As thoughts turn to the new season it’s time to add strength to that stamina base. Joe Beer gives you the essential sessions…
You’ve just started your aerobic base cycling sessions and got yourself the latest wind-cheating tri bike, but faster race times are still not guaranteed. After all, riding at race speed is dependent on your ability to deliver leg power through the pedals, and not on how much you spend on reducing drag.
You still need to push the pedals to make those fast-looking bikes move along. Speed cannot be bought. Instead, power and fitness are the keys to improvement on the bike, which will result in not only a better bike split but a quicker run leg, too.
Look at any experienced rider and you’ll observe that they’ll ride faster than you, despite using the same gear. That’s because they’ve spent the New Year adding strength to aerobic fitness to produce power down through the pedals.
By clocking up the miles and working on strength, their neurological system has adapted to become more ‘cycling efficient’, while their technique has refined to such a degree that they don’t waiver from maintaining a straight line on the road.
Also, better riders don’t always take the easy way out and pick the easiest gear. Instead, by a clever use of gearing and incorporating mixed terrain, they build stronger legs and develop a capacity to hurt their cycling muscles.
You see, sessions aren’t just about miles, heart rates or average speed. They must, at times, force your muscles to work harder by working harder gears against terrain or the headwind.
Time to build
So, as we enter the second phase of winter from the start of the New Year, it’s time to start progressing with strength sessions. However, don’t be fooled into thinking this is all about fast interval sessions and trying to get ‘speed’.
We’re talking about building the distance of your endurance sessions while also adding in strength sessions (see Joy of Six: Bike Power Essentials below). You're still trying to build fitness and work up to some bigger weeks in the coming three to four months.
Harder bike sessions in your training week coupled with bigger volumes than you’ve achieved so far means you’ll need to keep every fourth week as an adaptation, low volume, recovery week. Building is good but you need to have time to repair from the two to four harder sessions that start to increase one, two or three months into the New Year.
It’s good to feel strong on the bike but that will only happen as a by-product of some hard work for perhaps 10-30% of your riding week. Gradually build some harder sessions and your rivals will be eating your dust.
THE JOY OF SIX: BIKE POWER ESSENTIALS
1. WRAP UP Have a pair of bib tights, a thermal top, a base layer, gloves and booties ready for your key outdoor sessions. Wear too little and warm-ups or easy riding will count for nothing.
2. ADD POWER Move from a steady training gear into a gear 2-3 teeth harder and slow slightly. Then accelerate the gear for around 12 pushes. Back to cruise speed for 2mins and repeat 8-10 times.
3. HIT THE INCLINES Using a consistent incline of 3-5%, use the big chainring and pedal at around 50-60rpm for 1-3km. Start with two, adding one a week, to a max of eight. If too easy, go 1-2 teeth smaller.
4. ROLL OUT Using your favourite rolling course, ride on the big chainring. Look for power on the inclines and your race position. Progress down the cassette over the next three months.
5. TAKE IT TO THE MAXIMUM Thirty-second maximal efforts with 4-5mins recovery will help build time-trial legs. Don’t jump into more than five and bear in mind that this is extreme, so only do them when healthy.
6. RECOVER RIGHT After hard efforts that strain the legs and send lactate levels soaring, cool off with some easy riding, shower, then stick a pair of compression tights on. Have a recovery drink.