FOR ROAD AND MTB RACERS WHO HAVE BEEN TRAINING A FEW MONTHS, NOT RACING CROSS (CROSS RACERS SEE BELOW)
It’s time to honestly analyze your training so far. If you did at least six weeks of endurance development, four weeks of moderate intervals, and four weeks of anaerobic threshold intervals, you have the base to race. Good base for most riders requires a minimum of eight hours per week. Some need twelve or more hours per week. Elite riders in the 3s and above need fourteen or more. If you haven’t really done your base and interval work, go back a few months of these programs or contact Ron Castia at 925-337-1219 or Meredith Neilsen at 415-516-0409 and jump into the appropriate place in the program. Racing without a base will lead to poor results, over-training, injuries and burnout. As well as making you faster, base miles give you quick recovery so you can train the next day after racing. You won’t get a base once you start racing unless you are so strong that you can race without going hard. If you can do the full time of a warm-up, race and cool down riding strongly and you can also do at least one half-hour in intervals at a pace that keeps your heart rate within a few beats of your anaerobic threshold you are ready to race. These are required for effective racing and if you can’t do them, you’ll benefit more from training than from starting to race.
The following program assumes you want to have a long, strong season rather than peak in February and be done a month or two later. If you are lifting, taper the lifting to only two days per week. One day early in the week should be very long sets. On the main power muscles of the legs, 5-10 sets of 15-50 reps are appropriate, with a weight that gives you just a little burn toward the end of each set. For the supporting muscles 4-5 sets of 12-20 are appropriate. The other lifting day should be Friday. If current results are important to you, make the Friday sessions shorter and lighter. If mid-season racing is most important, make Friday the same as earlier in the week. Lifting the day before you race will prevent premature peaking. If you want to be peaking now, skip it.
If you are not lifting, but your knees are good, do low-cadence, low heart rate intervals two days per week. Start with two minutes on, five off at 60 rpm up a big hill with your heart rate below 80% of max during the interval. After a couple of weeks, change to three minutes on, five off and 50 rpm intervals. Do half your intervals seated and half standing. Warm up at least 20 minutes before pushing so hard.
On Monday do a short endurance-pace ride for recovery. This should be at least 45 minutes and up to half the time of the longest race you plan to do this year.
Tuesday or Wednesday should be weights or low-cadence intervals and the other should be the longest endurance-pace ride you have time for, up to the length of your longest race or a little longer. Be sure to keep the pace low and steady on this ride (Heart rate below 80% of maximum, below 70% if you are tired). Many talented riders have failed to reach their potential in racing because they worked too hard in training and then could not work hard enough in races.
Thursday is a good day for a sprint workout. Do a generous warm up and then a few sprints. Build up the number of sprints by two per week from two the first week to as many as ten when you can handle them. When you’re too tired to make a good effort, you’re done with the sprint workout, whether you’ve done one sprint or ten. Sprints are all out efforts of about 20-30 seconds. They can be incorporated into an endurance ride or done one after another with at least five minutes of easy riding in between. It’s better to sprint for a finish line than for a fixed amount of time. It’s better to sprint with other riders than to sprint alone. Mix up sprints in higher and lower gears. Make the sprints as close to realistic race finishes as you can. Don’t just sprint down straight roads unless that’s how all your races end. Better you should practice sprinting out of corners, uphill, downhill… any other way that might correspond to a real race finish. Call or write for a handout of sprint drills.
The fun comes on the weekends. Now you are allowed to race on one or both days. Only race once the first two or three weekends that you race, then you can race twice. Race aggressively but smart. Don’t attack at random times, but do attack later in the race at times when you might make it stick. In February the racing is for training, so if you find sitting in easy, try to establish breakaways later in the race and time-trial down the road. If just hanging on is hard, just hang on. When there is no race to attend, consider going to a track training session. If the race or training session is shorter than your longest race, go for an endurance ride afterwards to fill out the time. If the race was easy, do some sprints and intervals on the ride. If there is no race available, or you don’t want to drive so far, do race simulations on a club ride. Make sure the other riders know what you are doing. Race simulations should be jams of about twenty minutes in which the emphasis is on maintaining a steady high speed, and not on winning a sprint. Unlike in real races, the breakaway is the only honorable way to “win” a race simulation. Between simulations the group should turn around and ride back at an easy pace to pick up the dropped riders. When the leaders have been resting for about ten minutes it’s time to go again.
As a bonus, here’s a group ride exercise to work on your pack skills. Set up a double paceline with about four feet between the lines. Riders from the back move up the middle one at a time and take a place on the front of the line opposite the one in which they started. As skills improve the two lines move closer together. Eventually you should be able to move through the proverbial non-existent space.
FOR RIDERS COMING OFF A CROSS SEASON
Last month you should have rested and then built up to about as much daily riding as you have time for, all at an Endurance pace (70-80% of maximum heart rate. Call or write for instructions for a maximum heart rate test). This month, you maintain that volume and pace, but start to add other sorts of variety. Pick one day per week to do Standing Intervals. On these days, go for a long, spinning endurance ride, but stand on the climbs for up to five minutes at a time, being careful to keep your heart rate below 80%. If you find your heart rate climbing past that limit, sit down and slow down.
Pick one day for a Push Ride. On this day, warm up spinning , but then use gears that keep your cadence near 70 rpm for the rest of the ride.
Pick one day to work on skills such as no hands, bunny hopping, riding on the white line, looking back, cornering, riding aerobars, riding the drops, or whatever else you need to work on, and do the skills as part of a Spin (>90 rpm) or Push (~70 rpm) Endurance Ride. If you are lifting, keep that up 2-3 days per week. If not, pick one day to do low-cadence intervals at an Endurance heart rate. All the days not devoted to any of the above styles of training are Spin days.
Training plan and consultation packages for club members start at $68. To sign up for a Wenzel Coaching individualized program, call Ron Castia at 925-337-1219 or Meredith Neilsen at 415-516-0409. Check us out on the web at www.WenzelCoaching.com or e-mail. Have fun and be safe.
Scott Saifer, M.S.