Speed Work for the Late Season

It’s that time of year when you are either looking forward to winter sports, or you are gearing up for your big “A” race. If the latter is in your sights and you have a coach, you probably already have some speedwork mixed into training. If not, here are a few ideas on how to maximize your power output.

One of the biggest mistakes made by cyclists is not going hard enough on "hard" days and not going easy enough on "recovery" days. Riders often make the mistake of settling into a familiar pace that isn't working the cardiovascular or muscular systems to their potential. With consistent speedwork drills, your sprint speed will improve as will your ability to recover from hard efforts.


Here are three workouts that may be added to your training:

Big Gear Intervals

The ideal cadence for most cyclists is somewhere in the 90-100rpm (rotations per minute) range. Big gear intervals work on strength.

Begin with 5 x 5 minutes in a gear large enough to drop your cadence to about 60rpm while seated. Take a 5-8 minute break between each and spin your legs out. Do not allow your heart rate to creep into LT (lactate threshold). If you do not train with heart rate, this means that your heart rate should increase, but your legs should not burn.

Try to keep pressure on the pedals throughout the entire pedal rotation.  One way to ascertain if your pedaling is smooth is to check your chain. If it is bouncing, your stroke is choppy. A smoother stroke will maximize the muscular workout. If you ride in aero bars, keep the aero position during each effort.


High Cadence

High cadence intervals work on your fast-twitch muscles in addition to improving pedaling efficiency.  Big gear intervals and high cadence drills work together to increase your overall leg speed across a wider range of gears.

On the road or a spin bike (or trainer) do 6-8 x 2-minute drills where you lighten the gear and spin as fast as you are able without bouncing in the saddle.

These may also be incorporated into a longer ride to break up the monotony.

Lactate Threshold Intervals

Lactate Threshold intervals is to increase your aerobic capacity and subsequently your speed over the duration of your race. These should be performed on a flat stretch of road without any stoplights or a long, empty bike path.  As with big gear intervals, if you race triathlon, perform these while in your aero position.  


Start with 2 x 20-minute intervals at a heart rate a few beats below your LT.  Your legs should fatigue, but not burn or feel exhausted. Ride 10 minutes easy between sessions. Eventually, work up to 3 x 20 minutes.  If you are racing Ironman distance, you may even work up to 3 x 30-40 minute intervals.

Your cadence should be in the range of 90-100rpm. If you are not able to get your heart rate high enough, use a slightly bigger gear and increase cadence by a few rotations per minute.




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