Payoffs occur to those who put the right type of work in at the right time. The reason most cyclists don’t see the dividends they desire comes down to improper season planning at the beginning of their training season.

To perfect your training season leading up to an important event, or series of events, ask yourself a few simple questions:

“How many races am I committed to doing?”

Determining the number of races targeted throughout the calendar year is the first step to a successful season of racing. Once that’s dialed, you’ll have the opportunity to count back the number of weeks you have to dedicate to training. The next red-herring is figuring out which races you’re heading for are most important to you.

“How important is each race to me?”

All too often we see athletes forgo race prioritization and end up bummed at their race results. Maybe they were feeling strong with fresh legs a few weeks before an important event. Maybe the fitness they had worked so hard to build wasn’t quite specific enough to the demands of that particular racing discipline. The solution is to concentrate your efforts on one or two (but seldom three) events that you want to be your fastest at.

  • High-Priority Event(s)Known as A Race(s): All your hard work leads up to this race. These events act as the climax and culmination of your training efforts for the year, therefore, it’s important to select events that give yourself the best chance of success — whatever “success” may mean for you.
  • Medium-Priority Event(s)Known as B Race(s): Emulating specific aspects of your A Race(s), B Races are weaved throughout your training when you’ve built specific forms of fitness necessary for your highest priority race. These are known as training races as you use them to familiarize yourself with the nuances of your particular riding discipline. That way you know your strategy for the big day.
  • Low-Priority Event(s)Known as C Race(s): Low-priority events can act as opportunities to give you some competitive experience in the year. They can also be thought of as training races as well. Though, these are called C races and your results at these races should be of minimal concern. The low-consequence nature of C races provides the perfect opportunity to throw different race strategies at the wall and see what sticks.

Life is all about priorities; this transcends into your racing career as well. Prioritizing races throughout the year is critical to performance as we are unable to perform at our “peak” abilities all year long. Knowing at the beginning of your season makes it crystal clear where your fitness needs to be throughout the entire year.

“How much time do I have to train until my race(s)?”

Sometimes we see athletes ignore that training should be separated into multiple periods. For this reason, it is important to know the time available to train until your event(s). Knowing this time frame sheds light on how time can be organized to build specific forms of fitness for the specific demands of your event(s). Athletes need to dedicate time to establishing a proper foundation of fitness before moving onto building upon that foundation, and eventually sharpening those skills to be very specific to their discipline of racing. Which begs the question, where’s your fitness at the beginning of the training season?

“How much fitness do I have right now?”

Many riders think they have the necessary fitness in place to move onto other phases of training but are often times mistaken. While injury can be a concern, you may also be missing out on a higher fitness peak you can actually achieve by shortchanging yourself in the early phases of training. Be honest with yourself and recognize whether you need to place emphasis on the very beginning of your training: the Base Phase.

“How can I use this information with TrainerRoad?”

We offer training plans that progress through three separate training phases: Base, Build, and Specialty. Athletes establish new fitness by following a plan’s prescribed workouts, which are progressive, properly timed and apply specific types of training stress. A full progression typically last 28 weeks, but we get it, not every athlete’s training schedule fits that timeframe. If you have more or less than the typical 28 weeks, you can modify your training plan based on your goals.

When it comes time to execute on your events, whether they be low- or high-priority, follow a few rules of thumb:

  • A Race(s): A tapering strategy is built into all Specialty Phase training plans to have you fresh for your most important race(s) of the year. If you’re unable to progress all the way to the end of the Specialty Phase training plan, you can use Weeks 7 & 8 to properly taper for your event.
  • B Race(s): While a full tapering strategy isn’t necessary, these races often involve a short taper or some trimming of the immediate pre-race workload, but are still typically used on the path to an A-priority event.
  • C Race(s): C races are races you “train through” as there’s no taper, just substitute a race for a workout.

Athlete with Less Than 28 Weeks to Train for their A Race

If you’re an athlete who has less than the prescribed 28 weeks to train for an event, TrainerRoad plans are flexible to fit your schedule. Base training should always be prioritized; every athlete needs it. It comes down to how much and how often one should revisit it. If you’re an athlete faced with less than the prescribed time to train, we’d suggest completing the entire Base phase of training. Then move as far along through the Build and Specialty training plans as time will allow.

Riders with heavily experienced backgrounds who are familiar with the level of base training they have in the season can decide to bypass the Base phase, and move straight into a Build or even Specialty phase.

Athlete with More Than 28 Weeks to Train for their A Race

Athletes with more time than the typical 28 weeks to train have more flexibility. Asking yourself how many weeks you have at the beginning of the training season allows you to tailor your training plan exactly to your time constraints. We suggest newer riders extend the Base Phase of training, whereas more experienced riders can extend both the Base and Build Phases of training.

Athlete with More Than 28 Weeks to Train Targeting Two High-Priority Events

Another common situation we see is a racer who is targeting two events. Say there is 12 weeks between the two events. We’d suggest s/he complete the Base, Build, Specialty sequence leading up to the first event. After taking 1-3 weeks of downtime (e.g. low-intensity riding/time-off completely), start either the first or second 4 weeks of a Build plan. Then progress through as much of a Specialty plan leading up to that second event as time will allow.

Season Planning Resources

TrainerRoad Head Coach Chad Timmerman has answered a number of questions related to season planning in a new resource: The Training Questions section of the TrainerRoad Help Center. If you have a question about training, look no further. And if you have input on a section that you’d like to see that isn’t currently in there, let us know in the comments!