Four Steps for Boosting Your Late-Season Performance
With a healthy dose of planning and attention to detail you can kickstart the second half of your season.
Since the introduction of professional cyclists into the Olympic Games in 1996, Olympic years have offered a new challenge for coaches. When we were sending amateurs, the entire season was built around winning Olympic medals; whereas now, athletes have to compete at their best to fulfill pro team obligations, make the team, and then peak again to compete for medals. Peaking twice in a single season takes planning and attention to detail, but with a healthy dose of each, you can kickstart the second half of your season and have some great races in the closing weeks of summer. <?xml:namespace prefix = o /?>
Truly peak performance doesn?t last very long. Lance Armstrong can remain at his best for around seven weeks, and that?s nearly twice as long as most amateur racers can sustain a peak. The depth of your aerobic conditioning is the most important factor in determining how long you can race at full strength, because it?s the erosion of your aerobic fitness, not your top-end speed and power, that?s ends up holding you back. Alternating between recovery rides and high-intensity interval workouts, training criteriums, and races leaves little time to devote to your aerobic base during the racing season, so even with all the hours you?re riding, you?re losing part of your fitness.
1. Stop Racing
You don?t have to end your season prematurely, just sit out about 2-3 weekends of racing. Select a two-week period so that it ends about four weeks prior to your second goal event of the season. During these two weeks, you?re going to revisit the aerobic training that occupied the majority of your riding time several months ago, during the Preparation Period. At this point in the season, though, you only have to provide a brief stimulus to this weary energy system to breathe a whole new life into it. Two weeks of focused aerobic endurance training should provide the boost you need to support your high-intensity, race-specific workouts in preparation for your late-season goal.
One of the big mistakes you can make is trying to stretch your peak performance too far, but you get addicted to feeling fast and powerful. You spend all year trying to get to this time when you can dance effortlessly on the pedals, and since you know it?s not going to last forever, you try to hang on to that feeling just as long as you can. You also fear if you take the time to revisit your aerobic engine, like I recommend, you might not regain the form you had before. On the other hand, if it works (and it does), you?ll actually extend the number of weeks you get to perform in top condition.
2. Ride Tempo For One Week
Your goal is to deliver a significant overload to your aerobic engine in a relatively short amount of time. This is not meant to be a two-week vacation from the racing season; it?s a very important chunk of hard work that will pay off when your rivals? performances are tailing