One of my favorite races on the Australian race calendar is upon us – the Tour of Bright (ToB). The reason I love this race is because it’s tough. Riders can sit in for only so long before the hills naturally sort things out into two groups: those who have done their homework, and those who haven’t.
The ToB starts this Saturday and all your training should be done by now. This isn’t the week you want to be trying to cram in fitness at the last moment. The biggest mistake I see most often is people trying to make up for lost ground in a panic during the week before a race. This week is about recovery and sharpening of your strengths. Going into a race underdone is far better than going in tired.
If you’re racing in the ToB (or any other event for that matter) the two best things you can do this week are getting a massage and doing a proper taper.
One of the most significant things you can do for your recovery this week is to treat yourself to a massage. No, I’m not talking about dim lights, the smell of incense, selection of scented oils, etc. I’m talking about a deep tissue massage that will be more excruciatingly painful than 3 Mt. Hotham’s in a row. If you live in the SE Suburbs of Melbourne, Andy Naylor or Charlie Botero are a couple therapists who specialise in cyclists I’d highly recommend. If you live north of the river in Melbourne, Scooter at Impact Massage is another excellent option.
Four days before an event is good to get a deep tissue massage. This gives ample time to get over the legginess (heavy legs after a massage) that is typically experienced after a deep tissue treatment. A deep tissue massage is akin to having a hard workout. You never want to have a deep tissue massage any closer than 3 days before an event. You’ll be sore, your legs will feel like lead, and you’ll most likely ride horribly the next day. This is good. It means it worked.
Tomorrow, 3 days before the race, you’ll want to go for a light pedal with a few race pace efforts (3 x 90 sec with 3 mins recovery in-between) just to blow out the legginess. Nothing too strenuous, but you want to give the legs a reminder of what’s to come. If you’ve done everything right you’ll feel like you’re floating on Saturday.
Up until now you should have been doing a fair amount of work in the hills. When I say “hill work” this should have included sessions with two or three climbs that last 15-20 minutes each, ideally twice a week. This will give you the necessary strength endurance base you’ll need for the big hills of the ToB.
That hill-work in conjunction with your other training should have been causing fatigue on the body. If you are fatigued from training then you have stressed the body enough to create the potential for fitness.
In the week preceding the ToB you should begin to taper. This involves reducing fatigue and training load. The temptation is to keep the training load high just to cram a bit more fitness in, but in actual fact you have to reduce fitness in order to shed fatigue. The trick is to control how much fitness is lost during the tapering phase.
What you want to do when tapering is emphasize rest and do just enough intensity to keep the fitness sharp. The tapering phase is not the time to be doing long sessions. Do 3-4 workouts in the final week before the ToB with short intervals at expected race intensity (only 90 seconds each with 3 min recoveries).
Five days before the race (Monday) do 5 x 90sec intervals. Four days before, do 4 x 90 second intervals, three days before do 3 x 90 second intervals. These intervals should be done at race intensity.
Your easiest day should be two days before the race (Thursday). Either take the day off or go for an easy cafe ride. The day before the race (Friday) should include some very brief race-pace intensity. If you’re up in Bright early on Friday do this ride on the TT course. Here is my favorite race tune-up the day before an event. Many people think that the best thing to do is rest the day before a race. I personally disagree.
Hopefully up until this point you’ve been training your weaknesses. In the taper phase you should be emphasizing your strengths and putting them into action. This is what you’ve been waiting for!
A number of excellent articles on peaking and tapering can be found on Joe Friel’s blog (the training/coaching guru where most of my training knowledge comes from).