By Fred Matheny
Your cycling objectives probably are based on summer events. Maybe you’re aiming at a best-ever century or a PR in the local 10-mile time trial. Maybe you want to be strong every day on a weeklong tour. Or maybe you just want to be ready and fit to ride with your friends anytime.
Before you set up your spring training schedule, take a few minutes to write out the goals you want to achieve this summer. You need to establish them in order to shape your training.
When setting goals, remember the basic rule of fitness — you can’t be your best for everything all the time. If your endurance is high, your sprint speed probably won’t be. If you can out-sprint everyone on the local club ride, your long-distance stamina is likely to be lacking.
Think of fitness as a geometrical figure with power, speed, endurance and recovery as the 4 corners.
If all are equal, you’ve got a square — and none of these attributes will be developed more than the others. You’ll be an “all rounder,” which is fine if you don’t mind not being exceptionally good at anything.
However, if you work hard on one trait — say, endurance — then the square will get pulled into an elongated form. Endurance will be prominent, but the other traits will recede.
Your task is to decide which ability you want to emphasize, then design a spring program that enables you to meet that goal.
To get you thinking, here are some sample goals and a glance at the training you’d need to meet them:
- A Century PR. You need the endurance to last 100 miles, a good sense of pacing and a heightened “cruising speed” — the ability to ride relatively fast for hours without using excessive energy.
- A Time Trial PR. You need to maximize the speed you can maintain at or slightly above your lactate threshold. If the course is hilly, you need some anaerobic power, too, so you can go slightly into oxygen debt on the climbs and recover on the descents, thus keeping your average speed high.
- Short Road Races and Criteriums. Endurance isn’t a major factor in these races. Instead, the key is speed to close gaps and hang with a fast pack. This speed also needs to be repeatable, especially in criteriums with their dozens of accelerations out of corners.
- Tours of 5-10 Days. Once you have the endurance to ride 75-100 miles during a one-day event, you need to develop the endurance to do it day after day on a tour.
During more than 30 years in cycling journalism, Fred Matheny has written hundreds of fitness & training articles for top bike magazines and websites. Many of his best eBooks and eArticles are on sale in the RBR eBookstore. As a rider, he has raced to medals in state and national championships, plus a senior world record in the Team Race Across America. As a coach, he has worked with hundreds of riders at PAC Tour Training Camps, Carpenter/Phinney Bike Camps, and Dirt Camp.