Answer: The emphasis is no longer placed on growing fitness like it was during the Base and Build phases; rather, the focus of the Specialty phase is placed on event specificity. A reduced TSS allows flexibility for weekly racing opportunities during the final phase before your key event.

The Importance of Dropping TSS as You Enter Specialty Training

The aim of the Specialty phase is to tailor a rider’s fitness to be as specific as possible to the demands they’ll face during their key event(s). Workouts in this final phase of training are often the most intense workouts a rider will face over the entire course of the Base/Build/Specialty training cycle.

In contrast to the Specialty phase, the Build phase is responsible for raising the weekly stress to its highest point. If you were to continue this increase (or even maintain the final Build week’s TSS) into the Specialty phase, the combination of higher-intensity workouts, intermittent races and/or practice events, and the residual fatigue some riders might carry after a single Build-phase recovery week could cause a downward performance spiral.

How to Adjust Your Specialty Plan to Incorporate Races

A slightly reduced training load from the Build phase to the Speciality phase allows flexibility when it comes to incorporating weekly racing opportunities into a training plan.

Perhaps the Tuesday workout is omitted in favor of a weekly club race and consequently, the Wednesday workout is skipped or toned down in order to recover in time for a productive Thursday round of intervals. Or maybe the Thursday intervals are reshaped into a taper workout in order to leave a rider ready for a set of back-to-back weekend events. In any case, a consistent weekly schedule makes it easier to judge how much work is necessary to stay sharp and how much TSS leads to lackluster performances in those events that matter.

Additionally, any rider wishing to elevate TSS during those weeks that don’t include extracurricular events can more easily do so. In most cases, just increasing the Endurance work is the safest and often most productive way to go, or there’s the option to increase the heft of the higher-intensity workouts. Some riders can benefit from this increase in high-intensity stress, but it’s best to approach this training modification cautiously and err on the conservative side when determining a proper training/recovery/performance balance.


For more answers to your cycling training questions, listen to the Ask a Cycling Coach podcast presented by TrainerRoad. New episodes are released weekly.

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Nick Kanwetz

Nick Kanwetz is a writer of all things cycling. Whether he's creating content, interviewing coaches or digging through studies, he's doing it all to make sure you become a faster cyclist and all around better athlete.