To clarify a little more on what Tape said about meaningful adaptations, and your initial comment regarding: "The second one would have to be less intense to account for fatigue."
If you are trying to train power at VO2 max, then you need to ride each rep at the lowest power that elicits your maximum oxygen intake
. That way, you can repeat the highest number of times before you fatigue, therefore spending the greatest amount of time at VO2 max in the shortest possible time
in one session.
Doing the first set as hard as you can will mean that either:
- a) You have to rest for an hour between sets. And most races don't allow you to recover for that long between efforst, so that isn't going to help your adpatations.
- b) Your 2nd, 3rd, nth set will be at a much lower power. And in this case, you subsequent reps are not going to drive the adaptation you want.
For instance, if my max 3min power is 500W, then I would be doing each rep about 430-450. If I went at 500W for the first 3m, then after 3m rest I would be struggling to do 450 for the second rep, and the 3rd would be much lower. That would mean the 3rd rep wasn't helping my power at VO2Max.