Preparing for the Main Event
By PCG Elite Coach Jordan Whiley
Whether it's a national or state championship race, a multi-day epic ride, a grand fondo, or your first century, preparing to peak for your “A race” is a multi-faceted process that can last from 6 months to several years. Here are a five tips that can help you achieve peak performance on that big day!
Know Your Enemy
When I use the word “enemy,” I don't mean just your competition. Your enemy is anything that is an obstacle to you achieving your best, so consider every potential enemy and learn what you can. Pre-ride the course, or at least examine the profile and/or learn about the course from someone who has ridden it. Where could the race be won or lost? What will it take to succeed? Consider the weather and temperature conditions for the event and how that may impact what you wear, eat, and drink. Finally, learn about yourself. Are you your own worst enemy? What choices or mindsets need to be addressed and changed so that you can be at your best?
Set Goals, Objectives, & Benchmarks
Once your obstacles have been identified, you can set up goals, objectives, and benchmarks. Your goals are the general things you want to achieve, but they should be specific and measurable. For example, you might have a goal to “improve watts per kilogram at FTP.” Objectives represent specific accomplishments that help you reach a goal, and typically have completion dates. Using a previous example, you might set up two objectives that help improve w/kg - “lose 5kg by May” and “increase FTP by 20 watts.” Finally, benchmarks are how you measure your progress with your objectives, e.g. weekly weigh-ins and periodic FTP testing.
Specify Your Training
Training plans are essentially the “lessons and activities” you will do to achieve the objectives you have set. Working backwards from your event, plan the training and recovery you will do based on the specific demands of the event. Keep in mind that training isn't just workouts – it includes all aspects of preparing for the event, like strengthening mental skills, managing nutrition, acclimatizing to heat/altitude, or practicing taking a bottle at 25 mph, to name just a few. A good coach or nutritionist can help immensely with this process, since there are so many aspects of preparation to consider.
Include “Fatigue Weeks”
A recent article in Velonews discussed the concept of getting in a fully fatiguing week of training as preparation for an event. This is nothing new - I recall Hunter telling me 10 years ago, when we first met at a PCG training camp, that I would be flying 4 weeks after the camp – and he was right! These “fatigue weeks” consist of about 6-9 days of heavy volume and/or intensity, with a total TSS that is around 120-150% of normal weekly training. I recommend two of these before the main event. The first is 8 weeks prior, consisting primarily of high volume tempo riding, followed by a recovery week and two normal training weeks. The second happens at 4 weeks to go, and includes both volume and intensity. This is followed by a normal training week, and then a 2-week taper.
Taper, Taper, Taper
Based on a review of the available research on tapering1, a 2-week exponential taper has been shown to be the most effective for achieving peak performance. An exponential taper is a progressive decrease in training volume from 100% to 40% over the course of the 2 weeks. While volume is decreased, workout frequency and intensity are maintained. Managing the taper can be one of the most psychologically challenging aspects of your preparation, but it is also one of the most important! Avoid giving in to either the fear that you are de-training or the desire to ride harder or longer because you feel so fresh.
 Bosquet, L., Montpetit, J., Arvisais, D., Mujika, I. Effects of tapering on performance: A meta-analysis. Med Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol 39, No. 8, pp. 1358-1365, 2007.