Tinea Pedis wrote:Durations would be over half an hour, otherwise what's the point of SST work - given the idea is that it's power that you can (or should) be able to sustain for long periods.
And if your FTP and MMP tests showed that the latter training program worked, then certainly that's the way to go - for you. It's no slight on SST work/its merits as a training protocol. Any good coach should be able to recognise, after time and feedback from the rider, what approaches do or do not work.
I certainly feel though that, at least for those I race against (not, obviously, at National level), that a lot struggle and would benefit from SST work. As one glance at my ave power 90 minutes in to a race will tell me how many guys I know will be at their limit and about to blow. Which, I should add, does include me!
A problem here is that field tests are often unreliable predictors of true lactate threshold and for most people, SST is probably closer to 4mmol of lactate than what their threshold is.
For me, the sweet spot seems to be 80%-90% of FTP. The shorter intervals usually have hard bursts or surges, the longer are obviously different. I guess when I see a problem its when I hear someone say "I did 2x20 at FTP yesterday and then 3x20 (of 2x30) at SST today...." and I just think well that tells me that your 2x20 probably wasn't that hard and your 3x20 probably isn't too hard enough and you've just gravitated towards eeking out a lot of mediocre work. Like you said, a really good, long SST interval can really take you out, which is why its funny when forumers and others seem to do it 3-4 times a week. Even in some of Hunter's recent work he's stated that he believes that for a 2hr ride there is no point in riding below tempo, which seems to fly in the face of just about every methodology or study ever done and such sessions can still be quite beneficial for a lot of riders especially if they separate days with real quality.
You're also racing at a much higher level than most people, which I think can be explained from an email exchange I had with a sports scientist that works with rowers in your home country:
"I've never seen any other "training zone" document that drags zone 4 down so far into sub-threshold territory as the Coggan chart. I've suspected for a couple of years now that Team Sky have been hammering 20-30min intervals, but for those guys, this is closer to CP (ie: their threshold is so high its almost the same as CP). Andy Coggan totally ignores the evidence that suggests the better trained you are, the closer your FTP gets to CP. So when Team Sky do their L4 work, they probably do it at almost 90% VO2max. Whereas for the average cat 1, 2 or 3 cyclist, 90% of VO2max would generally be considered L5, since their threshold isn't as high (as a %VO2max). Coggan's power zones which are percentages of FTP also totally ignore this important point ie: different cyclists of differing abilities have a different %VO2max at threshold. So I would argue that Team Sky's approach most likely supports the notion that if you want to improve your threshold, you should do intervals at about 90% VO2max or above. Imagine if your FTP is 85% VO2max and you do intervals at 90% of that. This is like 70-75% VO2max or something. A professional cyclist can hold that intensity for 3-4hrs!!"
For your average Joe SST is a much lower percent of vo2 max and, at the low end, won't have the same effect as it might for a pro or someone such as yourself. When I hear of dudes with 300 watt thresholds sitting there doing work at 255-260w I just don't get it especially since most cat 2 or 3 road races have NPs that are much higher than this (especially on selective courses). If your FTP is 400, like it is for a pro, then intervals at 90% of FTP are still 360W, which is well over the NP of the race duration (albeit probably close to it for certain periods of time). Moreover, many of these riders practice steady state SST work often indoors and don't simulate the same surges or NM patterns experienced in a race. To me, this is where the real "no man's land" comes from- lots of mediocre, unspecific work that is draining, but not even close to race pace or a high percentage of their vo2 max.