Help needed to break the cycle of getting worse each season

Hi there,

First post in this forum, I was thinking about putting it in the physiology section, but trumped for here. If it needs to be moved I’m happy to C&P it over.

This could be an extremely long post but I’ll try to boil things down to what really matters.

In 2021 and most of 2022 I felt extremely strong on the bike. These two seasons are where I’ve recorded all of my best power numbers. I was 29 and 30 years old for each season.

A snapshot of my power numbers were:

(these numbers were from a range of different power meters, some even dual recorded so I have confidence in them. Even managed 402np for 40mins one race)

2023 was a rough year off the bike for a few reasons, I was still training but it never really clicked, there were a few glimmers of hope but I got about 5% worse across the board power wise. 2024 training has definitely improved and a few good performances have started to emerge, especially in events over 2 hours long, but the 3m-20m power really hasn’t returned.

So far throughout 2024 my power PBs are:
(20min power is probably higher right now, probably around 360w, but my test got interrupted the other week and I had to abort it)

Here’s some random considerations:

  • At the age of 32 (and a half) I can’t believe this is age related.
  • I’m racing a lot and trying to get my cat 2 licence. Although broadly speaking that’s not going well so far this season
  • I don’t think my training has got any worse or less over the years. I think it’s stayed roughly the same. I’ve experimented here and there but predominately find that the whole 80-20 approach with a focus on threshol work over winter and moving into v02 work in the spring/summer works well.
  • I’m mostly self coached but have asked for the assistance of a coach as and when money allows

…to ask a better question than “what’s going on?” I suppose what I want to get from you good people is “what would you investigate, look to change or suspect is happening for someone in my situation?” and has anyone had similar happen to them and what did you do to rectify things?

Any and all recommendations welcome. TIA.

1 Like

The only thing that stands out to me is that maybe your 80% is too hard? Have you done an inscyd/aerotune test to identify your upper z2?

Even if you are staying Z2, are you adjusting the intensity for the duration? If I do a 1hr z2, I can be at the upper end, if I do a 4hr z2, I’m at the lower end of Z2.

Most important, if my z2 doesn’t leave my legs ready for the next interval session, then it was too hard.

I take note on different powermeters… Meh, i don’t know. I have Stages L/R power meter of Ultegra variety, which isn’t the best for sure, but it’s not alone with reliability issues. There are so many oddities with them that i don’t trust them much at all after seeing how much they “travel” as compared to something like Tacx Neo 2 or Elite Direto trainers. I certainly wouldn’t trust my training numbers on them without seeing same numbers from similar sessions several times.

For example: Riding bike on trainer in ERG mode and seeing how powermeter’s reading drops 50 watts when i stand up is something i can’t unsee. Lets say i start to ride more at standing position, or there is some shift in my cycling biomechanics, how does that affect my power numbers on road? Numbers which i can’t check against my Neo.

There are various FTP tests and training sessions where i’ve had huge boost in numbers, and which turned out to be false. Either poor calibration, moisture, low battery or something else i can’t explain. And it might take me months to figure that out, because inflated numbers are nice.

Currently i base all my power numbers on what i get from my Neo2. but even with that i had one major bump in my FTP which based on software used (=RGT cycling), luckily i recorded that session also with Polar watch which reported 10 watts lesser FTP value. After year of training with inflated value i finally admitted that Polar got it right while the software for some reason gave me 10 watts higher value. Luckily i kept Polar’s data stored in Training Peaks, without it i would have never figured out why i didn’t progress in whole year.

So your issue could be hardware/software issue as well, it’s just insane how blind we become to numbers if there is nothing to compare them at. Dual sided is better to hash out issued thru power balance. But then again both of my Stages cranks will happily read 50watts lower when i stand up out of saddle.

It might sound far fetched, but i’ve found out that i’ve accepted inflated numbers way too easily. I’ve improved something like 60 watts since i started and there are still numbers in Training Peaks which i’ve not crushed in 5 years. Having lots of data in Training Peaks and Polar Flow sure helps to investigate once i start to suspect that numbers are not right.

Also you mention that one year was rough and that might have it’s effect as well. I say this as i’m recovering from heavy depression.

At the risk of asking the obvious question, outside the numbers how is your performance year over year? Are you still finishing around the same competitors, or are you ahead or behind them? If you do the same races year after year, what does your average MPH and RPE look like when comparing prior years results? As a truly old dude (63-years old) I track my performance at the same races over multiple years. For me, I am not losing any performance results, just holding steady - which is my goal. I suggest you set aside the numbers for a moment and ask yourself about performance comparisons before you get too hung up on the numbers. If you are improving year over year - good on ya, you’re are doing the right thing. If not, take a step back and consider what has changed - job, nutrition, life stress, etc.

And aging into your 30s does mean somethings change at least a little, sorry to say.