Last month, I took on my first FTP test in over three years. After watching some videos on YouTube by Lantern Rouge, who documented some impressive climbing numbers by riders like Nairo Quintana and Tadej Pogacar in the early spring races, I wanted to see how I stacked up against the pros.
Poorly, it turns out, in comparison to professional riders. (Which was expected, but only serves to make what the pros do more impressive.)
But the numbers I produced in February did serve to inspire me to put in some extra work to see how much, if at all, I could improve my FTP in just one month before Barry-Roubaix.
February’s effort was my first FTP test in quite a few years, so I don’t think I got the pacing quite right. I started a little too easy, and the warm-up didn’t go quite as smoothly as I’d hoped.
February 15, 2022
- FTP: 298
- Rider weight: 181 (mostly muscle)
- 3.64 w/kg
Takeaways from the February attempt:
- Don’t start too hard, but definitely over 310 watts
- Don’t blow up in the last five minutes
- Keep your cadence high (don’t push a massive gear for 3 extra watts)
- Do your own warm-up, not the one Zwift puts before the FTP test
The March FTP Attempt
The top two bullets in the takeaways section above? Completely out the window. I started out way too hard (340+ watts the first minute) before I realized I was going to keel over before the halfway mark if I kept up that effort.
A stupidly hard start meant the last 3-5 minutes of the test were quite a drop-off in watts. I was holding 330 for the vast majority of the test until the last 5 minutes. I ended up averaging 326w, x .95 means an FTP of 310, which is a 12-watt increase from February.
March 15, 2022
- FTP: 310w
- Rider weight: 182 lbs. (Boooo)
One massive point I want to make very clear to all readers and riders. Your FTP is sort of useless. How many races are 20 minutes?
Your FTP is also meaningless without the context of watts per kilogram. Having an FTP of 400 sounds impressive – and it’s a huge number! But if you weigh 400lbs, your w/kg is 2.2 – which is a cat D on Zwift.
All this is to say your FTP is a fun number to track and use as motivation to improve. But it’s not the be-all and end-all to your cycling performance.
When people think about increasing their FTP, their first instinct is to lose 10lbs. Which, sure, that would help. But if you’re like me, losing 10lbs is a huge ask. Asking me to not have a beer when I’m out to dinner with my wife, or not having a cookie at Brew, is sort of a bummer. Those things aren’t good for me, but I also want to enjoy life a little bit, you know?
Something I’ll happily do is ride my bike more, which I did over the last month. Only about 30 minutes to an hour per week, but it certainly added up. I also made sure I did squats three times per week to build a bit more power.
I guess what I’m saying is that when it comes to FTP, losing weight helps. But it also is just as effective, and arguably more fun, to focus on riding more and adding power to boost your FTP.
Oh, and structured workouts would be a big help if you’re considering trying to boost your FTP. I failed miserably at these last month. I just don’t like ERG mode, so I attempted and bailed on two structured Zwift workouts. But structured workouts are the best bang for your buck if you’re short on time – as a few of my friends who take Liz’s classes at Intrepid will attest.
Next FTP test for me? Well, I recently told my brother that I’d like to get to 4w/kg before Iceman. I think an FTP test in May and then another in October are in order to track my progress.
Thanks for reading, y’all. Here’s to riding outside very soon!