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  1. #1
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    Realistic FTP Goals... or not?

    How long does it take you to see gains? I used to be an ok cyclist, like when I was 18. I'm almost 31 now and just barely back on the bike for a few months after 10 years off with basically no riding. I'm still not riding consistently, and have maybe 2000 miles this whole year. Just a few days ago I bought a Kickr trainer and ran the 20 minute FTP test, and got 292. At 6'3" and 185 lbs, I am a bigger rider, so my watts/kg is only 3.47.

    I have a big event in May 2018, about 8 months away exactly, that I would like to do well in. Specifically it's the Assault on Mt Mitchell century, and I'm aiming for a sub-6 hour time. I did a local flat century with only 3500 feet of climbing in 4:37 and another hilly century with 9000 feet of climbing in 5:51, but the Assault has an additional 1000 feet of climbing, so I'll need to be faster.Is it possible to raise my FTP from 292 to around 350 in 8 months?

    I'm hoping that since I'm relatively untrained right now that I can get a big boost just from sticking with some structured training. That would put my watts/kg at around 4.1. I know I've got about 5-10 lbs to lose, so it's possible I could raise that watts/kg to 4.2 or even 4.4 if I get down to 175 lbs. My racing weight when I was actually fast was 165 lbs and around 4.5% body fat, but then again that was a long time ago and I was still a teenager. I'm somewhere around 16-18% body fat now. What do you think, is this even a realistic goal?

    My 3-4 year goal is an FTP of 400 at a weight of 175, which would put my watts/kg at 5.03. I'm sure that would be just during the peak for a season, but that would give me a good shot at performing well on a few select events. Well, you never know unless you try!

  2. #2
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    How much your threshold power output may change is anyone's guess. It's highly individual and a function of many things, genetics among them. I have seen changes in threshold power from 5% to 100% in that sort of time frame. Different riders of course.

    What I suggest is to set process goals rather than power goals. Follow good process and the power will be what it is. As you gain experience and more information, then one can set more realistic and attainable performance goals. Often power goals for those without prior experience can be either unattainable and deflating or a false ceiling. Be realistic but don't set limits.

    Measurable gains in threshold power can occur in a matter of weeks, particularly if un/under-trained, however as you improve and get closer to your potential, the rate of improvement tends to slow. It takes several years of consistent solid training to approach something near your genetic potential.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by TDFbound View Post

    My 3-4 year goal is an FTP of 400 at a weight of 175, which would put my watts/kg at 5.03. I'm sure that would be just during the peak for a season, but that would give me a good shot at performing well on a few select events. Well, you never know unless you try!
    You had me until here. That's a gigantic ton of watts. 11 years of training and racing (7 as a Cat 1) and I can't even do that for 20 minutes. Of course, that's just me ,and you could be a genetically superior human, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

    The rest is likely possible, but I'd set small goals first (300, 320, 340, etc) and adjust as you go. You'll likely find that it gets much harder to up it by 10 watts and then harder to up it another 5 watts, etc. Whether or not 350 in 8 months is possible depends on a lot of unknowns. Just have to try and see.

    Lastly, I'd hire a coach. Could save you a lot of wasted time and effort and significant frustration and second-guessing, especially if you're serious about meeting lofty goals quickly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pedalbiker View Post
    You had me until here. That's a gigantic ton of watts. 11 years of training and racing (7 as a Cat 1) and I can't even do that for 20 minutes. Of course, that's just me ,and you could be a genetically superior human, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

    The rest is likely possible, but I'd set small goals first (300, 320, 340, etc) and adjust as you go. You'll likely find that it gets much harder to up it by 10 watts and then harder to up it another 5 watts, etc. Whether or not 350 in 8 months is possible depends on a lot of unknowns. Just have to try and see.

    Lastly, I'd hire a coach. Could save you a lot of wasted time and effort and significant frustration and second-guessing, especially if you're serious about meeting lofty goals quickly.
    Yeah, I'll readily admit that shooting for an FTP of 400 is pretty dang ambitious, if not a bit foolish. I'll not worry about that until I can gauge my progress towards and hopeful achievement of 350. 400 may or may not be in the cards, but I do believe 350 is!
    Last edited by TDFbound; 09-17-2017 at 10:17 AM. Reason: spelling fail

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    FTP of 400 W at 175 lbs? I only know of only 1 amateur guy in Socal who can do this, and he wins or place in every TT event. The rest of his peers can't do this sort of power. And this guy trains a lot, with a lot of structure, and he knows the science of physiology. So unless you have ample genetics on your side, 400 is huge to shoot for.

    Now since you were an ok cyclist back when you were 18, I might be already "trained". There is at least one study that suggests that the mitochondria that were gained when you trained may last in your body for quite a long time, even decade later.

    Another issue here is the Kicker wattage. I've heard, from at least 2 guys, who know what they're doing, that Kicker tends to overestimate wattage anywhere from 3-5%. Of course small sample report

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    IDK man. Anything is possible and I know weight plays a significant factor. Two things that I just learned:

    1. The 2nd place finisher of the mens U23 ITT averaged 394W/400NP 48 minutes.
    2. While sitting on a very accomplished pro's wheel Tuesday for about 20 minutes I did 280/290 avg/np at 160lbs while my buddy behind me the entire time said he did 405 np at 190-ish lbs. So 30lbs and 115W more! Both of us using Quarq. I think the U23 guy does as well. Is the calibration accurate enough? No idea.

    I'd echo the advise above and just do solid training, eat sensibly and see where the numbers fall every so often. I can't tell you how many times I've beat guys who say they have significantly higher FTPs than me but, that 27th time we needed to surge and pushed some relatively high power they got gapped and were off the back. Obviously, in training for a higher FTP you will get better at being able to repeat efforts but, just saying a high absolute FTP isn't the one thing that predicts a result.
    Last edited by woodys737; 09-28-2017 at 03:11 PM. Reason: verified U23 power...

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    here's an interesting read about Froome's numbers from a 2015 article:

    Chris Froome's physiological test data released | Cyclingnews.com

    For what it's worth, Froome in 2007 weighed 166 lbs, 16% bodyfat, had a 420W threshold power. In 2017, he dropped his bodyfat to under 10% but mostly kept almost the same threshold hold at 419W.

    Extrapolating from Froome's results, I would say anyone who is in the 170-lb range and can produce 400W threshold, he would be something special, because if said person were to get disciplined enough and drop his bodyfat to 10% (very do-able for even amateurs), he'd then be instantly World Tour domestique level.

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    Quote Originally Posted by woodys737 View Post
    IDK man. Anything is possible and I know weight plays a significant factor. Two things that I just learned:

    1. The 2nd place finisher of the mens U23 ITT averaged 394W/400NP 48 minutes.
    2. While sitting on a very accomplished pro's wheel Tuesday for about 20 minutes I did 280/290 avg/np at 160lbs while my buddy behind me the entire time said he did 405 np at 190-ish lbs. So 30lbs and 115W more! Both of us using Quarq. I think the U23 guy does as well. Is the calibration accurate enough? No idea.
    I'm confused why you would bring a once-in-a-lifetime genetic phenom like Brandon McNulty into this.

    If OP had just a pinky full of McNulty's talent he'd already be close to 400. Doesn't matter the powermeter. That dude was lapping p12 fields MULTIPLE times solo as a 17-18 year old.

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    Quote Originally Posted by aclinjury View Post

    Extrapolating from Froome's results, I would say anyone who is in the 170-lb range and can produce 400W threshold, he would be something special, because if said person were to get disciplined enough and drop his bodyfat to 10% (very do-able for even amateurs), he'd then be instantly World Tour domestique level.
    Yes. That person would probably go from a 5 to a 1 in a season and probably start claiming national/world titles quite quickly (see real life examples like Michael Olheiser).

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    Quote Originally Posted by pedalbiker View Post
    I'm confused why you would bring a once-in-a-lifetime genetic phenom like Brandon McNulty into this.

    If OP had just a pinky full of McNulty's talent he'd already be close to 400. Doesn't matter the powermeter. That dude was lapping p12 fields MULTIPLE times solo as a 17-18 year old.
    Because if a "genetic phenom" can't do 400 for 48min and finish 2nd at worlds maybe 400 is a bit high for the context of this thread. But like I said anything is possible.

    edit. To be honest I don't know his weight. Again for a normal joe in the context of the thread (reducing weight by the amount he wants to and increase power by that amount) is a big ask. But I'm not really qualified to say which is why I said anything is possible. Was not trying to be discouraging. Thread title is "realistic FTP goals...or not" after all.
    Last edited by woodys737; 09-29-2017 at 04:18 PM.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodys737 View Post
    Because if a "genetic phenom" can't do 400 for 48min and finish 2nd at worlds maybe 400 is a bit high for the context of this thread. But like I said anything is possible.
    Gotcha. When you said anything is possible, and then gave the bit about McNulty, I read that as in, "here's a guy that can do it". My apologies.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by pedalbiker View Post
    I'm confused why you would bring a once-in-a-lifetime genetic phenom like Brandon McNulty into this.

    If OP had just a pinky full of McNulty's talent he'd already be close to 400. Doesn't matter the powermeter. That dude was lapping p12 fields MULTIPLE times solo as a 17-18 year old.
    Haha, yeah, I don't claim to be on the same level as guys like that. He's destined for fame and fortune if he can stay in the sport long enough. You'll never see me in a grand tour, nor do I think it would be realistic for that to be a goal of mine. I would like to be competitive at the national level in some aspect of cycling, most likely time trials or some other endurance-oriented activity. I think a solo RAAM may be on my list of 'fun' things to do in a few years. For now, I've been putting in some consistent rides, and in a couple weeks will re-test my FTP to check for any beginner gains. My goal is 325 watts, which I think is quite ambitious for only a month between tests. I suppose it will be whatever it is, and that's all there is to it. But I hope it is 325.

    I do need to find somebody to help me with nutrition, though. If I want to lose 10-12 lbs while gaining fitness, I'll eventually need some help to do it. I would assume most of this weight loss would happen in the last couple months before my main event next year. I don't see much benefit from trying to run a calorie deficit while running a high volume base miles plan (13-15 hours / week).

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    Quote Originally Posted by TDFbound View Post
    I would assume most of this weight loss would happen in the last couple months before my main event next year. I don't see much benefit from trying to run a calorie deficit while running a high volume base miles plan (13-15 hours / week).
    I find it nearly impossible to run a calorie deficit while doing any sort of hard training. If you're simply doing volume, it'd probably be the best place to do it. Trying to do hard workouts on a deficit is just about impossible, even if you time all your meals to coincide with training. It's the daily/weekly fatigue that starts really eating into you.

    I've tried 3 years in a row to lose the last 3-4 lbs in the last two months before the season start and failed every single time. Now I'm trying to get to race weight by January (when hours and intensity pick up a bit more).

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    Quote Originally Posted by pedalbiker View Post
    I find it nearly impossible to run a calorie deficit while doing any sort of hard training. If you're simply doing volume, it'd probably be the best place to do it. Trying to do hard workouts on a deficit is just about impossible, even if you time all your meals to coincide with training. It's the daily/weekly fatigue that starts really eating into you.

    I've tried 3 years in a row to lose the last 3-4 lbs in the last two months before the season start and failed every single time. Now I'm trying to get to race weight by January (when hours and intensity pick up a bit more).
    Yep. This is exactly right. You don't really want to be low on calories trying to do high intensity efforts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dcb View Post
    Yep. This is exactly right. You don't really want to be low on calories trying to do high intensity efforts.
    Gotcha, thanks guys. In my previous cycling days, I never had to think about dropping weight for anything, I was basically always at a good weight and naturally dropped the last percent or so of body fat when the riding intensity turned up. 6'3" and 165 lbs was fairly lean, especially considering I was much stronger than I am now at 20+ lbs heavier... I'll start cutting back over the next couple months and see if I can't drop 6-8 lbs or so. That should be pretty reasonable and achievable.

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    Quick update- Haven't lost any weight yet, but just retested FTP after a 4-week block of base miles on TrainerRoad. On September 14 I tested at 292 watts, and today on October 16 I tested at 328 watts. Here is a link to the ride data- I think I executed the test better than last time, with a lot fewer fluctuations in power. I discovered I could switch screens to view average power over the 20 minute interval and tried to hold it at my goal, which worked out pretty well.

  17. #17
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    That's a huge difference, nice work! It will be interesting to hear how the new training zones work out for you in your intervals, definitely going to push you harder.
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  18. #18
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    Make sure you update the firmware on your kickr. I recently got a PM for my bike and for testing purposes put it on the kickr instead of the dedicated trainer bike and there was a huge discrepancy in wattage (50 watts @ ftp). Updating the firmware on the kickr as part of the trouble shooting made it so the wattage matched (got kickr last winter and had never updated). Disappointing as it was to see the numbers go down that much at least I'm getting more accurate/realistic results now.

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    Also keep in mind some direct-drive trainers like KICKRs need to be calibrated after a 10min warm-up or their power readings will be ~10% hot. Unlike you I have not seen massive gains. I was at 4.3w/kg FT at my peak in May pre injury crash. I took 2.5mo off the bike and have only recently gotten back up to those numbers again with a very serious indoor training schedule. Any gains I make from here on out will be very slow and sub-linear.

  20. #20
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    I wish I had even your starting numbers. I just got a Stages PM, and did a FTP test. 191.

    While disappointing, these numbers will be useful on and off the trainer. This gives me a consistent base to start from. My goal is to hit 250 by April (maybe unrealistic, but it's a goal).

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    Quote Originally Posted by eboos View Post
    I wish I had even your starting numbers. I just got a Stages PM, and did a FTP test. 191.

    While disappointing, these numbers will be useful on and off the trainer. This gives me a consistent base to start from. My goal is to hit 250 by April (maybe unrealistic, but it's a goal).
    well how disappoint you should get should also depends on your weight. If you're anything under 150 lbs, that's a decent start, and if you're under 140 lbs, that's a great start, and if under 130 lbs, that's cat3 potential down the road right there!

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    Quote Originally Posted by eboos View Post
    I wish I had even your starting numbers. I just got a Stages PM, and did a FTP test. 191.

    While disappointing, these numbers will be useful on and off the trainer. This gives me a consistent base to start from. My goal is to hit 250 by April (maybe unrealistic, but it's a goal).
    Iím 135lbs. After not cycling for years, my 60min CP after a couple of weeks was probably around 180W. After two years on and off, my 60min CP is 280W and climbing. I think 190->250 by April is doable if you are truly starting from very low cycling fitness and are a bit heavier than I am, but it will take a lot of SST and some VO2Max/anaerobic work. The latter is necessary so you can gain an understanding of how much suffering your body can take.

    if you really want quick gains, get a smart trainer an Zwift. Start joining races and try to hold onto the front group in your category, then upgrade when that no longer poses a challenge.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by ceugene View Post
    if you really want quick gains, get a smart trainer an Zwift. Start joining races and try to hold onto the front group in your category, then upgrade when that no longer poses a challenge.
    Update: I am now at 234 FTP, weight down to 172 from 190. Two Cat 5 crits under my belt, but made mistakes in both that cost me a finish off the back (first was leading the race with 1000 watts off the line and then blowing up, second was getting my hand caught while wearing winter gloves in very cold weather and loosing the pack. Didn't appreciate the gap that was forming until it was too late to catch).

    I am probably due for a new threshold test. I seem to be able to perform at my current FTP with much less perceived exertion, and much lower heart rate.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by eboos View Post
    Update: I am now at 234 FTP, weight down to 172 from 190. Two Cat 5 crits under my belt, but made mistakes in both that cost me a finish off the back (first was leading the race with 1000 watts off the line and then blowing up, second was getting my hand caught while wearing winter gloves in very cold weather and loosing the pack. Didn't appreciate the gap that was forming until it was too late to catch).

    I am probably due for a new threshold test. I seem to be able to perform at my current FTP with much less perceived exertion, and much lower heart rate.
    Very nice!!!! Your weight drop and power gain is awesome.
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