RBR Newsletter

Tapering for a Big Event

Any racer or rider training for a big event can tell you the sad truth of hard training: Sometimes it makes you faster, but sometimes it merely makes you tired. The more you want to do well in your race or event, the more you train. That’s fine if your body is adapting, and your performance is improving.

But many hard-charging competitors train hard right up to the event that they’ve pointed to all season. Then they’re shocked and depressed when they find themselves with legs so tired they can barely ride at training speeds. It's not unusual to have dead legs and declining performances after a period of hard training. Racing or a packed schedule of organized rides can add to the fatigue if you've continued to train hard between events.

But there's good news: If you plan ahead, you can reverse the fatigue from too much training and convert it to superior performance on any given day. It takes time and self-control. Here’s a 3-week tapering protocol that will have you surprising yourself with your big-event strength.

Week 1.

Do a week of extremely light workouts. Ride 3 or 4 times but limit each outing to an hour and go very slowly -- no pressure on the pedals. If you don't feel like riding, don't. This easy week will help you recover from the hard training (or overtraining!) you’ve been doing. It’s a necessary foundation for increased fitness.

Week 2. 

Increase the tempo on 2 training days but don't do hard intervals or get into fast group rides that put you into race mode and intensity. You want to keep your fitness but not try to develop it further. It won't happen at this point. If you overdo it, you'll only dig yourself into a deeper hole.

Week 3. 

I recommend the tapering procedure found in my RBR eBook Basic Training for Roadies. The idea is to ride about an hour each day at an easy pace but include a series of short intervals to sharpen your fitness. As you get closer to the event, reduce the number of intervals by 1 each day. A typical third week would look like this:

6 days before the event: 5x2 minutes at a "hard" pace

5 days before: 4x2 minutes

4 days before: 3x2 minutes

3 days before: 2x2 minutes

2 days before: rest day

1 day before: easy spin with 2 short sprints

Try this protocol. For most riders, it leads to much improved performance because it's a combination of rest and race-like intensity.Comment

Adapted from Coach Fred Matheny’s Fred Matheny’sSolutions to 150 Road Cycling ChallengesCoach Fred Matheny has decades of experience as a competitive racer and cycling coach. He is the author of 14 RBR eBooks and eArticles.
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