Road Racing is an Investment in Time

I wrote an article last year, The Cost of Road Racing, that covered racing’s associated costs. Since I am in training plan development mode I thought I would cover the next largest investment you will make in competitive cycling, time. While this article could be titled what a new racer needs to know about training the same information is applicable to those that are getting ready for their first century or big event ride. With this said everyone’s time is precious and I hope this article allows you to make a better investment in your training time.

If you are just getting into racing you may have a ton of questions. I get to hear quite a few questions about what it takes to train to be competitive. The easiest answer to give is time.

I am a follower of Joe Friel’s methods of periodization and have added my own spin to training from a strength and power development perspectives. What I do find pretty consistent is the amount of time that is necessary to be competitive. Joe Friel recommends in his book, the Cyclists Training Bible, training hours for each category of racer. These are listed in the table below.

Category Annual Training Hours


4 350-500
3 500-700
2 700-1000
1 700-1000
Pro 800-120

I am frequently asked what is included in the annual training hours and what is not included. All training methods are included with the exception of stretching and other methods of recovery. So you’re on bike workouts, cross training and off the bike strength workouts are included in your annual training hours. While the majority of the hours above will be spent on the bike you can expect 1/8 or better to be off the bike.

Also, the makeup of your hours when scheduled properly will not be linear. You should not be just dividing the hours across 52 weeks and building a training plan around this division of time. If you do you can expect to develop a nasty plateau in your development within 6-8 weeks.

One of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome when I first started racing was understanding the difference between training to be competitive and riding my heart out. I made the rooky mistake of doing the same rides with same people over the same roads and called it training. When what I was doing was just riding my brains out and getting frustrated that I wasn’t improving.

Making smart choices with your training time

I learned that I needed to train for the races I was going to be competing in. That particular year I had schedule quite a few Criteriums and knew going in that I couldn’t just ride in a bunch of hammerhead group rides and get better as a criterium specialist. So I worked on sprinting, power development, bike handling, and accelerations. Noticed how I wrote I? I did not ride or train much with others at the time because the workouts I was doing did require focused efforts not socializing. When I did ride with others I did so on long easy rides or in training races or rides that I knew would mimic race conditions.

When I went to the gym I knew which workouts would give me the best bang for the buck and did a little experimenting. I also kept the chit-chat to a minimum so as to get my work out done and on to recovery. Why is recovery so important? Well, when you are an amateur racer and need to put in quality training time you may find that many of your training days are two a days. Two a day workouts are when you plan 2 different workouts in the same day! These workouts may be complimentary but are more often that not contradictory methods that can leave a new racer exhausted.

Will I get better if I put in more time?

The short answer is yes. However, the concern for new racers becomes what is to much time. As a coach working with athletes training with power I can usually spot over training by just looking at their data. New racers that are training by Perceived Exertion and Heart Rate are a bit more difficult to monitor for over training and that is why it is not recommended to train over the prescribed hours. This doesn’t mean that a new racer can’t invest more time into their training. It just means that they have to be a bit more creative when defining training. New racers need to educate themselves on all aspects of racing so reading and socializing with experienced racers will take considerable time. Start learning about mental toughness and visualization as well. It will help you through tough training moments and when it matters in a race.

What other things do I need to add to my training?

When you are done with your race don’t just pack it in and head out. Stay and watch the other categories race too. Talk to other racers between races, introduce yourself to officials and promoters. You will find that many officials and promoters use to race and know the politics of the races and might just might drop a hint or two. If you have prioritized your races, you should make sure to pre-ride the course you are not familiar with a few weeks before your priority race. It is also recommended to pre-ride courses that have features you may not be comfortable with such as off camber corners, climbs or descents. This way your apprehension is diminished the day of the race and does not compound race day jitters. Keep your bike clean!!!! A clean bike is a safe and fast bike.

So here are your lessons learned:

  • There are suggested annual training hours
  • Periodized training is not linear
  • Training includes more than just riding your bike
  • Train for the type of racing you are going to race in
  • Training isn’t always a social outing
  • Recovery needs to be considered when counting hours
  • Training with data is better than Perceived Exertion
  • Training isn’t just physical
  • Socialize and learn from other racers and cycling professionals
  • Pre-ride courses to gain a better understanding of your course(s)
  • Keep your bike clean

I will be hosting several webinars’s this season covering topics such as structured training for racing and event riding so check the Event’s page from time to time find dates and links to recorded webinars.

Until the next time have a great ride!

Coach Rob

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