So, you’ve sportived your way around the country, you’ve Dragoned and Etaped until your legs are tired and your heart’s content. You’ve Marmoted and Fondo’d in three languages. For your next trick, then, how about road racing?
I say this because I know you want to. You pretend that sportives are races, you pretend that you’re racing when you train. So do it.
Road races are likely to be shorter and faster than anything you have done before. Your initial perception will be that the race is going to be fast, but what you might not be prepared for is the continual sprinting out of turns.
Over the course of a race this will take its toll on you, and even the best sprinter can feel drained when the final mad dash to the line starts. One moment you might be thinking, this isn’t so bad, the next you’re hanging on for dear life.
That’s why it’s fun! In a sportive there is no pressure to stay with one group or another, to accelerate, to drive hard over climbs and such.
You’ll be experiencing this while riding at speed in a bunch, cornering a few centimetres from other riders, and wondering how much more pain you can tolerate, before tolerating some more.
Let’s tackle the fitness aspects. If you’ve tackled a fair few sportives your endurance will be fine, in that you can ride for an hour and a half. So the focus needs to shift away from steady long rides to the aspects of fitness that will allow you to do that 90 minutes or so at speed, with pretty continuous needs to accelerate and sprint.
I’m going to suggest three interval sessions. You can cut your steady state endurance rides down to make room for the time and effort required.
1 Slow to Fast
Find a little circuit a mile or so long with three or four corners. Ride at a comfortable pace, take the corners quite slowly then sprint out of them hard for 5 seconds or so, before dropping the pace just a little for 10 seconds, then ease back to the comfortable pace. Note that most road races are left turn only.
2 High Pains Drifter
Ride at a high pace that is barely tolerable for 30 seconds, then accelerate hard and sustain the effort for 30 seconds. Ease up and drift back to just a little below the first pace for 30 seconds, then 60 seconds seconds at the base. So you’re in effect drifting from hard, to very hard, hardish, easy, and back up through. Do this until you hate me.
There will be times when the pace seems plain stupid. Get used to it by nailing yourself to the saddle for 3-4 minutes at a time – as if you’re running late for a 10-mile TT. Ride easily for 3 minutes, then go again. Do between four and eight of these efforts. This is almost enough to prepare you for those moments when you look down and you’re doing 38mph on the flat.
Dave Smith has been involved in coaching cyclists in all disciplines for more than 25 years. A former GB national and Olympic road coach, Dave has trained Tour stage winners and Olympic medallists, world champions and numerous national champions. In addition he has applied his quirky and counter intuitive thinking to help dozens of regular cyclists, polo players and F1 drivers. He rides 250 miles a week on and off-road in all weathers.