Your training questions answered with Dig Deep Coaching: part three
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 third instalment Stephen Gallagher and Dan Fleeman from Dig Deep answer another bunch of your questions, providing insight that everyone can benefit from.
I’m a 3rd cat rider with my current FTP at 265 (69kg). For the last seven months I have focused on racing crits at least once a week (without any form of success) and padded the rest of my training with turbo interval sessions. FTP hasn’t budged; if anything it has dropped about 5W.
In each race I find myself riding right on the limit before finished mid-bunch or getting dropped when the pace ramps up towards the end. I feel that another 40W FTP would give me the extra headroom for being competitive instead of struggling for survival. What should I do to get the bump in power for the next season?
Thanks for your question and I am sure a new focus and direction over the pre-season will see you attain better results in the future. What you have to do firstly is look at what you have lacked in and the times you have really struggled in the race and target those areas of performance.
To give an example, perhaps when you are hitting dead turns in a crit and having to jump hard out of a corner from a low cadence, you are left lagging. Or perhaps it is the repeated short 200m ‘hill’ on a lap that needs you to go over your threshold each time that sees you struggling. What I am trying to do is make you understand more precisely where you are lagging come race day so as to focus this in training.
A higher FTP will help of course, but it is not the only priority when raising performance in crits. Athletes with higher FTPs are generally better all-round cyclists across most disciplines but this does not automatically make them good crit rider. Bradley Wiggins does not come across as a crit specialist after all (although I would expect a man of his talents would perform well in most disciplines).
So yes try and increase that FTP as much as possible as you approach the season — an increase of 8-12% over a three-four month period would be attainable with focused sessions and this will see a good benchmark to go from. I would also work on your tolerance to going over your threshold continuously i.e. repeated 10-second 600w efforts with short rest will help.
Try some five-minute blocks with 10-second sprints and 20 seconds off over the five minutes, these will not have a major impact on FTP but might help in some areas of performance you need to build on. Specifics to you are the key here.
Let us know at Dig Deep if we can use our experts to help you in the future. Safe cycling.
Answer by Stephen Gallagher
After a long road season it is advisable to take a break as much to rest the mind as the body. It depends on which discipline is your priority whether you decide to take a break now or after the cross season. As it sounds like you have completed a full road season I am guessing your priority is the road so I would take a week off the bike followed by another one-two weeks of unstructured riding.
You could include a cyclocross race or two in this period but I would try and stay away from a structured plan during this period so you are fresh and motivated to start training again in a couple of weeks. I find it’s important to switch off after one season before starting to focus on the next and enjoy the down time.
You won’t lose much fitness and it will soon return.
Hope this helps.
Answer by Dan Fleeman.
I’m a frustrated rider who doesn’t get much chance to get out on the bike anymore due to having a young family. I would like to concentrate on time trialling next year as that’s something that doesn’t require long rides to train for.
I have a Vo2max of just over 70 when at race weight (about 62/63 kilos) but am very skinny and can’t compete on flat TTs against bigger guys. When I used to race, I would often get dropped on rolling courses as I couldn’t match the power output up the small drags.
My FTP is about 300W and on a road bike with non-aero wheels, aero road helmet and aero bars I can do 40k in 1 hour 5 minutes. I’d really like to get that down to sub hour. It’s certainly not for lack of effort — I regularly average over 180bpm for an hour time trial when my max is 196.
For training I usually start with 2×20 at threshold and then move onto 15/12/8 at just over. I mix that up with a few longer road rides of up to three hours and some threshold sessions on the road for variety.
I don’t have a powermeter and judge my effort on heart rate and feel which mostly seem to work.
Are there any specific drills I can do to try and get my FTP up? I feel like I’ve hit a plateau of ability but I suspect the non-variation in my training isn’t helping.
My first question would be: how often do you train in your TT position? It always amazes me how few people train in the position that they race in. For most people it’s much easier to produce power in an upright position on a road bike than it is when down on the aero bars. This takes practice so I would do at least two rides a week in this position year round. These rides also need to consist of efforts as again you need to practice this position under load.
The 2 x 20 session in Zone 4 that you are doing is a great staple to do a couple of times per week but I would also look at reducing the duration of the efforts and increasing the intensity on other days. 4 x 6 minutes at zone 5 would be a good start then over time increase this to 6 x 6 minutes. It’s also a good idea to work on your pacing so you don’t start too hard and so you can really ramp things up at the end. This takes practice and a certain amount of trial and error to find what works for you.
Answer by Dan Fleeman.
Thank you and love CyclingTips,
Thanks for your question. It is a juggle sometimes when you try and fit in cycling training (which is what I believe you mean by ‘leg’ training) and Progressive Resistance Weight Training (PRWT) when you perhaps already have limited time to train when fitting it around work/family commitments.
What we need to look at it is the best use of your time to bring about the performances you want to achieve, taking in consideration of your strengths/weaknesses and how to target these areas to achieve optimum results.
I would suggest doing your PRWT workouts in specific phases — i.e. focusing on these exercises and prioritising these training sessions for a six-eight week period. Then you could reduce to a ‘maintenance’ block of training with PRWT for a 8-10 week period, perhaps once/twice a week at reduced intensity/duration, and change focus to more on-bike training.
I would also try and have your heavy blocks of PRWT training at times when you are not competing much. Your main objectives should try and fall in line with the middle/end of your PRWT maintenance blocks as you will have had more time on focused bike training sessions.
This is a general guideline on how I would try and incorporate this into a periodisation plan on someone who likes to use PRWT training as part of their overall training. I would also stress that this sort of training may not be suitable for everyone.
Hope this helps Bill and all the best with the training.
Answer by Stephen Gallagher
Thanks for question. I think we need to play on the side of caution if you have already had two months off with excessive fatigue. Make sure you do not do the same habits which lead to that illness. This is the first point you need to take on board.
Secondly I would suggest two, three-hour rides and one long ride (4 hours+?) cannot all be done at ‘race pace’ as you put it. Doing this sort of volume weekly can cause some slight fatigue in many levels of athlete when fitting these sessions in around all other areas of life. The issue is it does not allow you to rest and recover optimally. So to add lots of intensity on top of this and doing this week on week will lead to a high level of fatigue which I expect is one of the reasons you became ill in the past.
To start off your training for the 150km race I would look at reducing the three-hour rides into shorter but more frequent rides i.e. 3 x 90-105 minutes during the week with intensity included. What the intensity is and how they are applied depends on many variables like weaknesses, goal race conditions/terrain, current fitness etc. along with maintaining the one big aerobic ride at the weekend (4hrs+).
Over time I would then increase the intensity within the shorter rides until you start to feel like you’re reaching a plateau. At this point include the three-hour rides into the week (dropping most if not all the shorter rides) and include specific efforts within the three-hour rides but do not increase the duration of the weekend ride, so as to avoid over training.
This routine may or may not fit in with your time availability but this should give you an idea of how I would approach your goal race if we have a number of months to work on it.
Good luck with your race and stay healthy — that’s your #1 priority.
Answer by Stephen Gallagher
Do you have questions you’d like to ask of the Dig Deep Coaching team? Simply send an email to email@example.com 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.
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