While most of us will never be as fast as the pros, that doesn’t mean we can’t train like one. Whether you’re a weekend warrior or just interested in fitness, these training techniques and racing habits commonly used by pros like Chris Froome and Peter Sagan can help you improve your speed, lose weight and avoid injury on the bike.
1. VARY YOUR TRAINING INTENSITY
Rarely will a pro cyclist get on the bike without having a specific goal in mind. For you, this means knowing your training zones and varying the intensity of your cycling workouts depending on your goals for the year.
Instead of just jumping on the bike and going out for a ride, if you want to get faster you’ll need a training plan that includes a mix of long, slow rides, interval training, hill repeats and drills to improve pedaling efficiency and bike-handling skills. This will keep you from getting in a zone 3 rut and help you become a well-rounded cyclist.
2. MONITOR YOUR FOOD INTAKE
It isn’t uncommon for pro cyclists to weigh their food before eating a meal to keep close tabs on weight gain between rides. While you don’t need to take your nutrition to these kinds of extremes, monitoring how many calories you consume on and off the bike with an app like MyFitnessPal can help you shed extra weight.
If you can achieve a lower overall body weight without decreasing your overall power output, you’ll be faster on the bike.
3. EAT WELL ON THE BIKE, SOMETIMES
In long-distance events like the Tour de France, pro cyclists consume somewhere in the neighborhood of 80–100 grams of carbohydrates and 2–3 bottles of fluid every hour they’re on the bike. This may fluctuate depending on the intensity of the stage and weather conditions, but either way the pros consume a lot on the bike to replenish and maintain energy levels and keep from bonking in the latter part of the race.
While you only need to follow this advice for training rides or races longer than two hours, remember that during shorter efforts loading up on energy bars and sugary sports drinks is overkill and will only make you gain weight.
READ MORE > 6 TIPS ON CYCLING FOR WEIGHT LOSS
4. INDULGE IN A POST-RIDE MASSAGE
Off the bike, pro cyclists are known for enjoying a post-ride massage or two. On top of being a great way to relax aching muscles, a post-ride massage also speeds recovery and prevents muscle soreness by improving circulation, elongating muscle tissue and calming the nervous system.
If you have the money, getting a massage after a big training ride can definitely help, but if you don’t there are other ways to recover without shelling out $80. For $10–$20, a foam roller can give you similar benefits.
5. PACE YOUR EFFORTS
Whether you’re interval training, racing or heading out for a long, slow ride, pacing your effort and staying within your pre-determined training zones is a must to get the most out of your workouts.
To take a page from the pro’s book, pace your efforts with a heart-rate monitor and power meter. This keeps you from going too fast too early and to maintain an even pace so you can finish all of your rides strong.
READ MORE > POWER VS. HEART RATE: WHICH METRIC IS BETTER?
6. RELAX OFF THE BIKE
There’s an old saying in cycling that goes something like this: Don’t walk if you can stand. Don’t stand if you can sit. Don’t sit if you can lie down. On the bike, pros go hard all the time, but off the bike they are the kings of taking it easy.
Afternoon naps and staying off your feet when you’re not training can help you recover faster and make you feel more refreshed when it’s time for another hard day out on the road.
7. GET PLENTY OF SLEEP
Six to eight hours of sleep might be sufficient for the general public, but for pros this would never do. When you’re spending that much energy each day on the bike, not getting enough sleep can lead to fatigue, a weakened immune system and injury.
As you begin to increase your training load, keep in mind that you’ll also need to increase the number of hours you sleep per night. Consider eight a minimum and shoot for something closer to 10 hours per night during more difficult training blocks.
8. USE THE LATEST TECHNOLOGY
Disc brakes, aero road helmets, skin suits and the latest wheel technology are always fair game inside the pro peloton. Since there is only so much training you can do, getting more aerodynamic and lowering the overall weight of your equipment can be another way to improve your speed and gain an advantage over the competition.
Upgrading that old, heavy steel frame for a newer carbon version could help you out on the road more than you think for that upcoming Gran Fondo — and opting for disc brakes on a long, wet descent over rim brakes will improve your safety, too.
READ MORE > 7 UPGRADES TO TAKE YOUR BIKE TO THE NEXT LEVEL
9. RECON THE RACE COURSE
Pushing the pace in the middle of a race only to be surprised by a series of unexpected climbs can spell disaster — and maybe even cause an early exit to your day on the bike. By studying the terrain on the course before race day, you’ll be able to pace yourself better, conserve energy when you need to and plan for those moments when you want to dish out the pain.
In addition to the terrain, pro cyclists also keep a close eye on weather conditions. This helps them make informed decisions on bike, wheel and tire selections and wear the right clothing to stay warm and comfortable instead of getting caught in a storm unprepared.
10. WEIGHT TRAINING
To get faster, you’ll need to do more than just ride your bike. Since power is generated from the core, an off-the-bike workout regimen should be included in your weekly training sessions to gain strength in areas the pedaling motion doesn’t develop.
Core exercises and weight training for the upper and lower body will also help your climbing and sprinting, reduce pain and prevent injury on the bike.
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RIDE