Training: How to break up long rides

By Nik Cook, Cycling Plus | Monday, September 7, 2009 3.00pm

With the road racing and sportive season in full swing, too much in the way of long, slow miles can leave you feeling over-tired. What you need is a quick fix to freshen you up.

This session is ideal for those (hopefully!) late summer evenings and is a great way to add some killer speed to your fitness.

Warm up with 20 minutes of easy riding but gradually increase the intensity so that, by the 18th or 19th minute, you’re working up a sweat and your breathing is becoming slightly laboured.

Try to plan your route so that you now arrive at a flat or gentle downhill stretch of road. Shift into the big chainring and select a sprocket in the middle of your rear cassette. Jumping out of the saddle, sprint hard.

As you sprint, count your pedal strokes for one foot, aiming for 25 on each effort. The first 12 to 13 should be out of the saddle getting up to speed, the remainder seated while you concentrate on good pedalling technique and maintaining your speed/cadence. Recover by pedalling easily for 30 seconds and complete six sprints.

After your final sprint, take a minute’s recovery and find a rolling stretch of road. The aim now is to ride for 20 to 30 minutes at ‘sweet spot’ intensity.

If you’re using a power meter this would translate to 88 to 94 percent of Functional Threshold Power (FTP) – lower zone four – or, for heart rate based training, 80 to 90 percent of maximal heart rate – upper zone three and lower zone four.

If you’re training on feel and perceived exertion, you’ll need to be concentrating on your effort and any conversation will be in short, clipped sentences.

Bang for your buck, riding in the sweet spot is probably one of the most effective ways to train. After you’ve completed the sweet spot ride, recover for two minutes then repeat the sprint set. Warm down with 10 minutes of easy riding.

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