Your training questions answered with Dig Deep Coaching: part two

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Over the past few months we’ve been working with the team at Dig Deep Coaching to help answer your questions about training, nutrition and more. In this second instalment Stephen Gallagher and Dan Fleeman from Dig Deep answer another selection of your questions, providing insight that everyone can benefit from. See below for how to ask your question, and how to tune in to a free webinar where the team at Dig Deep will answer a whole host of your questions.

Hi guys,

I’m a Masters age road racer (B grade club level Vets; turning the big 5-0 next year!) and I often get dropped at the beginning of races if everyone takes off full gas. Sometimes I can get back on in the later half of the race where I seem to feel stronger and others have faded.

Races are generally <50km in distance and courses are usually undulating to hilly. I'm fairly reasonable on hills, weigh ~72kg and have a good late model bike with carbon wheels (it's not about the bike, someone once said...). Any tips to help with this problem? Regards, Ross [ct_highlight_box_end] Hi Ross, Thanks for the question. This is something a lot of people can relate to - most cyclists have experienced this feeling of heading towards the back door as soon as the race kicks off. It's never a nice feeling, but it can be helped. Warming up is an essential part of any performance, especially for those events that require a maximal start and where effort is required near or at maximal capacity. Short road races, criteriums and time trials all require a methodical approach to warm up. Failing to do so can leave you ‘dead legged’ in the first 20 minutes and can be detrimental to performances later in your race as you try and regain lost time. For a basic warm up I would do the following: - 5 minutes easy spinning - 8 minutes incremental, from zone 1 to 4, with the last minute at zone 5 - 5 minutes easy - 10-second power surge - 2 minutes easy - 10-second power surge - 2 minutes easy - 10-second power surge - 5 minutes easy You may adapt this routine over time as you find out what works and what does not but this will help you on your way. Also make sure you have digested any pre-race meal adequately before the start of the race. D4B_8830

One last item I would like you to concentrate on in your next race is making mental ‘finish lines’ within the race, especially at the start. By this I mean you need to break the race up into smaller segments so you are focusing on the task at hand.

I would begin with focusing on the first 10km, starting near the front of bunch on the line and giving all your physical effort to maintain contact with the bunch until the 10km point. Once this is reached then focus on the 20km mark and so on as the race progresses.

I hope that as you progress in the races in the coming weeks/months your confidence will be regained and the need to concentrate on the start of the race will be swapped to the end of the race when you are fighting for the win!

Hope this helps and good luck with the upcoming races.

Answer by Stephen Gallagher

Hi Dig Deep,

I’m trying to improve my cadence speed but when my cadence gets above 100 rpm I start to bounce on my saddle. What can I do to avoid the bouncing?


Hi Eddie,

Thanks for your question.

The first thing I would like you to look at is your position on the bike. Sometimes a low saddle height can cause you to lose adequate pedalling motion. That bouncing you mention can be caused or intensified by a low saddle position. Getting a proper bike fit might help in this area if you have not already had one.

When cycling over 100rpm it can be difficult maintaining a smooth stroke or developing a stroke with enough torque to produce adequate power. The best riders in the world make this look faultless — Wiggins, Cancellara, Nibali to name a few — but it is an area that needs discipline and attention if you are to develop.

I have always recommended using rollers as a great tool to train indoors as they not only help your bike handling and focus but they can help force you to have a smoother pedal stroke.

That ‘bounce’ you feel can be very noticeable even at a lower cadences while on rollers which will cause you to really concentrate on the full stroke at lower cadences. A forceful downward stroke without compensating for a strong upward stoke can also create that bounce, causing inefficiency.

Using rollers, keeping your core/upper body as still as possible, and engaging with your glutes/legs can help create a much more complete stroke and enable you to pull up as well as push. You will never be able to produce as much power on the upward stoke as the downward stroke (you use more dominant muscle groups on a downward stroke) but increasing this ability will no doubt raise that pedal efficiency thus preventing the bounce to higher cadences.

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Using some specific spin routines in your normal weekly training will help in the long term. Try the following intervals with regular training rides.

Start at 70rpm but over a 4-5 minute period gradually build your cadence by 5rpm every 30 seconds until you feel that bounce starting to build. Once that threshold is met try and ride at that upper limit of your cadence and really focus on downward/upward stroke and core engagement. Ride at this ‘limit’ for no longer than 30 seconds. I expect this ‘limit’ to be around 105/110rpm from what you have said.

After this, rest and reduce rpm for 3-4 minutes before building again over a 5 minute period. By incorporating this into regular training rides over a number of weeks you will hopefully start to see your threshold increase and that ‘bounce’ disappear until around 120-130rpm.

Repeat this routine 4-5 times initially within a training ride but increase over a period of 3-4 weeks as you begin to improve and develop.

I hope this helps! Keep working on this as it can require many months of work to bring around true agility within your pedal stroke.

Answer by Stephen Gallagher

Hi CyclingTips and Dig Deep,

With my current commitments based around a young family and career, I have to sacrifice my cycling training hours to only my commute to and from work — 15km one way. This gives me a total of 30km per day for five days.

I used to be able to fit in another mid-week medium distance, high intensity (think Tour de Burbs) ride but that has been consumed by other aspects of my life as well. On the weekend, I managed to negotiate four hours of riding with the boss to get some distance into the legs. My goal this year is to get into B/A grade in my local criteriums (currently C), I don’t do road races as it is too time consuming for both training and racing.

Without a structured training program, what is the most effective method to achieve my goal? My ad-hoc approach now is a couple of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) early in the week, core and weight exercise mid-week when I am in front of the TV in the evenings, taking it easy closer to the weekend and going all out on the weekend.


Using your commute is a great way to get some quality training in while short on time. I would suggest that you focus on the high-intensity work mid-week rather than during the longer ride at the weekend but don’t think just because you are doing an endurance ride that you cannot do any efforts. A longer ride is a great time to be heading into the hills/mountains and getting some zone 4/5 climbing efforts into the ride.

As for the midweek commute I would certainly do some sweet spot (88-94% of functional threshold power or 95-98% threshold heart rate) on the morning ride. You don’t need a massive warm up for this — 3-4 minutes is fine and a couple of minutes cool down — then just sit at sweet spot all the way to work. Make sure you get some carbs in as soon as you arrive, to aid recovery, then do some shorter efforts on the way home. The more intensive efforts will require a little more warm up and cool down.

Hope this helps.

Answer by Dan Fleeman

Hi Dig Deep,

I’m starting to train with a heart rate monitor and wondered the best way to work out and train in each of my zones. My long term aim is to become stronger and faster.


Hi Nick,

Thanks for the question and great to hear you’re starting to work with a structure in your training by using heart rate (HR).

The first thing you must know about HR is that it can be affected by many variables: fatigue, caffeine, stress, heat, altitude, cold etc. All of this must be factored in when basing your training intensity around your zones. Each person will react differently to certain scenarios and variables but I would advise you to monitor how you react in each situation so you begin to understand how your body works.

There are many different zones and methods to bundle together the intensities to a model that is specific and easy for you to follow. Each coach can use a different method but all with the same objective — making your training specific and being able to monitor/analyse/develop your training to help you become better.


I personally use a popular model that many people use which has been developed by Andy Coggan and is based around lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR). A detailed explanation of this method can be found here and is also very well explained in his book “Training and Racing with a Powermeter”.

What this system really entails is developing a HR range that you can sustain at an intensive, continuous effort for approximate one hour at a maximal intensity. This is your LTHR and all your zones are based around this number and developed accordingly.

This number may vary over time as you get fitter/weaker at certain times of the year which is a reason you should evaluate your zones at different times during the year.

I hope this helps you begin to develop you training zones around HR and begin to get more specific in your cycling and get stronger as a result.

Answer by Stephen Gallagher

Hi Dig Deep!

I have just registered for the Audax Alpine Classic “Ultimate” 320km ride in January (*gulp*) so now I am trying to develop a training plan to build to a 320km/6,000m ride in six months.

I completed the 250km Alpine ride in January, but have been pretty quiet since then, just commuting (2 x 20km, 3-4 days a week) with the occasional weekend spin.

How should I be looking to structure my training? Am I better off focusing on distance/endurance and hoping the hills take care of themselves, or should I work on climbing force on the assumption that half of the 320km will be downhill so doesn’t really count. ;)

What’s the best approach to building up to the final distance? Does the “add 10% a week” rule of thumb still apply? Finally, how should one “taper” for a ride like that? I am currently planning to get my last big training ride in about three weeks before the day but I’m worried that might too long.

Thanks for any tips!


Sounds like you have picked a hard challenge but with the correct training and preparation I am sure you will be fine come the day of the event.

Clearly for an event as long as 320km a certain amount of endurance is required but working on your climbing is also crucial. It’s important to remember that during the event if you can tag on to a fast moving group it will help give you a much faster finishing time but it’s also important that you don’t go too far into the red zone especially on the long climbs.

I would suggest increasing your ride “time” slowly with the aim of hitting your target race duration a couple of times inside the final two weeks of the event. I would suggest you include in these rides plenty of long climbs — 15-20 minutes if possible — at or around your threshold.


Nutrition on race day and hydration in the days leading up to the event will make a massive difference to your performance on the day. Practice your eating so that you are used to the volume of food and also any specific brands to be used on the day. Approx 80 grams of carbohydrate will be needed per hour to keep you sufficiently fuelled for an event of this duration.

I think three weeks is too long to start a taper. I would suggest the final long ride being a max of 7-10 days before the target event. After this I would cut the volume but keep the intensity in the rides.

Also, don’t forget to do a couple of short sharp efforts the day before the event to blow out the cobwebs and open the legs up. This is something that lots of people forget to do and then suffer to get going in the first hour of the event

Answer by Dan Fleeman

Hi CyclingTips and Dig Deep Coaching,

I’m 26 and have spent the last 10 years on the road. I’m used to riding around 300km per week, usually with three or four short one-hour trainings during the week (strength and/or speed training: short intervals and punchy hill repetitions) and one or two longer rides (60-110km) on the weekends. I also have a background of a lot of 140-180km rides some years ago.

In June, I made a long 200km training ride at zone 2. I felt normally tired the day after but I had pain and weakness on my quadriceps during all the following week. Since then I’m experiencing pain in my quads and feeling that my legs are over-tired (especially the mentioned muscles) at every ride above two hours, no matter how easy the pace.

I should say that in July I changed my crank from 170mm to 175mm (I’m 1.84m tall). Am I injured? Do I need more volume on lower zones to improve my slow twitch fibres?

Hi there,

Did you adjust your saddle height to account for the longer cranks? If you have added 5mm to your crank length this will effectively raise the saddle height by 5mm so you will need to drop the saddle by the same amount to keep your saddle height the same as before.

This change, plus the added volume to your rides could be the reason for the quad pain. I would suggest going to a physio to check for any injuries, and it would also be worth investing in a professional bike fit to check you position is set up correctly. This could prevent further injury in the future.

Sorry I could not be of more help but it’s very difficult to say if you have an injury without getting a full check-up by a fully qualified physio or doctor.

Answer by Dan Fleeman


Do you have questions you’d like to ask of the Dig Deep Coaching team? Simply send an email to with the subject line “Dig Deep Coaching question” and we’ll forward it on to the appropriate person at Dig Deep. The team will select some questions to answer in the next instalment in this series.

And don’t forget about the free webinar that we’re hosting with Dig Deep Coaching where the team will answer a whole bunch more of your questions. The webinar will be held on Thursday September 11 from 6.30pm to 7.30pm AEST. Click through to register for the webinar — we hope you can join us!

For further information on Dig Deep Coaching and useful tips on all aspects of performance please head to their website or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Click here to read the first instalment in this collaboration.

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