Ride your best Cycle Tour with these key ‘sharpen up’ sessions. – By Mark Carroll, Cadence Cycling Performance Centre
With the Cape Town Cycle Tour just weeks away, it’s important to sharpen up for those repeated accelerations; the fast, rolling terrain; and the testing climbs that can make or break your race. Doing that now will leave you in great shape – not just fit enough to survive, but strong enough to go for a best time. Here are some skills routines and race simulation intervals to help you prepare.
Sprints require skill. They demand enormous amounts of energy, and poor form compromises energy delivery. Start weekly rides with hotspots on the route – up to 10 on a ride, but build to this volume over a few weeks. Focus on body position, feeling the bike and your weight transfer out the saddle. Feel the pedals, and how you’re delivering power – don’t just thrash away…
Attacks happen out of the saddle, both on flats and uphill. You need to be efficient out of the saddle – and that’s a skill lacking in many cyclists, because it’s rarely practised. You’ll have to develop the skill first, with lower intensity uphill – for example, during Long Steady Distance (LSD) rides – and then build to race-pace efforts and attacks over the weeks. Stand for one to three minutes at a time; and as with sprinting, focus on feeling the bike.
Once these skills are developed, it’s time to combine them into an attack and hold. Go too hard, and you blow; so you need to know just how hard and long you can afford to attack, and still have the legs to hold a fast pace – whether that’s on a flat road or up a climb. Heart rate is no good for this: your perceived effort needs to be well honed. Alternatively, having a power meter will help with pacing.
Remember, it’s no good going flat-out on the attack; you need to get the speed up out of the saddle to drive the attack, and then sit and maintain the power.
Long Steady Distance (LSD)
The key is ‘steady’ – not ‘slow’! Heart rate around 75% of max, and you should be able to chat with riding partners. Freewheeling and bunch coasting won’t make you fit; your muscles and aerobic system need to be under load to stimulate change. This type of training should make up 80 per cent of your training volume, and one of these rides can be set aside to develop your sprint and attack skills.
Set aside two days a week for the aerobic power sessions (see ‘Maximise Aerobic Power’, below), one day a week for combined LSD with hot-spot sprints, and everything else can be disciplined LSD – with standing incorporated, so there’s always some skill development.
Maximise Aerobic Power
These aerobic power sessions will get you into the shape you need, to be at your strongest come race day.
Probably one of the least-liked forms of training: three to five minutes of all-out effort, termed ‘VO2 intervals’. The pace starts hard but steady, and you hold it, with heart rate going right into the 90%+ region in the latter part of the interval. Recover with an easy pedal equal to the duration of the interval. Build to a total time of 15 to 20 minutes a session, and never more than once a week.
Another great way to condition the aerobic system is with short bursts of 30 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy pedal. Build to 20 to 30 minutes total volume of hard pedalling (so, between 40 and 60 intervals in a session). Heart rate will climb to 90%; this could be an alternative interval session for the week.
Your capacity to deliver short, very hard efforts can be increased by performing 45- to 60-second intervals, with three minutes’ tempo in between. Aim for eight to 10 repeats. With the stimulus of repeat intervals, your body will make adaptations that help you recover ever-faster, following hard efforts.