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Early Season Cycling Training with Gareth Pymm

For many cyclists and triathletes, we are now approaching the early part of the racing season and even though that means some hard racing in the cold and wind it is often most welcome after a long winter of training. Hopefully everyone has been working on their base fitness and getting a few efforts in over the winter. And hopefully you have an outline plan in place for the season goals so I thought it would be worth talking about what sort of training would be ideal for this time of year. See this previous blog post for tips on setting cycling goals.

Early season races are great for testing the legs out and looking for the areas that need a bit more work. Typically though this is the time to start doing some race pace efforts in training to start getting the body used to the harder effort and building the power a bit more. FTP and sweetspot efforts work well for this and after a while enable progression to even harder L5 efforts to really push the top end on. Its good to think of the early season races as training as well; personally I think the impact of putting a number on shouldn’t be under estimated as you will generally push yourself that much harder in a race, which brings its own training effect.

You can also use these events to test out the pacing, check position on the bike if you are doing TT or triathlon and make sure your kit is suitable. For my cycling coaching athletes I will be looking at how they have paced an event and providing them with feedback on how to improve this. And I will be looking at their performance in terms of power as well to identify any weaknesses that require a bit more work. Their own feedback is also important; I want to know how they felt and what went well or not so well for them. All of this will help to inform the training I plan for them as we strive for continuous improvement.

When it comes to planning training it is important to look at all aspects and not be blinkered by power. Can you hold a good aerodynamic position, and do you need to work on any skills such as cornering or transition? When I work with athletes we explore these aspects as well and if further work is needed I will incorporate drills into the training plan. A good example is an athlete I coach who wasn’t feeling confident about pacing on hills, so we have been doing a good few weeks of hill repeats at various durations and intensities to build power, confidence and control. Without that feedback though I would not have been aware that she was feeling this way – this emphasises the importance of two-way feedback and building the coach/athlete relationship.

As we approach the season some of my athletes have also been making use of the wider services offered through Matt Bottrill Performance Coaching, such as professional bike fitting, wind tunnel and physiology testing at the Boardman Performance Centre. Working with athletes following physiology testing has been interesting and we have received some valuable input from the centre on how we can improve training.

In summary my main tips for the early season are –

  • Increase the intensity of training sessions to prepare for races

  • Use early season races as training and practice

  • Scrutinise all aspects of your training and racing to inform the future plan

  • Think about what other insights might be available to help improve, such as coach advice, testing and bike fit services

  • Plan ahead – prepare season goals and plan your training

To help out a little and give you an idea of some of the training athletes coached via Matt Bottrill Performance Coach might be given I have prepared a sample of a training week. The purpose of this week is to work on skills such as holding aero position at higher intensity, provide variations to work on pedal efficiency and power transfer and start to build threshold power/get used to harder efforts ready for racing.

Example of week training

Saturday – Race or 1.5 hours with 2 x 20 min at FTP with short recovery (less than 5 mins)

Sunday – 2 hours L2 with 10 mins of 20/40s and 30 mins sweetspot

Monday – 30 mins S&C

Tuesday – 1 hour with 2 x 10 mins 30/30 sets

Wednesday – 1 hour with 3 x 10 mins sweetspot in aero position

Thursday – 1 hour with a 20 min ramp to the max

Friday – Rest/stretch

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