On the 18th of June, my coaching client Jim successfully completed the Niseko Classic 85km event, an 85km ride with 1426 meters of elevation.

Route & Profile

Before we go any further with the breakdown and analysis of his effort, let me just comment on how cool the event poster was, good job whoever designed this!

Pre-event, Jim had an FTP of 240w. However, he fell ill with Covid 4 weeks before the event date, which meant a halt to training or indeed riding of any sort for 6 days, after which there was a period of very light and short Zone 1 rides, which lasted another week.

This was bad timing but could have been worse, it could have come even closer to race day. The lingering effect of Covid that we had to deal with was a reduction in Jim’s lung capacity due to a mild but annoying chest infection that he just could not shake.

Having had Covid myself I knew what he was dealing with as I too had had similar trouble, as well as a lot of phlegm that made me wonder if I’d been possessed at some points – it just kept coming and coming!

Anyway, Jim also had an painful cough that became debilitating every time he tried to go above endurance pace. So any and all VO2 work was out. First we started doing the Z1 stuff, as mentioned, then to Z2 work (60-70% FTP), just very steady and controlled riding. We then got him up to tempo pace and then finally in the last 10 days before the event to sub-threshold. The cough was still there but very much diminished.

His watts were a little down for what would feel like a similar effort pre-infection, and his HR was slightly up. So this was not ideal, but I factored all this in when creating his plan and he was very sensible in his approach, not overdoing it and resting accordingly. We also dialled his FTP back by 20w for a couple of weeks until he started to feel better.

In the end, the months of good solid work we had done before the illness came through and although he was not at 100% for the 85km ride, he was somewhere at 90-95%, and we managed to squeeze an extra percent out of his form in the tapering period.

Not a great situation, but not a disaster, I knew he would get the event completed, it was now a question of how well.

Two factors had to be considered, not only his physical state, but also his confidence. Could he trust himself, all things well on the day, ride on his ‘new’ limit for the entire event? Or would he overdo it, trying to hit his pre-Covid numbers? Or, would his approach be hampered in some way by the knowledge that his pre-race training had been somewhat derailed?

Let’s see.


If you are unsure how to interpret the chart above, please read this.


Normalised Power (NP) at 197w.

W/kg (weight per kilogram) at 2.54.

Below we see Average Heart vRate at 142.

Average Speed 27.2 km/hr.

So straight off we can see the Normalised Power (NP) is at:

197w for 3hrs 8

Jim’s FTP is 240w. 

197 of 240 is 82% of FTP.

Riding at 197 for Jim puts him in slightly upper Tempo (PRE6) zone.  See chart below: note the values set for FTP here are not Jim’s but using the percentage calculations I can work out Jim’s ranges .

Link for this chart.

For an event at 3 hrs according to the chart below, he did OK there, as the chart calculated 2.5hrs to 8 hrs being the range for Upper Tempo riding (personally I think 2.5hrs to 8 hours is too wide a range).

However, I feel and know from my experience that in an event, it is possible to be riding at a higher effort (more like upper ‘SweetSpot’), or 90-95% of FTP, closer to 3hrs / 3.5hrs. 

90% of 240 puts Jim at 216w. This is where I’d have been looking him to be at for 3 hrs, if all went ideally, given his FTP.

However, we must take into account his recent illness. If this ride ‘felt like’ he was in upper Tempo / lower Sweetspot, then that shows that the illness impacted him adversely. Also, possibly confidence levels too. 

And when I say ‘possibly’, it’s more of a definitely! The speed here is down on what I know he can do, as is the W/kg, as Jim’s weight per kilo was 3.14 when we tested 4 weeks ago – for this ride it is 2.54.

So, it was still a good effort to crank out those numbers for the 3 hrs 8mins after illness but yes, he could have gone harder. But not by too much! 

First Hour Analysis

 Jim went harder in the first hour, as we can see below.   

Note these are barely hills, 1-2%.

So heart rate is up in the first hour over the average of 142 for the whole ride, but only by 4 bpm, as watts are also up by 13.

In this first hour Jim was riding more closely to Sweetspot / PRE 7 / Sub Threshold.


In the time after that and before the big hill (from KM 32 to KM 50), he took his foot off the gas, perhaps in prep for the climb, and it’s quite noticeable.  

165 w NP for this section.

HR 134.

We can see here that HR and watts are lower than overall and the previous hour. The Intensity Factor (IF) is also down. It was .83 for the whole ride, .88 for the first hour, and now at .69 – a considerable drop. 

Conclusion here is, Jim eased up, or, were suffering. 

(Rider feedback came later, he eased up in anticipation of the big climb to come, as he didn’t quite trust his legs).


246m / 3.9% / 10.2km

One thing to say here is that he was very steady all the way up. On first glance this shows he really knew his ‘new’ limits… or that he was riding conservatively.  Let’s see!

Watts 202 NP

HR 145.

Heart rate is back up here from before the hill (now 145 compared to 134), as are watts, but the watts on the hill are still 8 down on the first hour (that was 210) – here they are 202. Here he is riding at tempo pace again. On the hill, ideally, and let’s remember it’s 3.9% so quite manageable – I’d say Jim should be back up to sub-threshold, closer to 216-220 watts.

Without illness and on a really good day, this would be a big chain ring climb with the last say 1/3rd ridden at VO2 max.

If he’d had a clear run up to this event, he would have been up there.

So in conclusion, he could have gone harder (as we look at the next shorter hill we see the watts up at 214, so he did have it in the legs), but it was still a decent ascent, given overall result. 


16.5 KM with two smaller climbs at 201 watts.

We can see that the climbs after the big climb (see below) was at higher watts (214w), than the last hill (198w).

The conclusion here is that on the last hill, the run in to the finish, Jim was fatigued from the efforts of the whole ride, and the 214w effort of the penultimate hill, but note that he went better in this last section overall (210w) than on the run up to the big climb of the day (165w). 


Most important to me, was the athlete happy with the result?

5th in AG, 42nd overall.

“Yeah, given the crappy Covid blast, yeah I am, I think I went just about as well as I could have really.”


And myself? Yes, happy with this.

I sent the above breakdown to Jim without many of the conclusions I’ve added here, and asked him to read it and to see what conclusions he came up with. I find this to be an invaluable method, as instead of me simply feeding the athlete my insights, they start the process themselves.

On-bike, your rider is the coach. The rider who can make adjustments in-race, who can stay calm and utilise the knowledge learned from a coach is going to get a better result and be able to ride close to optimal, as opposed to an athlete whose coach doesn’t bring them into the analytical process.

So, both of us could see that Jim took his foot off the gas before the big climb. Jim’s effort on the climb was decent but he told me that he could have gone harder but was lacking some confidence. That showed on the next hill where he got a little more confident and went harder.

The last hill, I thought he was fatiguing but he told me there was no one around him and he just wanted to enjoy himself!

All I can say to that is well played sir, well played…

Please contact me at for any coaching enquiries (or Asia bike tours!).

Author: Lee Rodgers

Cycling coach, race organiser, former professional cyclist and the original CrankPunk.

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