Further explanation of "freestyle sweetspot"

I’ve been doing a weekly freestyle sweetspot ride on a nearby loop that gains 150 ft / mile of elevation. The trouble is that the loop features hills that are at most 3-4 minutes in duration and steep. There is really no flat in this ride; it’s either straight up or straight down. Below is a power profile by zone of the ride I did on Saturday. Sorry for the lack of x-axis (thanks Training Peaks); the zones are listed 1-6 from left to right. The intensity factor, IF, for the overall ride came out to 0.91, while the active part of the ride is more like 0.95 (the difference is in pedaling out to the loop and back from my house).

From an overall perspective it seems like this ride fits squarely into the sweet spot domain. However, Looking at the power demands of this ride, it’s definitely not sweet spot, it is one short burst after another. This is evidenced by the VI (variability index) of 1.24. Physiologically this is a cyclocross or crit race!

So here’s my question: for freestyle sweet spot to be useful for building aerobic endurance, do we need to try to maintain a reasonably low VI while keeping the overall IF in the correct range? If so, is the type of ride I’m doing here useful for other reasons, e.g. strength-endurance?


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So you are doing a lot of intensity! This falls more in like our attack style group ride. Where you like our athlete stop get in these freestyle higher intensity efforts.

All your assumptions are right about VI and intensity factor. The VI is pretty high on this ride. A solid aerobic ride would be under 1.10 And while an intensity factor of .94 is technically sweet spot it is quite high! Ideally a freestyle sweet spot ride would hover around a .85

My suggestion is trying to go easier up the climbs. You maybe going slow but the effort is there. Use your easiest gears, maybe you already are. Terrain does make training a bit tougher at times. Are there no other loops? Maybe some longer climbs you could do? Ideally you could do sweet spot efforts on climbs of 8 + minutes in duration.

What do you do during the week for your sweet spot efforts? Are you able to complete those? It might just have to be on the weekends it is not perfect. The only problem is that don’t get the aerobic work that you should on the long weekend rides. It’s like having this big piece of cake, the frosting is great (anaerobic power) but the cake is thin and will collapse under the pressure of the frosting.


Thanks for weighing in Jake! There are other routes available, I chose this one because it has the most elevation gain I could squeeze in. Unfortunately the climbs top out at 5 minutes in my region and they are all super steep, and I have to drive 100 miles to get a climb that is 8 minutes or more. It’s a sad state of affairs in flyover country!

Regarding my other rides, I am doing one long sweetspot interval ride during the week on the Kickr or the bike path. The rest if my weekly hours are zone 2. Top level, right now I am getting around 3 hours of high intensity + sweet spot and 7 hours of zone 2 training per week. I think I am getting a decent amount of aerobic work per week, but likely not enough to support a total of 1:30’ of over threshold on Saturday, as you point out.

I think what I am hearing is to chill on the hilly loop and try to do more sustained efforts on my freestyle sweetspot ride. Unfortunately, that means my cadence goes down to 70 or no climbing.

Yeah I would try to hold off on the super hilly loop while doing sweet spot work if you are unable to get the sweet spot work in. But as the training program advances you will be looking to get back out to that loop and smash it like you have been! Also those hills will be great when its time to do some Vo2 max efforts!

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Jake, here’s a capture of the power profile from today’s sweetspot interval ride.

Overall IF of 0.81, VI of 1.12. A little better?

Nailed it! That is where you want to be! Zone 1 time might be slight high but that could be because of downhills, recovery, warm up and cool down but hard to say without seeing the file. But IF is much better and time in zone 3/4 is really good! Nice ride! That will improve your aerobic power.

These are the adaptations that take place in each zone and why it is important to be in the zone you are working on.