We’ve all dreamt of breaking away in the closing kilometres of a race. Cheered on by roadside fans before powering to the line alone with arms raised. Sadly though, for many of us, it remains a dream. But what would it take for you to really pull off a race-winning move? Superior genetics? A lighter bike? While these will definitely help, it’s the right kind of training you do that really makes the difference. The sort of training that most just aren’t prepared to do. It’s hard work to tax the anaerobic zones in training, but those who do stand the best chance of making the move stick on race day.
MAKING A RACE WINNING MOVE
The rider who wins is rarely the one who produces the most power throughout the race. Neither is it the one who pedalled the most. What it comes down to is tactical nous and the power to back it up when required.
Most races are decided in a specific moment. Those who miss “The Move” through complacency or through a lack of power will always miss out. Those who want to stay in the mix need to have the training to produce the big watts when required. Whether it’s that solid 1-minute effort to make the break, an all-out 5-minute dig to snap the elastic with a chasing group, or a sustained 20-minute effort alone from far out. Let’s take a look at some scenarios and associated workouts to help you make that break stick.
RACE SCENARIO 1
3KM TO GO: HOW TO BREAK AWAY AND STAY AWAY
Imagine you’re a few kilometres out and the legs are feeling good. When attacking from a group at this distance out, it requires a hard initial effort followed by sustained power just above your threshold. The initial effort gets you away from the group, while the sustained effort keeps you out in front.
In order to do this, you’ll have to tax your Vo2 max zone in training. It’s painful and uncomfortable, but without improving this system you’re unlikely to ever win a race by breaking away towards the end. Here’s a workout that’ll help hone your system for an assault in the final kilometres.
- Begin by warming up for 20 minutes in zone 2.
- To begin the interval proper, start with a 30-second all-out sprint trying to hold 200% of your FTP. Push deep and imagine yourself trying to get a gap.
- For the next 3-5 minutes, keep the intensity up. Hold 100-110% of FTP.
- Finish the interval with another all-out effort for 10 seconds at 200% of FTP. Visualise yourself sprinting to the line.
- Recover with 5 minutes of easy pedalling and then repeat until you’ve done 5 reps.
This interval simulates several aspects of the successful breakaway. The first hard effort for 30 seconds simulates breaking away from the bunch. This must be intense and it must appear to others that you’re too strong to even bother trying to follow.
During the 3-5 minute section at 100-110% of FTP, you’re trying to hold your power slightly above threshold while not going too far into the red. In other words, you recover just enough from the initial effort so as not to blow entirely, all the while trying to hold the gap.
The final section of the interval simulates a sprint for the line. By consistently training these zones, they’ll adapt surprisingly quickly. And the beauty of the smart trainer means that they can be targeted with ultimate precision.
RACE SCENARIO 2
SURVIVING IN THE BREAK: OVER AND UNDER INTERVALS
Once you’ve broken away in a small group, you’ll need to get comfortable riding consistently at a high-intensity. It’s no use having the explosive power to break away if you can’t tap out a solid rhythm all the way to the finish. Here’s an interval that’ll help.
- Warm up for 30 minutes and build up to your threshold for the last 10 minutes.
- The main interval consists of 5-minute sets and involves riding for 3 minutes at threshold followed by 2 minutes slightly above it at approximately 105% of FTP.
- Repeat the above 3 times in a 15-minute window and then allow yourself to recover for 10 minutes.
- Aim for 4 sets of 15 minutes in total before doing a thorough cooldown.
In this interval, by working your threshold you help increase it. The 3 minutes you spend at threshold simulate you following strong breakaway companions, and by taxing this zone you gradually teach your body to recover sufficiently at threshold before another hard effort. The 2 minutes at 105% of FTP simulates you on the front driving the break. Bear in mind that this type of training is quite intense. Any training at or above threshold will build fatigue and require time to recover in subsequent days.
RACE SCENARIO 3
ATTACKING ON A CLIMB: THE ANAEROBIC ZONE
Attacking on a climb is all about going hard to get an initial gap before quickly recovering and settling into a rhythm. Climbing is often a mental game, and by attacking hard you can quickly demoralise any competitors.
To hone your ability to break away on a climb, here’s an interval you can incorporate.
- Warm up for 30 minutes, gradually working up to threshold for the last 10 minutes.
- Sprint hard out of the saddle for 2 minutes at 130% of FTP.
- Take 2 minutes of recovery and repeat. Aim for 8 reps.
- Finish with some 1-minute efforts and try and hit 140% of FTP before warming down.
This interval taxes your anaerobic capacity, that vital zone that you simply need to work on if you ever want to get a gap when you attack. The danger that many run into while doing this interval is falling out of the anaerobic zone halfway through, i.e. they become too fatigued to hold 130% of FTP. In this interval, once you’re unable to hold 120% of FTP, you’re no longer training your anaerobic zone. In such cases, it’s better to stop, focus on recovery and perhaps verify your FTP.
With a smart trainer, the aforementioned intervals are made so much easier. With no traffic or obstacles to distract you, you can simply use your watts as the “carrot” to help you dig deeper. At Tacx, with our line of smart trainers and training plans you can target those zones with ultimate precision. And from there, the only thing that’ll stand in your way to that victory is the suffering associated with those above threshold efforts!