Aside from the obvious part of training in one sport versus three, the volume, intensity and patterns of training as a road cyclist during race season are very different than triathlon training.
I’m starting my second week with my new coach, a cycling specific coach. A few initial observations from how I was training previously.
- Volume. I was pretty reliably 10-14 hours per week while training for triathlon. On average, about half of that volume was on the bike over the past year. (so, 5-7 hours on the bike). My initial weeks with Deborah are about 6-8 hours total, all on the bike. Quite a bit less volume overall (which makes managing life much easier), similar to slight increase on the bike.
- Intensity. At this point in the season, my training is pretty polar. Either really hard, or really easy. I got scolded my very first day for riding too hard on a recovery ride. Not a lot of “medium” efforts in the plan, so riding with my sunrise cyclists group doesn’t fit well. (Although they will come back into play as I take a short break from racing and ramp up mileage for Tour de Cure prep).
- Technical skills and pack riding. Unless you’re a triathlete on the draft legal circuit, pack riding isn’t a critical skill. It’s everything in road racing. Also, for crit racing, taking corners at high speeds without hitting brakes and having to sprint out of the corners (or causing crashes) is very important to racing efficiently (and safely). So I am being sent to practice crits (with mostly guys, intimidating!) and also racing a lot as training activities.
- Racing. A lot. I’ve always been a serial racer. I love getting out there. But I was always at odds with tri coaches that wanted me to race less. And racing less as a triathlete makes sense. Triathlons can be much longer than bike races, unless you’re comparing sprint tris with elite level road races. There’s also not much point to race triathlons for “practice” aside from a tune-up race or two to put all the pieces from training together. Most skills can be simulated in training. For bike racing, it is pretty hard to simulate racing outside of a race since you need a suitable course and a pack of riders similar to those you would be riding with in races. You also don’t have to race all out in every bike race. You can sit in the pack and work less but still get the technical experience.
The pattern of training during race season appears to be some variant of the following, customized based upon how I’m feeling and if there are specific goal races that I want to be really fresh for.
- Monday – Active recovery ride – very easy
- Tuesday – Interval ride of some type on trainer
- Wednesday – rest
- Thursday – Practice crit, group riding at high speeds
- Friday – easy ride with race prep intervals to wake up the legs
- Weekend – Race one day or both, short-ish (2 hour) endurance ride on one day if not racing
And finally, working together as a team is very different in cycling than triathlon. In triathlon (non-draft) teams support each other, train together when possible, help as race sherpas, and cheer on their teammates. I’m a proud member of Team Wattie Ink and I love cheering for my teammates and celebrating their accomplishments.
In cycling, since road races (ex. time trials) are draft legal, helping your teammates takes on a very literal meaning.
I had the pleasure of racing with my teammate Amanda at the Mt. Joy road race this past weekend. Our team goals going in were to get one of us as high as possible among the Cat 4s racing to earn series points as individuals and for our team. Amanda is a strong climber and has good endurance. I’m more of a time trialist and sprinter, best on flats or rollers.
After the really steep climb on the first lap, a gap opened between us and the lead pack. I went into TT mode and worked really hard to get myself and Amanda back to the pack. When you burn matches like that, it is going to affect the rest of your race. However, based upon that hill in the first lap, I knew I didn’t stand a chance at finishing in the top of this field, so burning a match to get Amanda in good position was the right move for the team. I fell off again in the second lap and couldn’t get back on. Amanda stuck with the group that had the first few Cat 4s and finished with them – she earned a 5th place which will be a nice number of series points for her and our team!
So far, so good. I’m on a steep learning curve in the cycling world right now and truly enjoying it. I’ll be sharing more of my training and racing as the season progresses.