Review: Full Front Follow-Up
One of the most popular posts on creakybottombracket.com of late was the article referring to The Sufferfest’s Full Front 4DP test. No sooner was it posted than I received questions asking whether there was a gain in my performance. I decided to take the Full Frontal test at the conclusion of the ten-week advanced training plan to see what sort of information I could gather. The following is what I discovered.
In this lab… In high school I had a biology teacher who announced any student starting their lab report with ‘In this lab…’ would automatically fail the assignment. I guess I just failed. Strangely enough he would go on to coach a couple of women’s professional cycling teams. But I digress. I asked myself, had I made gains over the past seven weeks? (I took the test almost one month into the training plan, more on that later.)
Full Frontal is The Sufferfest App’s 4DP test measuring four distinct areas of cycling. It involves two five-second-sprint tests, a five-minute effort, a twenty-minute FTP, and a one-minute fading effort. Completing this measurement is beneficial for both uses in The Sufferfest application as well as rides outside. The app suggests a test every ten weeks or so to check for fitness. As stated above, I did mine eight weeks after the first one, if including the taper week.
With my question and background research, I postulated I would raise the bar in each of my four tests. I hoped to make remarkable impacts in both my five-second intervals as well as the twenty-minute effort. The five-minute test and the one-minute test were eclipsed by the focus on two other measurements and therefore were not taking into full consideration.
Without providing actual numbers of wattage, I will simply talk in terms of percentage. To be simplistic, the first test completed at the end of January gave me my baseline numbers. There were variables at the time. After following proper procedure for the second test, it was reflected that I had not properly tapered for the first. I simply inserted the initial Full Frontal test into the standard training plan. To be plain, I was probably gassed going into the test.
Breaking down the tests in order of appearance, the two five second sprint tests show up after a healthy warm-up. Here is where I had hoped to make the biggest gain with an eye on anticipation. I am satisfied with the amount of wattage I normally put out in short bursts. With the CycleOps Hammer smart trainer I get a little too carried away and try to manhandle it in sprinting circumstances. That being said, there is one downside to the trainer with regards to the test: it takes more than five seconds to wind up for full flight. If I waited for the quintessential Sufferfest gunshot to start my sprint, I would be about halfway up the wattage scale by the time the test was over. Here I anticipated both the first and second sprint. Here, again, I outperformed on my first sprint and flat out biffed on my second. With my anticipation, I increased my wattage by more than seven percent. I was certainly frustrated with that result, knowing I have produced more watts than that.
Test number two involved the five-minute time trial. Here is where the app confused me, so much so I put in a request into Sufferfest’s customer support. The wattage in the corner of the application is a suggestion, not so much what you theoretically should shoot for, nor is it a past benchmark. The lovely customer support advised to ride by feel. The representative even suggested that people have minimized the numbers on the screen to focus solely on the effort. My goal was to make sure I never went below the wattage or the cadence. Like the five-second interval, I improved my numbers but not tremendously. I moved up approximately seven percentage points. I was consistent so far.
Bradley Wiggins averaged 400+ watts for his hour record several years ago. For some reason I have it in my head that a similar number is possible for me over the twenty minute mark. And then I take the test and shut my mouth. I had hoped for a major increase with regards to the FTP portion. Despite making gains, it would be the test I would make the least amount of gain. Over the course of twenty minutes, I improved a scant six percent wattage from my baseline.
After another break in the action the test moves over to a one-minute effort that goes to failure. The last time I took this test I exploded out of the gate and failed nearly immediately. This time I revved up the Hammer trainer and hovered way outside the suggested wattage but fast enough to be sprint-worthy. I maintained the effort once seated and kept hammering away to the end of the test. Part of me wanted a good showing; the other part wanted the whole awful experience to end. Here is where I shocked myself. My new effort recorded a remarkable gain of nearly thirty percent better than my baseline. One of the tests I hardly focused on became my biggest increase of the 4DP.
Throughout the experience I amassed quite a list of variables. The first set of variables I mentioned above with regards to my baseline test occurring within a training plan. For the second round I was quite rigid in following their 4DP training plan, tapering for the optimum experience. Another variable came in anticipation. I knew what to expect and had a baseline to strive for. Having positive numbers kept me motivated through the twenty-minute FTP effort. Finally I took the trainer itself into consideration to anticipate winding up the trainer before sprinting. I think it was the second sprint that saw me take off well before the test, possibly exhausting my effort. The numbers changed very little in the longer effort and remarkably in one of the shorter efforts. If I had destroyed the twenty-minute interval, I would have questioned one of the outcomes.
My hypothesis, though broad, explored whether I made gains over the eight weeks between FTP tests. As it turns out I made significant gains in my one-minute effort and correlative gains in the other three areas. I think the results are certainly genuine and display gains from training plans available through The Sufferfest’s app. The last time I completed the 4DP test, my results stated I was classified as a sprinter. I was excited with that designation. After today’s test, the email featuring my results revised that classification. I am now an ‘Attacker.’ I’ve ditched the company of Marcel Kittel and joined the ranks of Philippe Gilbert, Lizzie Deignan, and Alejandro Valverde. I think that’s a pretty remarkable group to join.