Over the past 20+ years, I’ve trained with no plan, plans designed by internet coaches, and even plans copied from the pages of BICYCLING magazine. None of these training plans were designed for a time trial specialist. For a time trial-specific training program, I initially turned to Michael Cooper’s website, Training for Cycling Time Trials: Structured, Systematic, and Progressive, which provided a year-round approach that was exactly what I was looking for.
With the retirement of Coach Cooper in September 2019, I’ve engaged the services, as of April 7, 2020, of Coach Gary Tingley, a USA Cycling (USAC) Certified Level 1 coach associated with TrainingPeaks (TP), one of the leading online training websites. TP allows me to record my workouts, upload data from a training watch, heart-rate monitor, or GPS, and receive individualized workouts from Coach based on an annual training plan. Coach Tingley’s training plan is focused on achieving specific power levels, a percentage of my Functional Threshold Power (FTP).
This table shows my training broken down into five major phases. Within each four-week period, the workload builds up to a peak (overload) in the third week, with an easier fourth (recovery) week following.
PHASE 1: AEROBIC BASE
This phase lasts for up to 16 weeks (four 4-week periods). The phase starts with 70% stamina work. High pedaling cadences are used to encourage the development of good technique. The remaining 30% is largely endurance work, but some time is spent developing strength. At this stage, the strength sessions are performed off the bike (i.e., Bowflex, free weights). Over the 16 weeks, the intensity and time is gradually increased. Endurance effort is extended and some strength sessions are transferred to the bike. Towards the end of the phase, race pace efforts and higher intensity intervals are introduced.
PHASE 2: INTENSITY
During this phase (12 weeks), there is an increase in stress both in time and intensity. Stamina and endurance work occupy 50% to 60% of the time, while race pace, power intervals, and lactate tolerance sessions are introduced and gradually increased in intensity. Towards the end of the period, some early races may be entered (and used as high intensity training). The aim is to increase the ability to sustain high intensity effort (as in competition) for longer periods.
PHASE 3: PEAK/TAPERING
This phase lasts between four and eight weeks. Although there is some reduction in training time, the intensity is very high, particularly lactate tolerance and speed sessions. The aim is to refine technique and energy systems at high speed.
PHASE 4: RACING
This phase (the one it’s all about) lasts from 12 to 16 weeks. The aim is to maintain optimum racing ability. 50% of the work will be based on stamina to retain the aerobic base but active recovery routines are essential.
PHASE 5: RECOVERY
This period, usually four weeks, is low intensity with reduced time. Alternative physical activities may be incorporated. The aim is to allow the body (and mind) to recover from the racing season.
WHAT ABOUT SPEED?
I train by cadence, power level, and time. Speed is the result of these other three factors. Recently, for example, in the last of seven all-out 15-second sprint intervals on my trainer, in the biggest gear on my bike, I recorded a speed of 46 mph. There is no humanly way possible to complete a 25 mile time trial at that speed. In a 20 kilometer (km) or 40 km time trial, the winner is the one who can maintain the fastest speed from the start line to the finish line. Stamina and endurance are more important than short bursts of blazing speed.
NEW HEART RATE AND POWER LEVELS
When Coach’s training plan calls for stamina and endurance efforts, for example, the chart below shows me how high I have to lift and sustain my heart rate and power level for the prescribed interval duration.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The bottom line is that I train at these personalized power levels. My ability to remain competitive is the result of a yearly training plan, structured weekly training sessions, and my individual power and heart rate levels.