Even if you’re not planning to race, some faster paced riding will make you fitter, improve your technique and, importantly, add some variety to your routine
With the mornings getting lighter and the days longer, now is the perfect time to kickstart your riding and break the routine of the long, slow ride. You’ve made it through winter, which can be a miserable time for road cyclists; not only are the weather conditions against you, but when all of your rides seem to be long, wet and cold slogs, keeping motivated can be tough.
If you have an early sportive pencilled into your diary, or an early season time trial in your plans, it’s even more important to get going now. Your long winter rides will have done a brilliant job of building a base of endurance – but now you should start thinking about getting some speed into your legs.
Spring into action
There’s a good chance that, if you’ve been using a turbo trainer over the winter, you will have already done a little faster riding. Spring, though, is the perfect time for riders – whatever their level and goals – to add some regular speedwork to their riding. Even if you’re not planning to race, some faster paced riding will make you fitter, improve your technique and, importantly, add some variety to your routine. (It’s also great if you want to get better results from less time.) Two effective top end workouts are one mile intervals on the turbo and hill repetitions on the road. Try adding one of these sessions to your weekly rides.
Mile high club
Mile repetitions on a turbo are a great way to increase your speed in a controlled environment. They also let you see the progress you are making – the fitter and faster you get, the quicker your mile times will become and the shorter the recoveries you’ll need in between. Make sure you have a good warm up – spin for 10-20 minutes. Once warmed up, start pedalling hard. The aim is to ride at between 85-95% of your maximum for the whole mile. Of course, not all turbos come equipped with a mileometer, and if yours doesn’t, substitute two minutes of hard riding for each mile.
After your first ‘mile’, spin easily for six minutes, before repeating the hard session again.
Depending on your fitness levels start with between four and eight hard reps. Try to ride as consistently as possible for each rep – your time/heart rate for the last rep should be as close to the first as possible. If either drift a long way off target, then you’ve gone too hard too early and it’s time to stop.
As you become fitter, and all of your reps are consistent, then reduce the recoveries between intervals by one minute. Once you can achieve, say, eight consistent reps with two minutes between them, add one more interval, but increase the recovery back to the original six minutes and progress in the same manner. Max out the number of intervals at 12 – any more than that and you’ll be riding an endurance rather than speed session.
Climb yourself stronger
Hill repetitions – basically riding up and down steep climbs – don’t sound like much fun. If we’re honest, they really aren’t much fun. But they are hugely effective at increasing strength in your legs and speed endurance, so it’s well worth gritting your teeth and giving them a go.
The perfect climb for hill reps rises in three stages. If the hill starts at about 8%, then dips slightly to 7% and then kicks up to 10%, it’s ideal. Of course, you might struggle to find this perfect hill, so one that takes you around two to two-and-a-half minutes to climb will do just fine. Whatever hill you use, split it into three sections and start your computer or watch at the bottom. Change to the big ring and sprint out of the saddle for the first third, then change down to your smaller ring and up the cassette a couple of sprockets and sit down, grab the centre of the bars and spin hard to really work your quads. Finally, for the last third, get out of the saddle and sprint flat out to the top of the hill. Roll back down the hill, let yourself recover and repeat between 6 and 10 times. As you get fitter, you’ll be able to reduce your recovery times, increase the number of repetitions and even find a longer hill.
Train to race, race to train
No doubt many of you will have a major goal planned within the next two or three months. A really good way to prepare for that goal is to ride a few smaller events of the same type and similar distance to your big target. There are a couple of big benefits to riding prep events.
First, you’ll get your head into competition or group riding mode after what has probably been a winter of simply riding, often alone. If you’re new to time trialling or sportives then completing a low key event is a good way of settling your nerves and familiarising yourself with the ins and outs of these rides. They’re also an excellent way to get in some top-end training. While you don’t need to ride these events flat out, there’s no harm in pushing yourself a little – it’ll give you an excellent gauge of the kind of shape you’re in and get your head ready for ‘the big one’. Ride a few of these events and by the time you come to your first goal of the year, you’ll be more than ready.