What to Do Now to Prepare for Races Later (Advice from Coaches)

What to Do Now to Prepare for Races Later (Advice from Coaches)

Editor’s note: this is the first in a series of articles focused on training advice for Zwifters. Each post will feature a single question answered by coaches who use Zwift with their clients. Here’s our first question:

It’s early January. If you could give every racer on Zwift just one piece of advice to help them meet their racing goals this year, what would it be?

Noel Bonk, Bonk Werx

If your goal includes racing outdoors in the spring, my advice would be to use Zwift as a way to either add to or supplement longer structured training rides. The weather this time of the year in many parts of the US is cold, wet and snowy so this can prohibit getting in those longer rides outside. On the other hand, the idea of spending 2-3+ hours sitting in one spot on the trainer for many athletes is pretty daunting, so Zwift is an especially great way to balance that and combat the boredom.

By using Zwift as a training tool, racers can get in that saddle time when needed either through one of the many regularly scheduled rides, through the workout builder or just riding along. Based on the fact that it’s January and most road races are months away, consider targeting those longer rides in zones that build aerobic endurance, aerobic power or functional threshold power first. Add these Zwift rides/workouts to your training schedule so it becomes part of your weekly routine. Just remember since fitness is not created in a silo, don’t be afraid of challenging yourself on occasion!

Troy Delfs, Momentum Cycling

First of all, prioritize your races.  Unless your name is Eddy Merckx, you can’t win them all.  Look at the race calendar for 2018 and determine what your top priority or A Races are.  There should only be 2 or 3 of these per season and these are the races that you base your whole Annual Training Plan around and taper for.  Next come the B Races, which you hope to do well in, may have a short taper for but are still secondary to your A Races.  3rd are the C Races which quite simply are used to build race fitness, practice your skills, strategies and tactics and to test our your bike and equipment.  Although you shouldn’t expect great results in C Races they are still very important to help you prepare for the A and B Races.

I believe that the numerous races offered on Zwift provide a multitude of opportunities to build fitness and fine tune your tactics, pacing and to help you push your limits.  My suggestion is to use the Zwift races as your C Level Races.  In the off-season, I would not suggest doing more than one race (Zwift or real world) every week or two as they can be very fatiguing and should only be done if they would compliment the current phase of your training plan (i.e. don’t race during a recovery week).  Consider doing a Zwift race as an alternative to a hard FTP or interval session.  You may wish to simply compete in the first third or half of the race, to get in the high intensity, threshold work and then change course and spend the rest of your ride working on base endurance. A few great things about Zwift races is that they are free to enter, readily available and nobody really ever notices if you just happen to turn off course after you have reached your limit.

Paulo Stroud-Baranda,  BIKEDNA 

If I gave only one piece of advice to all Zwifters this January, it would be to know precisely what it is that you wish to accomplish this year. Put your plan into action! Decide all races or events now. Using Zwift is a fantastic way to achieve cycling fitness as it allows you to work with smart data and in a consistent way no matter what the weather – which is so important to achieve success in cycling! Start training specifically for your goals and focus your training around that event. Is your goal to finish the race or do you have a time goal for that race? That means no more junk miles! Every ride should serve a purpose.

Of course, a coach could take your training to the next level and help you develop a solid plan, provide motivation when you need it and get you past any injuries that might occur during the year. If you have never used a cycling coach, now is a perfect time to give one a try – take the guesswork out of the equation!”

Rob Manning, Tailwind Coaching

Remember that racing isn’t always about who is the strongest or has the highest FTP.  Winning a race is about being the most cunning and the most efficient.  If you have matches left to burn at the end of a race, you’ll be much more likely to win than the guy who’s been burning matches on the front all race.

If you want to be more efficient, work on the neuromuscular link between your brain and your muscles.  Working on high cadence drills (think 130 RPM and over) and low cadence drills (70 RPM and below) while staying smooth and supple will help you build neuromuscular conditioning.

The better your neuromuscular conditioning, the more efficient you’ll be.
The more efficient you are, the more energy you have left at the end of a race.
The more you have left at the end of a race, the better chance you can win.

Don’t ignore those cadence drills and the pedal stroke work.  It might be the difference between crossing the line with your arms aloft and crossing with your head hanging.

David Lipscomb, CIS Training Systems 

My advice to those looking to meet their 2018 racing goals would be to ensure that the training you are doing mimics the racing that you are looking to compete in.

Threshold workouts are great, but there are other skills needed to ensure that you come to the table with all the tools you need. One of the skills needed would be cadence development from 50 to 125+ RPM to cover all demands of racing.

About The Author

Eric Schlange

Eric runs Zwift Insider in his spare time when he isn't on the bike or managing various business interests. He lives in Northern California with his beautiful wife, two kids and dog. Follow on Strava

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