Zwift Academy Road: Workout 3 | VO2 Capacity

After work this afternoon I started my week’s riding with Zwift Academy Road: Workout 3 | VO2 Capacity, my fourth Zwift Academy 2020 ride, and I would say it ranks up there in second spot in terms of difficulty.

I’d put the first workout in the top spot in terms of difficulty (again, so far) with the second workout not being really that bad at all.

This one was hard because of the four minute max effort, but more painfully, the final efforts on fatigued legs. More on that shortly.

With the Zwift Academy workouts, there’s always a long (and fairly gentle) warm up. This one was no different. There was a full 11 minutes of essentially very light pedalling, followed by 3 minutes at 180w, and then back down to 125w for a further two minutes.

The only really stimulating part of this – if you’re not used to it – is being made to ride at 90rpm. For Zwift, that’s now my preferred cadence anyway, so nothing new here. What I will say is I get nowhere close to 90rpm outside. Sadly.

The aim of this ride is to determine your best 4 minute effort.

Why four minutes? Well… why not?

No, but seriously… why 4 minutes? Zwift themselves, along with every other cycling app I’ve used thus far all do the “standard” 5 second, 1 minute, 5 minutes, 20 minutes, and 1 hour efforts as the most common marker points.

Why then, did today we focus on 4 minutes? I don’t have answers. But in the grand scheme of Zwift, I can’t exactly say I’m surprised by this unusual choice.

The four minute effort would be done “freestyle”. The rest of the workout would be done under ERG mode.

Somewhat unexpectedly, the four minute effort wasn’t the last item on the agenda. And also, it came with plenty of recovery both before and after.

Most of the time, in competitive cycling, the kind of max efforts are either at the very end, or in my case, usually consistent for the whole race. I’m therefore not entirely sure what I can glean from this particular “test”. But still, it was an interesting exercise, in more than one way.

What I will say is that the four x 2minute intervals at the end of the workout were, in classic Chris fashion, under rated. Which is to say, I completely misjudged how taxing they would be, and how challenging I would find that section of the ride.

I’ve often found that by simply looking at the workout segments pre-ride, I gain a sort of false sense of over confidence that hey, that doesn’t look so bad!

I guess it does me the world of good to get put solidly back in my place.

One thing that might be helpful when going into this ride is to know your best 5 minute figure, and factor your 4 minute effort accordingly.

I couldn’t find my best 5 minute figure whilst riding. I was guess it was somewhere around 280w, and therefore in my head, I had 290w as a target, and ideally 300w as a stretch goal.

As above, going into this effort I was feeling fairly fresh. I didn’t ride yesterday, and whilst this ride did start with some small activities during the warm up, the pre-effort bit was very laid back. In other words, no excuses.

I feel like I did really well on this. I held an average of 304w for the effort, and afterwards I felt physically sick. Not proud of that bit, and genuinely not a place like I to push myself too. I see some cyclists with the mindset that if you’re not puking, you’re not pushing hard enough.

I’m not one of those people.

I’m more tortoise and hare. I’ll get there. Slower than most. But I will keep plodding along, meticulously. Story of my life.

Coming out of the 4 minute max effort I was feeling dead, but really good about myself.

Nailed it, right?

How difficult could the rest of the workout be?

Easy stuff.

And so I kinda went into cruise mode. Chatting away. Having a laugh with the other Zwifters on the ride.

466 people on this ride. Really well attended for a random Tuesday weeknight.

The other people on this ride genuinely did make it more enjoyable. That’s why I really like the group workouts when doing these kind of things. Solo they can be a slog.

And then boom!

Boy, was I unprepared for how taxing that final set of intervals would be.

No doubt about it, the first was hard as heck. It caught me completely off guard. Jumping up from 125w to 260w, trying to keep to 90rpm… oof. Brutal.

After the first one I was reeling. The second and third left me spinning, and not in the good way I like to spin on a bike.

Somehow or other I managed to get through to the fourth and final one, and see it through. But it was painful.

Another classic over estimation of my abilities. When will I ever learn?

Yep. That one was a toughy.

After the ride I had made it to about 28km. Some serious Zwift rubber banding going on there – for the negative.

I figured I’d push to 30km.

As I came to my senses and realised what map I was on, and where I was on the course, I figured I would give it the beans on the sprint.

I put in a really good effort – again, by my standards.

The one mistake I made was, whilst I had my head down trying to nail it, I heard a sound from Zwift and thought I’d made it to the arch.


I had “achieved” breaking through 900w. So I then had to kinda step back on it. It messed up my attempt, no doubt about it. Not sure how much, but it definitely distracted me. Disappointing.

Still, not a bad way to finish the session.

No idea what I’ll do tomorrow. Definitely do some kind of riding, but maybe an easier / recovery ride. I don’t do enough of them when outdoors. Maybe it’s an hour of easy pedalling for a change.

I’ll have to see how my legs feel after this one. They are definitely used tonight, that’s for sure.

7 thoughts on “Zwift Academy Road: Workout 3 | VO2 Capacity”

  1. Nice work! I got 304w average too! I wish I’d checked my power curve pre ride as my best 5 min is 320w for this year. In saying that, I did feel pretty thrashed at the end of this ride too, so probably a good idea I didn’t push harder!

  2. Thanks! Not done any races yet. I was thinking of doing ZA workout today, then downgraded those thoughts to a group ride, am now thinking whether I should hop on at all. Feeling pretty fried today!

    I had a rest week planned for next week, hmmm I’ll have to knock a couple of races out the following week!

  3. Not sure how this 4 min max effort test would relate back to my VO2max values? It would be good to have this as a measurable target to track. I scored 346W for that 4 min section which i felt was pretty good considering I got 264w 2-3 weeks ago on the FTP ramp test. Current weight is 66.4kgs. I would be interested to know how these numbers would relate back to the more standard blood concentration (mmol) measures would be…?


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