Answering the questions of new bike racers

DSC3567-300x168I have had some new athletes join PPC in the last season asking very good questions about competitive cycling that I find myself repeating answers to. Thought I would share some of these questions and my usual answers. If you have questions about racing or cycling, in general, leave a comment.

1. Will racing more make me a better racer? YES! Racing is addictive. Once you start you will want to race more and racing more means more time to learn what it means to race.
2. Will racing more make me faster, stronger and more powerful? Yes and maybe No. While racing can be and often is a good addiction too much of a good thing can be bad. Not taking the time down from racing as a beginner can lead to burn out, overuse injuries and angry spouses.
3. Do I need a power meter and will it make me faster? Yes, and Yes, kinda’. A power meter by itself will not make you faster. Capturing the data, learning how to read the data and apply it to your training and racing will make you a smarter and stronger athlete.
4. I want to win a race this year; will you guarantee me a win if I hire you as my coach? No, I will not guarantee you a win. What I will do is promise that if you follow a structured training plan, are consistent with your training and able to honestly evaluate your ongoing performances then you’re fitness will improve!
5. What is the best bike to purchase for my racing discipline? The one that you can afford, that fits you and makes you want to race and train is the right one.
6. I don’t want to race in mass start races because I am afraid I am going to wreck. Wrecking happens in all race disciplines. It’s not a matter of if but when.
7. I am only able to train a few hours a week can I be competitive? No, you cannot. The least amount of training required to be competitive as a beginner racer is 6-10 hours a week. This does not mean every week will be a 10-hour week. A periodized plan may only have a few weeks out of an entire season that is long. Many weeks will be shorter.
8. Can I reach peak fitness and maintain it all season. No. To reach peak fitness you must use a periodized training plan that allows for the appropriate amount of training stress and recovery to build peak fitness. You may find that after years or even months of riding nothing but hard miles that you can no longer progress. This does not mean you have reached peak fitness it means you have plateaued.
9. If I take an evening off from training will it wreck my training? Not at all! Depending on the time of the season, training plans and age I may have athletes take off 1 or more days. Transitioning from a peak to the next block of training required 3-5 days of passive recovery. Transitioning from the on-season to the off-season may require one or more weeks of passive recovery as well.
10. If I get sick or injured do I need to go backward into my training plan? Maybe. If you have been off for any reason more than 2 weeks then yes it would be smart to go backward in your training plan one week for every week after 3 weeks off.
11. Will lighter wheels, aero wheels or wheels made by (Insert brand name here) make me faster? Maybe. Without getting into all the various wheel types and manufacturer claims and aero data I can say that yes a wheel upgrade can make you faster. Wheels made out of alloys, carbon fiber and are either clincher, tubeless and tubular can really provide a positive impact on your performance.
12. Will ceramic bearings make me faster? Maybe. Not all bearings are created equal and high-quality bearings can reduce friction. How much depends on the manufacturer. I do know for a fact that there have been 3rd party reports of high-quality stainless steel bearings beating out many of the ceramic bearings in friction tests. Even with the reduction in friction in rotating parts like hubs, pedals, bottom brackets and even jockey pulleys you are only talking about a savings of a single watt to a few watts of power-sapping friction. Now if you have reduced friction throughout all rotating assemblies you could potentially see a decrease of several watts. Is it worth it? If you losing races by a mere few seconds then yes it could be worth it.
13. If I loose some weight will it make me faster? Maybe. The larger focus for competitive cyclists is power to weight ratio. SO if an athlete can lose weight and maintain or increase power then yes it will make you faster. There are race disciplines where being a very light cyclist can be detrimental such as flat road races, time trials, and the shorter track distances.
14. If I gain weight will it help me make more power? Maybe. Just like the previous question the bigger issues is power to weight ratio. If gaining a few pounds of muscle allows you to raise your power to weight ratio may make you faster. However, if you add the muscle mostly in the upper body then you will likely not get faster or more powerful.
15. Can I ride my bike with friends before or after a race? Maybe. If the race is not an important race and friends are missing you on club rides then you may want to go for a ride with friends. I would generally suggest this happen post race or if you choose to warm up on the road pre-race then you can go out on your warm up with you friends. If it’s a high priority race I would not risk the added training stress.
16. How much do I have to eat during a race? If the race is longer than 30 minutes you can take on a gel worth 90-100 calories and be fine. If the race is an hour or longer you will want to take on 200-250 calories of carbs per hour. This can be done through a combination of gels, sports drinks and other solid foods that your stomach can handle during a race.
17. Will you coach me for free? No. While I offer discounted coaching services to teams I sponsor I do not offer athlete zero dollar sponsorships currently.
18. Do you race? Yes. I put in as many as 20+ races year
19. Aren’t you a triathlete? How can you coach a road racer as a multisport athlete? No. I am not a triathlete. I race in all road race disciplines as well as run 5ks and Sprint Duathlons. I do work with multisport athletes to help them improve their bike and run splits as well as improving their overall strength and conditioning.
Until Next Time,

Train Smarter Not Harder,

Coach Rob

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