Extreme Polarization - How will ONLY racing work out for me?

47 year old Cat 2 CX racer in Colorado. I have been racing for 10 years and have tried many different types of training plans, Sweet Spot and Polarization to name a few. This year, partly due to my age and inability to recover quickly i have decided to try something different. Wednesdays i will either do a 30 min training race or some race like intervals and Saturday I will race for 50-60 min and THAT IS IT! This is CX so i don’t need to train for 3-4 hour races and considering how hard and physical CX is on the body i have realized that i need at least 2 days to recover AFTER my Wednesday or Saturday workout or race. So 2 workout days and 4 rest days only leaves one other day, which maybe i could do an endurance ride but i am not sure that a 1-2 hour endurance ride a week will really provide much benefit.

Part of my philosophy here is that in the past i have done so many mediocre workouts that usually left me tired on race days, so now i am focusing on being fresh on race days so i can go harder than i have in the past. This is already bearing some fruit, considering i am hitting some PR in the HR zones and also finishing amongst guys that i have not been able to before.

Thoughts? Specifically has anyone done this and how did it go?

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Personally I don’t think dropping volume based on races lengths if a good idea. You may not be racing 3-4 hours but I think the volume really brings you to another level in these shorter races, even @ 30mins they are still an endurance sport. I do 2x hard workouts/races a week with the rest as Z2 (maybe some very low Z3 intervals on longer z2 rides, or short 60-90min LZ3 rides) I can manage fatigue by adjusting the intensity of the Z2/Z3 rides, but I think ‘giving up’ on endurance riding is a bad call personally, this should be the bedrock of the training regimen with the high intensity stuff as the icing on top.

I also mainly race crits/short races and I’m finding the volume is helping me race, rather than participate. I used to do mainly HIIT and endurance riding was the ‘filler’, however now I really believe the endurance riding is a rising tide that raises all boats.


Thanks for the reply, how many hours are you doing a week then? What is your age and experience with racing?

I have inadvertently tried this when my time was severely crunched, and I just couldn’t get endurance (z2) rides in. I kept fitness for a bit, but gradually got slower and less fit. There is truly something special in maintaining fitness through endurance and volume. The TR blog touches on this in the following post:

The Top 10 Guaranteed Ways to Get Slower at Cycling - TrainerRoad Blog

Consistency is key, in addition to some degree of volume. I’ll bet you can hang onto some fitness from years of base building, but there’s got to be an eventual detraining when your body requires the volume.

If you do this - report back to us the results?

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I’m late 30’s and, 10hrs/wk is the max I can fit in with work/family, I usually hit that these days as working from home has got me 10 hours/wk commuting time back!

2x~1hr intensity sessions Mon & Thurs (usually 20-60mins time in zone, e.g. Vo2 4x5 and FTP intervals out to 1 hour total). Racing criteriums (and couple of RR’s 40-100miles) for last 2.5 years.

I think the durability that volume brings is understated, unless you’re a track/kilo rider this is an endurance sport, and I feel training should reflect that. I did OK racing on my old diet of 6-8hrs sufferfest and/or TR plans, but I feel like a more rounded, robust rider having dropped all the bells and whistles and adding a little (easy-ish - 0.6-0.8 IF) volume, with 2 hard hitting interval sessions a week.


one of the racers out here is 40 and in May he went from 10 hour weeks to 20 hour weeks, with nearly all of it being 2-4 hour Zwift rides at around 120W. And then he would hammer 2 group rides a week, one being Wed worlds at 350W for 40-60 minutes plus warmup (and bonus time if he rides to/from). He is more of a diesel and simply got faster doing more volume, even at ‘recovery’ zone1 power.

If it were me, the problem would be that each week the training load for the 2 races would roughly be the same, so over the weeks my CTL (or whatever chronic load measure you want to use) would go down. Again, for me, that would mean I’d be losing the ability to sustain efforts and my FTP would almost certainly drop. I’m close to you in age, and I get the recovery, but I ride about 12 hours a week. I’d keep the races, but add ‘breath through nose’ rides in the rest of the week.


I’ll be the contrarian and say its perfectly fine for CX, dropping volume is a guaranteed need if you race every weekend. Aerobic fitness will drop slower so just keeping the intensity will be okay if that is what time for recovery is necessary. Hopefully you have a high CTL and it will slowly come down over the season. One thing CX coaches often recommend is to take a few weeks off in the middle of the season and do some long endurance rides with no races to rebuild some of that aerobic fitness to come back into race strong for the second half. The recovery days should be real recovery, no filling in with housework etc. I’d roll/yoga plus do some back work to prevent cross-back. Bird dogs, mcgill crunches, planks etc.

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Thanks for the insightful responses so far. A note on CTL and FTP. My FTP is only 268 and i weigh about 180 lbs, so only about 3.3 w/kg and my CTL last year hovered around 30-33 during the CX season, all this together means i should be slower than molasses, especially here in CO. Yet i was finishing in the Top 15 in Colorado in the 40+ Open group and having my best season by far. I learned that CTL and FTP are data points to NOT be held hostage by. I used to race with HR and FTP on my Garmin and now all i have on the screen is the time so i can race by feel instead.

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What you’re experiencing is “peaking.” Your performance exploitation capability is increasing rapidly as fatigue subsides.

When fitness starts to decline, that’s going to go away, slowly, and frustratingly.

Highly recommend at least 1 other easy ride during the week.

Depending on what your training history is, and what the last year or two has looked like, you could lose no fitness at all, or have substantial fitness loss.

Certainly you’ll have better fatigue management and be race-ready at a moment’s notice with this strategy!

(I’ve done what you’re doing. I’m relatively low-fitness. Inconsistent training history. Worked pretty okay for me. Was certainly fun.)


@tromagna, I suspect adding one more ride per week to your plan, at moderate-low intensity, at whatever duration you like, will dramatically forestall such a decline.

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I forgot to add - I gained weight with less volume. Because I was still just as hungry as when I was riding more. That was enough for me to stop that silliness and find more time for “easy” rides. Mind you, said “easy” rides were often at night on the trainer - but they add so much nonetheless (perhaps even more because of boost one gets from trainer riding)

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Can you ride 1-3 hours endurance before your short wed session? I’m assuming you are recovered going into that session, and its okay to be slightly fatigued for that session. You should be doing openers the day before your race as well if possible so doing 1 hour endurance plus 30-60mins openers could add fitness without hampering recovery for CX.

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That is a great idea, i think i will try that next week before the race and see how i feel.