I think that as much Zone 1 (in three zone model; so 1, 2 and maybe 3 (at least for some folks) in the 7-zone model) as you can fit into a week is beneficial. For some riders just starting out, those rides might be fairly short (1-2 hours) because of what they can handle, not just time available. For those better trained, we migth rather run into time constraints rather than physical ones.
And i think it’s still beneficial even if you can’t do the super long rides. And here is my reasoning.
First, remember that those pro riders who are doing 5+ hour rides are doing this in a dramatically different context. One, they have races that can be like 6 hours long, tours that go on for weeks. Their endurance needs are different. Two, they have such a long race season that they really do need to pack in that endurance base riding in a fairly short period of time. So for them they need to do those long rides, potentially not because short rides don’t get you adaptaion, but rather because they need to get as much of those adaptations in as possible in a short time. Ironically they are time-constrained in a way we are not. Three, they are so well trained that they need even more time to progressively overload. I doubt that any of us do.
second, recovery rides. Everyone swears by recovery rides as making you feel better but my understanding is that there’s actually no evidence that recovery rides do anything to accelerate recovery. But, how is that we can all feel like they make a difference? I think the answer is that they actually are making you stronger and more durable, just the tiniest bit, without tiring you out. So, this suggests by doing these we are in fact getting adaptations even though the rides are short.
FInally, in other sports (like rowing and xc skiing) participants add substantial volume through additional sessions and for their purposes, this is just as good as marathon rows or skis: http://highperformancerowing.net/journal/2011/9/7/training-the-energy-systems.html (scroll down to the part about the oxygen system)
So, tying it all together, if you’re not as well trained as a pro cyclist, if you have a longer ramp up (“base”) time than pro cyclists, and if your events are not nearly as long as a pro cyclists, then i don’t that we need to measure the expected effectiveness of our trainings based on the duration of theirs.