Workout of the Week: Settling In

One of the hardest things to learn in cycling is to attack with control and then to recover at effort after that attack.

Rear shot of a cyclist riding alone along a tree-lined road on a rainy day
Photo: Shutterstock.com/Bublik Haus

Whether it’s a surge up a climb in a TT or going off the front in a road, cyclocross, or mountain bike race—the ability to settle in at just below threshold is a highly underrated skill. I say a skill because, though it can be trained by developing an ability to clear lactate efficiently through base miles and sub-threshold work, it is also a skill that takes patience, mental strength, and grit.

Most cyclists know the feeling of burning legs and lungs after we’ve laid down an attack or responded to someone else’s. Rarely are our fellow racers so kind as to slow up and allow us to recover with ease. Instead, the pace maintains and we must fight to hang on or stay out in front—and generally this fight requires producing fairly high watts while getting our you-know-what back together.

One way to mimic this in training is threshold efforts with surges spread throughout. Doing so allows us to learn how to calm our mind and body while still going hard, but also to learn how long it typically takes to feel that recovery settling in.

Be careful to only go as far above as you can maintain power for the surges and that you are able to immediately lower to 90-95% FTP. As mental and physical fitness increases, add more 5-minute repetitions, trying to increase the watts of the surges while maintaining sub-LT during the “recovery.”

For me, after an effort, I start to recover after about 60-90 seconds at sub-threshold wattage. However, this is easy to forget after an off season with little racing, or even after a mid-season break. Therefore, I think these intervals work well throughout the year, but especially as we shift toward race preparation. Preparing to race is very much about training the body, but when the mind is trained and our knowledge of our ability to attack and recover is honed, our performance will improve as well.

Workout of the Week: Settling In

Warm-up

25 min. as:

10 min. easy riding
10 min. base riding
5 min. build from base to 90% FTP

5 min. easy spin

Prep set

Focus on increasing your FTP percentage little by little with every set.

1 min. @ 100-105% FTP
1 min. easy spin
45 sec. @ 105-110% FTP
1 min. easy spin
30 sec. @ 110-115% FTP

5 min. easy riding

Main set

3 sets:

5 × 5 min. @ threshold, with 15-20 sec. surges @ >120% FTP at the 1 min. and 3 min. mark

3 min. rest between efforts

Cooldown

15 min. spin