Question: It appears that the strongest cyclists on our club rides are those who do the most miles before the official start. Some guys show up after already riding 20 or 30 miles. Do I worry too much about resting so I get to the ride fresh? — Dino A.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: That’s interesting. I don’t think the rider who does more miles that day (in total) wins the last sprint simply because of the miles.
If doing lots of miles were the deciding factor, then it would escalate to where Race Across America riders who had ridden maybe 330 miles since the previous midnight would win a sprint at 6 p.m. Obviously, that’s not going to happen.
Instead, the big-mileage folks win because they’re capable of doing extra miles and still having power at the end of the club ride. I suspect they regularly do more miles, giving them the ability to ride longer and still have snap. Their overall training has made them fitter and stronger. There’s no magic in their extra miles before the club ride goes off.
However, there is a limit to how much sheer mileage can help you improve. At some point, probably between 150 and 200 miles per week, just riding more isn’t enough.
You have to add substantial doses of intensity, too. Once you reach 8-10 hours per week of riding, improvement slows dramatically or even reverses unless intervals, fast climbs or other hard efforts are included in the mix.