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Expert Blog: Planning the year ahead

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Article posted: 25/02/2013

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Nikalas Cook is a freelance writer and coach who’s currently working with British Cycling developing tips and advice content for the site. He writes for a number of publications, including 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus, reviewing the latest bikes and kit and giving readers training advice.

He’s completed numerous cycling challenges including the Trans-Wales MTB stage race, the Fred Whitton, the Raid Pyrenees and both the Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders sportives. Competitively, he likes to combine his cycling with running and, in September, won gold in his age-group at the ITU World Long Course Duathlon Championships at Powerman Zofingen.

He’ll be blogging regularly on the website throughout 2013 and 2014 about his training and the challenges he takes on in preparation for returning to Zofingen in September and defending his title.

Blog: Planning the year ahead

The problem with winning a race and it all going according to plan is that you don’t know what, if anything, to change to perform better the next year. Should you follow the, “If it ain’t broke” adage or should you look to tweak and fiddle with all aspects of your training and equipment in search of those allusive seconds. These doubts are compounded by the fact that I’m another year older and in the final year in the 35-39 Age-Group.

However I know that training should always be an evolving process and to simply follow the same plan as last year would undoubtably result in a disappointing performance. I need to look at, be honest about and address my weaknesses.

The crux of the race is undoubtably the 150 km / 1800 m bike ride which, as it’s a non-drafting event, is effectively ridden as a time trial. There’s a lot of time to make up as a strong rider but, with a 30 km run following it, plenty of time to lose too if you overcook it.

In my preparation for last year’s race, my bike training definitely focussed on building long, steady and consistent output on my time trial bike. Almost all of my training focussed on heart rate zones 1-2, pacing hills at a still steady zone 3. This certainly gave me a decent diesel engine and, with the conservative pacing strategy I adopted on race day, resulted in a solid but not staggering 4:22 bike split. The plan for this year is build on that base to be a bit more aggressive in my training, pacing and hopefully add a bit of a turbo to that engine. I’ll be bumping everything up a notch, looking to ride predominately in Zones 2-3 and to hold Zone 4 on the climbs.

Fortunately, given the winter we’ve had so far, with Zofingen not until September and a solid 12 years of endurance training, there hasn’t been a pressing need for a massive winter base building period. I’ve managed to keep up a fairly consistent amount of training though but nothing too structured and, with plenty of mountain biking and a bit of cyclocross, the real emphasis has been on enjoying myself.

I’ll be launching my 2013 campaign in earnest mid-March with a 5-day warm weather training camp in Antequera, Southern Spain. It’ll be primarily focussed on the bike as the winter has been fairly run heavy but I’m sure I’ll squeeze in a trot or two.

My first racing target for the year will be the HellRider Duathlon in May. A unique event consisting of alternating 5 km trail running laps with 8 km mountain biking laps, I placed 2nd in the solo category last year so am hoping to move on step higher on the podium.

I’m also down to take part in a three day mountain bike stage race crossing the UK from Whitehaven to Scarborough and averaging over 100 km of off-road riding per day.

I’ll also no doubt take on a few sportives and have plans, in my attempts to find a bit more speed, to ride my local Cycling Clubs 10-mile TT series and to put down some semi-decent times over 25 miles too.

The other area of potential improvement is my personal ballast. Last year I raced at about 78 kg which was fairly lean for my 190.5 cm ex-rugby player frame but there’s definitely scope for shaving a couple more kilos off that and potentially getting nearer to 75 kg. As usual I’ve gained a bit over the winter and it’s crept up to 83 kg but the incentive of some seriously hilly riding in Spain should be the spur to get down to nearer 80 kg by mid March.

Well, I’ll be using this blog as a bit of a confessional to report of the events I do, the kilometers I put in during training, or not, the pies I avoid eating, or not, and my thoughts and ramblings through the year.

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