Okay, you've survived the
temptations of Christmas and New Year, you've avoided the coughs,
sneezes and infections of the masses, and you've maintained your endurance
and base training programme throughout the winter; what now?
comes the good bit, but not too much; too much of a good thing isn't necessarily a
Here we'll propose some ideas and theories as to why that may be.
then draw your own conclusions and prepare for your season as you best see fit.
is Pre-Completion Training?
For the pedants amongst us, theoretically all training is
pre-competition training. But for the purpose of this factsheet
we'll consider that a typical cyclist's year consists of the following
▼ Competition (summer)
▼ Recovery (autumn)
Different coaches and
different organisations attach different labels to these phases, but the ones above will suffice for
For now we
will concentrate on the Pre-Competition phase which for us starts in
February and concludes towards the end of March. This phase should mark a significant change in our training patterns,
endurance capabilities and power thresholds.
recovery month of
October (recovery doesn't necessarily mean doing nothing),
November sees the setting of goals and
the introduction of moderate bike mileage and probably
some cross-training, gym work or other "less demanding"
The important thing is to give your mind and your body time to recover from
the previous season's exploits.
is all about devising and training to a pre-determined plan that will
enable you to meet your pre-defined objectives. Otherwise you're
just riding your bike. The main aim of December is to introduce extended hours or miles in the saddle
with slowly increasing intensity.
January, along with keeping
healthy, sees the
consolidation of your endurance and the foundation building of your strength
in preparation for the all important pre-competition phase. Which
As we move into
the Pre-Competition Period, only the intensity of our training should increase.
Endurance should ideally be established by the end of January.
After an adaptation or recovery week, you're ready to start ramping up the
watts and heading for your first plateau of the year. In
mountaineering terms, we're going to establish a base camp.
Before you dive in to
pre-competition, and to reap the maximum benefit from your training, it is
important that you remember the principles behind the FIT
acronym. If you're unsure, check out the
December Planning factsheet
for an explanation or a reminder.
pre-competition phase includes taking part in some competitions.
But not to win. Be prepared for a
kicking, if you've planned your season correctly then you should get
one from the mad march hares.
You should be aiming to come
in to form gently, preparing
yourself for bigger efforts around Easter when you can get in some solid
riding or competition over a very long weekend. At Easter you're not necessarily
aiming to win but to use the holiday period as
a springboard to the targeted and goal-oriented competition phase of your
does your season end?
Seems a daft question when talking about pre-competition!
But it's a vital one to your success. The
probable answer is September. That's seven months
away! So what's the rush to be winning races in March? Like
any successful project or goal you should concentrate on the finished
objective and work backwards along a time-line to to where you now are.
you honestly think it's possible to maintain form for seven months?
Don't bother Googling the answer, it's "no." The winner
of the Paris Roubaix isn't trying to win the Tour of Flanders, but he'll
take it if it comes. And the winner of The Tour isn't trying to
win the Tour Down Under either. It just doesn't happen.
The days of riding
competitively all year round are over. A few Germans did it until
a few years back, but they've subsequently admitted to eating "naughty
sweets." Let's not go there.
Okay, back to why we are here; February and March. At this time of
year consider cutting down slightly on your mileage. Sacrifice
quantity for quality. Get the quality and intensity of your rides
higher and throttle back on distance or hours. But do it gradually! Don't shock your body by
going from one extreme to an other. Remember, we're coming out of
our winter hibernation.
Use the first third of your
ride as a general warm up by riding tempo on the flats and using
controlled aggression on the climbs.
Hit the climbs with
commitment but only 80% effort. Concentrate on technique,
breathing and rhythm. Climb well, don't climb fast.
You want to build up to
climbing at race pace, not racing the hill. Racing the hill means
getting to the top before anyone else, as fast as you can to the
exclusion of all else. Not good!
Climbing at race pace means
you have to get to the top, then kick again when you get there, passing
all those that raced it. If you can't go over the crest and for
another couple of hundred metres, you've gone too hard on the hill.
Tinker with your pacing, especially if you've a power meter, until
you've got it nailed.
As you move in to the middle
third of your training session, start looking for that extra 10%.
But keep your form. Don't sacrifice style for effort, that's
called racing. And, as above, don't be hitting climbs at 100% effort as soon
as you hit the start ramp. In week one hit the last third of the
hill hard. In week two, go hard for the last two thirds and in
week three you go from the bottom. But always with enough left
over to kick at the top.
If you can, organise
yourself a consistent route you can use over the coming weeks. We
have a circuit here in our tiny little "nine by five mile" island,
called the Classics Circuit. It has everything you could ever
imagine you need for a race or a sportive anywhere in the world.
Apart from a mountain!
We have 10, 20 and 30 second
sprints, 45 second surges, one, one and a half, two and three minute
climbs and we finish with a six minute VO2max test session on our
longest climb in the island.
It's 20 odd miles of cycling
heaven. In week one we do it once, week two we do it twice and in
week three we do it two and a half times, because no one in the seven
years I've been riding it has ever done it three times. We finish
this routine two weeks before the season start. We then take a
recovery week and use the first month of the season as the final phase
of our pre-competition training.
Every year for the last five
years, riders using this technique have taken race wins in the first
month of the season. Not because they had trained to be winning
fit in March, but because they were best prepared to take advantage of
the opportunities that arose during the early races. Most then
went on to win Island Championship medals throughout the season.
Prepare hard, race easy.
The above results were down to their own efforts, commitment
and a structure to their training. They used their pre-competition
phase to prepare for the disciplines they were due to undertake.
Use your pre-competition period to prepare for the competitions in which
you are to take part. Why do you need to ride for five hours if
your target for the season is a 50 mile road race or a 25 mile time
If you can ride fifty miles
now, what's the point in doing more or trying to ride the same distance
only faster? Do less distance much faster, then start blending
your training to mimic race conditions.
Marathon runners don't
train for a marathon by running 26 miles every weekend. And 100
metre sprinters don't just practice running fast. Cycling can
learn a lot from other sports; the traditional methods work well but they
return traditional results. If that's what you want, fine.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, "Don't keep doing the same
thing and expect different results".
Once the races start use
them as part of your training and development. Attack just to see what
happens. If you're blown out, so what? Learn from it and use
it as a pointer for development work in your next few training sessions.
You've paid your race entry,
so race. Don't pay for a fast, tactical, forty mile club run.
If you're not sure what to do, just make a nuisance of yourself; go down
the road. Jump and jump hard and keep going until you're caught.
When you are caught, go again. You may not win, but you'll learn a
lot about your fitness and your tactics. You'll also learn a lot
of new swear words from your riding companions. But one day, you might just stay
All races offer high quality training as long as you plan them into
your schedule. Unless you have a particular training requirement,
or are in a recovery period, there's no such thing as a bad race.
If it's a crit, go as fast and as hard as you can for a lap. If you get
caught and dropped,
use the next lap to recover, eat and drink. then jump back on when they
come round. Sit at the back and get some free speed work.
Just make sure you don't influence the race, let a
wheel go or start
getting in the way for the sprint.
If it's a road race, climb in the saddle instead of
standing. Do a long turn on the front, if your worried about getting
dropped do it down hill or with a tail wind. Just mix it up and
save the tactical riding for the summer when the medals are dished out.
After a few events, do an
Ability Gap Analysis
and identify where you could be stronger. Then work on the areas that will give you the maximum benefit for the
minimum of effort. Have fun and leave the serious stuff until the
arm warmers come off and you can feel the sun on your back.
If you're going to train hard you need to eat right. Ramp
up your carb and fruit intake to prepare your body for the more intense activities
it has to endure.
Make sure you eat correctly post-sessions to
help your body repair and minimise free-radical damage. And make
sure you're sufficiently hydrated before, during and after your event.
Don't hang around after your early season event or a hard training session. Get some easy riding in and start
the recovery process as quickly as possible. The quality of your
next training session is determined by your ability to fully recover
from the previous one. Have a recovery routine, fine tune it and stick to it.
Don't stand around talking
to everyone and be the last one standing at the end, who's looking for
their jacket or spare bottle when the organiser's already left. Do
your talking on the way home, when you're wrapped up well and
If you haven't already, and we've addressed this before many times, you
should by now have at least one goal for the season. Remember our
Check it out here
if you need to refresh your memory. Set a goal, set sub-goals and
build your training around meeting at least one goal a month.
Each training session is one
small step towards meeting your season's objectives and goals.
Monitor progress on a regular basis and adjust your plan accordingly.
However, you can only monitor progress against a previously established
baseline, otherwise what are you measuring progress against? Make
sure you're measuring like for like.
Find yourself a test protocol, a turbo session, a climb, an out and back
course and use it to gauge your fitness. Be meticulous about your
Pre-Competition training is an important element of your season's
preparation. February should be a natural progression from January
as you slowly come out of hibernation ready to stretch your legs in
March and April.
Don't try and go from the gun from the first race, if
you're regularly winning races in March you may have peaked too soon.
Cut back on your volume and increase your intensity. Don't make
the mistake of increasing both, remember ~ less is more!
The quicker you get fitness the quicker you lose it. Bring it on
slowly and maintain a high plateau through the serious part of the season.
Peaking for a week or two when you need it. If injury, or real-life, intervenes you don't have to worry about
losing form because you know you've prepared well and can miss a few
races without it being too detrimental to your season.
Big changes in performance call for big
changes in preparation. If you weren't happy with some elements of your previous
season try something different. If you don't like it (or it
doesn't like you ) you can always stop and try something else.
Don't just repeat last years plan with 10% added effort, you may just
end up either ten percent more tired, ten percent slower or both!
We all race for fun and early
season events should be more fun than most. Remember this on the first
Hougue Bie (Jersey) race.
Why get up and leave home in the dark, with the rain coming down horizontally and
have people screaming at you to come through on the second lap?
You can then get to ride home in the rain (or like last year for some, an
ambulance), in wet clothes, bemoaning the fact that you think you're
coming down with something and your legs feel heavy.
Why not aim to peak for the
Hougue Bie race in August, when the sun's shining, it's 20 degrees and
all the winter specialists are burnt out, jaded and past their best?
Then you can go for a post-race tea and carrot cake, sit by the seaside
and watch the world go by, reliving a perfect race on a perfect day,
possibly with a trophy in the bag. Just a thought.
Enjoy your Spring; I'm off