Every season when I start to get serious about my training again I’ll do some performance testing to establish a baseline and to set my training zones. Unfortunately this is happening less and less these days, but it’s still fun to do.
For years I’ve heard horror stories about what the former AIS athletes used to be put through during their testing sessions. They sounded absolutely excruciating. The AIS used to attempt to predict Tlim (ride time until exhaustion) at different power outputs based on a VO2max test. Legend has it that Rob Crowe holds the record at 46:40 minutes or so (550 watts!) in 1992.
Now the AIS have devised a test that basically replicates the demands of competition by measuring maximum efforts for fixed time periods. Once they know the athlete’s power profile they can help coaches prescribe interval sets or review competition efforts. Marc Quod was the AIS scholar who constructed this test based on more than 100 SRM files that describe top finishes in international races. You can read the abstract of this study here.
The AIS Power Profile test protocol looks like this:
6 sec. (standing) 54 sec. recovery
6 sec. (rolling) 174 sec. recovery
15 sec. 225 sec. recovery
30 sec 330 sec. recovery
60 sec (1 min) 480 sec. recovery
240 sec (4mins) 600 sec. recovery
600 sec (10 mins) Cool down
All rolling @70-80rpm (except for first interval)
Or to be more descriptive: “The 5min warm up consisted of riding between 100 and 250 W with two short efforts (3 s) at 70 and 90% of maximal effort, respectively. The PP test protocol consisted of seven maximal efforts (6, 6, 15, 30, 60, 240 and 600 s) with active recovery periods of 54, 174, 225, 330, 480 and 600 s, respectively. The first two efforts (2 × 6 s sprints) were completed in gears 1 (peak rpm ~160rpm) and 4 (peak rpm ~140 rpm), from a standing start and the remaining efforts were completed from a rolling start between 70–80 rpm.”
Aside from the testing protocol and statistical analysis in this study, here are a couple paragraphs that I found interesting and true when describing the rational behind the test:
As a result, the cyclist who has the highest VO2max, or greatest sustainable power output is not necessarily the most likely to succeed in a road race. Due to its tactical nature and the influence of drafting and terrain, the results of a mass start road race are typically determined at a critical period(s) during the race. These critical periods require the competitors to produce maximal power output for a race-specific period of time. Therefore, depending on the nature of the race, the winner can potentially be the cyclist who produces the lowest average power over the whole duration, only producing a maximal effort that is greater than their competitors at a critical moment(s).
During a road race, periods of high and low intensity can be sub-divided into efforts of various durations (5–600s) and the MMP produced for each of these epochs can be identified. Consequently, a laboratory test that evaluates the maximum capacity to produce power over similar durations may provide a basis for the evaluation of physiological performance during a road race.
Excerpt taken from The Power Profile Predicts Road Cycling MMP M. J. Quod, D. T. Martin, J. C. Martin, P. B. Laursen, pages 1 & 2
Our Power Profile Testing
I find this stuff fascinating and love hearing the stories about the old AIS days. Two of my teammates, Duncan Smith and Al Iacuone are from this previous AIS generation who were under the guidance and torture of East German coach Heiko Salzwedel (who also set up the AIS road cycling program). I tell you, the stories of the gruelling 250+km training sessions Heiko used to put these guys through has scarred them for life. They sure are talented cyclists because of it.
The other night Al and Duncan were my two guinea pigs to try out this Power Profile test. They used to be put through the Tlim (ride time until exhaustion) test back when they were in the AIS and I could see the fear in their eyes. I’m actually amazed they let me put them up to this!
It was difficult to administer the test as well as video record it, but here are some highlights of the suffering these guys volunteered for our Friday morning entertainment:
Note: the recorded average power readings for each interval seemed to be 50-100 watts less that I’d expect from these guys. We’re looking into the possibility of calibration issues. Or maybe we’re just getting old…
In addition to being a useful test it’s also a great workout. It hits each of the competition-specific power zones.
What Does It All Mean?
What we want to do with the data collected from each of the intervals is prescribe the appropriate training. Training the various zones will result in different adaptations to the body and therefore prepare you better for competition. I’ll talk more about how to use this data for your training in a separate post.
Enjoy your weekend and ride safe!