Everyone knows that elite pro cyclists spend many more hours in the saddle training than their amateur counterparts who juggle their cycling with a career and family life. But according to Joe Beer, that’s only one part of their success, which is good news for the rest of us.
Slowly building for success
Grand Tour winners who race day after day for two to three weeks are some of the fittest athletes on the planet.
In interviews after his recent hour record of 49.7km Czech rider Ondrej Sosenka said his preparation consisted of a large amount of of medium-intensity work supplemented by strength training. “I tried not to go beyond my anaerobic threshold too much”. How nice it would be to have seen exactly what he did.
The training required to ride as a professional, making your living on two wheels, is no secret. It firstly consists of riding a mileage somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000km per annum. With the rise of new apps like STRAVA we can now all see what pro riders do on a daily basis. One of the most high profile riders currently on STRAVA is Laurens ten Dam. This got a mention on ITV’s cycling coverage of the 2013 Tour de France and Laurens’ number of followers on STRAVA went through the roof.
Smoke and mirrors
Most elite data reports come from interviews, team and rider websites or the general cycling grapevine passed around local clubs through hearsay and big fish stories. Often this kind of information is released carefully by teams for maximum psychological impact – perhaps a hint on how many watts a rider is producing uphill, how much faster a new bike has been shown to be in the wind tunnel, or how many hours per day they are riding consistently. Did someone say smoke and mirrors?
However, there’s much less of a hush-hush culture amongst the UK’s elite level time-trialling fraternity. Top riders often give out information about what they do, probably because so few have ever relied totally on their riding to pay the mortgage, so the level of secrecy is lower.
In defence of professional cyclists, many sports don’t distribute secrets of their success – after all, why would you? Granted, it still takes the right genetic make-up and a lot of hard work to get to the top, but why tell your competitors what you are up to?
It’s true that there’s some passing around of information as riders move teams and independent trainers/coaches work with riders across various teams and countries. But wouldn’t it be nice for you, the budding amateur, to get hold of some insider knowledge?
Tips from the top can help even amateurs to improve and reach their own genetic limits. However, we need to bear in mind that just because we know what the pros do won’t make the rest of us (with our humble genetics) into tour winners, hour record holders or elite level time triallists. Sadly, we didn’t win the genetic lottery. The challenge for athletes across sports is to maximise their potential to get 99.99% out of what they have. So, what little golden nuggets have trickled down from elite riders and the top sports science labs to help us maximise your performance?
The Dragon’s Den
There’s a well-known quote about the best performers in a sport: Winners do what losers are not prepared to do. Turn that around and you get something along the lines of: Copy what winners do and you won’t be a loser. The rub, however, is that you have to take the whole package, believe in all aspects and not pick and choose what you want to believe. Also we now know that some people will do anything to win, including harmful amounts of illegal drugs and human growth hormone.
Although amateur riders can’t commit the same amount of time as the pros, the bottom line is that the training proportions and principles must still be held to rigidly. The pros will most likely be riding four to six hours per day, most days of the week in other words they have a 25- to 35-hour week in the saddle. Pro team websites give you instant information (albeit uncorroborated) about what riders are doing. For example, Matthias Kessler on the www.t-mobile-team.com spoke of a solid five hours each day on the bike in December 2005. Your time, on the other hand, will be largely taken up with your day job.
However, there’s no short cut to getting your best. You can’t skirt around the need for time in the saddle and just hammer intervals three or four days a week. Read that sentence again. There are no quick fixes, no short cut secrets, no miracle riding intensities allowing you to get by with hardly any in-the-saddle hours.
None are quick fixes but they combine to build, monitor and peak form at the time that you want it. It’s no surprise when elite athletes hit form just as they hit their key race it was planned for. As the old saying goes:Planning prevents poor performances, possibly!
Visit Joe Beer’s website for more useful tips on training for cycling and triathlon.www.jbst.com
Don’t forget if you are looking to improve your training technique, Club La Santa is the place for you. With personal instruction, bike hire, ideal roads for cycling and a beautiful volcanic landscape, it really is a cyclists dream! Find out more about Club La Santa here.
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