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Plan To Succeed

Plan To Succeed

4) Try out new routes:

Riding the same roads all the time can become something of a chore. Even if you try riding your regular routes in the opposite direction you’ll find it something different. Circuits can be good in the winter months, as you're never far from home should the weather turn or you run out of juice.

Short of daylight? Find yourself an industrial estate, as they're usually well-lit and traffic-free: great for an hour’s tempo ride, intervals or just working on your cornering technique. Don’t hang around for too long though – at this time of year it's all too easy to catch a chill if you’re loitering rather than training hard!
Winter training

5) Plan to succeed:

An early winter's evening is the ideal opportunity to put your feet up and, over a steaming cup of cocoa, look back over your summer performance – before looking ahead at your winter’s training and the spring and summer to come.

Cycling coach and ex-pro Dave Lloyd believes that setting goals is a vital part of the coaching process, and he makes sure that all the athletes he works with do so. “Take stock of what’s gone right and what hasn’t gone so well, and recognise any weaknesses,” he says. “Having new goals – or going for the goals you’ve missed – is vital. This will give you a reason to go out in the cold and wet of the winter months, rather than just going through the motions.”

Hiring a coach costs around £30-£120 a month, and is probably the best way to maximise your potential. Look at it like this: six months of coaching will cost considerably less then a bling wheelset upgrade and it'll make you ride significantly better.

If you simply can’t afford (or you can’t justify to your other half!) a coach, here’s a quick guide to planning – follow the steps below to set your goals for the winter and the racing season to come...

Reflect: Look back over your performances in key races, sportives or rides. What went right? And what went wrong? Did you perform as you expected, and if not, why not?
Focus: Identify two or three major rides, races or sportives for next season that’ll be your main focus. These, and your expected performances in them, are your long-term goals.
Train: Work out how much time you can dedicate to training each week. Don’t forget to include your commutes, and try to be realistic and honest with yourself – there’s no point in scheduling 5am rides if you know you won’t get up.
Plan: Work back from your long-term goals and construct a training plan based on your week’s training timetable. There are some excellent books available to help you, such as The Cyclist’s Training Bible by Joe Friel, Serious Cycling by Edmund Burke and Training and Racing with a Power Meter by Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan. There are also online packages such as
Goals: Include in the plan some medium-term goals, which can be less important rides or races or weight loss targets. These should provide stepping stones to your main goals. Set four or five short-term goals each week: completing all your training sessions, not having puddings during the week, cleaning your bike after each ride… anything that will contribute to your training moving forwards. Write them down and stick them up somewhere you’ll see them every day.

One good way to keep yourself motivated is to book a training camp for early March as a reward for getting through the winter months. With some good winter miles in your legs you'll be able to get the best out of a spring camp and the warm sunshine will have been well-earned. Training camps are about building on your fitness – not about getting fit.

Alternatively, organise your own mini camp. You don't need to go far from home, but a weekend away with a few mates, riding different roads with no distractions, can be a great way to keep things fresh. If you do go abroad, try to find a camp that’s been recommended by other cyclists you know, or do a bit of research on forums to make sure you end up with the best experience.

6) Go faster:

For pro riders, the winter is all about long, slow rides building base fitness and economy. But you’re not a pro, and if you’ve spent the summer riding long sportives, chances are your steady pace fitness is already pretty good. If this is the case, cycling coach Marc Laithwaite suggests you use your winter training to improve your top speed.

Regular tempo level sessions will increase your ability to ride at a hard level for sustained periods: to ride climbs faster, bridge the gaps to groups and put in stronger turns on the front. Tempo level efforts can also easily be included in your commute.

“A tempo ride is completed just below your ‘threshold’ and is designed to tax your aerobic system for a sustained period,” says Marc. “An example session would be to warm up, ride 20 minutes at tempo and then cool down. The 20-minute period should be done at an intensity just below the maximum you can sustain for that period.

“If you have a power function on your turbo, ride flat-out for 20 minutes and check the average power you achieve. As a guideline, your tempo rides should be completed at 90-95 percent of that average. You can use heart rate (check your average heart rate for the maximal 20-minute test and then ride 2-3 beats below) but a more reliable method is ‘perceived effort’ – how hard do you think you can ride for 20 minutes flat-out? Ride just below that intensity. It’s critical to flatline your intensity: don’t fluctuate above and below threshold because this will not encourage the physiological developments required.”

7) Ride strong:

If you haven't built endurance over the summer, winter is a great time to do it. Long and steady training rides – as opposed to hard and fast sprints – will help you build stamina and strength and ride for longer. “Too many riders focus on trying to get faster when actually they’re better off working on not slowing down,” says coach Marc Laithwaite. “This is all about building riding economy and base fitness.”

On long and steady rides, monitoring your effort and sticking to the right intensity requires a high level of discipline. If you’re using a power meter you’ll be riding at 56-75% of FTP (functional threshold power), heart rate will be 69-83% of maximum and, if using perceived effort, leg fatigue should be low and you should be able to maintain a full conversation throughout the ride.

It’s essential you stay at these levels for the whole ride rather than fluctuating up and down. Choose suitable routes without steep climbs, make sure you have low enough gearing and don’t be sucked into racing with your mates. For novice riders a good starting point is 90 minutes, but riders targeting long sportives should build up to 4-6 hours.

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