Trainerroad Challenge – Doing the Base Phase

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Written By James Quilter

Passionate cyclist and content creator

If you’re anything like myself, chances are you have been dedicating a significant amount of time on Zwift during this year.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great during the races trying to get the bikes and move up levels and all that sort of thing.


I wasn’t sure whether it was having a significant impact on my training or conditioning. Moreover, I’d also heard disquietening comments about the efficacy of the Zwift training programs. 

So I decided to give something else a try and do the Trainerroad Base Phase. This is my record of doing it over the last six weeks.

Week 1

Ramp test

So I picked the base phase training. The first thing they ask you to do is do an FTP test.

However, I thought you were supposed to do one before you started the training. So I already did one, and I came in at a rather pathetic 258W.

ramp1 Trainerroad Challenge - Doing the Base Phase

So when I started the training properly, I ended up doing the ramp test again. Yes, I know I probably hadn’t recovered properly. But the weird thing was I got a better result this time. It was based on what I’d got the day before, so I don’t know what happened, but I went into the training based on an FTP of 268.

Ericsson 1

Well, I’m not sure how they pick the names out for these workouts. This was the first one I did, and it was over and under blocks, just under my FTP, ie sweetspot. They lasted an hour, and at the beginning, there was a section where I was doing one footed drills.

ericsson Trainerroad Challenge - Doing the Base Phase

These were good. Difficult, but you get into them after a while, and you realize later on the amount of emphasis gets put onto efficient peddling action. Yes, I know Zwift does this as well. But like I said, there’s more emphasis. I would note that working to just numbers starts as being quite refreshing (more on that later).


Two days later, I did a 90-minute ride. Again the bulk of this was well under FTP and seems to be geared much more towards endurance. One of the things I did here was changing the trainer from ERG to resistance mode. It had an interesting effect in that it forced me to use the gears a lot more. So the jumps between power were quite challenging towards the end. After that, I stuck with ERG.

Baxter Trainerroad Challenge - Doing the Base Phase

Towards the end, it was a bit of a struggle. That would be a recurring feature of these 90-minute workouts. The blue line on black can get a bit dull no matter what podcast you’re listening to.

Week 2 

Ainslie -5

Who knows what they name these rights after. Is this for Ben Ainslie, the Olympic sailor? Anyhow, this was a 30-minute workout that was not part of the main program. 

I just felt enthusiastic about trying something new. 

This ride was similar to the Ericsson one. The main difference is that the interval blocks – which were 12 minutes each – were over FTP.

One thing I probably should mention. The workouts followed a pattern of Tuesday, Thursday (60 minutes), and Saturday (90 minutes).


So, this one was quite tricky. It started in the first 15 minutes with a warmup and one leg pedal drills. Then it went on to a series of intervals, which got progressively more challenging.

Then after 35 minutes, there was a lull, and then it went on to 2 blocks of around 10 minutes each that were just under FTP (sweet spot). And then wind down.


This was a 60-minute ride that I did after work between six and seven in the evening. Fortunately, the one-legged 

pedal drills had been excluded from this one.

In their place were a warmup and six sweet spot intervals.


This was the second Saturday session of 90 minutes. It was challenging, mainly because I’d chosen resistance mode again rather than the RG.

You can see from the profile that I was in bits for the last three intervals. One of ERG’s obvious benefits is it tailors your cadence to your power. The problem here was that the 10-speed cassette I was using didn’t have enough variation.

And yes, I did have a break in the middle.

Week 3


Again very similar to the previous one. And this time, I went back onto ERG. It was tough, but it wasn’t as hard as the last one. To be honest, once you get into the groove and the interval and get spinning at the right cadence, then it’s in your control.

I was starting to feel a bit more comfortable with things.


Again another hour. I think it is generally easier to do the sessions on the Tuesday where you’ve had two days rest.

As a relatively good ride, not too strenuous in this one, there were some stand-up sessions. What I quite liked was the focus on how you stood up and positioned your weight on the pedals.

Felt like I made a bit of progress since the previous ones.


This was a 90-minute session that started with a short warmup followed by three sweet spot intervals.

The intervals themselves are quite long, about 20 minutes each. They go up and down a little bit just to keep you on your toes and stop you from getting bored.

At the same time, these 90-minute sessions where things are changing very much can get a bit hard going as you may be able to see, I grabbed a break after the first main interval and did one midway through the third.

Week 4


An hour-long session. This one had some one-footed intervals near the beginning, which is why you can see the squiggly lines.

Felt the intervals were challenging but not too hard. And the variation in them was quite good in terms of keeping me interested.


Can you see something went wrong here? Yes, my other half booked an Internet shop delivery, and I had to put the shopping away!

Not a bad thing to be honest. I think I struggled to get into this one. The Thursday sessions seem to be a little harder than the Tuesday ones.


There was a lot of focus on peddling action here. One problem is that I keep switching off and missing the text instructions.

If there is a criticism of trainer road, it is quite hard to keep track of what they want you to do.

On the right side, the variety of the intervals with things constantly changing and the nice breaks between made this quite a pleasant session. Again, I had a feeling that I was making progress in terms of power and cadence.

Week 5


sweet spot intervals an hour-long. Not too bad, there were cadence exercises throughout and there were relatively straightforward to do.


Very similar to the last one artwork actually though. Mainly this was on the length of the intervals which were about 15 minutes each felt like I sustained it my pedal motion improved.


This felt like a long one five intervals just above FTP. Lots of leg exercises many of which I missed got through but it was stressful and manageable at the same time. The stressful bit was mainly because of the length.

Week 6


These were primarily down as endurance rides. On paper look fairly easy most of them were around the 200 W mark so just a case of peddling. However they were extremely boring and to go an hour through it was incredibly hard more mentally than anything.

Bald Knob

March of the same. Although essentially a little bit harder.

However here is an admission, I didn’t actually do it. I just couldn’t face it that after the last one so I went on to swift and did a time trial.

It was just a 30 minute one around the flats but I and she felt quite strong. And I got the 42nd improvement on what I’d done year or so ago.


Well this was another one of those horrible endurance rides. Any differences it was 90 minutes long. But I did it because it was the end of the six weeks.


So how did it go?

Well I did an FTP test as part of the next phase of training. To be honest, it wasn’t much of any improvement on what I already had. This makes me wonder whether I did it right to begin with or as is equally likely I just wasn’t trying that hard.

The training was good I guess but I didn’t find it drastically different from doing some of the swift training courses. In fact this was the first one that I had really done from start to finish.

One of the issues I think I have a train of road is the boring interface. I mean it is really dull. It’s nice just to plug it in and get going and it is quite fast in that way – whereas swift you have to booted up in everything. But that convenience wears off after a bit.

Will I be carrying on? I’m not so sure I think I will probably look at doing some shorter high intensity training perhaps. Or something that will just keep me going through the new New Year. Overall it’s worth doing but not overdoing.