I have the local region’s TT championships coming up next week so I borrowed a teammate’s TT bike for the event. I figured I might as well make every effort I can to do well, even if I’m not expecting to medal or anything. I even have a skinsuit, aero-helmet, rear disc and front Zipp 404. Continue reading
Many riders new to our sport are impressed with the speed a bicycle can move at. They have ridden a bit themselves, but think they are stuck in 1st gear: they cannot seem to make themselves sustain a higher speed. Many turn to others and ask, “How can I go faster?” This is a valid concern and not one to be laughed at. However, at the risk of sounded flippant, the simplest answer is: ride faster. The key, of course, lie in the details.
Lance Armstrong wrote a book a few years ago entitled “It’s Not About the Bike”, and this is absolutely true: it’s about the engine. Speed cannot be bought. What is bought is less resistance and/or more efficiency. These two, of course, then lead to speed. So let me encourage anyone out there to not go off and buy aero-bars, or an aero-helmet, or think they have to buy the latest aero-carbon-bike to go faster. Will these things be a waste of money? Only if you don’t go as fast as you were expecting. (And of course, the aero-bars & helmet are only good for time trials.)
Almost anyone can get on a bike and go as fast as the pro riders we all see on TV. The difference is that they can maintain that speed for extended periods whereas you or I would peter out after a couple hundred yards (or less). So we need to train our bodies to maintain that speed. The law regarding speed is: the faster you go, the less duration you can maintain it for.
Okay. Details. How to ride faster. There are two ways to go about this: Group Rides or Interval Training.
The following should only be done 1-2 times per week. The bulk of a training program should be z1 riding as you maintain your body’s aerobic and fat-burning engines and recover from the hard workouts. Regardless of which method you choose, I recommend you have a good established base of hours in the saddle before starting. Going too hard before your muscles, tendons & ligaments are ready can result in injuries.
The simplest, most enjoyable, and easiest way to ride fast is to ride with faster riders. You get a group setting to socialize in pre- and post-ride, you get camaraderie, and you have fun as you all push each other to do better. You can try to find one or two training partners who can fulfill this role, or you can find a group to ride with. My personality prefers the latter.
A single training partner is useful for doing structured workouts like intervals, while a small group can utilize a variety of methods, such as sprints (intervals) or fartlek training. Still larger groups can set amazing paces because there are more individuals to share the workload. And if you find you’re not getting much of a workout sitting in the pack of riders, you can always go to the front and set the pace yourself.
The downside of group training is you’re at the whim of the group. When they go fast, you have to follow or it stops being a group ride as you suddenly find yourself alone.
If you prefer to ride by yourself, you will want to engage in interval training. This is where you go hard (fast) for a specified duration (time, effort or distance), then go easy for another specified duration (again, time, effort or distance) so you can recover. Then, you do the interval again. How many times you do the “active” part of the interval and the “recovery” part is entirely up to you or your coach. This is decided by your objectives.
From Joe Friel’s blog…
Estimating TSS: “Last week someone asked how I estimate Training Stress Score. My answer was a bit sloppy since the formatting of tables is all messed up in comments fields. This had all started when I posted a blog on how to project fitness and form during a Peak period using WKO+ software. Before getting at the table below to show you how to do this, I should provide a little refresher on Training Stress Score.
Training Stress Score (TSS) is a way of expressing the workload from a training session. It is the product of the workout’s intensity and duration. As either of these increases, TSS also increases. The formula for TSS is (there will be a test on this!)…
TSS = (sec x NP x IF)/(FTP x 3600) x 100
• ‘sec’ is duration of the workout in seconds,
• ‘NP’ is Normalized Power (don’t worry about this for now),
• ‘IF’ is Intensity Factor (a percentage of your FTP; in other words how intense the effort was),
• ‘FTP’ is Functional Threshold Power (your best average power for a one-hour race or test),
• and ‘3600’ is the number of seconds in an hour.
There’s no reason to remember all of this as I’m going to make it much easier for you. But understanding where the numbers come from may prove helpful for some. (The WKO+ software does all of this calculating for you automatically when you download your bike power meter or run GPS/accelerometer device. The TSS data point from the workout is then inserted into the Performance Management Chart you see here.)
If you don’t have a power meter or GPS/accelerometer but would like to use WKO+ to manage your training you can estimate your TSS and input it manually into the software. Many triathletes already do this with their swimming since as of this post there is no downloadable device that can be used to determine swim TSS (I expect to see that change in the next year). And there are also times when the device fails because the battery goes dead or you inadvertently erase the data and so being able to estimate the TSS salvages a data point.
To estimate TSS you must know two things: How long was the workout, and how intense was the workout. How long is easy. You just need a stopwatch. How intense is the hard piece. This is where estimation comes in if you don’t have a power or pace device. To estimate intensity for a workout you need either a subjective Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) or average heart rate. Both of these are far from perfect, but they can give you a TSS estimation which is close. And given that you will use the same method each time you should be relatively accurate (or inaccurate as the case may be).
Some examples may help you to understand how to use this table…
Example 1: A 30-minute workout at an average RPE of 6 would be a TSS estimate of 30 (60 x 0.5).
Example 2: A steady 90-minute workout at an average heart rate of high 2 zone would be a TSS estimate of 75 (50 x 1.5).
Example 3: A 15-minute warm-up averaging low heart rate zone 2 (TSS 10) followed by 30 minutes steady at heart rate zone 4-5a (TSS 35) and a 15-minute cool down at heart rate zone 1 (TSS 5) would produce a one-hour workout TSS of 50 (10+35+5).
And one caveat: Since FTP is by definition 100 TSS for one hour, a 100 TSS workout cannot last longer than one hour. A portion of the workout can be one hour with a TSS of 100, but an entire workout that lasts longer than an hour cannot be at the 100 per hour rate.
And one more thing. This table is meant only to give you a rough idea of how to assign TSS to workout, but it isn’t exactly right. One hour at a TSS of 100 would likely be at a 5a or low 5b heart rate zone. So it is somewhat misleading, but as you use it you will learn to adjust the TSS to fit the unique circumstances of your workout.
Once you have an estimated TSS plug this number into your WKO+ software on the Calendar page. To do this right click on the appropriate workout date, select ‘Create a New Workout’, click ‘Save’, and then right click the new workout selecting ‘Override values’ from the pop-up menu. Type in the estimated TSS and you’re done. Easy, huh? Actually, it gets quite easy as you become accustomed to it.
I hope this helps, but if not please let me know your questions.
(Via Joe Friel’s Blog.)
Excellent article! VeloNews did a comparison of TT equipment awhile back, showing how much energy is saved when comparing two pieces of equipment: aero vs. non-aero. Continue reading
Competitive athletes always strive to be better, to accomplish more. Staying in the beginner racing class (category 5) for the rest of ones cycling career is therefore not a consideration. We want to upgrade to the higher classes: 4, 3, 2 & 1.
Following is some insight into the upgrade process from cat 5 to cat 4.
How to Upgrade
USA Cycling has a nice little form on their website that allows you to request an upgrade. Look for the link to this in the section that details your current license.
In preparation for this upgrade request, keep a resume of the races you have done, a palmares. This palmares should detail at least the following:
- The date of the race
- The category you raced in
- The result you got (actual placing if, say, top-20, or just “pack” or “mechanical DNF” or something).
Copy this palmares and paste it into the Upgrade Request form on USA Cycling’s website. This information will be sent to your local representative who will confirm your palmares and make the decision regarding your upgrade. It will take some time to hear back, but lately, the response have been quick.
What to Expect
Each category of racing exists to skim the cream off the talent pool of the level below it. As a result, each category above has a slight increase in abilities. While the biggest jump goes from cat-3 to cat-2, the smallest jump in abilities is between cat-5 and cat-4. (Cat-2 racers generally race against Cat-1′s. As a result, their speeds and distances are greater than a simple cat-3.)
The reason for this is going from a cat 5 to a cat 4 level is only due to starting 10 races. It has nothing to do with fitness, or tactical acumen. This only means cat 4 racers have raced at least 10 times in their life. Some generalities:
- While they have more experience in close-pack racing, they only have a little bit more (10 races).
- Their bike handling skills are only marginally improved. They may do fine with riding a straight line, but they may still have trouble following a correct line through corners.
- Their racing techniques have only slightly gotten better. Some still chase down teammates in breakaways. Others spend way too much time on the front, expending their energy in useless efforts.
The fitness levels of cat-4 racers is generally higher than that of cat-5, so the overall pace of the race is usually a little faster, perhaps 25mph instead of 24.5mph.
The peculiarities of cat-4 racing techniques deserves a little more detail. The down side of cat-4 racing tactics is that most all riders will respond to attacks from others. Cat-4 racers are not usually content to allow a rider to get away. They feel that this may be the one break they can get into and contribute. So they go. Then someone else follows, and so on, leading to a surge in the pack’s pace, as opposed to a genuine break-away. The whole race is then characterized by accelerations and decelerations as attacks are tried and abandoned.
Cat-4 racers are still not overly skilled at cornering. (Remember? They’re only just ex cat-5 racers.) As they approach the corner, they take a too shallow approach. The riders up front stop pedaling to control their momentum a bit, and the following riders have to eventually brake to avoid slamming into the ones in front. The front riders then accelerate back to speed (for them: a nominal acceleration) while the riders in back are still actually slowing for the corner. This is the accordion effect and it is compounded the farther back in the pack a rider is.
This accordion effect, compounded with the attacks & follows of the race can be potentially very demanding fitness-wise. The only positive in this is that the fitness level of the average cat-4 racer is lower than higher category riders so the accelerations are not as extreme.