Competitive cycling means conserving your energy, developing skills that give you power, and having the best technique. According to Chris Carmichael, founder of Carmichael Training Systems in Colorado Springs and former coach of Lance Armstrong, “the way you pedal, the line you choose, and the position you hold in the peloton affect the amount of energy you use as you ride.” In his book, The Ultimate Ride, Carmichael and Jim Rutberg explain that the strongest rider in the race can be defeated if you are smarter and more efficient.
Carmichael recommends modifying your training routine to fit your specific needs. Keep track of your heart rate every morning for a period of a few months. Take power naps, eat 30 to 60 minutes after your ride, drink lots of fluids including sports drinks, limit fats and proteins, take antioxidants to reduce soreness, and get a massage once a month. Each of these tools will help you recover more quickly. Recovery should be thought of as part of the training process.
Carmichael says resistance training takes away from ride time, but it prevents physical and mental burnouts, and will help improve strength and endurance. Workouts should be divided into five categories; Upper Body Pushing, Upper Body Pulling, Lower Back, Abdominals and Lower Body. Be aware of any pains or numbness. This usually means that an adjustment or bike fitting is needed. There should be no strain in the neck, shoulders, hands, low back or knees. Do not adjust your bike right before a race. Give your body the time it needs to adapt to any new settings.
In chapter six, we find out that part of your training regime should include group rides, because you can learn to ride in close proximity to others. It is important to learn to be relaxed and not to panic if someone hits your wheel or handlebars. Also, practice drafting during group rides, but don’t think you can avoid doing your share of the work. Drafting is when the first two riders pull the rest of the group through the wind. The riders will form a rotation so that everyone has a turn at the front of the line. Practice keeping the pace, so you don’t have to accelerate or brake. Carmichael goes on to say that when done correctly, drafting is the best way to conserve energy in a race.
Time trials differ from all other types of racing. Long workouts to increase your power output and interval workouts to improve your tolerance are required during the time trials before a race. Time trials in the U.S. are less than 40 kilometers in most cases and will take about an hour. If you adjust your bike or have a bike only for time trials, warm up on this bike on race day. For the preparation period, Monday and Friday should be recovery days during a four month period.
In the first month, schedule 5 days per week to train.
- Tuesday to ride for 2 hours
- Wednesday is 1 hour,
- Thursday is 2 hours,
- Saturday is 2.5 and a half hours,
- Sunday is 2 hours.
The second month is similar to the first in that it has two days off per week with those days being Monday and Friday. Vary the schedule in month 2 and 4 so that you’ve increased your training period by a half hour to an hour on some days. In the third and fourth month, schedule six days to ride with only Monday off for resting.
Carmichael has several good points that are simple to understand. Don’t put yourself at a disadvantage in races by burning energy unnecessarily. The warm up is critical on race day. The first ten minutes of a race can set the tone for the whole day. Good sprinters typically win races. Pedal faster on the climb, and your rivals will have to dig deep to catch you. Do not try something new at the event. Ask your coach about signs that point to overtraining for an event.
He compares your nutritional program to that of a car needing gas. Milk, beans, fruits and vegetables, and foods that contain less sugar and preservatives are suggested to maintain success. Eating is recommended both before and after the race. You might think because protein builds muscle that it should be the biggest part of your diet, but the main source of fuel is actually carbohydrates. Carbohydrates produce glycogen which is the source of energy during a competition. The proteins will be consumed during the recovery process. Carmichael goes on to say, drink water four to eight ounces every 15 minutes, or enough so that your urine is odorless and colorless. Eating during a race is also common if the event is more than two hours.
Carmichael’s book goes on to explain the Specialization Period. This is 8 weeks prior to the race, and requires a field test, confidence building, and writing in a training diary. He says, “As a coach, my job is to apply a training load that leads to positive adaptation.” If you are struggling during this period, refer to your diary. Record things like exercises, heart rate and hours of sleep, relationship status, and financial issues. Include a list of your accomplishments, for example, staying in the top fifteen riders throughout the race. It’s basically a year’s worth of work, and it deserves a little, or maybe a lot of recognition. Looking back on race season can be a great learning tool and may help you gain some insight for next year.
Even though this book is over 10 years old, it offers valuable knowledge and a glance into the life of a professional cyclist. The training examples alone are inspirational and I recommend it to anyone who wants a truly enjoyable read.