Have you ever wondered what it takes to prepare for a world-class stage race? Check out this snapshot of Rally Pro Cycling and DaybyDay athlete Rob Britton’s altitude training camp in Boulder, Colorado. It chronicles the methodical, structured and arduous training required!
Due to the nature of the Tour of Utah, our focus is on big climbing days. Since there is no Time Trial and there are two stages that will be decisive, we’ve structured his training with two very hard days, followed by an easy rest day.
July 15. 2016 – Day 5
This is the beginning of Rob’s second block of altitude training here in Boulder, Colorado. He’s done one moderate transition day and two tough days followed by a day of rest leading up to this.
This initial block of training is designed to rebuild Rob’s aerobic fitness, endurance and economy after a mid-season break. These are the elements of a solid foundation for the more intense work to come. I like the “engine” analogy. We’re building a V12 first, later we’ll add the ‘turbo’ using higher intensity training.
Here are the stats from the day:
And here’s the day’s power file.
On this ride, Rob descends from his base in Nederland and completes two climbs shown below: 1×30 minutes on Flagstaff mountain and 1×20 minutes on Sunshine Canyon. These are both done just below LT, or the point at which lactate accumulates in the muscles faster than the body can process it. In Rob’s case, that is 375-380 Watts. Note how steady his output is; he finishes just as strong as he starts and there are very few spikes in power above the target.
Here’s a close up of the two climbs:
After these climbs are completed Rob meets up with his coach for 90 minutes of motorpacing, or riding behind a motorized scooter. This allows a rider to train at race pace, improves leg speed and adds micro accelerations into the training. Rob averages a normalized power output of 310W and an impressive average cadence of 100rpm for this portion of the session.
The last intervals for the day are two more climbing efforts done on Sugarloaf and Magnolia; two of the most brutal climbs available. The efforts are 15 minutes each and done right at LT or 390-400 Watts.
Here’s the last rep of the day!
Rob’s Comments: “Solid day. Getting back into the swing of things here now. Altitude isn’t affecting me nearly as much, I’m able to sit on the watts relatively comfortably now. The biggest thing is really holding back and riding easy between LT and MP efforts. Super hot out these days so have doubled up on bottle refills, probably 10-12 big bottles today!”
The Takeaway:-Riding VERY easy between intervals is essential to maximizing the quality of each rep!! Hydration is paramount to working near your personal limits. Even in less extreme circumstances, ample fluid intake can make the difference between a failed workout and a breakthrough.
The Takeaway:-Riding VERY easy between intervals is essential to maximizing the quality of each rep!!! Hydration is paramount to working near your personal limits. Even in less extreme circumstances, ample fluid intake can make the difference between a failed workout and a breakthrough.
July 16th, 2016 – Day 6
For the second day of this training block, we’re having Rob focus on a long, hard, steady ride. We want to challenge his economy and fuel utilization, increasing his body’s ability to use fat as opposed to carbohydrate to fuel efforts. Since he’s well under his limits, this is also a great time to focus on his riding technique. Things such as a smooth pedal stroke, momentum preservation and long out of the saddle efforts are often overlooked, but very valuable skills.
As you can see, Rob covers 97 miles with over 11,000 feet of climbing in just under six hours. During this ride, he burns nearly 5,000 kilojoules, which roughly corresponds to 1200 kilocalories.
Though, much less intense than the previous day, Rob still climbs mostly in high Zone 2 and Zone 3. Here’s an example towards the end of his day:
Rob’s Comments – “Was a little slow out of the blocks today and definitely not sharp but really managed to ride into the day. Lots of new roads helped to keep things exciting. Lots of dirt… good bike practice. Never really went too deep but still managed to get on top of it pretty good for the last couple hours home. Felt surprisingly solid in the final hour, not my usual shattered self!”
The Takeway – As you can see, even top pros don’t feel ‘sharp’ following a tough day. While it is important to recover properly at regular points in a training program, it is necessary to push through some fatigue to reach a high fitness level.
Also, note the psychological aspect Rob pointed out. “Lots of new roads helped to keep things exciting”. One of the great aspects of cycling is covering new ground, and exploring our backyards. Go ahead and see where that new road goes!
After two monster days of focused training, it’s time for a rest day. The focus here is recovery. Without rest, we don’t absorb the work, so it’s important to rest just as hard as we train!
Because he’s staying in Nederland Colorado at 8228 feet for the altitude effect, Rob was a bit limited with his options. So he was forced to climb when a completely flat route would be preferable. Regardless, he keeps the pace very low, averaging 189 watts normalized power for the one hour ride. This yields a Training Stress Score (TSS, a measure of ride difficulty) of 27.6. Compare this to the hard days he’s done, which are in the 320-400 neighborhood! Hard days are hard, and easy days are easy!
Rob’s Comments: “Bike hard, rest harder. Super chill today. It was nice to have a rest day even though we’re doing two on instead of three, the last two days were massive and I was ready to have a bit of a recharge. Easy spin this am then Sauna/ Massage this aft. Should be good to go tomorrow.”
The Takeaway: This one is simple, easy means EASY!! It’s necessary to have a drastic contrast between your hard days and rest days. While on your active recovery spin, be thinking about the difficult days coming, that’ll keep you in check!