For cyclists of all disciplines the ‘spring-forward’ Daylight Savings time-change is an anticipated milestone each year, as it typically signals a transition away from indoor training.
With longer daylight hours and warmer weather around the corner, it’s an exciting time to be an Endurance Athlete as the “great outdoors” becomes more and more pleasant.
What’s more, in addition to increased outdoor training, this time of year often provides opportunity for greater variety in training with the emergence of various group ride to participate in each week.
Wether you are a dedicated ‘roadie’, die-hard MTB-rider, or anything in between, group rides should absolutely be a part of your training regimen as the group dynamic offers an intensity component that is difficult to replicate outside of competitive events or races.
We think of these group workouts as ‘intervals by osmosis’.
With that said, and the knowledge that maximizing training time with purposeful workouts is key to obtaining top-level fitness, it is important to make the most of these group ride by having a specific goal for each session.
That is why we offer the following group ride strategies to incorporate into your next outing at the local “weekday world championships”.
A group ride amongst friends on familiar roads is the perfect place to try new strategies and test your fitness. Photo Credit: Joy McCulloch
#1: Work On Your Weaknesses
Part of being the best cyclist possible is becoming a ‘complete’ Athlete, meaning you must develop all aspects of your cycling fitness and skillset.
One cannot simply rely on being good at the things they already excel at.
That is a recipe for disappointment and underperformance!
For example, do you fancy yourself as a climber? Then you should learn how to sprint properly.
Are you always contesting sprints and feel confident about your top-end speed? Then you likely need to learn to attack effectively.
Regardless of your individual strengths, one of the most important cycling skills that can only be developed through group riding is drafting and riding in close proximity to other Athletes.
If the majority of your training is solo in nature, as it is for most cyclists, using group rides to hone your ability to ‘move-about’ the peloton can be the most important tactic you ever learn.
We suggest you make it a point to practice one of these strategies each time you attend a group ride so you have both an effective and fun day on the bike.
Being able to safely and efficiently navigate a peloton of riders along a rolling course on live roads builds skill and requires energy conservation, which is a skill every cyclist must develop! Photo Credit: Ryan Voth
#2: Work As Hard As Possible
On the other side of the proverbial ‘coin’ from learning how to ‘move-about’ the peloton with ease, is working at the front of the group as much as possible.
If there is one detractor with group workouts it is that they are often devoid of continuous workload.
That is to say that group rides lack steady-state riding.
To combat this, and continually reinforce an Athletes endurance fitness, it is important for cyclists of all abilities to use their local group ride to work at the front of the peloton as much as possible.
By riding at the front of ‘the bunch’ and reducing the amount of rest between hard efforts a cyclist is able to push their top-end fitness higher and higher.
This workload will dramatically increase your ability to ride at or above threshold for long periods of time.
Trust us, it’s hard work, but the pay-off is well worth it!
Come race day, you are going to want the confidence that you trained hard. By making the most of your group rides, you can earn that confidence! Photo Credit: Joy McCulloch
#3: Add Training Time Before And/Or After The Workout
For those Athletes that are already in the Big Wheel Coaching family, they have heard us refer to this concept as ‘extra credit’.
This is because the extra training stress that comes along with riding before and/or after a group ride will translate to stronger legs and deeper fitness as the season progresses.
Although every workout should be book-ended with a proper warm-up and warm-down, adding additional training miles ensures that your fitness will serve you beyond the ‘hour of power’ that characterizes many weekday group rides.
Note: It should be said that this ‘extra credit’ does not have to be hard. In fact, steady-state sub-threshold work is all you need to compliment the high-output intensity of a group ride.
We hope that with these strategies, more daylight, and warmer weather being the norm in the coming months, each group training session you do will be both productive and potent.
In closing, we should mention that specific strategies tailored to your season goals, skill-level, and group dynamics are beyond the scope of this article.
However, we are certain that incorporating these basic tenants of group riding into your training routine will ensure that each workout is purposeful and effective.
With that said, if you want more specific tactics and techniques that will ensure your weekly hammer-fest is moving you toward your goals, instead of just making you tired, contact us to set up a consultation.
We would be excited to help you make the most out of each training session and achieve your cycling goals!
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian and Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching