As a keen cyclist once you have mastered the art of building up your basic miles and you start to feel comfortable at a steady pace for 90-120 minutes it is time to start adding some performance training into your weekly schedule. The aim of adding these sessions is to build cycling leg strength and power and adapt the body to be able to cope with short bursts of high intensity work whilst at the same time being able to return to a high level steady pace for duration with ease.
To precisely manage your intensity in the most accurate way taking a physiological test performed to assess lactate thresholds would be beneficial (service available through Matt Roberts Personal Training centres, Roehampton University and some independent cycle practices). Once you are aware of your lactate thresholds you can train specifically at the right intensity to most efficiently push your lactate threshold up and train your body to cope more easily at higher levels. Your threshold is the intensity level of exercise at which you are starting to produce more lactate within the muscle than the body can cope with. At this level your body can only keep working for a specific period of time, before the intensity has to be reduced or you have to stop unlike the pure aerobic level where the body is working very efficiently and can keep going for a long period of time.
The aim of good cycling is to be able to train the body to cope efficiently before lactate starts to overcome the muscles.
This form of training requires you to work at your lactate threshold for 40-60 minutes per session. Initially this is difficult to achieve for long durations. However, by adding this type of session into your weekly routine will allow the body to become stronger, adapt to buffering the effect of lactate and create a more efficient cardiovascular system. The aim every time you perform this type of session is to gradually work at this intensity for longer, even if it is just an extra minute each time.
The aim of this session is to build strong legs and quality cycling action. After your warm up of about 10 minutes steady riding move into the over-gearing phase. Efficient riding cadence is normally thought of as being at about 80-90 rpm. For over gearing we try to work with higher and therefore less efficient gears that can only be pushed at a lower cadence of roughly 60-70 rpm. Work at 2 minutes of over-gearing followed by a 2 minute recovery pace, initially for 3 sets and gradually building to 5. Whilst doing this, focus on quality cycle action using a combination of quadricep, calf and hamstring action and even pressure under the foot as you apply power. Once you have performed your over gear sets aim to ride at your normal controlled pace for a long duration ride. Having semi-fatigued the legs your long ride will feel harder but the adaptations will be beneficial.
The aim of this session is to build the cycle strength at the end of a long ride or race. For this session you will need to find a long steady hill that takes roughly 3 minutes to climb.
You will need to ride at a good comfortable pace for 90-120 minutes and then aim to perform five hill climbs at a medium to fast pace so that the legs feel the effect of the hill at the top. Keep a high leg speed and use your gears to maintain that high leg speed all the way up the climb. Turn around, recover going down the hill and then repeat. Starting with a 5 set minimum gradually aim to add more as you progress in strength.
To help you schedule the interval sessions listed above into your current rides a example programme is set out below.