|Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)||Low Heart Rate*||High Heart Rate*||Low Power (watts)*||High Power (watts)*|
|Power Intervals||10 +||Max||Max||101||250|
* - % of CTS Field Test heart rate or power number, respectively, as determined by the CTS Field Test below.
This workout should be performed on a relatively flat section of road. The gearing should be light, with low pedal resistance. Begin slowly working up your pedal speed, starting out with around 15 to 16 pedal revolutions per 10-second count. This equates to a cadence of 90 to 96 rpm. While staying in the saddle, increase your pedal speed, keeping your hips smooth, with no rocking. Concentrate on pulling through the bottom of the pedal stroke and pushing over the top.
After 1 minute of FP, you should be maintaining 18 to 20 pedal revolutions per 10-second count, or a cadence of 108 to 120 rpm for the entire time prescribed for the workout. Your heart rate (HR) will climb while doing this workout, but don’t use it to judge your training intensity. It is important that you try to ride the entire length of the FP workout with as few interruptions as possible, because it should consist of consecutive riding at the prescribed training intensity.
This is your moderate-paced endurance intensity. The point is to stay at an intensity below lactate threshold for the vast majority of any time you’re riding at EM pace. The heart rate and power ranges for this intensity are very wide to allow for widely varying conditions. It is OK for your power to dip on descents or in tailwinds, just as it is expected that your power will increase when you climb small hills. One mistake some riders make is to stay at the high end of their EM range for their entire ride.
As you’ll see from the intensity ranges for Tempo workouts, the upper end of EM overlaps with Tempo. If you constantly ride in your Tempo range instead of using that as a distinct interval intensity, you may not have the power to complete high-quality intervals when the time comes. You’re better off keeping your power and/or heart rate in the middle portion of your EM range and allowing it to fluctuate up and down from there as the terrain and wind dictate. Use your gearing as you hit the hills to remain in the saddle as you climb. Expect to keep your pedal speed up into the 85 to 95 rpm range.
Tempo is an excellent workout for developing aerobic power and endurance. The intensity is well below lactate threshold, but hard enough that you are generating a significant amount of lactate and forcing your body to process it. The intervals are long (15 minutes minimum, and they can be as long as 2 hours for pros), and your gearing should be relatively large so your cadence comes down to about 70 to 75 rpm. This helps increase pedal resistance and strengthens leg muscles.
Also, try to stay in the saddle when you hit hills during your T workouts. It is important that you try to ride the entire length of the T workout with as few interruptions as possible—T workouts should consist of consecutive riding at the prescribed intensity to achieve maximum benefit.
These intervals are great for increasing a cyclist’s maximum sustainable power because the intensity is below lactate threshold but close to it. As you accumulate time at this intensity, you are forcing your body to deal with a lot of lactate for a relatively prolonged period of time. SS Intervals are best performed on flat roads or small, rolling hills. If you end up doing them on a sustained climb, you should really bump the intensity up to Climbing Repeat range, which reflects the grade’s added contribution to your effort.
Do your best to complete these intervals without interruptions from stoplights and so on, and maintain a cadence of 85 to 95 rpm. Maintaining the training zone intensity is the most important factor, not pedal cadence. SS Intervals are meant to be slightly below your individual time trial pace, so don’t make the mistake of riding at your time trial pace during them. Recovery time between SS Intervals is typically about half the length of the interval itself.
This workout should be performed on a road with a long steady climb. The training intensity is designed to be similar to that of a SS Interval but reflect the additional workload necessary to ride uphill. The intensity is around your lactate threshold power and/or heart rate, and it is critical that you maintain this intensity for the length of the CR. Pedal cadence for CR intervals while climbing should be 70 to 85 rpm. Maintaining the training intensity is the most important factor, not pedal cadence. It is very important to avoid interruptions while doing these intervals. Recovery time between intervals is typically about half the length of the interval itself.
Try to reach and maintain as high a power output as possible for the duration of these intervals. Ideally, these efforts should look like flat plateaus when you view your power files. Take the first 30 to 45 seconds to gradually bring your power up and then hold on for the rest of the interval. The point here is to accumulate as much time as possible at a relatively constant and extremely high output. These intervals are maximal efforts and can be performed on any terrain except sustained descents. Your gearing should be moderate so you can maintain a relatively high pedal cadence (100 rpm or higher is best).
The rest periods are intended to be too short to provide complete recovery, and completing subsequent intervals in a partially recovered state is a key part of what makes these efforts effective. Typically, recovery times are equal to the interval work time, which is sometimes referred to as a 1:1 work-to-recovery ratio.
Note: Aim for your intervals to be well above 101 percent of your field test power. Many athletes will consistently hit 110–130 percent of field test power, and some may go higher. The 101 percent level marks the bare minimum. If you can’t consistently exceed this level, you’re too tired to complete an effective PI workout.
OverUnder Intervals are a more advanced form of SS Intervals. The “Under” intensity is your SS range, and the “Over” intensity is your CR range. By alternating between these two intensity levels during a sustained interval, you develop the “agility” to handle changes in pace during hard, sustained efforts. More specifically, the harder surges within the interval generate more lactate in your muscles, and then you force your body to process this lactate while you’re still riding at a relatively high intensity.
This workout can be performed on a flat road, rolling hills, or a sustained climb that’s relatively gradual (3 to 6 percent grade). It is difficult to accomplish this workout on a steep climb, because the pitch often makes it difficult to control your effort level. Your gearing should be moderate, and pedal cadence should be high (90 rpm or higher) if you’re riding on flat ground or small rollers. Pedal cadence should be above 85 rpm if you’re completing the intervals on a gradual climb.
To complete the interval, bring your intensity up to your SS range during the first 45 to 60 seconds. Maintain this heart rate intensity for the prescribed Under time and then increase your intensity to your Over intensity for the prescribed time. At the end of this Over time, return to your Under intensity range and continue riding at this level of effort until it’s once again time to return to your Over intensity. Continue alternating this way until the end of the interval.
OverUnder Intervals always end with a period at Over intensity. Recovery periods between intervals are typically about half the length of the work interval. Note: A more advanced version of this interval would alternate between SS and PI intensities instead of SS and CR intensities.
Note: In the training programs, the parameters of the OU intervals are written as: 3x12 OU (2U, 1O), 5 minutes RBI. This should be read as follows: Three intervals of 12 minutes. During the 12-minute intervals, the first 2 minutes should be at your Under intensity (2U). After two minutes, accelerate to your Over intensity for one minute (1O), before returning to your Under Intensity for another two minutes. Continue alternating in this manner – in this example you’d complete 4 cycles of Under and Over – until the end of the interval. Spin easy for 5 minutes and start the next interval.
This workout should be performed on a relatively flat section road, ideally with a slight tailwind to enhance your top speed during the efforts. The gearing should be moderate but pedal cadence must be high (110 or higher). Speed, power and accelerations are the key elements, not heart rate. This workout generates high levels of lactate, and this develops lactate tolerance and trains your body to dissipate and process lactate.
Normally, individual efforts in these intervals will be one minute or less, but the recovery periods between efforts will be very short as well. If you have to, shift into a lighter gear to maintain the cadence, but don’t let the intensity of the interval drop. With a high cadence, you will train your body’s adaptation to high-speed efforts. Recovery between intervals is easy spinning.
This workout should be performed on a relatively flat section of road. The gearing should be large, 53-12 or 50x11 (depending on your level of physical development). The effort should begin at a moderate speed (typically about 15mph), then while seated in the saddle begin STOMPING the pedals as hard as possible! Concentrate on pulling through the bottom of the pedal stroke and smoothly stomping down during the down stroke.
Keep your upper body as still as possible and let your legs drive the pedals. Your hands can be on the tops, brake hoods, or the drops. The Stomps should last 15-20 seconds, with at least 5 minutes recovery between efforts. This is a muscular workout and heart rate may not have time to respond.
This workout should be performed on a relatively flat section of road. The gearing should be moderate but pedal cadence must be high (110 or higher) during each interval. Attack each interval as hard as possible. Jump out of the saddle as you begin the interval and build speed as the interval continues. If you have to, shift into a lighter gear to maintain the cadence, but don’t let the intensity of the interval drop. With a high cadence, your heart rate will remain extremely high and you will train your muscles for high power and repeatability. Recovery between intervals is easy spinning. Recovery time between efforts is limited so that you will never fully recover between intervals. Heart rate intensity is not prescribed because the interval is a maximal effort.
Descending Intervals are structured like a ladder with a series of efforts that get progressively shorter. You’ll complete a maximal effort, take a short recovery period, then start another maximal effort that is shorter than the one before it. Recovery periods are always equal to the duration of the preceding effort. Here’s an example of a DI workout:
High Speed Sprints develop your top end power and speed. This type of sprinting improves your maximum peak power. Since it is performed slightly downhill at high speed and pedal cadence, the power demands will be huge due to the aerodynamic drag associated with beginning sprints at high speed.
These sprints are always performed at 100% maximum output. On a slight downhill, you should be rolling along at a high speed (25+ mph depending on your stage of development) in a large gear. Jump out of the saddle, and accelerate. Upon reaching top speed, return to the saddle and focus on holding your top speed the entire length of the sprint interval. Maintain good form, and focus on maintaining high pedal speed in a smooth and efficient form for the entire sprint. These sprints should be 8-12 seconds in length, and full recovery between sprints is very important to allow for rebuilding of ATP in the muscles and to ensure a quality sprint workout. Pedal cadence is high for these sprints, 110+ RPM.
Sprinting improves the effectiveness of your fast-twitch muscle fibers and improves your body’s ability to use the high-energy adenosine triphosphate (ATP) stored in your muscle tissues.
These sprints are always performed at 100% maximum output. On flat terrain, you should be rolling along at a moderate speed (15-20 mph depending on your stage of development) in a gear you can accelerate quickly (don’t overgear). Jump out of the saddle, accelerating up to your top sustainable speed, then return to the saddle, focusing on maintaining high pedal speed with smooth and efficient form for the entire sprint. These sprints should be 30-60 seconds in length. Full recovery between sprints is very important to allow for rebuilding of ATP in the muscles and to ensure a quality sprint workout.
The CTS Field Test should be completed before you begin your training program, and if you decide to use the program more than once in a season, you should complete the field test again before starting the program each time. When you view the workouts and training programs you’ll notice that the CTS Field Test is not included as a workout at the very beginning of the schedule. Rather than work it into the program itself, we want you to complete it a few days before you begin one of the training programs. Make sure you’re well rested before completing the test. Don’t perform the test the day after a major race or hard century ride, because you won’t be able to determine how fatigue affects your results.
The field test itself is only two 8-minute efforts, but it’s important to be properly fueled and warmed up before beginning the first time trial. When you get on the bike, you’ll need time to complete the warm-up, the field test, and a good cool-down, so budget a total of an hour for the entire field test workout. Start with 10 minutes of easy- to moderate-intensity riding and then complete the following warm-up routine:
When performing the CTS Field Test, collect the following data:
The CTS Field Test can be completed on an indoor trainer, which offers the ultimate in controlling conditions, but we have found that many athletes achieve higher power outputs in outdoor tests. We don’t believe this is due to any inherent problem with indoor trainers, but rather that the sensations of speed and wind outdoors help motivate some athletes to perform better tests outside. The difference tends to be minor, however, so there is no need for a conversion factor between a field test completed indoors and one completed outdoors.
If you’re completing the test outside on the road, try to find a relatively flat course or one that is a consistent climb of no more than about a 5 to 6 percent grade. A course that contains rolling hills or a significant descent is not going to produce a good test. Likewise, a test performed on a steep climb is problematic because you end up in a situation where you’re just doing whatever you need to in order to keep the pedals turning over; the terrain ends up dictating your effort more than you do. Above all, find a course that’s safe and allows you to complete the 8-minute efforts without having to stop for stop signs, traffic lights, etc.
For the sake of being able to compare one effort with the other, and one test with another, complete the test in weather conditions that are reasonably common for your area (not on a particularly hot or cold or windy day). You should also use the recovery time between efforts to return to your original starting point so you can complete the second effort over the same section of road.
Ideally, begin the effort from a standing start. Slow to almost a complete stop and rotate your cranks around so your dominant leg’s crankarm is at the two o’clock position so you can take advantage of your body weight on the first power stroke. Your gear selection should allow a fast, stable start, not so small that you spin the gear out before you are able to sit down, and not so large you can barely get it moving. As you gain speed, but before you spin out your starting gear, shift up one gear and accelerate until you have reached a cadence of 90 to 100 rpm. Shift again and increase your cadence to 90 to 100 and then sit and select the gear you’re going to use to maintain a high power output at 90 to 100 rpm. Resist the urge to start too fast; you should reach your top speed about 45 to 60 seconds after you start, not before.
Keep accelerating and shifting until you reach a speed you feel you can barely maintain for the length of the effort. We don’t want you to hold back or think about the second effort that is still to come. Focus entirely on completing this effort at the highest power output you possibly can. Avoid the temptation to mash big gears. Pushing a bigger gear at a lower cadence may feel more powerful for a little while, but your leg muscles will fatigue quickly, and your power output will drop precipitously before the end of the effort. Try to maintain a cadence above 90 rpm on flat ground or an indoor trainer, and above 85 rpm if you’re completing the test on a climb. The effort will be challenging from this point on, but do your best to keep breathing deeply. If you’re hyperventilating (panting uncontrollably) during the first half of the effort, you started too fast.
Every pedal stroke counts, so it’s important to force the pace all the way through the end of the effort. Again, don’t think about the second effort; just live for the one you’re doing now. When you get to the final minute of the time trial, really open the throttle. You can do anything for 1 minute. Don’t let up at 7:30 or even 7:55. Push all the way through to 8:00.
When you reach the end of Effort No. 1, you should be completely drained. But don’t stop pedaling. Shift into an easy gear and keep turning the pedals over. Active recovery spinning helps your body circulate oxygenated blood to your tired muscles and flush away waste products. In the first minute of this recovery period, you may feel there’s no way you can possibly repeat the effort you just completed, but you can if you spend these 10 minutes wisely. Take a drink of water, sit up with your hands on the tops of the bars, and relax as you spin. If you’re completing the test outdoors, return to the same starting point you used for the first effort. If it takes you a little more than 10 minutes to get back there, that’s OK. It’s more important for the efforts to be completed over the same stretch of road than for the recovery time to be exactly 10 minutes.
Just as you did at the beginning of Effort No. 1, slow until you’re nearly standing still and use your gears and cadence to accelerate to your top speed over the first 45 to 60 seconds of the effort. If you’re using a power meter, avoid the temptation to pace your effort based on the average power output from your first effort. There’s a good chance your second effort will result in a higher power output, but the only way you’ll know that is if you give it everything you have.
Once you finish Effort No. 2, you’re done with the CTS Field Test. All that’s left is to cool down with some easy spinning for 15 to 30 minutes (or however long it takes to get home). When you get off the bike, make sure to consume carbohydrates and fluids.
To calculate your individual training intensities for CTS Workouts, you need to know either the higher of the two average power outputs or the higher of the two average heart rates from your CTS Field Test. If you have both pieces of information, you should calculate both power and heart-rate training intensities, but use the power ranges to gauge your interval efforts whenever possible.