There are many theories on the way to and the advantages of base training. With athletes I work with I like to start base training with a look back at areas where the last season didn’t quite live up to expectations or where they excelled. Being better next year has to be the reason to start base training so if you sit down with your coach, DS and support network and look at the reasons you succeeded, failed or were mediocre, then you have the first step in base training, a foundation to have an even better year.
The amount of base is also an area where coaches riders and blogs differ hugely. It’s important to work backwards from your early season targets and then work out what amount is required. Joe Friel mentions in his work that 4 rides a week is dramatically better than 3 rides a week
My question to riders in base mode is always, was it quality? Was it a base ride or just a ride?
If we look at fig 1 we can see that the 90-minute ride included 30 minutes 34 seconds below 100 watts. So we ask the next question, was being below 100 watts for 33% of the ride an addition to next season.
In fig 2 we can see the same rider, after a brief meeting with their coach, completing the same planned 90-minute ride. On this occasion the time below 100 watts was 6 minutes 18 seconds or 7.5% of the ride.
The most important part of a base ride is the amount of base you actually do. If you are given a planned day with a distance, it’s the cyclists nature to get that distance done quickly and by doing this most riders will creep up in speed and move out of the zones that are set during this period. If a timed session is set, its common for riders to dwell in the low power areas. For me and the riders I work with its important that we eliminate the lower reaches of the power or junk km, and stay in zones that will help develop a base
So what constitutes a base and why do cyclists need one?
A base is a foundation, similar to when a house is built, where it will support the house for its lifetime if it’s built well. The base needs to suit the house, too small the house may not withstand bad weather or other pressures, too big and the foundations may take too long to complete leaving the builder too tired for the next job. Looking at a rider’s program and targets will help you define the amount of base required. A solid base will help the rider develop an aerobic system which will aid recovery both on and off the bike.
The zones for base training vary from coach to coach. For me, it has to be a blend of the most important parts of all training
Cadence – keep the cadence up towards the mid-nineties where the neural messaging is stronger and the muscles receive the correct nutrition. We don’t measure power in RPM, so the more revs you can do, the less power you need to produce per rev to be competitive.
Power should be on an increasing scale. The amount of power needs to be set based on comfort and ability until the target range based on FTP%, testing or on a goal that you have set from last season.
Food – This is the time to try new on bike food. Skip the breakfast and eat on the road, as they say in Australia, a dingo’s breakfast, a drink of water and a quick look around. It’s a great time to find out what is tasty and what works well and try new things.
Junk kms – Set your junk km targets. At what point are you better off at home watching Seinfeld re-runs rather than coasting around at a power level that does nothing? Set this level of power and percentage allowed with your coach
So in short, look back, look forward and set a base program that will make you a better racing cyclist
Ask a rider who misses a win, which skill would have helped them win
- Ride further in distance
- Ride at a harder intensity
Most will say B
So use the base as an off season tool to build upon, it won’t win you races but without it it’s going to be a tough start to the season.
Performance Cycling Coach
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