Episode 109: The metabolic cost of your rides—is it the same for everyone?

I wanted to start a discussion on this because it’s an interesting episode that revealed some truths I would personally have thought to be ludicrous.

The bulk of this episode revolves around the idea of a pro vs. amateur working at the same percentage of FTP, and the true metabolic cost that the rider incurs. The average pro could be working in the 250-300w range for a zone 2 ride, where the average amateur could be in the 150-180w range.

The podcast reveals that the metabolic cost is usually the same, and sometimes lower, for the pro. At least that is my takeaway.

What I struggle to wrap my head around is putting this into practice? Would anybody actually recommend that a pro do all of their zone 2 rides ?

As an amateur, I can say with confidence that I can ride the upper half of my zone 2 5 days a week for 15-20 hours without it being an issue. That would be 262-300w for a pro with a 400w FTP. I rarely see this done in power files I’ve had available, it seems most pros (during base season) hover around a 0.6 IF for their training weeks, which would suggest they rarely ride at the top of zone 2.

If the metabolic cost is the same for the amateur and the pro, and some of the literature suggesting it’s a ride pros can recover from, why wouldn’t pros ride at the top of zone 2 all the time?

I’ve read somewhere that if you define the top of Z2 as LT1; then for a pro their LT2 is with 9 bpm, where as for an amateur they may be 20 or even 30 bpm apart. Thus if a pro rode near top of Z2 it’d be very easy to stray into their second threshold at much higher cost.

Then there is the assumption in your post.

“That riding near the top of Z2 is more beneficial than riding mid Z2”.

I’ve read somewhere that all it does is generate more fatigue for about the same gains. Why work harder than you need?