Question: I’m 32 years old and began racing four months ago. During the last four weeks, I’ve competed seven times in criteriums and road races. Now my legs are dead and I have a big race in three weeks. How can I “freshen up” for this event? — Allan K.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: It’s not unusual to have dead legs and declining performances late in the season. And racing seven times in four weeks can add to the fatigue if you’ve continued to train hard between events. The good news is that three weeks should be plenty of time to recover.
I recommend one week of extremely light training. Lift weights twice for your upper body if that’s been part of your program. Ride three or four times, but limit these rides to an hour and go very slowly — no pressure on the pedals! If you don’t feel like riding, don’t.
The second week, pick up the tempo on two of the rides but don’t do any interval training or get into a group ride that reaches race intensity. You want to keep your fitness but not try to develop it further. It won’t happen at this time of year, anyway. If you overdo it, you’ll only dig yourself into a deeper hole.
Basically, the idea is to ride about an hour each day at an easy pace but include short, fast intervals to sharpen your form. As you get closer to the event, reduce the number of intervals by one each day. Take a rest day two days before the event. On the day before, do an easy spin but throw in two short sprints not quite at your maximum.
For most riders, this protocol leads to much-improved performance because it’s a combination of rest and race-like intensity.