I have taken a week long break away from cycling in the Atlanta heat. It was a nice break during a heat wave that came through the South eastern US – good timing for me.
I spent two weeks in the gym working out again. This re-visiting squats, lunges, core exercises, and total body circuit training helps the balance the body back out from too much of a good thing (cycling) and allows you to tone up and hopefully drop some bodyfat % – ALL of that will create a stronger cyclist.
Now that I have been getting back on the bike I am starting to get in more climbing again. I have been getting out on rides that only had only a few people in the group. I have been able to do this on the Mt bike the past couple of weekends, but now I’m also getting some of that climbing with groups.
Last night I did the Smyrna Bikes Monday night ride. This is a fun group to ride with, and although the pace is not ‘race pace’ it is definitely NOT a recovery ride. For this ride, my goal was to ride how I felt, but climb in a harder gear than I usually would while attempting to stay with a group, this is possible with this ride because after each serious climb they will re-group. That allows me to work on my leg strength with out worrying about being dropped by the group or getting too tired to keep up with the group later in the ride.
A buddy of mine commented that I always seem to climb in a seated position. This is true, and not by chance. 1) For a non-climbing rider, you can usually put more power into the pedals being seated. Where-as a lighter rider is usually able to use his own bodyweight to add more power to the hills while standing.
2) staying seated on a climb keeps my heart rate lower than standing, I will stand to accelerate or stand just to get over steeper sections of a climb.
If you have compact cranks you can still do this type of hill training, the key is to use a harder gear than you usually would. Most people that have compact cranks end up spinning all the time. This is good on race day or Big events, but it does not create stronger legs. If you truly want to get stronger while cycling you have to mash a harder gear in training.
Remember train your weakness, but race your strengths.
Climbing hills in a harder gear than you are used too will give you ‘on the bike’ leg strength that is needed for stronger cycling. What happens is that you to fatigue your muscles, and only by stressing the muscles and allowing for adequate recovery do they get stronger. As you continue to do this, those mountains will become more like hills.
So get out there and hit the climbs.
Get the System that I and my clients use to become a Stronger Cyclist. In this ebook I will give you a system of how to set-up your training in a way that allows you to focus on 1 of the 4 parts of the puzzle at a time AND in the correct order. This will ensure you become a Stronger Cyclist.
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If you have been watching the Tour de France you will see some of the top climbers use all kinds of racing strategy (or at least carry-out the directors strategy via their ear-piece). But if the more you know about what is going on the more clear it becomes why some riders make certain moves, which the commentators are so eager to speculate on.
For instance in the 2010 stage 13 of the TdF, in the mountains Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador allowed Menchov to attack them and gain valuable time, while the two of them eyed each other. It’s hard to say what they each were thinking, strategy wise. But as one person put it on twitter:
Strange day. Andy seems happy w/ 30 sec. on Bert, and Bert happy to give time to Menchov and Sanchez. Blunder for both, or smart riding?
The reason that this is so important in the TdF is that they will be facing a Time Trial coming up, where their team-mates will not be able to help, and Menchov will be strongly favored over Schleck and Contador.
It’s amazing to watch the strategy of each racer in the tour as the days go by. Sometimes the strategy changes very quickly from winning to surviving. But rarely the opposite happens. The strategy of a multi-stage race has many differences and similarities to a single day race. A good team will know how to use their strengths for an advantage, and to avoid having a team mate in a tough spot.
This is part of what it is like to be able to ‘read a race’. Knowing how a race is going to unfold before it happens. Two of the best at it that I’ve seen were: at 45 years old 1996 Olympic alternate, Kent Bostick, and Jittery Joe pro, Jeff Hopkins.
Hopkins became notorious for telling a racer on the velodrome that they would be the next one out, then make it happen. He knew the race and the dynamics so well, that it was hard to combat his combination of strength and strategy. He is somewhat infamous for sitting at the back of a local Pro NRC criterium, and crashing because he was waving at some ladies – gets put back into the race banged-up and bloody – and rallies his team to get him into the top 5 for the finish. Later, his team mate said ‘when a guy like Hoppy says get me up there, you do it!’
As I raced with Bostick he would ask people if they were happy with 2nd and if you said no, he would just attack you. He made it in your best interest to say ‘yes’ and gladly work with him to get you to the finish line ahead of the main field. He would make sure that everyone in the break took a turn of pulling and then watch to see who was stronger and who was getting tired. Bostick knew how the race was going to unfold in his mind before it even happened. Even if he was the oldest guy in the Pro1,2 field and maybe not the strongest, he was able to use strategy to overcome his opponents.
1) Create a strategy. Some good ideas for strategy is to have a team meeting before the race starts. See who has the legs and strongest desire to win that day.
2) Plan the outcome. Next figure on a plan that will have the race unfold as you would like to see happen, and a back-up plan in-case it doesn’t.
3) Action. Next, when the time comes, take action! Act upon the plan that the team has created as best as you can.
4) Learn. Regardless of the outcome, always try to learn from what happened and improve your teams results.
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Every spring you may go to the main group ride wondering if you will get dropped – have I done enough homework during the winter? Did everyone get faster than me?
I would usually disappear from October-March, but once the time changed, I would be right back into the mix of a couple group rides… several people have asked me how I was able to suddenly just cruise along at the front of these rides when I hadn’t been doing them all winter. I would just laugh at the question. What they didn’t know was that yes, obviously I was riding. I just wasn’t riding in the same groups through the winter that they were. From their perspective, I wasn’t riding all winter because I wasn’t on the rides that they were doing. Like an iceberg, all they were seeing was where I am today, not what I have been doing all winter.
There are several reasons for this, time change, location of the rides, not being able to ride to a ride, etc. But the number 1 reason they didn’t see me all winter was that they thought they would ‘loose’ fitness if they didn’t ride hard all winter. Some cyclists think that if you are not used to going at the speed of the group year around, then you will get to a point where you will no longer be able to hang on. Although if your goal is to just ride with groups all year, then yes, this maybe true. However, I had races as my goals each year, thus I had different ways of training to attain those goals.
I had learned that it was good to give my body a break after the US 100K race each fall (September). I would actually have to try to take time off the bike and do other things – this was often hard. After awhile I learned to back off and enjoy the changes of the seasons. Not only did I learn that I could do this, but in fact it made me a stronger cyclist – both physically and especially mentally!
I found that I really enjoyed those LSD (Long Slow Distance) rides for aerobic base building. It was a non-competitive rides where you could share some work at the front and chat with friends all while having a relaxed ride. During this time I would either ride alone, or ride with a group that had the same ideas/goals on winter training that I did.
After 2 months of base building, I didn’t just jump back onto a group ride and expect to keep-up with everyone. I worked out in the gym using a structured training plan, then started doing hill repeats and intervals with enough recovery mixed in so that I didn’t over-reach my goals. Another aspect of the training plan, was that I didn’t come into top form in March when the group rides started – they were used for testing, and to add a little speed to my legs. Even though I was out on the group rides, my riding was often reserved. I would stay out of the wind, rarely would I push the pace. Usually the speed of traveling with the group was enough of an adaption to have a successful training day.
When group rides are utilized correctly, they can be great tools for the cyclist training for an event. When they are used as training races, often cyclists will push themselves to the point that they are either A) overtrained. or B) pushing so much that their CNS (Central Nervous System) will suppress their ability and only allow them to ride at a ‘medium’ pace. In order to have great highs, you must also have very Easy days!
However, if a racing cyclist only does group rides, then they are truly missing out on some untapped ability. That is where the over-view of a good training plan can assist the cyclist in specific preparation for the Spring and Summer races.
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