Wins the Tour of the Algarve.  Great rider no doubt.


But his ‘pistol’ celebration has to stop.  It really must.

Rapha Gear Spring/Summer 2010

Rapha show off some of their new gear for this year.

Never mind the expensive clothes though; what bike are they showing off :-) .


Musing on training

Whilst out with ReubenE yesterday for a very enjoyable and vigorous ride we got to talking about training and, more specifically about base building training. 

I have read almost every book I can get my hands on with regards to cycle training, and this includes Base Building for Cyclists.  This book, for me, commits the worst of sins of simply perpetuating cycling dogma.  As someone far cleverer than me has pointed out in the past – that which can be stated without evidence can be refuted without evidence.  The bold assertion, and the central and practically only premise, of this book is that in order to achieve cycling form we must first achieve a ‘fitness base’.  This fitness base can only be achieved by hour upon hour of ‘endurance riding’, generally throughout the winter months when you are least inclined to do so!

The idea is that riding around really slowly  utilises more fat than carbohydrate for fuel (which is certainly  true – every piece of cardio equipment in the gym helpfully points out the fat burning zone).  This is alleged to make the body more efficient at using fat as a fuel and therefore sparing precious carbs, even as the intensity increases.  In the early season you then ‘race yourself into fitness’.

Almost every coach and cycling will agree with the above premise.  But I wonder if it is true…  I have a few ill-thought out ideas

  • I think that this notion is based on a scaling down of work works for pro cyclists.  There is not much scientific motivation in trying to find out the best possible way for a moderate athlete with a moderate amount of time to train.  Pros are a) physiological freaks and b) have all the time in the world to train.  The latter of these two points is the most salient.  If I have 30 hours a week to train there’s no way on earth that a large proportion of that time could be spent at threshold, or even tempo.  I would be obliged to slow down my training.  And, despite their physiological advantages, so are the pros.  I think what has happened is that trainers have looked at what works for the pros and scaled the training – which I think is a mistake as we simply don’t have the time to make it work for us
  • If you follow the base building regime correctly you will doubtless lose power (you can choose your own time period, but I prefer to think of FTP which is sustainable power for 1 hour) over the base building period.  What this means is that for a given intensity of  cycling output,  your lower power will necessitate increased usage of carbs over fat.  Maybe it is better to use the winter months to build power by cycling at lot threshold intensity after all
  • Maybe the central premise of base building is just wrong.  Take a look at Andrew Coggan’s Power Training Level’s document.  Apart from identifying how the different levels are defined, you can see his guide to the training adaptations you would expect at each level of intensity.  There’s not much going on at L2!
  • What if the ‘racing yourself into fitness’ was the important bit after all – not the long hours in the saddle over the winter?
  • Just because something sounds plausible doesn’t mean that it is.  Just because you are training in the fat burning zone does not necessarily imply that your body is getting better at using fat.  Furthermore there is an opportunity cost; every hour spent noodling is time you could spend kicking your arse at a higher intensity; probably doing more good
  • What I think but do not know is this; find as much time as you can to ride, mix it up a bit but in general ride as hard as you can for whatever time you have.  If that means 15 minutes of Tabatta intervals or a 6 hour ride to Brighton and back so be it.
  • Oh, and just enjoy it! Nobody really knows what is best for you given your age, physiology, level of fitness, goals, motivation and time.

Endurance Sports Nutrition

If you’re looking for an online provider of nutritional products you might want to give Endurance Sports Nutrition a go.

They have an excellent range of products (High5, Torq, Maximuscle, etc) that are very keenly priced and excellent service – I made an order last Friday that arrived on Saturday morning.  Highly recommended.