The winter blues have probably well and truly set in at this stage.
It’s neither off season nor in season and training seems a bit of a monotony.
Group rides follow the same routes, your training partners are starting to repeat the same stories and worst of all the weather is as abysmal as ever as you enter the depths of the winter.
There is one glimmer of hope and it’s probably one of the only reasons you are still motivated to get out training, the racing season is fast approaching.
As it draws closer not only will your motivation increase ten fold as you break out the racing bike and your new kit arrives.
Your training starts to become more interesting also.
The long steady intervals are being phased out with shorter sharper efforts to prepare you for the upcoming races.
However, the group spin still maintains its traditional status of being a long, steady, boring ride.
The group ride provides the perfect environment for learning essential skills as we discussed in a previous blog and with racing just around the corner it provides the perfect opportunity to sharpen up your racing skills.
The first few races are always titled as dangerous as new or inexperienced riders are involved that ‘don’t know how to ride in a bunch’.
To be honest some of the ‘experienced’ riders are as much to blame for this dangerous racing.
The majority of the peleton has spent the last number of months frozen to the bike riding in a group that seamlessly rides up and over, hour after hour in a very calm fashion.
When these riders enter racing situation and everyone isn’t riding in an organized way, it is a recipe for disaster as their response time to react a rider cutting them off or bumping into them is comparable to a snail and a crash is imminent.
Their neurological response time has simply gone to the dogs!
The group ride is the ideal environment to iron out these issues.
At this time of the year group rides should implement some race like situations to sharpen up every riders racing skills in preparation for the upcoming season.
These drills may only need to be implemented once or twice a week.
They aren’t an opportunity for the stronger riders to flex their muscles and rip the legs off the weaker riders.
The drills should be conducted at a pace not much higher than the normal group ride pace because ultimately it’s about getting the techniques and sharpness back, not speed.
Up and over
Riding ‘up and over’ is one of most basic skills and the perfect starting place for sharpening up the groups skills. Like the technique used all winter were one side of the group rides up the group and moves over to the other side, this process should be speeded up 5-10kph more than the natural speed of the group and riders will constantly rotate at the front of the group. Completing 2-3 of these for 10-20mins on each spin is the perfect starting place for getting used to riding in a break away again.
If the road the group is training on has a slight crosswind, a slight variation can be used. The group should alter what side of the group moves up and which side moves back. The line moving back should always be on the side the wind is coming from to shelter those moving up. In addition, the riders should be slightly overlapping wheels to shelter each other from the wind coming from the side.
Town sign sprints
Town sign sprints or sprinting for ‘50’s’ (30’s in old money) is another drill that can really sharpen up a riders racing skills. Unfortunately most of the races we do are not set up like the Champs Elysees with banners telling us how long it is to the finish line every 100m. Town sign sprints provide the perfect opportunity to learn visually how long you can sprint for as there is no presence of the coveted 200m sign. Mini lead-out trains and different race situations e.g 2/3 up sprints can be practiced. Practicing these high-speed drills can make racing much less stressful and increase your chances of winning, as you don’t open a sprint too early etc.
Bump and grind
One of the biggest hurdles riders have to overcome when racing riding in a bunch. Group rides hugely improves a person’s ability to ride in a peleton. However, peletons tend to be a bit more physical. Out training, practicing bumping shoulders or leaning on each other can help you improve your ability to move in a peleton as it removes that panic if someone is riding close to you in a race.
Towards the end of group spins if the route allows for it, a mini race between 8-12 riders is ideal in the coming weeks before a race. Learning when riders are tired by the body language, when to attack and knowing where to ride in a group are just some of the skills you can pick up.
All of these drills should be carried out with safety as a priority.
Nobody wants a broken collar bone this close to the season.
These drills in the long run will improve safety in races, increase your chances of winning and most importantly spice up group rides which are becoming increasingly boring at this time of the year.
Have fun and stay safe ladies and gents!