The CTS Field Test

CHRIS CARMICHAEL
 
Performance testing is a crucial part of training because it provides a snapshot of your current level of fitness and a gauge of your progress. The CTS Field Test, created by Carmichael Training Systems, consists of  two 8-minute all-out time trials separated by 10 minutes of easy spinning recovery. With the help of a heart rate monitor or power meter you’ll be able to measure the effort you 
can sustain. That data can then be used to design a personalized training program. To gauge your progress, repeat the test after 8 weeks.
 
COMPLETING THE CTS FIELD TEST
When you get on the bike, you’ll need time to complete the warm-up, the field test, and a good cool-down, so budget a total of an hour for the whole field test workout. Start with 10 minutes of easy-to-moderate intensity riding and then complete the following warm-up routine:
 
PRE-FIELD TEST WARMUP
1 minute Fast Pedal (in an easy gear, bring your cadence – the rpm of your pedals — up as high as you can without bouncing in the saddle)
1 minute easy spinning recovery
2 minutes Fast Pedal
1 minute easy spinning recovery
1 minute Power Interval (maximum-intensity interval at 90 to 95 rpm, bringing the intensity up gradually over the first 30 seconds and holding that level of effort to the end of the interval)
2 minutes easy spinning recovery
1 minute Power Interval
4 minutes easy spinning recovery
 
Now you’re ready to begin the CTS Field Test.
 
CTS FIELD TEST INSTRUCTIONS
You’ll want to collect the following data for each 8-minute effort:
Average and maximum heart rate, or average power output
Average cadence (check your cyclocomputer for this function)
Weather conditions
Course conditions (indoors vs. outdoors, flat vs. hilly, point-to-point vs. out-and-back)
Rate of perceived exertion (how hard you felt you were working)
 
STEP 1: FIND A SUITABLE COURSE
The CTS Field Test can be completed on an indoor trainer, or you can find a relatively flat course or a course that is a consistent climb of about a 6% grade. (A course with steep climbs or descents will dictate your effort more than you will.) Above all, find a course that’s safe, without stop signs or traffic lights. For the sake of being able to compare one test to another, complete the test in weather conditions that are reasonably common for your area.
 
STEP 2: BEGIN YOUR FIRST EFFORT
Begin the effort from a standing start. Resist the urge to start too fast; you should reach your top speed about 45 to 60 seconds after you start, but not before that.
 
STEP 3: FIND YOUR PACE AND GEAR
Keep accelerating and shifting until you reach a speed you feel you can barely maintain for the length of the effort. Focus entirely on completing this effort at the highest power output you possibly can. Try to maintain a cadence above 90 rpm on flat ground or on an indoor trainer, and above 85 rpm if you’re completing the test on a climb. When you get to the final minute of the time trial, really open the throttle.
 
STEP 4: RECOVER AND PREPARE FOR EFFORT #2
When you reach the end of Effort #1, you should be completely drained, but keep pedaling for the whole 10 minutes of recovery.
 
STEP 5: COMPLETE EFFORT #2
After the 10-minute recovery, begin Effort #2 from your start point. Gradually increase your speed for 45 to 60 seconds, just like the first effort. Avoid the temptation to pace yourself based on your first effort.
 
STEP 6: COOL DOWN, RECORD YOUR DATA
All that’s left is to cool down with easy spinning for 15 to 30 minutes. Record your CTS Field Test data in the training log.
 
HOW TO CALCULATE CTS TRAINING INTENSITIES
Your field test data is used to help you understand the proper effort for the five types of CTS workouts. These are:
 
ENDURANCE MILES (EM)
This is your moderate-pace endurance intensity. While it has a wide range, keep your power and/or heart rate in the middle portion of your EM range and allow it to fluctuate up and down as the terrain and wind dictate.
 
TEMPO (T)
Tempo is an excellent workout for developing aerobic power and endurance. The intensity is just hard enough that you are generating a significant amount of lactic acid and forcing your body to buffer and process it. This helps increase pedal resistance and strengthens leg muscles. Try to stay in the saddle when you hit hills during your tempo workouts.
 
STEADY STATE INTERVALS (SS)
These intervals are great for increasing a cyclist’s maximum sustainable power because this intensity is just below lactate threshold (the intensity at which your body produces more lactic acid than it can process). As you build time at this intensity, you force your body to become better at dealing with lactic acid. These intervals are best performed on relatively flat roads and small rolling hills.  
 
CLIMBING REPEATS (CR)
This is the ultimate climbing workout and should be performed on a long steady hill. The training intensity is designed to be similar to that of a Steady State Interval but reflect the additional workload of riding uphill. Your breathing should be deep, but in control.
 
POWER INTERVALS (PI)
These short efforts are high-intensity training and allow you to make bigger aerobic gains in less time. These intervals are maximal efforts and can be performed on any terrain except sustained descents.Find the higher of the two average power outputs, and/or the higher of the two average heart rates from your CTS Field Test. Multiply this power output and/or heart rate by the percentages listed in the table below to establish the upper and lower limits of your training ranges. For every workout you should aim to keep your heart rate or average power between the limits. If you took both measurements, use your power range for intervals.
 
WORKOUT NAME         PRIMARY TRAINING GOAL      % OF CTS FIELD TEST POWER        % OF CTS FIELD TEST HR CADENCE
Endurance Miles            Basic Aerobic Development       45 – 73%                                           50 – 91%                             80 – 100
Tempo                           Improved Aerobic Endurance     80 – 85%                                           88 – 90%                             70 – 75
Steady State Intervals     Increased Power at LT              86 – 90%                                           92 – 94%                             90 – 95
Climbing Repeats           Increased Power at LT              95 – 100%                                          95 – 97%                             80 – 85
Power Intervals               Increased Power at VO2 Max    Max effort (101% at absolute min.)      100% – max                         90+
 
 
CTS TRAINING INTENSITIES FOR JOE ATHLETE:  AN EXAMPLE
 
Confused? Take a look at how the numbers come out for Joe Athlete below. Let’s say Joe Athlete completed the CTS Field Test and recorded average power outputs of 300 watts and 296 watts. During the same efforts, his average heart rates were 172 and 175, respectively. He would use the 300 watts and the 175 heart rate for calculating his training intensities, even though they came from different efforts during the CTS Field Test.
 
The lower limit of Joe Athlete’s Steady State Intervals intensity ranges would come out to 300 x .86 = 258 watts. The upper limit of his Steady State Intervals intensity range would come out to 300 x .90 = 270 watts. So Joe Athlete should complete Steady State Intervals at a power output between 258 and 270 watts. The table below has been filled out with all of Joe Athlete’s sample intensity ranges.
 
table