Winter miles

For the aspiring road racer November is an awesome month. Most are done in after a long season of hard miles, be it racing or training. Winter gives you a chance to recharge your batteries, get back to enjoying riding your bike and prepare for the season ahead. I’d raced long into October so I’d actually reached the end of the season fairly fresh as my last few races had been crits. Rather than take a few weeks off I decided to head out in November and just ride my bike. I met up with the club run for the first time in ages, totally ignored my power meter and just plodded along without a care in the world. It was absolute bliss.

To many, November and December are horrible depressing months, why on earth would you ride in the rain, the cold and the dark? There are five things which I think are essential to making winter miles bearable. If you get it right, winter miles can be some of the best miles of the year. Do it well and you will also be in great shape for the coming season.

Mudguards

A divisive subject but I bloody love my mudguards! No soggy chamois, your feet stay dry and you get home not smelling like a farmer’s field. What’s not to like? I’m also convinced that mudguards create a serious parachute effect in the wind. Your good bike will feel about 2 kgs lighter when you dust it off in April. So hopefully 4kgs lighter in my case….

A solid winter bike also helps to get you out the door when plugging away at the miles. I’ve set my Kinesis up with the same fit as the Emonda, the same saddle and the same gearing so its pretty much just a heavy version of the good bike. There really is no point spending three or four months on an uncomfortable bike that bears no resemblance to the fit of your good bike. In my case I’m still limited drop wise by my hip flexors so I’ve dropped the bars 10mm lower on the Kinesis to see how it goes. I live in hope of something that resembles an aero position on the bike next year.

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Good kit

There is no such thing as bad weather, just poor kit choice.

There’s a lot to be said for that I reckon. My winter essentials are as follows:

  • Good quality bib longs.
  • Merino base layer, ideally long sleeved.
  • Gillet
  • Decent gloves, overshoes, buff and hat.

With the above and a couple of different jerseys to layer depending on the temperature you really can ride in all weathers. I’d love to add a Gabba to that list but I’ve yet to find a spare £200 down the back of the sofa. Don’t underestimate the awesomeness of quality bib longs. I bought a pair of Sportful Fiandres earlier this year and they really are a world away from shorts with a cheap pair of tights over the top.

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A plan

It sounds daft. But decide early on what you want to achieve next season and structure your winter so that it gets you to where you want to be. Ideally you want to be using either power or heart rate to guide you along the way but whatever you use, make it structured.

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I’ve got a pretty weird season ahead of me so my winter training will have some scratching their head. I’ve got an exam in April so realistically my season can’t start until May and I’m getting married in September which means my season will only run until the start of August. I’m going to give the Hog Hill winter series a solid go this year and try and make 3rd cat early on.  My winter will look something like this.

  • November – Volume. Simples.
  • December – Less frequent longer rides (3-4 hours). Sweet spot and threshold work plus intervals. Stay away from the mince pies.
  • January – Race Saturday. RTs where possible on the Sundays whilst maintaining some volume through the week (study permitting).
  • February – As above.
  • March – Drop the racing, focus on the exam whilst hopefully maintaining some semblance of fitness. Try not to eat too many biscuits.
  • April – Final pre season tune up. Mostly sweet spot and intervals.

 

Good mates/training buddies

Why else would you get out of bed at 6 am on a Sunday and ride for four hours in the pouring rain? Given we spend most of the year staring at each others seat posts and breathing through our arses, it’s a pleasant change spending a few hours rolling around the countryside catching up with the guys, putting the cycling world to rights (Froome’s data release will keep us going until February at least) and just generally having a laugh. All the while building a solid base for next season.

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Rest

Seems obvious, but don’t over do it! Catch up with your friends, your loved ones and just generally relax. Also eat cake. Winter should be filled with cake. There’s absolutely no point in watching your weight until that Terrys Chocolate Orangathon that is Christmas is behind you. Once January comes around pick a target and start that painful taper back down to race weight.

cake

I would say there is also no point in peaking in December but that’s exactly my plan…..I’m going full winter warrior.

Speaking of which, is it acceptable to wear arm and leg warmers with a skinsuit? I really don’t want to shave my legs in January…..

Whatever you do, enjoy it. It’s supposed to be fun.

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Winter miles = summer smiles. Or does it?

So then, it’s that time of year again. Having read numerous articles and spoken to everyone and everything that has ridden near me in the past month I’m none the wiser as to how to spend a winter preparing for a season of road racing. I’ve probably bored people to tears with my inane questioning and if that’s not bad enough, I’m probably ignoring most of what I’ve been told! The old school views are clear, big steady miles will give you the base needed to build on early in the new year.

I tried riding by heart rate and staying in zone 2 for all of a week and pretty much lost the will to live. I reckon a winter of that would have me back on the Dominos and Xbox diet pretty quickly so that was scrapped sharpish. There is a bit more logic to my thinking than a spectacular lack of willpower, mostly that I simply don’t have the time to commit to the big steady miles. Whilst there is no doubt that it would have been beneficial, I don’t have the time to go old school.

So, with a bit of pondering I’ve decided to do what I can in terms of mileage at the weekends and top this up with a couple of roller sessions in the week. Basically my weekday riding is going to be mostly spent staring at a wall…

rollers

The plan is simple, sticking to it less so. The main miles will be at the weekend. The Saturday club run is around 45 miles, a good start, but not quite enough in my mind, so I’ve taken to adding 30 miles on beforehand. That’s a good 4-5 hours on the bike but to get the 30 in means leaving the house at 6:45. On a Saturday morning. Ouch.

The roller sessions will be the tried and tested 2 x 20 intervals. Once I’ve got the best out of 2 x 20 I’ll move on to 3 x 15. In theory, it sounds easy, get the heart rate up to the point that you are almost seeing spots and almost gasping like a fish out of water and keep it there for 20 minutes. Simples! Sadly not the case on rollers it seems. I’ve found that without resistance it really takes some concentration to get your heart rate high enough! Not to mention will power, I mean why push to 170 bpm when 165 bpm feels, well, pretty good in comparison! Still, it must be doing good things for my pedaling technique if nothing else. With 2 hours on the rollers that takes my weekly riding up to around 7 hours.

Hardly earth shattering I think you will agreed but hopefully a strong base for the reliability trials in the New Year. Even this though is hard to commit to when you are juggling a job that consumes hours like a time trialling Bradley Wiggins consumes oxygen with maintaining some kind of normal social interaction with loved ones, friends and family. I guess the proof will be in the pudding! Although that could be a somewhat Schrodinger-esque statement as I need to stay away from the cake….