Skills and technique
Long endurance rides can be boring, especially when completing such rides on a regular basis with no social group rides to join. Make your endurance rides more productive or add some structured intensity to your winter training by working on your skills and techniques.
Mountain bikers could complete offroad intervals to develop line choices. Is there a quicker or smoother line which will save you energy or protect the bike from potential damage? Is there a dry line? If it’s a muddy track riding off the normal line can avoid the mud and help you maintain traction and speed. Work on improving your cornering, look at how a car racing driver corners, slow entry, hit the apex, accelerate out of the corner. Get your braking done early so you can control your speed through the corner, hit the right line and exit with more speed than if you’d had to brake mid corner. Practise your ability to stand up through corners or over obstacles, where you aren’t pedalling you should probably be out of the saddle so you can move the bike around underneath you. When cornering remember to get your pedals in the correct position, corner with the outside pedal at 6 o’clock and inside pedal at 12 o’clock. Finally practise your pacing, think about riding at a smooth consistent pace that will leave you feeling in control and reduce the risk of crashing, damaging the bike or running out of energy before the finish line.
Offroad circuits could be created on Strava and timed each week using the online tracker, you can test yourself on existing segments using a GPS with mapping, or you can simply setup a 10 minute lap timer and complete 2 or 3 offroad laps pacing between tempo and race pace, the intensity should be hard enough for it to be a good workout but not too intense that you cannot practise your skills and technique.
If you don’t want to ride offroad at risk of ruining your race bike or don’t have access to trails close to home you can ride your mountain bike on the road. The familiarization with the bike setup, gears, brakes and body position will give you confidence when you do ride offroad. You don’t want to arrive at your first race of the year having been riding a completely different bike all winter.
There’s no reason why a road cyclist cannot complete a similar workout and practise many of the same skills. The weekends see many business parks left deserted; these roads could be your training playground. Don’t forget the importance of group rides to maintain or improve your group riding skills, without practising these skills you’ll be riding uncomfortably in or out the back of the group on your first races.
I coach clients all around the world with climates ranging from the warmth of Australia to the freezing weather in Finnmark, Norway. For everyone the indoor trainer has a place, as a pro cyclist perhaps keeping safe from the icy roads or torrential rain, as an enthusiastic amateur needing to train early in the morning or late at night, as a young mother or father who cannot venture away from the house and baby monitor… There are many reasons why an indoor trainer offers you a great training solution.
An indoor trainer provides a great way to limit outside factors which can reduce the quality of your workouts. Traffic, road junctions and changes in gradient are no longer a factor. You can now sustain your power within the target range whilst varying your cadence to meet the workout objectives, you can do that 10 minute effort without having to soft pedal when a car pulls out in front of you, those roadworks on your favourite climb won’t affect your indoor training… You can now execute your workouts successfully and get maximum benefits from every training session.
Smart trainers are constantly dropping in price, no longer do you need to spend over £1000 to purchase a decent indoor trainer. Wahoo’s cheapest option, the Kickr Snap priced at £429.99 has power measurement, gradient simulation and controllable resistance via your favourite app or software. Spend around £700 and you’ll have access to a direct drive smart trainer. At the higher end of the price scale many brands are now offering smart bikes bringing integration to a whole new level.
Wahoo has taken the indoor training experience even further by offering the Kickr Climb which raises your front wheel to simulate gradient changes during structured workouts or virtual course. It’s important to train your body to cope with gradient changes, whilst climbing in the saddle you’ll be using your glutes, calves and quads more than normal.
Zwift brings entertainment to your indoor training experience with a new online training platform where you can ride and race with people from all around the world. The Kiss Super League was the first to feature professional cyclists. In 2020 Zwift will host the first UCI Esport World Championship and has aspirations of getting Esport cycling into the Olympics. Zwift continues to launch new features including mountain bike courses with steering, routes for gravel bikes and shorter criterium races.
You can connect your Training Peaks account to Zwift, this means structured workouts appear automatically in your Zwift workout folder. The software will then control your indoor trainers resistance and run you through the workout step by step. Here’s a how to guide on enabling this feature https://help.trainingpeaks.com/hc/en-us/articles/360020392591-Zwift-and-TrainingPeaks
Reviewing your season and setting new goals
Before taking on another big winter of training its worth taking some time to review how your past cycling season has gone, highs and lows, and think about plans for next season. Have a clear direction with goals and periodization, this will enable you to properly structure your training in 2020 and make much greater improvements rather than trying to consistently maintain the same training intensity and volume for the entire year.
Look for positives such as strengths you’ve developed over the past year and think how you can use them to your advantage next year. This could be improved sustainable power output which means you’ve increased your pace on longer climbs or flat timetrial like efforts. If you know you are strong in these areas you can use this to set your race schedule for the following season.
What was your biggest highlights from the past year? Did you achieve your cycling goals? You should always make time to appreciate the success you’ve achieved. Success could be winning a race, an overall placing in an event series, a time on a segment or hill climb, dropping your mates on the club run or unlocking the Tron bike on Zwift!
Consider your greatest disappointments, what cycling goals didn’t you achieve? Where did things go wrong through the year? This could be choices in training, it could be tactical errors in races, maybe equipment choices.
What are your current weaknesses, areas you could improve or ways you’d change your training? The winter could be the perfect time to improve on your weaknesses, even if those areas aren’t event specific by making improvements here you could become a better allrounder. You can then refocus on event specific training closer to your first races.
The weaknesses I’ve identified following 2019 include my offroad technical skills and technique on steep climbs. In previous years my technical skills have been much stronger but a focus on other areas of performance meant that I felt much more nervous on the bike descending this year, this quite possibly cost me victory at the UCI World Marathon Series race at Alps Bike Festival. At the UCI World Marathon Championships I was climbing like a goat on caffeine but descending like a granny! I know how to fix these skills and am already working towards improving this weakness with offroad circuit practise. My weakness on steep climbs has existed for as long as I’ve been racing but this year I took a big step forward, however I know I can improve much more so this is a focus during winter training. A regular workout on a climb with pitches of up to 30% gradient followed by a technical descent, repeated numerous times providing 1000 metres ascent in an hour gives me a great MTB workout to make quick improvements before the 2020 season.
Once you’ve reviewed your past season you should be in a position to set your goals for 2020. Writing some goals down and even making those goals known to your coach or family will be a great motivator.
Struggling to review your season, develop your skills, or know how to integrate your training with indoor training? 2020 could be the year to recruit the services of a cycling coach. Contact one of our MarathonMTB editors and coaches Ben Thomas, Justin Morris or Imogen Smith to see how they can help you.