July 19, 2010 Leave a Comment
Triathlon cycling is basically time trial cycling, with the exception of that little run at the end. Reasons for a weak bike leg in triathlon are diverse. What follows is in rough order of importance:
- There is no substitute for seat time on your bike. To improve your speed and endurance, you must ride hills, or do intervals or both. Also, if you are serious, you should do strength workouts for your legs and buttocks.
- Many athletes need to work on flexibility and possibly change their bike position to allow them to spend at least 95% of the average triathlon bike leg in their aero bars. The trend in recent years has been toward more aggressive positions, with progressive lowering of aero bars and arm rests below the seat level. A very aggressive position and the most aerodynamic bike in the world is of no use if you can’t spend a significant portion of your ride in your bars. Most of the limitation to your bike speed is air resistance and 80%+ of air resistance is due to the rider, not the bike. So stretch out your hamstrings, do your core exercises, and change out your stem if you must, to a 45° riser stem so you can stay in the aero bars. This is easily worth 3-5 minutes off a 40 km bike leg.
- Get a bike computer with cadence and if you are not already keeping cadence between 90 and 100 RPMS, work on that. Most of us have a natural cycling cadence in the 70s. Raising your cadence will increase your heart rate, but you will eventually be faster. Also, higher cycling cadences allow a faster first 5 km run off the bike!
- Cycling with a group or friends that are faster than you will help you train harder, and get faster on the race course. Just remember that you will likely be racing in non-drafting races, so spend time in any group ride feeling the wind. Take your turn pulling.
- Since most of the wind resistance is due to the cyclist, get an aero helmet if you can sustain 18 or more mph. That alone is worth another 30 seconds to a minute over 40 km.
- If you are overweight, lose it. Weight means little until the road turns up. Then even 3-5 pounds can make a difference. Hill climbing ability is clearly related to weight and your power-to-weight ratio. And you will also run faster.
- Do our favorite speed workout, named by pro Chris “Macca” McCormack. “Maccas” are guaranteed to improve your speed. Find a track. Take bike, trainer, heart rate monitor, mat, several bottles of fluid, bike and run shoes. Set up the trainer and bike in a convenient corner of the track, such as the 100 meter start. Each set consists of 8 minutes on the bike, leap off, practice your T2, jump into your run shoes, then run 4 laps. A typical workout is one set slow to warm up. Then cycle at 90+% of your max HR and transition to a run as quickly as possible, then run 4 laps at the fastest pace you can sustain well into the 4th lap. Then repeat. At the end, do another set slow to cool down.Two hard sets will be plenty for most of us to start. Six hard sets will put many flat on their backs by the end. This workout should not be attempted until you have trained consistently for a year. Any sooner than that and your risk of injury is high. In each micro cycle, we advise this as a once weekly workout once “Build” cycles start
- Find a clear road or trail close to home with no interruptions for about 8-10 miles. Keep records, and test yourself once every 6 weeks or so over this course. The objective is to cycle at the highest speed (highest heart rate) that you can sustain through the last several miles. The time to cover this course will serve as a marker of your fitness. Even after a year or so of consistent training, most triathletes simply do not know how hard they can ride and still come off and put in a good run. Expect some heart rate creep over the last several miles. Your Olympic triathlon bike heart rate goal will then be 2-4 BPM less than your average HR over the last 5-6 miles of this repeat time trial course, so reset your HRM at about mile 3 into the ride to get this number.
- Use “over-distance” cycling training. For example, cycle up to 3 hours,30 minutes if you are training for Olympic distance racing. You will also want to do “Bricks” up to about 2 hours 30 minutes on the bike, followed closely by a 30 minute run.
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