Effective Winter Training

I am a 47 year old masters cyclist from Minnesota who competes in road races, TTs, and crits throughout the spring, summer and early fall. During the season I typically put in between 250 and 300 miles/week. I am fairly competent as a cyclist with my major weakness being my sprint. This has resulted in my having a large number of second place finishes after instigating breakaways in road races and crits. This season, I tried time trialling for the first time and found that it was something I thoroughly enjoyed and was quite good at.

Given the climate and reduced hours of daylight in Minnesota (it has already snowed a number of times) I find it necessary to limit late fall, winter, and early spring training to cross country skiing, weightlifting using a periodization approach, and using a trainer. In recent years, I have been coaching a high school cross country team so quality training hours of skiing have been reduced forcing me to spend more time on the trainer to be in decent condition when I first start racing in April. I have two basic questions regarding off-season training: one has to do with equipment, the other with a program that will strengthen my sprint and help me further develop as a time triallist.

I currently use a Cyclops fluid trainer but beyond using a heart rate monitor to ensure I am actually training as opposed to putting in "garbage hours" I have little way to monitor my progress over what can be as long a period as 5 months. I am currently looking at purchasing a more advanced trainer/training system that will provide me with greater feedback in the hopes that this will both allow me to train more intelligently and be more motivated to use the trainer during the winter months. I have looked at a number of possibilities including Computrainer, Powertap, and a Cardgirus trainer (advertised on the Cyclingnews website). However, I am not sure what I should be looking for with respect to feedback/software (e.g., cadence, watts, ability to conduct fitness tests etc.) and have not had the opportunity to use more than the Powertap system. Any suggestions you have with respect to what I should be looking for that would enhance the effectiveness of my training or information as to the quality and reliability of the above mentioned training systems would be greatly appreciated.

I would also appreciate any information regarding specific workouts on which I should concentrate during the winter in order to improve my TTing and sprinting.

B. Abery

Dave Palese replies:

Brian, In regards to your trainer set-up: I have always been big fan of the Elite Volare Fluid trainer. For the money, about $260 bucks, it gives you a lot.

As far as workouts to improve your sprint and time trial, these are two completely different types of efforts.

The effort of a time trial is a threshold-centric effort and is improved by increasing your power output at or around your threshold. I prescribe different types of efforts at different times of the year to work this ability.

This time of the training year, during the General Preparation period, you'll want to start by doing basic Threshold intervals. These efforts are steady state intervals that keep you at an intensity at or just below your threshold. These intervals can be anywhere from 5-30 minutes. Increase your total amount of threshold training by 5-10 minutes during a session from one week to the next. As a general rule, the rest between intervals is usually equal to the length of the previous interval.

Later, you'll want to move on to intervals that take you just above your threshold for a short period and then relax you back down to a point just below.

As the weeks past you should see your output a given HR and perceived effort rise.

An important note about the term "threshold". When I use the word threshold above, I am referring to ones estimated anaerobic threshold that most of us get from performing a Conconi test or similar protocol, and not one's actual lactate threshold, which is determined through testing in a laboratory. In the context of the intervals described above, the target training zone would be Threshold, or Zone 4.

As for improving your sprint, this can be approached on two fronts: leg strength and leg speed and pedal stroke efficiency at high cadences.

For the strength component, time the gym is can be an option, but that can be a book in itself. On the bike, this time of year, try starting with a mix of sprints in a big gear, 53x16-14, starting from a near standstill. Try as hard as you can to get on top of the gear sprinting all out for 8-10 seconds. Do the same but in a very small gear, 39x19-17, jumping hard out of the saddle, getting up to a high cadence and then sitting down to reach maximum cadence. Hold your leg speed for 8-10 seconds.

Rest between both sprint types above is 2-5 minutes or until you feel ready to go again.

Start with 3-4 sprints per session.

You mentioned a lot of second place finishes after establishing the breaks. You might want to take critical look at your strategies and tactics too. Riding the smart race can often be the thing that puts you on the top step of the podium.