Coach John Hughes, the author of Distance Cycling and a renowned distance record-holder himself, specializes in coaching endurance cyclists for events ranging from 100K to 1200K and longer. From his own experience riding such events over the last 40 years he has learned that he does better if he has a personal strategy for riding each specific event. He helps each of his clients to develop an individual strategy for the rider’s key ride(s) of the season.
Coach Hughes’ new eArticle, Your Best Season Ever, Part 2: Peaking for and Riding Your Event, shows how you can develop and test a personal strategy for your Key event. Your big goal this year could be:
- A specific century in 7:15 (or 200K in 9:00).
- Ride your first 100K on a personally defined route.
- Or any number of similar endurance rides.
Here are Coach Hughes’ recommendations, excerpted from Your Best Season Ever, Part 2, for developing your personal strategy for your specific endurance event/ride.
Success depends on a tested strategy. At the start of your Peaking phase you did a careful Event Analysis. Based on this analysis you developed Specific Training Objectives for the phase. As you train during this phase you also need to develop and test your strategy for your Key event. The strategic considerations depend on the type of distance event you’ll be riding, whether it’s a timed endurance ride, or a non-timed ride.
Timed Endurance Ride
You want to finish the Hills and Valleys Century in 7:15. How do you do it?
Your time for the century will include your time off the bike. You could try to ride at 13.8 mph without stopping…but you’d bonk and slow down. You could ride faster, at 14.8 mph, and spend 30 minutes at the rest stops. You could hang out at rest stops for 1:15 and hustle at 16.67 mph. How should you ride it?
How Much Time Off the Bike?
When you are riding an event for a fast time, try for no more than five minutes off the bike for every hour of riding. For your 7:15 century this means about 6:45 of riding and about 30 minutes (5 minutes X 6:45) off the bike, a moving average of about 14.8 mph. [For a 200K in 9:00 your actual riding would be about 8:15 with about 45 minutes off the bike (5 minutes X 8:15), a moving average of 24.25 km/h.]
From your long training rides, you already know pretty well your average speed. Based onyour average speed in these training rides, project your average speed for the entire ride. Your projected speed should be at least 0.5 to 1.0 mph (1.0 to 1.5 km/h) slower than on your training rides, and may be even slower if the terrain and/or conditions will be tougher on your Key ride. This will help you to figure out how much time you can be off the bike. Be conservative!
Splits? Data? Know Yourself, and What Works for You
The best overall strategy is the same as a for a short time trial: ride a negative split, i.e., do the second 50 miles (or second 100 km) faster than the first 50 (or the first 100K). From your Event Analysis you know the route. Some people are very detail-oriented and, for example, want to know the exact length and grade of every climb. Others just need a general visual picture of where the climbs are and which one is the hardest.
Know thyself. If lots of data helps you gain confidence, then dig it out. If too much data freaks you out, stay more general.
During your training so far this season you should have ramped up your weekly long ride until the duration is at least 2/3 and up to 3/4 the expected duration of the Key ride for which you are training. For a 7:15 century you will have completed an about 5:00 – 5:30 training ride including time off the bike and you know the pace you can hold for that duration. (For a 200K in 9:00, a long ride of 6:00 – 6:45.)
Create 3 Ride Scenarios
I find it helpful to create three scenarios. For example, for your Key goal of finishing the century in 7:15:
- I’m having a great ride, for example, finishing in 6:45.
- I’m having my expected ride, for example, finishing in 7:15.
- I’m not having a good day, for example, finishing in 8:00.
Use your knowledge of the route and your projected speed from your training rides to create your three scenarios. Your scenarios should take into account the terrain and other conditions between rest stops as you estimate the riding time for each leg. Your scenarios should include time off the bike. Each scenario should incorporate a negative split.
The scenarios don’t have to be as elaborate. I rode the 200-mile (320-km) Davis Double Century in California for many years. The night before the DC I always went out for an Italian dinner and on the cue sheet wrote down my best case and worst-case arrival times at each rest stop. In the worst case I knew I’d be back at the high school finish before dark.
All of my analysis of what might go wrong includes figuring out solutions so that even in the worst case I’ll finish within the cutoff. I carried the annotated cue sheet with me. If I was riding close to the worst case, then I’d hustle through the rest stops. If I was riding well then I’d take time to chat with friends.
Non-Timed Endurance Ride
If you are riding to finish (always the #1 goal!) rather than to finish in a certain time, the strategy is similar to doing an endurance event for time.
During your training so far this season you should have ramped up your weekly long ride until the duration is (at least) 2/3 to 3/4 the expected duration of the Key ride for which you are training. If you expect to ride your 100K in 5:00 (12.5 mph / 20 km/h) including time off the bike, then you’ve ramped up to a long ride of about 3:20 – 3:45. From these training rides you know your average speed for your long rides.
Based on your average speed in your longer training rides, project your average speed for the entire ride. Your projected speed should be at least 0.5 to 1.0 mph (1.0 to 1.5 km/h) slower than on your training rides, and may be even slower if the terrain and/or conditions will be tougher on your Key ride. Be conservative!
Study the route from your Event Analysis in as much detail as you find helpful. Based on your projected riding speeddevelop three scenarios:
- I’m having a great ride at 13.5 mph / 22 km/h
- I’m having my expected ride at 12.5 mph / 20 km/h.
- I’m not having a good day, riding at 11 mph / 18 km/h.
Be sure to include time for hanging out with friends at a rest stop or sitting down for a cup of coffee or lunch on a personal ride.
The scenarios are to give you confidence that you can finish, even riding scenario #3, and to provide a structure for your training.
Last week we shared Coach Hughes’ strategies for fast club rides, and two weeks ago his strategies for time trials.
An effective strategy is one of nine ingredients to a Peak performance. Your Best Season Ever, Part 2: Peaking for and Riding Your Event, teaches you how to:
- Analyze your event to figure out what’s required for success
- Develop specific training objectives based on that analysis
- Create and test a personal strategy for your particular event
- Train for peak fitness for your individual event
- Learn what you should eat, and when, leading up to and during the event
- Select the optimum equipment, including how to get the most bang for your buck
- Learn mental focus so that 100% of your energy goes into your performance
- Taper so that you are fresh and on form on the starting line
- Control how you ride your event for best performance
In his eArticle Your Best Season Ever, Part 1, Coach Hughes walks you through how to create your own specific, personalized training plan and then get the most out of your training.
Part 2 takes what you’ve learned in the first article and builds on it to help you achieve your ultimate goal(s) for the season.
Coach John Hughes’ new 37-page eArticle Your Best Season Ever, Part 2: Peaking for and Riding Your Event is available today for only $4.99 ($4.24 for Premium Members after their 15% discount).
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.