Cyclists tend to fall into certain patterns, some of us like to climb, some of us like to grind out a moderate pace all day, and some of us prefer to do one hard effort and go home. The type of cyclist you are can help guide what type of training will help you take your fitness to the next level.
THE HILL CLIMBER
If you love the idea of pointing your wheel up a climb and seeing how deep you can go as you work toward the summit, you are likely a climber. If sprints and flats make you sick, then you are definitely a climber. The trouble for hill climbers is that to do better, you have to get to the hill before you can attack it and then you also need to get back down the hill to succeed in most rides and races.
Climbers benefit from not using their strength in some group rides or practice races. Try riding comfortably on climbs and learn to descend with the group and keep up on the flats. Flat group rides also push you to learn group riding, drafting and work on your flat-power and speed skill.
If you don’t have access to a group ride then do one focused weekly ride with 3–5 x 10–15-second sprints to a ‘finish line’ (i.e., town sign sprint) and then 2–4 x 10–15-minute steady intervals on flat-to-rolling terrain holding a hard but sustainable pace.
THE HIGH-INTENSITY LOVER
This is the person who gets off the line first or who comes through in the lead on the first lap. Unfortunately, this type of rider is usually not in the lead at the end of the race or ride. If you want to compete for that final town sign sprint, you have to work on your endurance and technical skill to use your love of intensity to its fullest. The first ‘fix’ for this is to make sure you are doing some repeats in your workouts. This might be 3 x 10 minutes rather than 1 x 10 minutes really hard. Train for repeatability and pacing to build your capacity, since you already have the quality to be in the lead, now you need to stay there.
A second, related limiter, for many busy cyclists is that it’s hard to do rides longer than an hour. This limits your endurance on long rides but also your ability to recover and repeat intervals or hard efforts (like a hill done many times during a lap race). To overcome this endurance limitation on a time-limited schedule, plan for a longer training window every 1–2 weeks.
THE FIT RIDER WHO GETS DROPPED
Do you love to pedal and have great numbers in testing or on the indoor trainer, but find yourself getting dropped during accelerations, hills or technical sections? If you are a fitness rider you might warm up a lot before a group ride, ride after it or find yourself riding alone during easy portions only to be caught and left behind on climbs, descents and during spirited-sprint sections.
To progress your fitness and results you will need to spend time in the group working on tactics and in training working on accelerations. Resist the urge to go off the front of the group when the pace is comfortable. While it might seem like you are ‘wasting time’ it is critical that you sit and learn to go with the accelerations of the group. Between group rides, taking a few days off before doing focused high-cadence and sprint work can have huge results and take up less of your day. The trick for the endurance athlete is to come to terms with having less time on the bike and riding at a lower intensity between the very hard work.
THE TECHNICAL RIDER
If you find yourself waiting at the bottom of descents, rolling away from groups in tricky corners or thriving in wet conditions, this is likely your category. If you can’t get to the front of the group or make it over that climb, your skills won’t help you. Great skills are also less helpful when you are fatigued.
To make use of your awesome skills, look at ways to increase the number of rides you do each week, even a few commutes to work can help. Criterium, mountain bike and cyclocross athletes often thrive technically, but shy away from longer steady rides. These athletes should ride to and from their weekly practice or to the trails to boost their weekly mileage with minimal disruption to their schedule or boredom from long hours in the saddle.
THE BOTTOM LINE
No matter your cycling disposition, every cyclist has strengths and weaknesses. The challenge becomes working on strengthening weaknesses so you can fully profit from your strengths.