Cyclists, or rather, amateur sports people, are notoriously goal driven people. On the turn of the year, it’s not out of character to find a cyclist sprawled out over the living room with laptop open at Garmin/Strava files, the latest British Cycling or CTT events listings, and a diary.
Planning the racing year is exciting, a chance to look ahead at the open page of the next year and think about what you want to be etched on there by December 31st. It’s also a way of making sure you know what the priorities are for the coming year, which will help you to focus your attentions and motivate yourself when miserable weather hits.
The problem is – that sometimes there are so many goals it’s hard to see through the fog and work out exactly what you want – the result of this is that you’ll end up filling your diary with tons of events and putting out a so-so performance at all of them. What you need is a plan…
Here’s a look at planning a season, with some examples from my own season:
1) Review the previous year
If you haven’t done this yet – the time to do it was a couple of months ago. However, it’s not too late. Firstly, what went well – what were you proud of? Secondly, what could have gone better, and what could have helped make it better?
Example: In 2013, RideWriteRepeat’s Michelle dropped her 25 mile PB to 01.00.35, and cut 15mins from her 50 mile PB but these were on new courses so not comparable. In terms of same course performances, she cut 45 seconds off her club 9 mile PB from the previous year, over a minute from her Horsham 10mile time and deducted 1 minute from her 25mile PB on her local course so there was improvement. She came 24th at the national 25 and 12th at the national 50 time trials. Her FTP was between 200 – 206 watts.
Early season was quite confused as she shifted focus from road racing to time trials, meaning winter training didn’t quite fit the new goals, and racing most weekends mid season meant she got quite complacent – less frequent racing towards the end of the season was much more successful.
2) Pick a primary goal
This could be anything, but it needs to be specific, here are a few common examples:
- Increasing your functional threshold power by a certain % or to a certain number
- Ride a specific route or cover a number of miles
- Cut off a number of seconds or minutes from a time trial PB
- Loose a certain amount of weight
- Achieve a new road race category license
Whatever your goal is – it needs to be personal and specific – “Get faster at a 25mile Time Trial” , or “Get leaner and faster” will not do. Try to quantify what you want to achieve – doing so will help you track your progress and keep you motivated when the weather is grim or your legs are tired.
Example: Michelle realised last year that time goals are not easy to judge ultimate improvement by due to changing weather conditions and course alterations. For that reason, goals will be based on power with the aim of placing higher at the CTT National events. Power goals are hard to set with 2013 being the first summer using power but the target will be increasing FTP to 215-220 (whilst maintaining 2012 and current weight of ~58kg as opposed to 2013 summer weight of ~60kg thus improving power to weight) and coming between top third and half way at the 25 and 50 TTs (as opposed to 2013s bang-on half way results).
3) Pick a couple of secondary goals
These secondary goals need to take a backseat, but provided they don’t conflict with the primary goal – they can help keep the season interesting.
Example: Having joined the South East Women’s Time Trial Series, Michelle will aim to get into the category 2 sections of the rankings, meaning she’ll need to record a sub 24min 10 mile time trial, cutting off 21 seconds, and a sub 1hour 25mile TT time, meaning cutting off 35 seconds. These will require faster courses and good weather so won’t be a key focus. She’ll also be after points in the league amongst the cat 3s, which are achieved by racing certain events.
4) Work out what you need to do to get there
That’s one short statement that is far from easy. There might be some specific requirements, for example for a national event you may need a qualifying time which you’ll need to achieve before a set date. If your goal is a ride of a certain length, you’ll want to plan rides over the season leading up to your big day increasing in length.
Once you’ve pin pointed the logistical markers along the way, you’ll need to think about what sort of training you need to do to get there so that you know which sessions you should be putting your focus on.
Example: Michelle already has qualifying time for the National Events and needs to concentrate on increasing her FTP to get the times she wants. Sessions based on increasing VO2 Max and then FTP are the most crucial – in other words, it’s all about doing some 3-5min reps, and more importantly 4x8min and 2x20min reps.
5) Pick your events & plot them in
Now – comes the fun bit! Depending on your goal, you may need a copy of the CTT handbook (time trials), BC handbook (road/track), or a copy of the Cycling Weekly sportive guide. You also need a calendar, with other commitments and dates already written in – family birthdays, holidays etc. Ideally – have this in a format where you can see full month views so you can clearly see how many events your signing yourself up to.
- First – select your “A” events – those you want to achieve well in. These are focused on achieving the primary goals.
- Next- select “B” events – these are for fulfilling those secondary goals.
- Finally – select “C” goals -these you will use for training, but you need to promise to yourself that you won’t get caught up in them, won’t taper for them, and will not let them become more important than the A races – if you can’t do that – don’t do them!
Example: Michelle needs to do the National events, and the SEWTTS events. She will be away in March training in Majorca, so will need 1 wk + to take it easy after that, and is getting married in July so will likely need free weekends in that month. She’s already established she doesn’t work very will with racing every weekend – so has selected fewer events and spread them out so races mainly have one weekend between them, at least:
6) Plan your training around the events
Now it’s time to put it all together. Bearing in mind which are the key goals, plot in what you should be doing during each month to achieve that goal. If you’re working towards a a long ride, plan rides of increasing mileage at certain weekends over the season, making sure you leave time for an easier week every month or so. If you need to perform at a chosen events, plan tailored sessions in the months leading up to them, add a practice event a few weeks before, and make sure you leave time to taper 1-2 weeks before depending on the length and intensity.