Spring showers are here and just like the flowers breaking through the thawing earth, the first races of the season are showing us their beauty through the winter grit still on the roads. With the ever increasing popularity of the sport, there are more races than ever to pick from to fill a calendar, from March through September. So how does one select the best races to prepare for out of so many options and should each race be treated equally? The following will provide some helpful guidance in the arena of race selection, prioritization and tailoring your training for your calendar.
The first step is to pick two to four individual races, or race series (such as a stage race or omnium series) to designate as your ‘A’ races. These will be the races on your calendar where you focus on changing your training just prior, by tapering the intensity, so that you can be as fresh as possible. Hard interval training two days before an ‘A’ race does not make sense if your legs are still not recovered from the efforts. Instead, start ramping down your hard days in the two weeks prior to an ‘A’ race, by both decreasing your intensity on hard days, as well as gradually lowering your weekly training hours. This by no means equates to complete rest in the days leading up to an ‘A’ race, as that would actually be counterproductive, giving your legs a rude awakening by leaving them feeling sluggish and heavy when the gun goes off.
Next is to pick five to 10 events that you designate as ‘B’ series. These are races in which are still important for your overall season’s goals, but can be used more as continued training rather than needing a super sharp for. Plan them in as the hard day of that week’s training, or plan a ‘B’ race sandwiched between two high intensity training days to help simulate an ‘A’ classification omnium or short stage race. This will allow your body to adjust to the multiple back-to-back days that stage and omnium race series consist of.
The final type of race as you probably guessed is a ‘C’ race. These the smaller local criteriums or even alternative style races such as a gravel metrics or gran fondos you can sprinkle throughout the season. A fun way to get an even higher amount of training out of these ‘C’ race days is to do a long ride before them (or ride to them if you live close enough), race, and then do a short cool down, or long ride back home. Many people find that racing in ‘C’ races is the best way for them to improve strength and endurance while also getting in tactical practice. ‘C’ races also allow for you to experiment with moves and strategy that you normally would not get to execute in a more important ‘B’ or ‘A’ race. This can then build confidence for riskier moves in future ‘A’ races, which many times will earn you glory due to the high risk, high reward of maneuvers such as joining an early group breakaway, or attempting a late solo attack. Really understanding your body’s limits in a move like this in a ‘C’ race will give you the knowledge of how to execute it correctly for when it counts in an ‘A’ race.
In all, just getting your season mapped out on a calendar is great for overall motivation and goals. Don’t think that your initial plan is set in stone, as injuries, fatigue and other factors could mean shifting your prioritized schedule. Just like a good race, start with a plan and adjust it along with the ebb and flow of the various factors that affect your training as the season progresses.