VO2Max challenges with a well trained athlete

I coach a few junior / U23 mountain bike athletes and I have one going to mtb marathon nats in few weeks. But he’s been struggling to complete the 4x4min workout’s I’ve subscribed for him, even when I back them off to 105-112% of FTP he still can barely get through one set.
On the other had he can do 5x20min all day long at 90%, and can his latest neuromuscular workouts he was topping 1200w in the middle of his ride, so he’s strong enough, and I’ve been making sure that he’s well rested before doing the 4x4’s. We also tested his ftp on the road recently, but he’s never had a lab test.
Has anyone worked through this before with an athlete? tips or tricks, what helped get your athlete over the hump? or what did you have to dial back to get it right?
It might be too late for this season, but I want to make sure I get it right next time.

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I would say that heading into marathon nats at the moment his strength is heading the right direction.

It is too late to see a change in the 4x4 area of intensity other than resting / tapering may bring some of the top end back.

However, over a marathon distance without more information I think the athlete is in pretty good form at race specific intensity.

What is the athletes current 5m power?

How well can the athlete perform between 75-85% of this power?


Thanks for the reply @steveneal

His 5min power is about 340w (5.6w/kg). We just did a workout with holding about 80% of that (285w) for 4min with a 30sec sprint, he was able to do to three sets of that no problem, he even bumped his last rep 10% because he felt good. HR reflected that, only crossing threshold at the ends of the sprints and recovering well between reps.

Thanks for the guidance, marathon is definitely a different beast than the 1-1.5 hour races I usually coach. He did well at seaotter and we’ve done a lot of work since then so fingers crossed.


I agree with @steveneal that it sounds like the athlete is headed in the right direction, what is his PDC at 4 minutes?

Another benefit would be to obtain some physiological data from some lab testing if possible.
I have found %FTP to be inaccurate in the majority of my athletes for VO2 and Endurance zones. I am fortunate enough to be a physiologist and have my own lab.

Without this access I would refer back to PDC to obtain a guide to target power.