FTP Drop from Peak to New Base Phase - Expectations

ftp

#1

I’ve used the search function for this topic and was surprised to not find anything directly related to this. If I missed it, please point me to the relevant thread and I apologize! However, I figure a lot of people are probably starting up their off-season training so hopefully it’s relevant to more than just me.

Background
I am starting my Base phase now after peaking for an early November race. I was averaging around 500 TSS before my taper. I did a two week gradual taper leading into the race (400 TSS and 325 TSS respectively including the race).

After the race, I took two weeks off of structured training. I still rode a mix of tempo and intensity about 3 days per week and averaged ~300TSS.

Question
How much of an FTP drop should be expected or how much have you all seen during the Peak to Base transition? I know you can expect an FTP drop especially with a taper to race freshness and a couple weeks for mental recovery. However, I’m surprised by how much my FTP went down. I went from 246 to 231 or 6% drop.

What have you all seen?


#2

Mine dropped 20 points and then I got 8 back after my first sweet spot base low level plan. Now im on sweet spot 2 mid vol and hoping to be back to my last peak ftp by the end of it.


#3

Just restating key information points for clarity. Are you saying you did a Ramp Test at the beginning of your Speciality phase and tested at 246. You then completed your Speciality (8 weeks), then took 2 weeks off the bike and retested at 231?

I’d want to see your ride data and what the 8 weeks of training looked like before I could give any specific advice. Absent of that, I think it’s plausible that a natural variation in testing, plus taking a couple of weeks off the bike and maybe not testing well recently could see a 6% swing in test score. If you want more specific analysis, you’ll have to share your ride data.

What is more important is what to do with this information. Firstly, it’s ok to have a drop in FTP. This is a benchmark of where you are at right now, look forward and not backward. If you feel the result is accurate (and disappointing) think about what you were doing in the past 10 weeks and what may have contributed to this result. The standard list of things to reflect on. Were you consistent in your training? Was your nutrition dialed in? Were you recovering properly, including sleep quality?

If you think the result was inaccurate (and low) then assess where you are after a couple of weeks of SSB. Maybe notch up the intensity a few points or do extra volume with the +1 rides. If it really is easy (SSB should be manageable, but not easy. Just completing SSB rides is not a reason to up your FTP) consider a retest.


#4

@julianoliver thanks for responding. I’ll try to answer your questions:

I did not provide enough background on this. My previous FTP was based on Training Peaks notifications from outdoor rides. Obviously, this can be the basis for the disconnect, but it was done with the same power meter…so it should be close?? However, my increases of FTP in TR I believe were validated by being able to complete TR workouts. The only ones I didn’t complete were the week prior to a “B” race and I cut those off on purpose for a “semi-taper”.

Correct on the point that I just did a ramp test and tested at 231. However, the two weeks were not off the bike. I did a couple outdoor rides and Baxter -1 plus some weight training. TSS was 332 and 296 for those weeks.

To be clear, I’m not surprised that my FTP went down as reading I have done definitively states that should happen. I’m just a little surprised by how much it went down. I was just interested in hearing from other users on what they see reduction-wise and if 6% is a high number. If it is high, I would like to investigate a little bit as to the why’s just in case I need to tweak something. I very easily could have had an off day for the ramp test.
The ramp test could be the issue as my Training Peaks notifications would certainly have come from 20 minute or 8 minute efforts. I’m currently sick, so I could have been feeling the early onsets of that during the test.

I’m not discouraged in the least bit and completely agree on your “look forward, not backward” mentality. I’m in my 2nd year of “real” training in cycling and am enamored by the data and measurements available. If you’re interested and able, I just opened up my account to be Public. Feel free to take a look. I would love any insights you can provide. The 8 weeks of training prior to my race was mostly done outdoors as I live very close to the race venue…so I substituted a lot of the specialty TR workouts for riding the race course as I figured you couldn’t get more “specialty” than the actual course.

Thanks again for your response!


#5

@alexstenerson would you mind sharing what that % drop was? Just to calibrate?


#6

Personally, I wouldn’t worry about it. If your previous FTP was estimated by Training Peaks from outdoor ride data, and your current is from a ramp test then it miht be the different way it’s measured.

Your current test shows where you are now. Use that as your benchmark and when you retest, do so under the same conditions and equipment that yuo used for the ramp test.

FWIW - I had a six weeks break completely from riding at the tail end of the summer through injury. I kept fit by running and did some strength work. I lost around 10% of power right across the board.


#7

Ok, so I took a look and your ride history. I want to start by saying that I am not a coach. I’ll share my insights with you in the hope that they give you some helpful things to reflect on.

Concerns
Your original concern is that you dropped FTP by 6% after a training block. You trained on a 246 FTP, so you trusted this number and a new test result of 231 is discouraging. You felt that you trained well during the block are you consistently had ~500 TSS other than race weeks where you tapers.

I’m going to tease these components apart a little.

1) Drop in FTP
In order to drop in FTP, you have to trust both FTP tests and be able to compare them. I don’t think you can do that. Your first test was an estimated FTP from Training Peaks and your second was a ramp test on TrainerRoad. Not only were these two tests not under the same protocols, you didn’t even do two tests. I’m not saying either score was invalid, but straight away I don’t think you can compare them.

2) Original FTP of 246 was valid
Your main argument for this being a valid FTP for you is that you trained on this number and completed workouts. There are two parts here, the calculation of the FTP at 246 and then training on it.

  • Calculation of 246. I honestly don’t know how TP estimates FTP, but in the weeks leading up to October 20 when you set it in TR you used different power sources for your ride data. A PM on your bike and your Kickr for TR workouts. Some of those outdoor rides also seem a little suspicious:

    If you could hold 1.03 IF for an hour, then this would be a clear indicator that your FTP is set too low. I assume TP is using both sets of data to estimate, but again you’re mixing in a lot of different variables here (different power measurements as well as both indoor and outdoor rides) which just raise a lot of questions about that 246 number.
  • Training on 246. You said that you completed all your TR workouts in your training block other than the ones that you cut short in your taper week. In the 5 weeks between your FTP tests (Oct 20 and Nov 21) you did 6 TR rides and 13 outdoor rides. For the TR rides you completed 3, but the maximum IF was 0.65 on Baxter -1. The workouts that offered more intensity (Huxley -5 and Pahrah) you didn’t complete.

Different tests, different conditions, outdoor rides with extremely high IF and indoor rides either low or incomplete. When I take a step back there is just a lot of variables that make me distrust that TP number, at least for the purpose of comparing to your later Ramp Test in TR. Many users in this forum have stated that they can put out more power outdoors compared to indoors on the trainer. Motivation (outdoors is fun and some of your ride data is from races which push you harder) and cooling play a big part in this, I suspect there is some of that going on here that muddies the water for direct ride analysis.

3) Training
Let’s put all that aside and look at your training block. Let’s assume the FTP test on October 20 of 246 was valid and comparable to the Ramp Test on November 21 of 231, which gave you a drop of 15 watts (6% of FTP).

Following a Training Plan
You said that you completed your Specialty Phase after peaking for an event. Honestly, I can’t tell what training plan you were following. All the TR plans are 8 weeks long, but yours was just short of 5 weeks between your FTP test results. Maybe your training block started earlier (around the second week of October) but there isn’t a clear progression of work in this period, in fact your TSS declines as the weeks progress. Within that, you completed 6 TR plans, but most of those were aerobic endurance rides. The 2 workouts that standout were Huxley -5 and Pahrah. Pahrah is not on any training plan at all, let alone a Speciality Plan and Huxley -5 is included in the Low Volume Criterium and Rolling Road Race plans. If you just look at the number of workouts per week:

  • Week 1: 5 workouts
  • Week 2: 4 workouts
  • Week 3: 3 workouts
  • Week 4: 4 workouts
  • Week 5: 4 workouts

Some of those workouts were part of a taper week, some of them were races and 1 of them was the Ramp Test on Nov 21. You might have been following a plan, but not consistently and not a TR Speciality Plan (that looks anything like design of the Training Plans).

Workout Quality
It’s possible you’re following a plan other than a TR plan. Maybe one prescribed by a coach, taken from another source or designed yourself. So, the next thing I looked at was workout quality. If you were fine-tuning for a race, I would expect to see a lot of Vo2 Max workouts. The Low Volume Rolling Road Race plan is an example of what I’d expect to see. A lot of tough workouts around 0.9 IF with intervals in the 140% range of FTP which would be around 340 for your FTP. It’s hard to tell based on your ride data what was going on. Your TR rides were mostly lower intensity aerobic rides and your outdoor rides look super hard. As I pointed out earlier some of your outdoor rides have an IF over 1.0 for an hour and some other rides don’t report power data so I don’t have any insight. Only you will know the quality of your rides, but it does look like you’re doing 3 high-intensity rides per week during this period. Were they structured VO2Max intervals? That’s only something you will know,

Recovery
Looks like you’re taking care of this. Most of your tough rides have a day off between them, so you’re not doing your 3 hard workouts on consecutive days.

Wrap Up
So, likely this went deeper than you were imagining, but I got intrigued as to what was going on. My summary thoughts after looking at your ride data is that you didn’t drop from 246 to 231. You got two FTP estimates, 5 weeks apart that were different. Two data points that can’t and really shouldn’t be compared with each other. The question really is “what should I do with the 231 FTP result from my Ramp Test?”. I think this question gets a little more interesting. From what I can tell, you mostly do your high intensity workouts outdoors.

  • If you intend to keep doing that, I suspect your TR FTP estimate is not going to be very helpful. With a 246, you’re already doing IF rides >1.0 and this is only going to make it worse. I would restest outdoors and see where you land.
  • If you’re intending to move your quality training indoors, then I would keep your 231 FTP and use that as your baseline for SSB1. As I stated in an earlier post, SSB 1 should not be judged based on completing workouts. You’re trying to improve your aerobic base, If you set your FTP too high and feel good because you’re finishing workouts, it’s possible you’re working too hard and training in the wrong zone. 231 to 246 (or 240 where you have it set now) isn’t too different so I think this is low risk for you, but something to keep in mind.

What I do think you’ll benefit from is more consistent training. Your TSS chart does not show a progression over time. There’s lots of peaks and valleys in there.

September had a good build to it, then a week off and you go into October, but the work tapers off there. Looking at the year it looks like winter off the bike, ride around a bit in the spring, hit it in the summer and then decline during fall. I think consistency of training is so crucial. I believe that a gentle wave pattern through the year allows you to develop your fitness, recover and then build on that in the next block. Here’s my chart:

I’m not perfect, but something I focus on and think I do well is consistency in my training. Every 4-6 weeks you see a little wave of workout intensity rise and then fall. If I was being critical, I would say that I don’t recover enough from a training block, or during the year. But when I have an FTP test that is disappointing, I can safely look at nutrition, recovery or testing performance instead of training consistency or workout quality. So, I feel like I’m putting the big rocks in first.


#8

I’ve bounced around between 220 and 277 watts,

In 2017 my second year training, peak was 277 watts in May and dropped to 236 by December. That year was all 20 minute and 8 minute tests.

This year has seen inconsistent training due to an old knee injury. High of 247 in January and then wandering between 220 and 240. Currently at 240. This year has been all ramp test protocol.

I suspect my 8 and 20 minute tests give a slightly higher ftp, as on the ramp test my lungs give out before legs. Haven’t tested that theory, just planning on sticking with ramp test and making adjustments if needed (so far have left ftp as-is).


#9

160 to 142 to 148


#10

@julianoliver Wow. Incredible response. If there was some sort of TR Virtual Trophy I could offer you, I would do so. Since you took so much time to look into this, I want to give the same diligence to your responses to provide more clarity. Please do not feel like a response is needed from you, as you’ve already provided beyond expectations. So, thank you again and here are some responses:

A little more background: My Specialty Block was Rolling Road Race - Mid Volume (“RRR”) and it started on 9/11 and ended with my A race on 11/3. From reading and listening to the TR podcast, the Specialty Block is meant to dial in performance/intensity to your A race. As I stated before, I live very close to the race course for my A race and figured hitting portions of the course, at race pace, trying to stay close to the prescribed TSS would be the best way to go. So, when I had available time to ride outside, I would ride the course and try to hit the TSS that was prescribed on the given day for the RRR plan. So, I would say that I tried to follow the spirit of the RRR plan by trying to hit the TSS and dialing in the intensity uber-specifically to that of the A race.

I don’t disagree here at all. The original 246 was a TP estimate, but was done with the same power meter. I use a Kickr but have PowerMatch to keep it as consistent as possible. Indoors vs. Outdoors and such is enough that comparing the two is probably the wrong thing to do. Scientifically, there are too many changing variables.

These IFs were more justification in my mind that I was continuing on a good path and 246 was still valid, if not low. Again, don’t disagree with your point here.

This is a bit of an overlap and probably misleading. My block technically ended with my A-race on 11/3. The 10/20 “test” was actually a B-race. I received my TP notification of new estimated FTP the week prior and simply updated TR on 10/20. I think this is irrelevant to the topic as we’ve already discussed the two FTP-setting protocols not aligning. Just wanted to give clarity. The Huxley -5 was during the taper week and I didn’t want to push it. Pahrah is what I use for warm-ups or openers, not as part of any plan. So, both of those were not completed fully on purpose.

Exactly and I 100% agree. That is another reason why I thought 246 would be “valid” (higher outdoors and would be accurate for indoors on TR)…again, probably incorrectly so.

Hopefully I explained this above. The FTP changes in TR do not necessarily signify a start of a block. I felt as though I was performing at the 246 level and decided to adjust mid-block. Again, maybe this was a mistake. However, I’ve heard the TR guys on the podcast talk about adjusting intensity % of workouts and such and this would be similar in my opinion.

Hopefully I explained this above. The specialty phase was done more on the race-course vs. via the TR plan. The build phase I stuck to pretty decently. Most of the outside rides were done like the prescribed TR intervals. Low weeks were rest weeks. The really high TSS weeks were weeks where I was able to get in long rides outside, so I took advantage. I hit or came close to hitting the prescribed TSS each week. You can’t really see that on the calendar as the calendar was implemented in the middle of my build phase and you can’t see what the prescribed TSS was for that week via the training plan. The gap between Jan 2018 and April 2018 was due to a knee injury. Prior to that, I didn’t have a power meter.

Hopefully I hit on this above. When I can ride outdoors, I usually do. I try to follow the prescribed plan for that day, except for in the Specialty Phase leading to my A race, where I ride the course.

I agree with most everything you have in here. Testing protocol consistency is something that I will attempt to do as much as possible going forward. I live in Northern Michigan, so I’ll be doing much of my training indoors during the week and fatbike on the weekends…again trying to hit prescribed TSS. Your point about setting FTP too high, but still getting through the base workouts may not be a good thing as I may be training in the wrong zones. This is something that I will pay very close attention to and is a very good point.

This is going to be my major focus this year. I’m kind of limited given my job/travel but I bring a trainer for hotel rooms whenever possible. In the chart, I’m really only focusing on really June-Nov, as prior to that was essentially either injured or rehabbing. Level loading the peaks and valleys during that time with a steady increase in TSS is what I’ll be shooting for. If I can make my chart look close to yours, I’m sure I’ll hit my 2019 goals.

My Wrap-Up
Again, thank you so much for taking the time to go through this. You went way above the call of duty and want you to know how much it is appreciated. I know trying to glean things not knowing me or my plan is tough, but I took a lot out of your critique. Thanks again!


#11

This is what I do with my Training Peaks estimated FTP - ignore it.


#12

Not very detailed but here is data from my most recent off season experience - I was at 292 at the end of my race season at the end of August. In mid October after 6 weeks that included a full 1.5 week off period then very easy riding and no structure, I did a ramp test and was at 272. 4 weeks later after continuing low level riding with no structure I did another ramp test to start SSB and tested at 263. So, I dropped about 10% over 2.5 months of off season that included riding about 4 times per week but with no structure and few hard rides.


#13

You’re very welcome, happy to try and help.

The only last thing that I would add is that if you’re looking to do your trainer rides outdoors, I would look to replicate the intent of the ride, not just trying to line up TSS. As we know, not all TSS is created equal. So, if you’re taking a VO2Max workout outdoors, I think I would be more focussed on trying to hit the time at VO2Max over matching TSS. That might make the outdoor workout higher or lower in TSS, but if I’m trying to get say 15 mins at 120% of FTP that should be the goal of the workout, not 120 TSS.