DOES YOUR CYCLING NEED WORK?
You’ve decided that 2017 is the year you will become a stonger triathlete. But how are you going to make that happen? Where should you place your training focus for 2017? If you are relatively new to the sport you will likely continue to improve across all three disciplines this winter and spring. On the other hand, if you’ve been in the sport for longer, it is unlikely that you will improve across all three disciplines at the same time. It is more prudent to zero in on the discipline where the greatest time- savings can be had.
Should that be your cycling? Consider the following to assess your bike performance:
1. Take your bike splits from last year’s races.
How do they typically rank within your age group, and, to a lesser extent, within your gender? Now do the same for your run splits. Which discipline are you doing better in? If your run is out-performing your bike, then place your training focus on the bike this year. But, if your biking is out-performing your running, perhaps you should consider pursuing a run-focus for 2017.
2. Revisit your very best race performances from last year.
How much time would you have to shave from your finishing time to bump up a spot or two in your age group? Where do you think it is most likely that the time savings will come from: the swim, the bike, or the run? Likely, it is from the bike. And, if so, there you go: focus on the bike for 2017.
3. Try this nifty analysis:
Take your bike split (in minutes) and divide it by your run split (in minutes). You will get a number (i.e. a 90-minute Olympic bike split divided by a 50-minute Olympic run split is 1.8). A quick survey of Ontario professional triathletes’ results shows that their number is 1.5 to 1.6, regardless of the race distance. Assuming that these pros are about as well balanced as one can be in triathlon, their bike-to-run ratio gives us a sense of what a proper bike to run relationship is. If your number is smaller than the pros, it indicates that your biking is better than your running. That, or your bike pacing is too aggressive and if you were to hold back a bit on the bike your run would improve. In either scenario, it is likely best that you focus on your run, as your bike is strong enough where it is. If your number is higher than the pros, it indicates that your biking is weaker than your running. And you should a) work on improving your bike fitness or b) bike more aggressively in your race.
If you determine that you should be focusing on your bike for 2017, delve a bit deeper and refine the focus for your bike training this year. If you have power/data files from your races, review them and see if they are telling you something: Do you tend to start harder than your average race power and then finish below average race power? If so, why? Are you starting too hard? Is it nutritionally related ( your energy dwindles over the bike due to insufficient fuel intake)? Is it due to mental lapses ( losing focus/ concentration as the bike wears on)? If so, get working on proper pacing, fuelling and patience during your training and racing. Are you an even splitter (where the first half and the last half of your bike split are or close to being equal)? If so, great. No need to work on your race strategy. Simply work on your bike fitness to bring an elevated fitness level to your races in 2017. Are you a negative splitter (where the last half of your bike is faster than the first half)? This is not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing. While it feels terrific to be flying through the second half of the bike passing lots of people, you have to ask if it is worthwhile pacing the bike that way. Could you be a little faster if you evenly split the bike? Or if you had a less sizable negative split? Some negative splitters leave too much time on the course over the first half of their bike and they cannot make that time up over the latter half.
So now you know whether you should focus on your cycling this year. And you might have a quantified sense of how you pace your bike. The next logical question is “how do I improve my biking?”
Effective training can be distilled to four words: consistency, specificity, progression and patience. It is not any special or advanced training technique that will get you fitter on the bike. It is, quite simply, deciding to focus on the bike while committing to being consistent and patient with the training. That is what will make you improve.
Follow a sound, balanced bike training program this winter. There are numerous different programs, books, articles and training programs available. Prioritize getting your cycling workouts in compared to your swim and run workouts. When you need to really push, save that energy for your bike intervals and less so for your swim and run intervals.
Adam Johnston is the owner of Wattsup Cycling in Toronto. Wattsup Cycling has been helping triathletes and cyclists improve their cycling since 2008. Visit wattsupcycling.ca to find out how.
IMPROVE YOUR BIKE