James (39) is self-employed, working long hours and having to fit training in around his demanding physical job. His results had plateaued and he was finding it difficult to structure his training and balance his work/life commitments. As a result, he was struggling to improve his performance enough to warrant the time and energy necessary to continue at a national level. Here’s a turbulent story of how we made him a time trial winner again:


Sparks into Life cycle coaching - Mark Turnbull

James’s specialty is long distance time trials from 50 miles through to 12 hour events; very specialist events where dedication and motivation play a critical role. 3 years ago, we began working together.

Current Performance Metrics

Watching James complete his first test, I instantly noted that he had the ability to produce a lot of power! Using the INSCYD Power Performance Decoder (PPD), areas of concern were highlighted.

His aerobic engine was strong, enabling him to produce a high steady state power. However, the power duration curve demonstrated a drop off after 50 minutes. If we could reduce his VLamax, we could improving his fatigue resistance.

James also needed to drop some off-season weight to get back into race shape. 

Training history

James was a classic steady-state time trialist, who rode too many long slow group rides with little to no suitable training adaptation. The simple fact is that James had to cut the volume of these rides and increase the intensity so he was above his base zone.

On the other hand, when James wasn’t doing an endurance session, he preferred riding above anaerobic threshold: hard up hills and regularly surging above max lactate steady state.

In summary, James’s old training structure wasn’t consistent and he didn’t include adequate rest.

New approach

Following our introductory consultation, I built a plan based on INSCYD metrics that:

  • eliminated junk miles
  • increased VO2max
  • decreased body weight by 10kg
  • reduced a naturally quite high VLamax

Reducing the VLamax was done by prescribing rides to be undertaken with reduced glycogen stores, note these rides are not fasted just with a focus on quality protein replacing the carbs in your pre ride meals.

Instead of always going hard uphill, James is now following a structured plan and uses the hills on his training roads for low cadence / high torque efforts.

The new structured plan helped James find his motivation and he was ready to do the work. Adaptations did not take long to occur.

“Using INSCYD PPD, I could clearly see his strengths (and limiters) and realised he needed to train and perform differently to maximise his natural ability."
Mark Turnbull
Mark Turnbull
INSCYD coach of James


The results in training were amazing. With an increased VO2max and decreased VLamax, James can now hold power figures for 80km (1h:40mins) that he used to hold for 40kmm (50 mins) races. Despite this improvement in power between 1-2 hours, his short range 15 min power has increased from 352 watts to 403 watts, 3 min power up from 393 watts to 492 watts.

With all these great results, James decided to target the 12 hour time trial, where he produced a personal best of 492 km. James finished 5th in the BBAR competition, though he felt like there were several missed opportunities where he could have improved his ranking. (Due to COVID, races were canceled last minute. His condition was great, but there was no opportunity to race.)

INSCYD Performance projection
Example: with INSCYD you can easily compare 2 test results to see improvements between pre (solid) and post (dashed) training. You can even create such a comparison by filling in expected changes in (e.g.) VO2max. This enables you to project future performance.

Next season

For the next season James’s absolute ‘A’ race was to win the 12 hour National Championships at the beginning of August. The main focus of the training plan was to reduce VLamax as low as possible, improving FatMax and delaying the production of lactate at our 12-hour target wattage.


By July we had the best INSCYD values to date and were ready to start our taper towards the Championships.

Then the unthinkable happened. James was involved in a very serious Road Traffic Accident whilst riding home from one of his final training sessions before the race.

Mid October

3 months after the accident, James was signed off by his surgeon and able to start his rehabilitation on the home trainer. Although, we had his pre accident INSCYD data as a benchmark, we were a long way from being ready to test.

Early March

20 weeks later James had ridden almost 150 hours indoors and had the condition and consent of his medical team to do an INSCYD PPD test over the course of 2 days. As expected there was a huge gap between the best values of before the accident and where we were now. 

However, we had crucial physiological markers to work with: VO2, lactate accumulation rates, fat and carb combustion rates, and clearly defined zones to follow going forward.

End March - April

When James started adding extra hours on the road again, his condition really began to improve. While avoiding intensity, we focused on the aerobic engine and FatMax. By the end of April, we weren’t too far off his best FatMax & Medio values. Although the anaerobic threshold wasn’t a focus at this stage, we could see these numbers improving on a fortnightly basis.

First race again

This was enough incentive for James to enter his first race, his own club’s 16km time trial championships which just happened to be a couple of miles from his home. I had not included any 20 minute efforts of this intensity in training and James had not raced his TT bike for almost a year. As it turned out it was a very close race between James and one of his longtime training partners. James managed to win by 1 second and was obviously overjoyed, if not a little surprised!

The next race was a 80km time trial. As this was the type of effort we had replicated in previous week’s training. This result would be a good indication of exactly how James’s body would hold up for almost 2 hours in an aero position. The race took 1h48m to complete on undulating roads with many changes in direction. Once again James won, however this time the winning margin was significant at 1’33”. This was also a course personal best for James by 2 minutes, incredible. 

James stuck to the pacing and fueling strategy I put together using his latest INSCYD test results. Fueling is critical, and I’m happy to say that there was no decline in power, HR decoupling and lack of energy towards the end of the event. 2 races and 2 wins!

Perfect TT pacing

Unfinished business

Now the 2022 race calendar is getting back to some sort of normality. We hope that we can find a new level of performance over summer. James’s dream of becoming a national champion isn’t over and he’ll be lining up on the start line of the National 12 hour championships in September with more focus and determination than ever before.

Mark Turnbull
About Mark Turnbull

Owner of Sparks into life - coaching, level 2&3 cycling coach, personal trainer and nutritional advisor recognised by the UK Coaching. Winner of National Time Trial Championship medals.