Controlled Start 20-min Time Trial Effort

This is my first post, so please be gentle. I am agnostic in training philosophy, so I try to learn from as many sources as possible. That said, I find Fast Talk to be a great resource, so I decided to share a 20-min TT protocol that I use.

I have always used CP20 as a reference in my training, and since I have been using, data derived from 20-minute efforts can easily be used to (at least) ballpark my FTP.

CP20 Step Test/TT Effort
Over the years I have noted that starting too hard in one of these efforts is a great way to turn it into a death march. I, therefore, designed what amounts to what I call a CP20 step test/TT effort to control the first minutes.

The Protocol
It starts at 90% of CP20 (probably 93-97% of FTP in my case), and increases by 1% per minute until what feels like a plateau is reached (hopefully your new CP20 or maybe slightly above for the last few minutes). At that point, simply ride out the duration of the 20 minutes, or keep going if you can. will be able to pick out the best 20-minute effort from however long your effort is (ex. maybe you’ll last 23 minutes and the best 20 is from 03-23min). Obviously, this is not a real step or ramp test, just a strategy for controlling yourself for the first few minutes.

The picture above shows that I took a break at 20 minutes, and then attempted (unsuccessfully) to rejoin the ramp after a short break. It’s a good mental toughness exercise if you are up to it.

Note that if one starts at 90% + 1% per minute for 20 minutes, the rolling average will equal 100% by 20 minutes, therefore you might not actually detect any improvement. You can do one of two things: follow the prescription for the first 5 minutes or so and then go as hard as you like and try and last longer than 20 minutes, or use 90%+1.5% per minute as a ramp rate. The idea is that you are kept from going out too hard for the first few minutes. As long as you keep your powder dry for the first few minutes, and you are motivated, either method should help you get a great workout and possibly a new 20-minute power for your curve.

I should note that I am not a fan of ERG mode and since I often do 20-min tests outside, I feel that ‘‘course-mode’’ or whatever it is called offers the best real-world application. In my case, I do my workouts on a set of Inside Ride rollers with a QUBO resistance unit that can control grade (to a degree). Since I am in Quebec, I have a lot of experience with indoor riding which predates Zwift and most other platforms by a decade.

Anyway, if this helps anyone, great. I’m open to comments. If anyone wants the MRC or ERG(!) file, I’ll try to figure out how to upload it here.

@DAVEPW That’s a very interesting approach to a 20 minute effort. I have seen a lot of time trialers who like to start a little easier and ramp up over the course of the effort. What you’re doing is more formalized, but a very similar approach. It does seem to work for you!


I think this is a great idea.

When I start with new clients and do 5m and longer duration testing I always have them do this without looking at any numbers except time.

Then I look at how the efforts are paced, if they go too hard and power declines too much, I then take the avg/np of HOW THEY chose to pace the duration, then reschedule the test again.

On the rescheduled test, I ask them to limit themselves to the previous avg from the start of the test to 60% into the time duration, then they get to build the pace from their to improve that average. It is often, if not always a better wattage with the even start and strong finish.

I like your approach.

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Thanks for the replies Coach @trevor and Coach @steveneal.
I used this approach with a buddy of mine who always started TT efforts too hard and then let his head get the best of him. He succeeded for the first time in a long time without feeling like he was dying. I think that it can help build tolerance for longer threshold efforts. I always say that worst-case scenario, it just turns into a good workout that will pay some dividends later on.

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@DAVEPW glad that helped your friend. One of the first bits of advice I got about time trialing was that there are three rules of time trialing:

  1. Start out easy
  2. Start out easy
  3. Start out easy

Agreed. In triplicate. It’s amazing how even those of us with lots of experience (ie, we’re old) can be drawn into just wanting to hit a certain number. I remember fondly the days, 10 years ago, when 350 W for 20 minutes was feasible. It’s hard to keep the ego in check sometimes, which is weird since it hurts so much to do it wrong…
Just trying to be the fastest 53-year old that I can be with the time that I have to train…

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There is no “CP20”, there is only “CP”, or Critical Power. To avoid confusion, some (P. Skiba comes to mind) recommend using “P#” where # is the duration, to describe max power for any given duration.

Forgive me. I should have said 20-minute mean maximal power.

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This is the way Kolie Moore does testing. Slow build up, increase power and then see how long you can hold it to determine FTP. The bonus is that it is a very good workout in itself.

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