I had an idea to do a monthly article over autumn and winter to suggest some ideas for riders looking to be fit and raring to go for next spring and summer 2021. This is September’s instalment.
Under normal circumstances, September would see the gentle end of the season for riders focused on road racing and time trials. Some would be making the transition to cyclo-cross and track, others would be looking forward to a well earned rest. However, it’s safe to say this year has been anything but normal.
Hopefully, 2020 hasn’t been a complete washout and you found a way to keep entertained on the bike despite the loss of both competitive and non-competitive events. Mid July saw time trialling recommence which was a welcome relief for some of us, others have taken refuge in Zwift competitions and hammering Strava segments – whatever floats ones competitive boat.
Clearly, nobody knows what 2021 will look like but I feel the need to look forward with hope and optimism and I’m encouraging my riders to set their targets based on a normal season (with a few refinements as below). If Covid-19 restrictions play a part again targets can be adjusted in due course, but having clarity of purpose over the winter is important when training gets tough.
So, what could you be doing now to prepare for a sparkling 2021 on the bike?
Ride - The weather can be lovely in September and in the UK at least, what we Brits laughingly refer to as 'summer' has been pretty poor, so ride when you can. Usually early autumn is a time for a lack of structured training, a ‘ride when you feel like it’ period after a season of racing. This year, not so much, but if you are planning on having a structured training program over winter, bear in mind it’s four months just to get us to Christmas. Complying with a plan that will undoubtedly contain some dark nights sweating in the garage for that length of time can be a real challenge. Frankly, it can get boring, so enjoy the riding and maybe leave the rollers, turbos and Zwift alone for a while yet. Autumn is often the time for endurance rather than intensity with good reason.
Race ‘em if you’ve got ’em – There are some autumn season events out there, time trials and a few circuit races with limited number fields. My experience of these is they tend to be low pressure so if there are events you fancy doing, go do them, but maybe don't put any pressure on yourself to 'perform'. Enjoy it.
Start setting your goals for 2021 – You may have unfinished business from 2020 to refresh. As well as setting some output goals (win the Tour in July 2021 etc) it might be sensible to look at some process goals too, specifically ones that are less likely to be affected by events beyond your control. These might be power/FTP targets, segment times, ‘PBs’ on your training routes and the like. They form useful markers to guide progress and can be a good fall back position if external disruption comes in to play.
Review data – Make sure you record your metrics including speed, times, power and HR from any races, events, PBs from this season because they will help inform the levels of your training over winter. If you are using power measurement, and particularly if you’re using Smart turbo trainers and algorithm based training programs, correct FTP settings are vital. If you are trusting the machines to prescribe your training, get your FTP settings wrong and you risk not optimising your efforts or burning yourself out.
Niggles and injuries – get them sorted now and that includes your bikes and equipment. Workshops are really busy, if you have winter bike, now might be the time to do the work on it or book it in for a service.
Remember, you win your medals in the winter, you just go and collect them in the summer.
Rich Smith has coached the Great Britain Transplant Cycling team for 10 years, is a British Cycling qualified Level 3 coach and a mature psychology student. He spent 30 years responding badly to people in authority in senior roles for Barclays, HSBC, British Waterways and National Grid Property.
The ramblings of a cycling coach...