The most decisive moments in a cycling race often happen at an intensity close to VO2 max. I have several times emphasized how important I believe VO2 max is for race performance.
Also, I have used intervals targeted for VO2 max widely in my e-books to support my view on this training method.
It’s clear that training at high intensity makes fast improvements and has a huge potential for all cyclists. Actually, Elite and pro riders need training at (or very close to) VO2max to keep further progress.
The best and fastest way to track your progress is doing a 5-minute all-out test.
When you perform a VO2 max test, try to estimate how much power you can produce for five minutes and then keep a consistent pace. It might be necessary to adjust your pace throughout the test, but that’s how performance tests (and time trials) are.
As you get better you’ll be able to maintain a higher power output (avg. Watts).
Nevertheless, it should always be remembered that any performance test is only an indirect indicator of what really matters: Race performance.
Fact is, it really doesn’t matter how many Watts you can push in a 5-minute maximum test if you are unable to convert your awesomeness to race results. In the end, it’s your position on the podium that counts – not your average power output in performance tests.
Also, it’s worth considering that your 5-minute power output is only one out of many indicators of your current fitness. Thus, you should never be afraid to use different strategies to evaluate your performance.
If you are dreaming about finishing top 10 at a 3K pursuit then a 5-minute test might be relevant. Though, this test should never stand alone, because your overall goal is to get your bike to ride as fast as possible, so you can finish in the top 10.
So keep a strong focus on your overall goal. In the end that’s what matters most.