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Sportive Training Weeks 9-16

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Knowledge level: Beginner

Sportive

Article posted: 07/01/2013

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The first eight weeks of the British Cycling Sportive Training Plans were designed to build some all-round bike fitness and strength. They also allowed you to familiarise yourself with following a structured training plan, understand and work within your training zones and help you identify any weaknesses in your riding skills. Week 9 will see you repeating the threshold test to measure the physiological changes that your body has undergone and adjust your training zones accordingly.

Weeks 9-16 of the British Cycling Training Plans are designed to build an excellent endurance base in preparation for next season. As Sportives take several hours to complete it is very important that you have developed sufficient aerobic fitness to cope with, and recover from, the demands of your chosen event.

The majority of training in weeks 9-16 will be in the lower heart rate or power zones, building endurance through high volume but relatively low stress riding. During this period your body will learn to use its fuel supplies more efficiently and you will become better at pacing longer rides. It is also a good time to work on your bike handling skills, so that you are comfortable and confident riding in a group by next year’s Sportive season.

As we are now entering winter and have the possibility of poor weather, you may have to adapt some of your training sessions. If the weather is too bad to ride outdoors, then try substituting a road session for one on a static trainer, Wattbike or Rollers. If substituting a long endurance ride, you may want to split the session in two, by doing one hour in the morning and another hour or more in the evening.

Attempting a two or three-hour session on a static trainer or similar in one go is not recommended; you might manage it once or twice, but it is not going to be good for your morale if you try and do it for every session.

In the winter you must always be mindful of the changeability of the British weather and dress for the conditions. A good waterproof coat, warm gloves, skull cap or snood and overshoes all make a tremendous difference, and ultimately make Winter riding far more enjoyable. If you suffer from cold hands or feet whilst riding then self-heating hand warming pouches found in outdoor shops can be a lifesaver; put inside gloves or socks they stay warm for hours.

Weeks 9-16 have some target distances to ride. Choosing the same route allows you to record any improvements in the time taken and average speed recorded. However, bear in mind that the prevailing weather conditions, your fatigue level, and your nutrition both on and off the bike will influence these variables. Week 15 has longer rides set for all levels of rider.

Again, you may have to be flexible about which day you do this ride - check the weather forecast and be prepared. It is fine to build in a tea stop on these long rides which allows you to maintain a social element to your riding, as long as your riding partner or group is of a similar ability and is prepared to ride at your pace. The aim of these rides is to teach you to pace your effort and give you a good opportunity to work on feeding solutions.

Nigel Mitchell, Head Nutritionist for the Great Britain Cycling Team and Team Sky offers some advice: “As a basic strategy, you should aim to drink 500ml of liquid per hour of riding, and eat one gel, half an energy bar or a small banana per hour. This should equate to around 20g of carbohydrate per hour. If you are using energy products then now is the time to experiment with different brands. You could also identify who will be the nutrition sponsor in your target events. Using the same products during your training will reduce the potential for a shock to your digestive system come event day.”

On returning from your longer rides Nigel recommends: “If you are going to eat a balanced meal within ninety minutes of your return then no special recovery foods are needed. If you will be eating outside of this time frame, then a glass of semi-skimmed milk and a banana is ideal as a post ride snack. You may want to eat an energy bar in the last 45 minutes of your ride. This will boost your blood sugar levels and stop you wanting to eat the entire contents of your fridge, on your return.”

Finally, try your best to complete the full prescribed distance or riding times for the longer rides if you can. Completing these set distances now will give you confidence for your Sportive distance later in the year. So be prepared, fuel appropriately and enjoy!

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