Harry presented to me in November of 2015, a svelte 74kg 59 year old road cyclist with 10 years riding experience and solid results in multiple public events across the continent. Harry was self-coaching, with guidance from typical off-the-shelf, one-size-fits all plans which he translated quite well to performance. However his training plateaued readily. Harry was looking to target La Marmotte as a ‘Gold standard’ time, plus several preparatory ‘B’ and ‘C’ events prior to that, including Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Not such trivial objectives!
Planning a significantly effective programme for a masters athlete takes an even deeper consideration of the fundamentals of applied exercise physiology, as anabolic resistance and poor recovery often plague older cyclists who have trained in a similar fashion for some time, especially those that are new to resistance training. Typically, experienced cyclists tend to train their cardio-respiratory system far more frequently than neuromuscular efficiency. Specific strength and conditioning sessions are required to build anaerobic capacity and translate functional mass gains to power and ultimately cycling performance.
We focused Harrys programme primarily on improving his critical power profile through resistance exercise and short intensive interval sessions, at a complimentary frequency while general riding was a low volume. The main components of the phases were Strength, Hypertrophy, Power while endurance was left for on the bike activities as Harry has a slightly above average expendable amount of training time of 12-14hrs/ week. There was the added complexity of increasing endurance during the early in the season in time for LBL. This meant longer rides were factored in, also an annual training-camp style trip to Tenerife around threshold building sessions. The key strength and anaerobic sessions Harry performed in the gym helped to lay the foundations which aerobic endurance and improved power development relies upon.
Harrys performance improved in a biological response manner, with a typical lag in response, especially common in masters athletes. Four months later and Harry’s follow-up results demonstrated significant gains in performance with more than 25Watts in lactate threshold power at a lower heart rate and vastly improved anaerobic capacity (critical power AWC) and rising. So Harry has not only gained power he is much more economical and efficient in his cardio-respiratory system. Also notable is his lactate clearance at a higher intensity has been preserved, so his rate of recovery is drastically better.
Harry rode a faster Liege-Bastogne-Liege than previous years, in much worse weather conditions. After a brief recovery period we built Harrys CTL on this Performance Management Chart (PMC) towards an average of 100TSS/day and incorporated TTs, fast group rides and more specific hill rep sessions in the final weeks before entering the necessary taper period. An ascending or positive TSB would maximise the probability of freshness with peak fitness, and hence optimal form in the French Alps.
Unfortunately the day of La Marmotte was a bit of a wash-out, but Harry still managed to pb with a time of 10h30’ having suffered considerably on the unseasonably wet, long and cold descents. However, Harry had come in to planned form, and prepared well for the Ride 100 just four weeks after. His finish time was 4h31’ and 18minutes quicker than his previous edition in 2014. This gave him a position in the top 10% of all participants and 10th in age group!
After a late summer performance assessment, we captured Harrys latest lactate threshold profile (green dots in the chart above). This showed a further significant shift in power and heart rate down to the right, indicating Harry’ specific conditioning has paid dividends. A further 12 Watt gain at the same heart rate put his lactate threshold power-to-weight to a very respectable 3.3Watts/kg. Further still, the profile suggested an improvement in both total aerobic capacity and sustainable duration above threshold. In all, I would expect further quantifiable performance gains from Harry next year if he continues with appropriate winter training.
UPDATE 2019: Unfortunately Harry suffered a nasty spill during the 2018 Ride London, and fractured his left hip and femur which took him out of action for a few months. As anyone who has suffered a prolonged injury, losing fitness is a severely frustrating. Harry perservered through convalescence and rehabilitation through the weeks and months, with pool work and resistance exercises to finally get back on teh bike, but felt rather flat with slow progress. Harrys motivation wasn’t lacking as he set himself a new challenge for the summer, LEJOG (Land’s-end-John o’Groats)..and ten days of 100miles of varied terrian riding, nothing trivial then! Having lots of historical data from Harry’s Marmotte training has been exceptionally helpful in this situation, to see how much power Harry has lost, especially from his critical power curve, which provides an ideal assessment of weaknesses and a gap analysis to base a rapid and effective return to previous fitness. So far so good.
Harrys Performance Manager Chart (PMC) from Training peaks reflected a steady and sustainable period of strength and endurance conditioning throughout the 2017 season. Freshness for his event was timed to achieve optimal form on the day.
Determining Harrys lactate threshold power and heart rate throughout his programme, we captured significant (27W, >10%) changes in objective performance. The profiles also show a greatly increased sub-threshold economy with lower stress on the cardio-respiratory system due to improved aerobic muscle recruitment.