrain for 5 minutes. Even a 20 minute, on-road, test is hard to achieve around here.

The best test I’ve found is the Kolie Moore test described here:

I just use the baseline test and usually end up with a 35-45 minute effort. It sounds long compared to 20 minutes but it’s a ramping effort so mentally it’s much easier. I feel that it also teaches you what FTP feels like. You start in your sweet spot power range. You’ll feel like ‘this is a solid effort but I could easily do it for an hour’. As you increase power and that feeling starts going away, you can kind of feel your threshold. If you back off a few watts and feel a little bit of comfort, you know you are there. Towards the end of the test you increase power. When you feel like ‘there’s no way I could hold this power for an hour’ then you know you’ve crossed the boundary. You keep pushing to see how far your test can go.

5 Likes

I’m so bad at the scheduled test that I rarely ever do them. They make me depressed. But a fast crit in Zwift, well that’s a much better test for me and I really find out what my threshold is (higher than the test, without exception).

I’ve done the hour effort about 2 weeks after doing 360 watts for 20 minutes which theoretically is 342 watts and held 334 for a Merckx TT. I don’t really know how accurate the hour is when it comes to lactate threshold. I’m a TT guy and it just seems like even to me there are so many variables to the hour test I’ve made some runs at it in the past but on an hour climb I’ve run into elevation which is going to alter the result and I’ve never found a flat enough straight road to do an hour on outside of a 40k TT which generally should not take me an hour to complete. It seems like I’m making progress with 20 minute tests so those numbers are somewhat accurate. I’d wager that outside of a blood lactate test 20 minutes is likely the most consistent standard, 2x8 minutes is good (albeit it seems to over value sprinter/puncher riders), our club had a whole bunch of guys on the race team do the Ramp test and that seemed to be the most likely to submit inaccurate FTPs with the TT guys getting very low #s and the sprinters having outrageously high FTPs based on that test.

1 Like

I stick to the ramp test, as I struggle to motivate myself to do the 20 minute test. As I am a a low powered light weight diesel type rider, with zero sprint, I think that it is relatively accurate for me.
Have actually been scheduled to to one last week and again today, but keep receiving late call ups to cover an ill team mate in the Zwift ZRL races.

This has been discussed A LOT on the UK time trialling forum, with lots of input from Andrew Coggan. He recommends doing a 5 min hard effort prior to starting the test, presumably to increase it’s accuracy in the real world.

I do a lot of TTing, so I have a lot of hard 20 min efforts to reference but I know that my 1 hour power is less than the standard 95%. Probably in part down to my physiology but also the type of training I do - i.e. should probably do more endurance.

2 Likes