Gran Fondo Q&A question from Episode 86


I have a question about your discussion of the Grand Fondo question at 34 minutes from Fast Talk Episode 86: Q&A on Gran Fondo Training. (Which, yes, is from October of 2019. I am a relatively new listener to your podcast and am working my way through your back catalog now. So far, I am extremely impressed and thank you for the bottomless and thorough resources.)

The listener who wrote in the question said he was riding a grand fondo coming up, and trying to train to do as well as he could, but not necessarily thinking of it as a “race.” He said the fondo had 7,400 meters of climbing, but as you noted, he probably meant feet (as otherwise he’d be nearly Everesting with over 24,000 feet of climbing). No matter, really. Your answer was helpful, but one thing that wasn’t addressed was whether his initial goal was even possible. He said he planned on riding the entire fondo at 85-90% of his FTP. Assuming this is at minimum a 75 mile ride, with that much climbing (even assuming it’s 7,400 feet), this is a 4+ and likely 5+ hour ride.

My question is: Is 85-90% of FTP a reasonable goal for five hours or riding? I ask because I am a similar rider to the caller (my “competitive” rides are hilly grand fondos and gravel “races” where I am mostly riding to see how well I can do personally). I would like to figure out how to best pace these 5 to 6 or so hour rides, but I fear that if I head out and try to ride at a steady 85% of my FTP my tank will be empty long before the ride is over.

So I guess I am asking for tips on pacing these long competitive rides, as you have thoroughly covered in this and other episodes quite nicely how to train for them.

Thanks so much,
John Hintz
Bloomsburg, PA, USA

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Hi @johnhintz,

Thanks for the message and for listening to the show! I’m glad you’re enjoying it.

The answer to your question is “it depends.” Everyone’s profile is different, so for one person, riding at 85% of FTP is something they can handle all day while for another person that’s way too hard. There’s also a question of the rider’s durability. Some riders can go hard for very long periods of time while other riders at the same relative intensity many only last a few hours. So, the most important thing is to figure out your profile.

But before I get to that, just so that I don’t fully cop out on answering your question - if FTP was measured correctly, aerobic threshold is generally around 85% of FTP. Aerobic threshold and below is considered an intensity that we can sustain for extended periods of time. So, if you have a typical profile and you pace yourself at or just below 85% of FTP, theoretically you should be able to hold it for five hours. 90% of FTP would be tough, but if you are a well-trained endurance athlete and well-motivated, it is doable.

What I do with athletes who are building to a long event like that is do a few long (4+ hour rides) at around what we think is the aerobic threshold ahead of teh event. What I look for is cardiac drift (a rise in heart rate relative to power.) If I see none, then I know it was a very sustainable pace and they probably could have gone a little harder. If I see some drift towards the end of the ride then I know we have about the right pace for the fondo. If cardiac drift is large and starts early in the ride, they were definitely going too hard.

Also, when prescribing pacing for a long ride like that I always always use heart rate and not power.

Hope that helps!


Trevor, thanks so much. That does help a lot. Now I need to scour the back catalog of your podcasts to learn about honing durability in my training (all the while trying to raise FTP, also).

Thank you very much,

Here’s a handy search for all Fast Talk Labs stories relating to durability.