Negative FTP gains in 6 months of training and riding 6000km?

Hello everyone,

I am somewhat confused by my recent FTP tests and would appreciate some insights.

Since last winter, my FTP seems to have decreased by 13 watts, from 273 to 260. Last year, I cycled about 4000 km, and this year, I’ve cycled approximately 6000 km in the last 7 months. However, not all of this has been structured training; a lot of it was base Zone 2 training using a heart rate monitor. Recently, I started using a power meter and have been doing more structured workouts, including VO2 Max sessions, hill repeats, FTP intervals, and sweet spot intervals. I’ve also done many long rides, often 4+ hours.

On Saturday, June 26th, I completed my last sports event of the year, a 300 km race. Afterward, I took a holiday with two easy rides and then rested for 48 hours, which I consider a full recovery week, putting me in a “fresh” training state. I then did a ramp test on Zwift, which is convenient and familiar to me. My FTP came out to 260 watts, the same as another ramp test I did about 6 weeks ago when I wasn’t fully recovered. This suggests that after 6000 km of consistent riding, I’ve lost 13 watts from my FTP, which doesn’t make sense to me. Intervals.icu estimates my FTP to be 273 based on random efforts, and I’ve set my outdoor FTP to 285 because it seems more accurate based on training zones. I can’t understand why my ramp test results are worse.

A few factors I’m considering:

Overheating: The test that gave me 273 watts was done in winter in a much cooler environment (0-5°C) with the window open and a fan on full blast. Now, the room is 25°C, and it’s 22°C outside, so I’m just blowing room temperature air on myself. I’m not sure how much this affects the results.
Not being used to indoor training anymore: All my winter training was indoors, so I was more accustomed to that setting.

Other than these factors, I’m at a loss and quite frustrated because I don’t feel like I can quantify my improvements on anything other than “feel”.

Despite this, I do feel that I have improved. I am faster and can maintain higher watts for longer, at least outdoors.

Any advice or insights would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!

The ramp test is a very poor way to estimate threshold when you only have power data. The FTP from a ramp test is an estimate (7X% of the last minute) of threshold from an estimate of maximal aerobic power. The slope of the ramp test on Zwift may not be appropriate for you. You really need to measure lactate or VO2 and VCO2 on a ramp test.

I would recommend finding a better way to track fitness changes over time. Performing regular time trials provides a more rational way to compare if you’ve improved or not. Even comparing your mean-maximal power curve would be more illuminating as to whether your fitness has changed.

Your fitness has probably changed, but your measuring stick (ramp test)won’t show that.

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My opinion for what it’s worth as I don’t do rigorous training at all and have never done a ramp test is that the ramp test is garbage for tracking ftp. The gold standard has always been the 1 hour and the 20 minute is considered acceptable.

The ramp test was designed with several goals in mind. The aim however was to a particular economic market, that market being those riders who wanted a quick and dirty snapshot on a frequent basis and were willing to spend, or had spent, thousands of dollars on the equipment to get it. Despite the qualifications the test comes with it’s easy to forget those since many seemingly do.

My suggestion is to do a 20 minute FTP test using the commonly prescribed warmup and cadence routines.

The simple answer is that you´re giving way too much attention to a metric that is overrated as a performnce predictor.

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Welcome to the club → My similiar problem

Here are some ideas:

  • your FTP test was just a “bad leg day”. Repeat and see if it makes a difference.
  • replace the power meter battery and retry, try a different trainer
  • weight loss: if you are lighter in the summer, than in the winter, it’s also detrimental to power, as you can’t avoid losing some muscle. Walking to the fridge being overweight has advantages… On a bike being a few kgs lighter can be more beneficial than having a few watts more power. So you feel fitter, while being weaker :slight_smile:
  • if you do too much endurance Z2 training and neglect power, your power will suffer. You recover faster from your FTP test, but wont push as many watts. You can’t have both at top level. There is a visible difference between a 100m sprinter and a marathon runner.

The bottom line is, you want to get better over hills, be faster in a sprint, last longer on the ride. So the only important metric is really distance over time (vs. the other riders). Other metrics are there to help you figure out, how to improve distance over time. If your FTP is doing a nosedive like mine, but you end up being faster, then everything is fine.

(Following this with interest - another rider here who’s ridden more and more regularly, but still barely improved or if anything lately numbers are worse…… I know we shouldn’t always listen to them, but……)

There’s only ONE number mentioned and it’s FTP.
Have a look at your PDC curve for the last three months for example and compare that to the PDC curve from the same period last year (don’t compare totally different periods like indoor/outdoor season). It immediately gives you an idea of what kind of efforts have improved or not. Then adapt your training to work on what you want to improve. That will differ by what your goal events are. Improve the effort durations that you most need during your events, excel at those and if there’s room to do more, work also on your weaknesses to become more all-round.
Stop focussing solely on FTP. A well known thing is that long duration work will raise the whole curve, slowly but steadily. Shorter duration work will lift the curve only around the duration that you’re working on.

Haha, thank you @MedTechCD yes ftp was mentioned and is definitely one I look at (because its easy because Garmin and intervals at least give you some automated indication and you can test to some degree and this is really what us amateurs need) , but definitely not focussed solely on it.

Sadly when I look at the other curves, things definitely never catchup to previous data, despite the increased cycling, including longer rides and more regular riding, and more awareness. It seems 2020ish was my sweet spot, maybe I just can’t get back there for whatever reason.

All a little tongue in cheek as I’m not too bothered I’m enjoying cycling more than ever since getting a gravel bike and trying new things and pushing myself longer and harder (at least in RPE), but it’s just a nice sweetener if you actually get better in a way that shows up in an easy to understand number! :sweat_smile:

Just to add - a ramp test is not an FTP test at all.
It just happens that taking 75% of your 1 min max power on the test comes out roughly near your FTP.
A ramp test is more of a test of your anaerobic capacity, unlike an FTP test which is aerobic. Don’t stop doing them as they are good training though.

what is your w/kg?
if you lost weight and have a lower ftp and are 4w kg and in winter you were heavier and had a higher ftp and perhaps you were 3.8w/kg… in my opinion that is what matters as metric.
but honestly are you faster? are your averages on the same route better or worse than last year?
ftp is just a number. and all ftp test have a margin of error… you were too hot, or not cool enough, bad day, did not pace yourself correctly …
that is why i have never done a test myself i don’t trust myself to be able to pace myself correctly and i would trust even less whatever number comes out of it.