Spring seems to have finally arrived. On the other hand, it's only 5 months until winter!! An unbearable thought, and one that should be pushing us all on to make the most of the longer days and better riding conditions.
One such way is through the sportive season and the many challenging routes across Britain, Ireland and mainland Europe. The options are varied but most include one certainty... Elevation!
I've put together some training tips and ideas to get you to your target events in the best shape you can for the time you have available.
Build strength in creative ways on a tight weekly schedule
To pace your event well you'll normally need to ensure an ability to repeat climbing efforts across the entirety of the parcours. Among other elements of fitness, leg-strength is very high on the agenda as a key component of fatigue resistance but if your midweek spins are limited to under 2 hours how can you develop this outside of your longer weekend rides?
Keep other sports in the mix: Squash and five-a-side football are ways to develop core strength if the weather isn't so good. Swimming is a good choice to keep your aerobic system working the day after a hard day on the bike. You'll keep the calorie clock ticking and reduce the workload on the muscles.
Work off the bike to simulate the strength effect of climbing: Inner city life often means having to ride over an hour to get to hills. Simulate the strength element of climbing by getting creative. This can be done by introducing squats or cycle-specific lunges at the side of your turbo trainer in a 90 minute session. You could even take a pair of training shoes in a small ruck-sac on the road. As strange, and leftfield as it may seem, the effect of riding home with fatigued legs will build muscular endurance in a way unavailable normally on a midweek session. Low-cadence efforts will get a similar effect but should be rationed to prevent knee injuries.
Learn to use every way to get up a hill and feel the muscles below you: Alternate between standing and sitting on climbs and slow the motion right down to feel the eccentric and concentric action of the muscles as you pedal. Over time you will feel the strength of these efforts and when you return to a higher cadence become more efficient in your motion.
Make big goals and use endurance targets along the way
If you've been training consistently throughout the winter you will be well positioned to target a specific time-goal for your chosen sportive. By using your experience of previous sportives and researching results you will be able to find a goal which is realistic but challenging enough for you. If you are only starting to build you should add more recovery time, at least initially, to let your body adapt to the training stress.
Divide the event total elevation gained by its total distance to get a climbing ratio. Use this ratio as guidance for training rides to measure your progress. e.g a 120km event over 2000m (2km) of vertical climbing would be 2/120 = a climbing ratio of 0.166m per km. Multiply this ratio by your planned training ride to get a required elevation gain to simulate a progressive approach to your schedule.
Dedicate one of your longer rides at the weekend to extending your endurance and add time conservatively at approximately 10% per week. Stick to this rule and take every 4th week as a recovery week where weekly total distances are all halved and you will build endurance at a safe rate.
Find a victim...sorry training partner, to bounce off. Between you pick exciting routes where pressing on at certain areas will take you out of your comfort zones just when you don't want it. You are certain to have dark periods in a sportive so you will benefit from these mental challenges in training. 'Last one back's a rotten egg!'
Get serious about beating gravity!
Muscular endurance from sustained efforts between 10 and 30 minutes are critical to good climbing but the speed at which you climb will ultimately be decided by the weight you are carrying uphill. Time to get lean!
Use midweek days to cut out sugar and refined carbohydrates from your diet. Aim for a calorie defect of 500kcal per day from your base metabolic rate plus any calories burned through exercise. Calorie calculators such as myfitness pal are excellent at simplifying this.
Use the day before your biggest ride to load-up on carbohydrates sensibly to get your optimum performance.
Consider early morning fasted rides: riding up to 1.5 hours fasted on waking will promote fat utilisation. 45 mins turbo with alternating 5-min medium intensity (Tempo) to 5-mins low intensity (endurance pace) is a time-efficient start to the day: approx 500kcal burned.
Ensure to consume around 15-20g protein in each of your big meals of the day to increase satiety and maintain muscle mass.
Stay hydrated. The chemical signal to the brain for thirst is the same as for hunger. If you aren't fully hydrated you can easily mistake a hunger cue.
Whether you are new to cycling or a seasoned velo-god there is a range of exciting and challenging sportives to enter. Pick a target event and start the work now... it's only 5 months until winter!
If you would like our help at Elevation Coaching to formulate a progressive sportive training plan to smash your goals get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
We offer a range of bespoke plans ranging from £75.