Stagnating FTP, and losing top end

Second year using TR. Started this season after a two week break, hadn’t done a test for while, FTP had been left at 291 in TR, CP by GoldenCheetah was 312 just prior to break. Ramp test done to start the season was 284. Seemed about right after a couple of weeks off the bike, and having done some long but not intense events in the 4-6 weeks prior. SSBI was fine, pretty easy actually. Retested in Nov with Ramp, up to 302 (actually I think it was a bit higher, but I knocked it down a few watts because I’m not crazy…) Turned out that was too high, and really struggled to finish workouts (SSB II now), and was starting to dread getting on the trainer, so I knocked it down to 295 after a few weeks. SS intervals were OK, and very short VO2 intervals OK, but any hard intervals longer than 45 seconds were death. I soldiered through, just knocking the power back on the intense intervals so I could finish.

Didn’t test for a little bit, and kept it there with the same strategy, getting through SS intervals (though they were hard, and required some backpedaling) and knocking down the VO2 intervals. Changed over to Plan Builder which has me in a Sustained Power Build phase now, and retested at 284.

At that point I was a little concerned that far from power going up, it was going down, but on the other hand, I didn’t dread the workouts anymore, though still had to knock back the VO2 stuff. A couple weeks ago, coming into a rest week I was feeling pretty good, and coincidentally got a sufferfest offer coinciding with the tour of sufferlandria. Well, I didn’t want to do that but I was interested in the 4DP test, so I did it. 5 minute power was OK, 343, and 20 minute 278 (though I had a few second break in the middle when I dropped my water bottle), but the final 1 minute effort was horrible, 381, and I blew up with 15 seconds left. I thought that was OK, corresponding to where I had been training lately. I looked forward to the upcoming Ramp test after the rest of the rest week.

Ramp test comes around, and it was bad. 264! I though this can’t be right, so immediately did a 10 minute effort aiming for 295, and got 293. Stopped at 10 minutes because my heart rate was getting near max, and I didn’t want to put myself in a hole. Nevertheless, it seemed crazy that FTP would be 264, when right after ramp test I could uncork 10 minutes at 293! So I went back to goldencheetah and used my last 3 month CP which was 284.

Well, this certainly seems fine for longer intervals, but I had Monadnock +4 today, and was mostly between 315-325 on the intervals. Tried them in resistance and standard for a change, and it wasn’t really different. Just can’t hold the higher power.

tl;dr been consistently training, but steady state power stagnant, and VO2 power going down, WTF?

For further information, I’m 49, 72kg, have an OK diet, recently dropped alcohol, and poor sleep and life stress are no different than they ever were.

Any ideas on strategies? Do a VO2 block, just stick out the plan using GC CP or 20 minute test rather than Ramp?

I’d kind of gotten used to the idea that around 4 w/kg is likely around my current max given life, but having it go down despite training is a bit demoralizing.

have you done any rest weeks since starting back up beginning of the season?

a sharp and distinct lack of high-end power can be an indication that you’re leaning towards non-functional overreaching.

What has power:hr been like during recent steady state workouts?

I’ve done the built-in rest weeks with the TR programs, SSB I and II, and sustained power. The weekly TSS has been about the same as the last couple of years at this time.

Power:HR has been about usual too, and aerobic decoupling on a long session (say the Sunday 2 hr SS) is around 7%.

it just seems like, what you describe sounds like the anaerobic / glycolitic system being tapped out. For example, the 1 minute power in the 4DP test. Your anaerobic system didn’t bounce back during the rest after the 20 min test. Also, ability to hold the power level that will eventually elicit Vo2max (the power htat people call “Vo2max power”) requires an anaerobic contribution in order to get up there in the first place.

are you doing anything else like lifting weights or something in addition to cycling? Team sports with a lot of running?

Nothing else really. I probably should do some lifting.

Just an update. Completed first block of climbing RR mid volume, and FTP by ramp test now to 276. So. started the training season at 284, went up to 302 (about where I was most of last summer), then drifted as low as last block 267, now back to 276. WTF?

Anyway, working in healthcare, I might back off the structured training for the moment, and just do whatever workouts I feel like, generally aiming for 2-3 hard/wk. Don’t have the mental energy to push through a workout I don’t feel like doing on a given day.

Just my two cents worth based on everything you have said. To me it sounds a lot like a fuelling issue. I had a similar issue for a while where I was under fuelling the body and as such any efforts above threshold I dreaded. Sweet spot felt much more like threshold and as for short heavy carbohydrate based efforts they faded and died very quickly. Give increasing your food intake a go, mainly carbs and then see if anything changes. I know for me it had a drastic change and improved everything. No my problem is not wanting to get off the bike.

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What you are experiencing sounds a bit like what I’ experienced the passed year or so. Early 2019 I did SSBMV and it was hard. I probably overtested on the ramp test so sweet spot was probably more like threshold. During the summer my riding moved outside and I did a lot of riding, mainly z2 to “happy hard” and it felt great at that intensity, but I realized that I didn’t have any top end.
In late August I had a light infection and since then things have gone south; HR has been elevated by as much as 15 bpm during easy workouts like Pettit. I’ve had no power at all. At some point I wasn’t able to even finish Pettit. All symptoms pointed at fatigue/overtraining but I failed to accept that since I was still very motivated.
I’ve now forced myself to reduce my training hours and has seen some improvement. I’m slowly recovering doing only easy rides, but I did a ramp test last week just to check on my status. Still a total disaster as I completely died when going anaerobic.

Since I’ve not been able to train I’ve done some googling instead and I found this article by Asker E. Jeukendrup MSc and Matthijs K. C. Hesselink MSc of great interest.

My advise is to listen to your body to a greater extent then I did. Be careful with intensity, I would not do more than one or maybe two harder sessions a week and the rest would be z1-z2 rides. See it as a great opportunity to train polarized for a while.


Yeah, I had a similar experience last year with SSBII into general build, but dumped it earlier. I guess I’m just one of those that the SS approach doesn’t really work for. Anyway, my bum knee is acting up, as is the volume of COVID patients, so I’m gonna just chill for now.

If you have access to Zwift, you can dedicate one session a week to do a short (30 minute) high intensity race. You’ll be bouncing off your red line the entire time and keep that top-end sharp’ish.

That’s sort of my plan. One short zwift race during the week, and the Sunday KISS 100 race, then just commuting/cruising

When my knee feels better of course