The best thing about a new cycling season, apart from being able to ride outdoors a lot, is racing. The itch to get out there and compete can become a problem if you don’t have a good plan. Let’s take a look at how to avoid this common early season mistake.
Don’t overbook your race schedule
It’s easy to underestimate the physical and mental stresses of racing and travelling, and the impact on family when planning a race schedule. When you’re eager to get back to racing, everything else seems unimportant. This often results in an overbooked racing season.
Solution: The best way of setting a race schedule is to select 1-3 main races of the year and map things backwards from that. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
• Be sure to have at least 12 weeks between each of the main races.
• Reserve about 6-8 weeks of uninterrupted training before each of your main races.
• Include one or more B races inside of this 8-week period to test where you are.
• Approach the B races with the mentality of training rather than racing.
This approach will allow you to really show your best in a few key races of the year while also allowing you to properly build up your fitness and enjoy a few side races for fun. If you have the option, get objective feedback from a coach or an experienced racer.
Don’t overdo it with group rides
Group rides are not races, but they pose a similar risk to your cycling season if you do too many of them too early. Group rides are fun. They allow you to socialize and provide you with accountability buddies. They are the perfect opportunity to practice the skills for unpredictable changes in pace and effort without entering a race. But there are also benefits stemming from the specificity of solo training. Not enough solo work that focuses on fitness development can turn out to be a problem later in the season.
Solution: Make group rides part of your training plan. That way you can ensure the majority of your training will be specific to your fitness goals. It also forces you to consider the purpose of each group ride. Is it to maintain relationships with your cycling community? Is it to develop peloton riding skills? Is it just to enrich your training with something that feels different? As long as you know your reason, you can enjoy the right amount of group riding.