Not everyone has the time to put in five-hour rides every week. Fortunately, there are a few hour-long sessions that you can do that are invaluable for developing your bike fitness.
Written By: Ben Delaney
Building fitness through five-hour rides is all fine and good for the pros, but the rest of us need to do more with less. Here are three great workouts you can do in an hour that will improve your race-readiness.
The Workout: Climbing Accelerations
The reason: So you can handle surges
The breakdown: Alternating 50 seconds at threshold, 10 seconds sprinting, for six minutes
The coach: Bart Bowen, Rebound Sports Performance
Find a climb that’s at least six to eight minutes long when riding at threshold. After a warm-up, start climbing at your functional threshold (the maximal effort you could sustain for an hour). Every 50 seconds do a 10-second sprint, then settle back down into threshold. Do this for six minutes, then coast back downhill, recovering for at least six minutes. Do three sets.
If you’re using watts, shoot for 95 per cent of your functional threshold for the 50-second efforts, and 120 per cent of your FT for the 10-second accelerations. You can also gauge your efforts by gearing and cadence. If you’re climbing steady at threshold in your 39×19, for example, shift into your 17 or 15 when you stand up and jump.
“This workout teaches you to change from that steady-state power to what you would experience in a race,” said Bart Bowen, a former national champion and owner of Rebound Sports Performance. “You have to surge and come back, surge and come back. Climbers might love that, but those who hate it will likely benefit the most. Also, this workout teaches you what’s possible — that sometimes all it takes is that single 10-second surge to keep you in the group.”
The Workout: Hill Sprints
The reason: To improve your high-end endurance
The breakdown: Sprint all-out uphill for 45 seconds
The coach: Kendra Wenzel, Wenzel Coaching
Find a steep hill, approximately 300 metres long, that has a flat run-in and flat top. Ideally, it will be something that takes you 45 seconds to climb at full speed. After a warm-up, start a full sprint at the bottom of the hill in a gear that feels too small. Stay in that same gear all the way to the top.
“Choose a gear that feels tiny when you first jump,” said former pro Kendra Wenzel. “Then you run out of gas, it starts to feel bigger and bigger. It replicates that feeling in a race when any gear feels like too much.”
Work, out of the saddle, on explosive power all the way to the top. Get 10 minutes of recovery between efforts. You can also make this drill progressively harder, by doing the first sprint in the 53x 21, the second in the 53×19, the third in the 53×17 and so forth.
“If you do them right, you can only do four or five,” Wenzel said. “It’s perfect for when you only have an hour to bang out a maximum-intensity workout. It is designed to push you, even when by yourself, further than you normally would go.”
Do this workout when you’re feeling fresh. Wenzel recommends it as a good Wednesday ride, with an endurance ride or a recovery ride on the preceding day and following day.
The Workout: Power Intervals
The reason: To improve your power at VO2 Max
The breakdown: Six all-out three-minute efforts, with three minutes recovery between
The coach: Jim Lehman, Carmichael Training Systems
The formula is simple: three minutes on, three minutes off. But make no mistake, this workout is very, very hard. The first step is to ensure that you’re physically and mentally rested, and ready to fully commit to multiple maximal efforts. Once you have that box checked, proceed.
You can do these efforts on a flat stretch of road, one with a slight incline (2 to 3 per cent), or on an indoor trainer. Go all out for three minutes, then recover for three minutes. Keep your cadence at 90-100 rpm. Take a break between each set, and repeat six times.
“The key is an explosive start, just like you would if you were initiating an attack during a race,” said Jim Lehman, a senior coach with Carmichael Training Systems who works with many ProTeam riders. “Don’t try to settle into a nice, steady power output though, you need to pour on the power during each interval.”
With many other workouts, you want to keep power output steady over the entire interval. That is not the case here. When done properly — at maximal effort — your power will decline as the interval progresses and the average power for each successive interval fall.
“Don’t worry, though, as you are driving up oxygen consumption and blood lactate levels, thus working to improve your VO2 Max,” Lehman said.
Lehman suggests doing two of these workouts a week for two weeks, then following it up with a week of longer and easier endurance rides.
“Remember you need to give your body a chance to adapt to the training load,” Lehman said. “So take those easy days as seriously as you take the intense days.”