Specific Skills and Drills for a Powerful Early Season
Start the season with more grace and success.
As the competitive season begins, cyclists are sometimes similar to bears emerging from hibernation: disoriented, sluggish and clumsy, yet hungry. Everyone is hungry for that first taste of competition, to feel the rush that comes with pushing off the start line for the first time in a new season. By focusing on a few specific items in your training, you can start the season with more grace and success. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /?>
Add Some Speed
May times, cyclists spend the majority of the winter riding by themselves or in small groups. While this works very well to achieve the Foundation Period goals of developing the aerobic system, the average speeds for these rides are relatively low. More importantly, your power output during a solo ride is often steadier than it will ever be in competition. To succeed in races you have to have the power you developed in long steady workouts as well as the agility to change your speed rapidly, initiate attacks and respond to accelerations. In preparation for the beginning of the racing season, you need to reacquaint yourself with speed.
Fast group rides are one way to add a speed component to your training. Ideally you were participating in a few of these rides each month throughout the winter, but if you weren?t, this would be a good time to seek one out. Riding your bike inches away from other riders while rubbing handlebars and shoulders at 25+ mph is good for you. You should find that your reaction time and your tendency to exaggerate small corrections decrease as you regain your confidence in a fast-moving field.
I recommend riding early-season groups rides a little under-geared in order to avoid the temptation to sit in the draft, lazily turning over a big gear. Doing so reduces your workload; so much so that data from PowerTap and Polar power meter files show you may accomplish less overall work out of a 3-hour group ride than you did from a 2-hour solo ride. Riding group rides under geared increases the workload on your aerobic engine and helps you get accustomed to pedaling fast at high speeds. This will come in handy as you continue to gain power through the next few months of racing and training.
To further improve your comfort level at high speeds, add some downhill sprints to your training program. These sprints serve at least two purposes: developing peak power and improving your handling skills for sprinting. A powerful sprint is also beautiful to watch because when you have good technique, your body movements out of the saddle are smooth and fluid and the bike just rockets forward. Unrefined, a sprint can be messy; arms and legs flying in different directions, bike flopping side to side and going everywhere but straight ahead.
To start these downhill sprints, gather speed (25-30) as you approach the bottom of a hill, then let it rip. You want to initiate the sprint while still going downhill, but finish it after the road has leveled out. As the road levels out, you