Our 4-week circuit racing plan is designed for intermediate/advanced riders who want a final top-end fitness, race specific conditioning block after their winter training.
Who is it suitable for?
Our 4-week circuit racing training plan is aimed primarily at riders who have completed our Pre-season plan and are looking for a final racing specific lead in to their first event of the season.
If you have not been following one of our training plans but are keen to target some circuit races, this plan could still be suitable for you. You will however need to have trained consistently through the winter and built a solid strength and endurance base. Don’t be tempted to leap into these relatively high intensity workouts as a get fit short cut. If you haven’t put the base work in over the winter, you will be risking potential injury and slipping into a state of overtraining. You should look to invest time in a structured plan to build the required base, such as our Off-season base builder plan, postpone trying to develop race fitness and maybe adopt a more structured approach next winter.
What will it give me?
This plan is designed to give you the necessary fitness for typical 50-minute to one hour closed circuit races. Each week there is a threshold level workout, which will give you the ability to hold a relatively high intensity for a sustained period of time. The second session is of a higher intensity, giving you the ability to bridge a gap or make a break. The main weekend session is a longer ride for endurance but will also contain higher intensity race specific efforts. With these three sessions, you will develop the fitness to hold your own in a circuit race. The bonus session each week is more sprint focussed, giving you that acceleration out of the corners and a winning sprint.
What about skills and tactics?
Fitness is only part of the equation in bunch racing with skills, tactics and racing etiquette equally, if not more important, for success and safety. Especially if you are fairly new to the discipline you should take the time to watch our Racesmart videos. Also, for newer racers who might already be strong riders coming from a multisport or sportive background, try to spend a number of races riding in the bunch, not just trying to ride off the front. You will learn valuable skills that will be essential as you move up through the categories.
How much training is involved?
The peak volume of this plan is seven hours and ten minutes. This may be significantly less than the volume you have been used to during the winter but the aim of this plan is to develop form, not accumulate fatigue. You are also targeting races of up to an hour in duration and should, from your winter training, have more than enough endurance. As the four weeks progress, volume overall decreases as the intensity rises. The higher intensity sessions provide strong training stimuli for your body to adapt to but won’t tire your legs in the same way that longer rides can. By the end of the fourth week you will be sharp, tapered and race ready.
Is it all cycling?
Like all the British Cycling training plans, you are given the option of a cross training session. However, with a mind to racing, you should take care that the activity you choose doesn’t impact on the quality of your bike sessions or add significant fatigue to your legs. Any strength training especially should be viewed as maintenance rather than pushing for progress. There is also an option of a bonus session and, for this four week block into the season, you may feel that this will be of more benefit than cross-training. However listen to your body and, if you can’t achieve the quality of efforts required by the sessions or are feeling overly fatigued or flat, opt for an additional rest day or a restorative activity such as yoga, pilates or swimming.
What equipment is involved?
Most of the midweek sessions should be completed on an indoor trainer as you will be more able to safely focus on achieving the high intensities required. However, for some of the sprint focussed sessions, you might want to try and find a suitable quiet stretch of road so that you can get used to how the bike handles during a sprint effort.
Accurate pacing and monitoring of intensity is essential to both racing and training. If you have been following the Pre-season plan, you will already be familiar with using either heart rate, power or a combination of them both. A power meter does represent a significant investment but, as long as you take the time to learn how to use it and interpret the data it provides, it can be invaluable. For higher level efforts especially, where heart rate lag can be an issue, a power meter ensures that right from the first pedal stroke you are riding at the correct intensity.
How flexible is the day to day structure?
With at least two rest days and the potential for three, there is plenty of scope for adjusting the day to day structure to suit the demands of your life.
Always try to schedule in a rest day before and after any of the sessions. The only exception to this is the longer weekend ride which can follow one of the other workouts but not precede them. Quality is more important than quantity so don’t be tempted to try and squeeze all of the workouts in if you can’t allow the corresponding amount of rest and recovery time.
What happens at the end of the plan?
The final lower volume week should deliver you feeling fresh and sharp to the start line. If you want to compete on a regular basis or even multiple times each week, such as a local evening circuit race and another event at the weekend, this can be accommodated.
If you have an especially important event that you are targeting, precede that week with Week 4. If not, keep rotating through the plan, substituting one of the midweek sessions for a race and then also either the weekend bonus session or longer ride depending on your event schedule.
Depending on your level when you started the four week plan, you may not have completed the bonus sessions on your first time through. If this was the case, you can develop the plan by including them on alternate weeks, 1 and 3 for example, on your second rotation and then aim to complete them all on your third.
There is no need to complete the threshold test every time you go through Week 1 but you should aim to re-test every eight-to-12 weeks.