IAFSTORE blog Workouts

Load management during the competitive cycling season

Load management during the competitive cycling season

by in IAFSTORE blog - Workouts

last updated: March 02, 2016

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How to structure a competitive season by taking advantage of the PRO line: if you want great results, you shouldn't leave anything to chance. A detailed analysis of the workouts for cycling preparation.

Load management during the competitive season and how to personally evaluate your fitness levels

In previous articles we addressed the topic of integration and power and structured a 9-week fitness regime, but what else is missing? Load management during the competitive season, and most especially, how to independently evaluate your fitness levels.

The PRO training camp

At the beginning of the competitive season, the PRO teams visit training camps, as they do every year, to evaluate and discuss the goals of the new season. It is the best time to determine the captains' fitness levels, establish hierarchies within the team, and most especially, outline a race calendar for each athlete. With the collaboration of massage therapists, fitness coaches, nutritionists, etc.. the professional assesses the how and when of its new season.

Take advantage of the PRO line

However not everyone is this privileged or lucky. Nevertheless, in your own small way, you can structure a competitive season by taking advantage of the PRO line. How, you ask? By determining your goals at the beginning of the season and working very hard to reach your target.

In the competitive season you can have a maximum of 2 peaks of form, if you have done everything to the letter.

A half-hearted structure will lead to half-hearted results. If you want to achieve outstanding results, you have to do exceptional things, evaluate everything the best you can and don't leave anything to chance. Of course this differs from athlete to athlete, depending on their goals ...

Humility and commitment

Do you remember? Hard work always pays off...

It is too easy to hide behind this very famous phrase: "but he takes drugs." It is easy to judge without knowing anything at all about the preparation involved.

Most probably, the person in question has committed so much more than you, and has surely done everything exceptionally well. It is too easy to judge without knowing the facts.

The world is full of people who judge without having the faintest idea what they are saying, but when they actually do see what these people do, they want to eat their words.

One word: HUMILITY and lots of hard work. The facts will speak for themselves, do not listen to idle chatter.

Do you remember the story of the Fox and the Grapes? It is more or less the same thing ...

Load management during the competitive cycling season

Let's return to load management

Keep at least one workout session (on a Tuesday or Wednesday) for resistance training or overload training, by simply going to the gym or weight room (if that is what you call it).

Retreating to the gym when it is sunny outside, can be a real pain for cyclists, but if the goal is performance, this sacrifice will be repaid with interest. Maybe take advantage of a rainy day, or spend just a few hours in the gym in the early afternoon and then take a leisurely ride in the evening. This latter case involves transformation, a working method that is also used in athletics and football, etc. where a strengthening session in the gym is immediately followed by an athletic, technical or finishing activity, to avoid compromising agility and coordination.

Concurrent training

This suitable solution for amateurs could also be a variant of concurrent training. That is, weights + aerobic activity.

What determines the different approaches of a resistance training programme are the various parameters such as the intensity (load), the duration of a set (time under tension, TUT), the speed of movement, the number of reps, the number of sets (volume), the recovery time, the ROM joint (range of motion) etc. Utilising all of these variables in the best way, will always lead to significant results.


A classic example of a modified concurrent training programme: a set of leg presses, followed by a sequence on the spin bike.

Structuring a good muscle workout is not easy. Notoriously, the DOC training coach will, after various assessment tests, produce worksheets that have been tailored to each individual cyclist. There is no copy and pasting here, no human being is perfectly equal to another. Those that are, are called clones. The same is true for athletes.

One exception to this rule, a solution that is suitable for all cyclists (something for the weight room), is squats.

This exercise has the maximum transfer for developing strength in cycling.

It is a very complex exercise which is for the most part, badly interpreted and executed, including by gym instructors or personal trainers. When executed correctly, they can bring a lot of advantages, in terms of STRENGTH, but if executed incorrectly, they can lead to injury. At this point, it is probably better to focus your attention instead on the classic leg presses, which Mrs Maria loves to do.

Generic strengthening programme

General warm up for 10 minutes: bike, mat or step, anything is fine. The important thing is to raise your body temperature, which activates your muscles. Some CORE muscle exercises (abdominal/ lower back) Now we are ready ...

A good solution might be a set of 10 slow and controlled, leg press reps, which use of all your ROM muscles, followed by a 2-minute sequence on the spin bike (DOC seating position) until you reach your threshold (minimum of 100 rpm and a maximum of 120 rpm).

Two minutes rest only and then recommence with the leg presses.

The whole sequence should be repeated 10 times. IT IS BACKBREAKING!!!

End your session in the gym with 4 sets of 10 bench press reps and 4 sets of 10 pull-ups. Those feeling a little less energetic can use the lat machine instead. The upper part of the body also needs to be strengthened.

During sprints, it is critical to be in control. Before showering, always do a 10-minute spin bike workout or a workout on a normal exercise bike that you find in the weight room. We strongly recommend stretching or relaxing your muscles.

New heart rate references

As regards the heart rate, in this article we will limit ourselves to only indicating the new working percentages that are appropriate for the competitive period. We will divide the heart rate (HR) into 5 Zones:

  • Z1 = total regeneration - 55/65% of the maximum HR
  • Z2 = long-distance training - 65/75%
  • Z3 = medium/ fast distance, cardiovascular activity - 75/85%
  • Z4 = Workout within the threshold and beyond - 85/92%
  • Z5 = maximum workout, RACE, uphill sequences, etc.

This is the best time to assess the state of your winter training.

Your heart will be trained and most certainly the cardiac scissor will significantly improve, in relation to that of December. Muscular endurance, or rather the muscle's ability to resist fatigue (usually against high levels of lactic acid production) will definitely be enhanced.

Undoubtedly, there will be some more WATTS on the pedals.

You will not be in the best condition of the season, but this period will surely serve to help you understand where you need to work on improving. Working in the right direction will help bring your athletic state into a physiologically optimum, lactic acid-working condition.

The goal will be to bring your body to work in an aerobic/ anaerobic condition without feeling too tired due to the accumulation of lactic acid. Training the body to work at its limit is the best solution for improving performance.

Z4 is best for this type of workout. Of course proper rest/ recovery is the key to success. In this situation, integration is decisive for a better overall recovery.

How do you structure a competitive mesocycle?

Normally you create a 4-week training regime, and then evaluate it with your trainer/ coach and see if you have taken the right direction. How do you do that, you ask? With a TEST! Many trainers use the CONCONI test, eek! It would certainly return a value which could be useful for reference, but in most cases these values are not accurate as they are tied too closely to the daily condition of the athlete.

There are too many variables that can alter the performance of an amateur athlete. One of these is the "supplement" variable, if we want to call it that, that are used in races, so the reference value is not much use there. To each his own ... let's move on.

First week

Monday - leisurely bike ride (Z1 or low Z2)
Tuesday - gym, if not too tired, or rest day
Wednesday - gym, if rested on Tuesday, or 90' ride but go no further than Z3
Thursday - a at least 120' paced ride with progressions into Z4
Friday - absolute rest
Saturday - leisurely bike ride for 60' - 90' in Z1 or low Z2
Sunday - RACE

Second week

Monday - leisurely bike ride (Z1 or low Z2) ...
Tuesday - gym if not too tired, or rest day
Wednesday - gym, if rested on Tuesday, or a 90' ride but go no further than Z3
Thursday - a at least 120' paced ride with progressions in the high Z4 or low Z5
Friday - absolute rest
Saturday - leisurely bike ride for 60' - 90' in Z1 or low Z2
Sunday - RACE

Third week

Monday - leisurely bike ride (Z1 or low Z2) ...
Tuesday - gym, if not too tired, or rest day
Wednesday - gym, if rested on Tuesday, or 90' ride but go no further than Z3
Thursday - a at least 120' paced ride with progressions into Z5
Friday - absolute rest
Saturday - Leisurely bike ride for 60' - 90' in Z1 or low Z2
Sunday - RACE

Fourth week

do not go to the gym



It all depends on the athlete, but this generally involves reducing the volume (hours per week) and to a lesser extent, the quality, for example, a 25 - 33% reduction of specific loads, in comparison with the previous week's load. To evaluate the amount of training carried out, you need to measure both the volume and the intensity, two parameters which should be considered together.

For this reason, the PRO teams, and not only them, as it's almost become a new fashion trend, do TABATA style workouts during this week.

How to structure a TABATA workout

A warm up of at least 20' at a Z2 or Z3 pace
TABATA workout: 30" at full intensity (high Z4 or Z5), alternating with 30" of a lighter pace ... repeated 8 times
Cool down/ lower pace to Z2 for 20'

Monday - rest

Tuesday - 60' ride with 40' in Z4, and a 10' warm up and cool down
Wednesday - 60' ride with 30' in Z5 and a 15' warm up and cool down
Thursday - TABATA
Friday - rest
Saturday - leisurely bike ride for 60' - 90' in Z2


All this work should have made your body considerably adapt to lactic acid. What better time is there to test your potential than now?

Maximal heart rate test

Select a familiar climb of at least 20' - 30' that isn't too demanding. When you are about 5% or 10% from the highest point, try to improve your personal time.

This TEST could be useful for understanding true improvement. FREE and functional.


An excellent method for managing fatigue and understanding the best recovery time to use in the race, perhaps after a breakaway. Managing energy in a race is crucial.
Surely the TAPERING week and the gym sessions will have prepared your body to work with elevated lactic acid percentages. These will now be considerably more than 4mmol/L (four millimoles per litre) which is the reference value for working at the threshold.

During this time of the season, the real work is done during the course of the race, where fatigue levels reach over 100%. Between one race and another, or during the week, you should try to recover as best you can and maybe improve on some small details you have overlooked during the winter preparation, but do not do very much! Further loading the body with work will not lead to any improvement, it will almost certainly lead to a state of chronic fatigue, OVER TRAINING.
The season is long and it takes time to become conditioned to it.
Good luck with your training!

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