Question: I was interested in your response to a question about why we get dropped in races or fast group rides. When I’m dropped, I can’t chase at a hard pace even after recovering.
In a book I read recently, it said getting dropped when the pace suddenly quickens was attributed to insufficient steady-state riding during the months leading up to competition. But you seem to say that short intervals are a better solution. Which is it? –Barrie S.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: You need both kinds of conditioning to avoid getting dropped. You need steady state aerobic work to build a base, and you need short, hard intervals so you can withstand sudden accelerations.
The controversy concerns when the two should be scheduled into a training program.
Some coaches say to do only aerobically paced foundation rides for several weeks in the early season. Then they gradually add interval training and build up. The idea is that if you do intervals too early, before the aerobic system is established, you won’t benefit from the harder work and it may even destroy your aerobic fitness.
Some coaches and cyclists have had great success with that traditional approach. But most studies don’t support it, and many cyclists don’t do it that way. They build their base with long rides at the same time they work on faster, more intense intervals to improve speed and power. (This assumes that you have a history as a cyclist and are starting with at least a moderate level of aerobic fitness.)
Which approach works better? There are zealous supporters on both sides. I suspect the answer depends on the individual athlete in question — his or her background, talents and motivation.
Faith counts, too. If you believe that one approach works for you and the other doesn’t, you’ll be motivated to make the most of your workouts. So the best advice is to experiment on yourself and see what works.