Friday, September 3, 2010

Demands of the Sport

For a lot of you, the road bike racing season is winding down and you're either a) making the transition to cyclo-cross racing or b) entering the "off-season".  Regardless, this is a good time to evaluate your 2010 road bike racing season and identify your strengths and weaknesses. i.e. what races did you do well in...why?  What races did you do poorly in...why?  Was your season a success?  Was it a bust?  Is the reason why your season was a "success" because you were racing Cat 4 when you should have been racing Cat 3?  Is the reason why your season was a "bust" because you finally bottomed-out in Cat 3 and can't hang with the Cat 1 and Cat 2 riders?

When you begin to train for the 2011 season, the emphasis should be on training your weaknesses.  (Remember: race your strengths and train your weaknesses)  If you got dropped on the 20th lap of a 28 lap Criterium, perhaps you need to work on your endurance for 2011.  If you just missed the podium, numerous times, because you can't hang during the final sprint..then perhaps you need to work on your 15 sec and 30 sec power.

If you race with a power meter, you can pull up the files for races you did poorly on and take a look at the power profile.  You might discover that the reason you got dropped on the 20th lap of a 28 lap Criterium is because you weren't able to sustain the 450w for 30 seconds up a hill- just to hang with the lead pack.  Hey, when is the last time you did a 28x30sec @ L5/L6 interval workout?  I don't know about you..but I think the most reps at VO2max (L5) that I've ever done was maybe 11..and I felt like puking at the end of the workout.

Even if you don't have a power meter, you should be tested periodically on an ergometer (such as a Computrainer) so you know what your 30 sec., 1 min., 5 min., and 20 min. power are.  Maybe you'll discover that the reason you can't hang with the Cat 3 guys is because your 20 minute max sustained power is only 275w when the rest of the Cat 3s you're racing against are averaging over 300w.  Put simply, you're just not as strong as the guys you're racing against. 

Take a look at the training and power requirements chart I provided above.  The first 3 columns will give you an idea of how much time your fellow racers are putting in each week for training.  If you're a Cat 4 racer, you should be averaging 173 miles/week or about 13 hours.  I don't know about you..but I'm a "pack fodder" Cat 4 racer and I can tell you for fact I don't put in more than 150 miles in per week.  And, that's during prime-time.  Hell, in the Winter when it's nasty outside I don't think I get in more than 50 miles per week..and that includes indoor trainer work.  Hey, maybe that's why I'm Cat 4 "pack fodder"...I just don't ride enough.  BTW, that is the truth.  With my hectic work/travel schedule..I'm just not getting the miles in per week that I need to.  What's worse, take a look at the climbing requirements for a Cat 4.  For a Cat 4, the source is saying that in those 13 hours of should be climbing almost 10,000 ft.  So, if my average ride is 3 hrs/ride that would be four plus rides per week.  10,000 ft/ 4 rides per week= 2500 ft of climbing per 3 hr. ride.  That's quite a bit of climbing in a 3 hr. least around here it is.  My toughest 3 hr. ride has 3000 ft. of climbing in it.  And, I have to go out of my way to target hills to get that much elevation in.  And I'm lucky if I get that much climbing in once per week.

Lastly, take a look at the last 3 columns.  You can see that the 20 min. power requirement for a Cat 4 is 286w.  Based on my experience coaching, I'd say that's pretty damn close.  Remember, the power requirements are for a 175 lb. male.  If you want to know what your power requirements are for your weight, just multiply the w/kg number by your weight in kg.  (To calculate your weight in kg, just divide your weight in lbs. by 2.2.)  So, if you're a Cat 2 racer and your 20 min. power is only 350w (and you weigh 195 lbs.), no wonder you're getting dropped by the Pros and Cat 1s.  According to the chart above, you should be averaging 460w for 20 minutes.

So, for 2011, in additon to identifying your strengths and weaknesses from your 2010 season, take a hard look at the chart above and see what your peers are doing for training and what their power outputs are.  I think you'll be surprised that your competition might be training a little bit more than you are..or perhaps they're stronger..maybe worse- they're training more AND stronger.  Train smart for 2011- know the demands of the sport so you're ready and know what to expect in/during your races.

Power ON!  Coach Rob

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