Training with no races on the horizon

Currently in the UK the outlook for road racing happening this year doesn’t look great. Certainly competitions do not look likely until late summer at the earliest.

I think this is a perfect time to be focusing on base training for athletes who do not have a deep training history. But for athletes who have 6, 7+ years of consistent high volume training, is focusing on building the base the best approach right now?

  • I feel like base miles are my biggest asset as a rider, and certainly do not feel like endurance is holding me back in any races I do.

  • I have access to weights and have been able to push my strength higher than ever over the pandemic. My peak power has also seen a big increase because of this, but I’m cautious to keep on the bike sprint work low because it trains and de-trains very quickly.

  • My weaknesses relative to my strengths would be raw power for 3-30 minute efforts (I have an excellent sprint and pretty flat power curve after 40 minutes, I also feel like I have good repeatability/fatigue resistance and resistance to cardiac drift in long and/or intense sessions).

Traditionally in the winter I work on my weaknesses, but the past 18 months (and foreseeable future) have ended up being an endless winter (an extended preparation phase of training).

I think my areas I can improve most on are these shorter power durations, however I am uncertain whether I should be performing high intensity intervals for too long (as you reap the returns from 4-6 weeks of this style of training).

  • Are there other areas to look at like performing fatigued efforts after increasing amounts of work?

  • Or if raw power is the limiter, should I cycle between blocks of polarised Vo2 max intervals and base miles/sub threshold intervals?

  • Or if I am not racing until possibly 2022 should I forgo all intervals entirely, simply ride zone 2 and work on strength? The raw power will be what it will be after 6 weeks of vo2 max work which I can include when I have a confirmed date for a race…? The podcast has talked about Jim Miller’s philosophy of building the best engine you can, and then fine tuning it just before your events.

I hope this made some kind of sense. I think I am trying to pose one hypothetical question here: what is the best use of time when training for multiple years without races? is the answer always base miles, even for athletes for whom this is their biggest strength?

and in light of this question, what would you recommend I work on given my specific circumstances?

I would like to put myself in the best position for when races do return. But am also aware of the importance of staying both physically healthy and mentally happy during this time.

If this is relevant - I am 23 years old, with a “sprinter” phenotype, and have ridden over 5000 hours in the last 8 years (~80% of these in zone 1 in a 3 zone model). I am training primarily for road races 3-5hs long.

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Hi @jimmy and welcome to the forum! Thanks for your thoughtful and detailed post.

There’s a lot we can unpack from this post, so I’ll stick initially with my gut feeling so others can pick and choose the areas they would focus on.

Based on your circumstances at the moment and no foreseeable races on the calendar until maybe late summer, I would consider going through some blocks as if you were preparing for events. You might go through a proper base + build + peak type of approach over 6-8 weeks since you have a strong base at the moment. You could focus on some of that 3-30 minute effort range with your threshold and endurance rides, and then finish up with a VO2 max block before taking a rest period.

I don’t think you will experience any negative effects from something like that, and if anything you can use it as a dry run to see what type of preparation makes you feel ready to compete. This is a time where you can do some trial & error too. And if you make mistakes, there’s really no consequence. My hesitation on doing a lot of base is that you’ll eventually reach a point where you can’t do any more volume, and then adding more base won’t have the same training effect, especially if this is a strength for you at the moment.

An interesting approach might be to see how you can incorporate your weight training into a training block and play with the requirements for on-bike and off-bike work to find what works best for you. Great job on those strength improvements too! #PandemicStrength! :muscle:

Coach Ryan


@ryan, thanks for your answer. I’ve tried to unpack it with some concrete take-homes for both myself and other forum members:

In a period of training when you have no date for your next competition (but is likely to be many months or even over a year away):

  • Train your weaknesses. For the majority of amateur cyclists aerobic conditioning will be the biggest area where they can see improvements. But it is different for every athlete, so focus on yourself and not others.

  • Don’t just train your base (especially if it is a strength for you). Include work on all the energy systems.

  • The answer isn’t always to add more volume. Especially if you have found little benefit from adding more in terms of fatigue vs fitness.

  • It is worth building up to peak fitness as practice for normal years: an athlete can dial in which specific intervals they may respond best to, and try to work out how much intensity brings the best results for them. It is also easier to retrain to a certain level in the future. So peaking without races may mean they can build up to a similar (or higher) level more easily in future.

Is there anything else that you, or any others have to add?

p.s. I’m not sure how many other people are in doubt of when their next race may be, and what to do in training in the meantime. It might make a good podcast topic…?

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I am not someone with a big race schedule. I am more of a person who will have a few goal events at different times of the year and they become anchors for how I know how I should be focusing my training in relation to those events.

I still have those events on the calendar - regardless of if they go or not - and try to do the event or something similar…

…But in this past year knowing the events are up in the air and refocusing my training as process-oriented I have become more sensitive to recognizing the cycles my body goes through. I am looking to use this time to become more aware of these cycles to help when I should be picking things up or dialing them back.

I have noticed that I go through physical and mental stages that seem to be more natural to me rather than some output from training. As I hit these points and reflect, I remember years past that I seem to have similar “downs” or “ups” around the same time each year. Sometimes it is getting sick. Other times it is hitting a PR or just having a great month stretch.

I am sure some of has to do with my level/balance of training during these times. But if I think back long enough I remember the similar cycles before I was training at the level I am now. This makes me think there are other things going on - internal (natural bio cycles) and external (environment - transition to cold/dark days tend to coincide with getting sick and decreased performance) - that I can understand better.

I am trying noticing these feels and trends in hopes to be able to use this information to surf these natural waves - get the most of my peaks and try not to go too far down the valleys by recovering or switching things up when I feel the “down” setting in.

Update: I was reminded of this as I started listening to the latest Cycling in Alignment. But as I finished later in the day it seemed it was much about the annual cycle. @colbypearce does better job of describing it than I do. I guess this year I have really been trying to focus on understanding my cycle.

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@jimmy I think you listed some great summary points. The only thing I’ll add is the opportunity to work on the strength training aspect. It seems like you’ve had some excellent adaptations in that realm, so this is a good time to work on incorporating strength into the programming and determining what type, frequency, etc. works best for each person.

Coach Ryan

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good point. I agree; this is the perfect opportunity to double down on strength training, core work and stretching. It’s never been so important to be a healthy and fully functioning human being!

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