Getting Ready for the Sportive Season

Article #1 of Series – Introduction

By Anthony Walsh, BL

The winter is a period which offers new hope for riders who didn’t quite get it right last season and a fresh challenge to those entering the sport. It’s a time to think about the big goals for the season ahead and to start getting ready for them.

Proper preparation, beginning now, will pay big dividends on those long, challenging sportives during the coming season. Being in good condition just adds so much satisfaction to the big events and provides a great sense of wellbeing.

With that in mind, the following series presented by A1 Coaching aims to help you get into the best shape possible for your big goals and dreams in the year ahead.


We are what we eat!

It’s the time of year when we have probably all indulged a little bit too much.

We’ve enjoyed the good life and now is the time for our penance. We are still in the period of dark, early nights and occasional midweek training. Our caloric output is much reduced at this time of the year hence we need to adjust our food intake accordingly.

In cycling, power and weight are the two dominant barometers of performance. Getting a handle on what’s on the dinner plate is as important as the hours we clock on the saddle.


Respect tradition

While scientific advances in cycling are welcomed, we are confronted with the reality that cycling is a primal sport which has century-old traditions. We can learn a lot from those traditions about winter preparation.

January is not the time to ride your state of the art carbon frame and Zipp 404 wheels. Durability and function trump style and speed.

If possible, ensure your bike:
– Is heavy, durable and easy to maintain.
– Is fitted with mudguards and lights.
– Has tyres which are in good condition and offer grip on slippery winter roads.


Winter Racers

The term ‘Winter Racer’ has been coined to refer to riders who train too hard in the winter.

However, the term has become a shield for unmotivated/uninformed riders to justify low training intensity for the bulk of the year. The term would be more accurately used to describe riders who peak during winter months. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with training hard over the winter as long as that isn’t as good/hard as it gets.

A training season should be periodised – that means different ‘periods’ of training with progression being emphasized from period to period. Therefore, as the season approaches, one’s training should be more intense and should also begin to closely mirror the specific demands of our target event.

Knowing how to train in ‘Zones’ of effort is the number one best thing you could do for your cycling performance, along with periodization. If you haven’t started Zonal Training in it’s worthwhile learning about it and the next article will be devoted more to this, given its importance.

In the meantime, don’t be afraid to include some ‘Sweet Spot’ Zone workouts into your training routine. This is the effort at which you get most benefit for the time and effort invested (88 -91% of Threshold Power or 8 out of 10 perceived exertion – you can still talk, but only in short sentences).

An example would be to include 2 x 20 minute Sweet Spot Intervals into a Z1 endurance ride (5 out of 10 perceived exertion). These sessions will do wonders for your aerobic capacity and work on every rider’s limiter – Threshold Power.

‘Threshold’ (lactate threshold) is the point in exercise where your body produces more blood lactate than it can reabsorb on a continuous basis, and you performance begins to drop. Along with your weight, this is what will mainly determine where you come in the pack, so it’s well worth working on this aspect of your fitness.


Embrace the Turbo

The time for intervals isn’t on your weekend group ride. These are best preformed while training alone or with a small group of friends. If you struggle to train during daylight hours, a Turbo Trainer can be a great investment for doing your intervals.

Although some loath the trainer and claim it can make time stand still, it is an excellent place for structured quality training. While on the road, the obstacles to interval training are numerous: traffic, stop signs, poor surface, wind, terrain etc., the trainer offers a controlled environment where none of these are a concern.


Get Started Now

January can be a time when riders struggle with motivation and find excuses to put training back until the weather gets better, the evenings get longer, the bike get serviced, etc., etc.

If you haven’t started yet, don’t procrastinate any longer – get started now. You know it will be easier to maintain training when you get down to it and settle into a routine. There is an old saying in cycling – ‘winter miles make summer smiles’. Starting a structured training routine now will certainly help bring those smiles on.

In our next edition we’ll talk you through how you can setup a zonal training program for yourself. This will maximize your training time and ensure you are ahead of the competition when summer rolls around.

See you on the roads!

Back to Introduction to the Series – click here …

A1 Coaching offers personalized custom training programs built around your own unique circumstances. It takes the guess work of your training, guarantees performance increase and allows you to focus on beating your friend to the top of that hill!

Click here … to see how our coaching works.

About the Author