"The 33"-Road Bike Racing - Pre-race tapering advice?
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03-15-03, 08:46 PM
OK, here's another question for the racers out there. My first race is in two weeks. When they fire the gun, or whatever, I don't want to be thinking 'ugh, my legs just don't feel like doing this today,' but I don't want to be so "rested" that I can't throw down (hey! we're speaking in relative terms, here). How much do I want to slack off coming down to race day? Starting when? Any suggestions?
03-17-03, 10:56 AM
It all depends on the length of the race and your goals for the rest of the season.Your training should stay the same leading up to the race and if you wish to taper, do not drop the intensity at which you are training at only the duration and begin to do it 5-7 days before the race.
If you are racing on Sunday for example, you should take Friday as a rest day and have a easy ride or take day off, but make sure you get out on the bike on the day before race.The ride the day before the race should be short around an hour, but you must do a couple of short sprints or hard attacks, then spin easy and go home.Get little lactic in the legs, then spin easy and recover.It gets your body ready for the shock of the race.Just remember only a couple of these and quite short.
roadbuzz, I just bought an ebook from roadbikerider.com..It has alot of good stuff in it, including info on tapering off for a race. I'll paste it for you.
Tapering for Top Performance
his concept in a nutshell: To peak for a big event, reduce training volume the week
before but maintain (or increase) intensity.
Athletes do better in important events if they’re well rested. Rest gives the body time to replace
glycogen stores and it gives the head time to get psyched for hard effort.
Pioneering studies with swimmers by sports scientist Dave Costill showed that when they reduced
their usual training load from a massive 10,000 yards per day to a more modest 3,200
yards/day over a 15-day period, their times improved by almost 4 percent while their arm
strength rose nearly 25 percent.
So, what’s wrong with us?
Cyclists have traditionally ignored such findings. Road racing has a stage race tradition of
hard men riding day after day with slices of raw beef in their shorts to ease oozing saddle
sores and cabbage leaves under their cotton hats to protect their frying brains from midsummer
heat. Our heroes come from the major tours. Rest day? Okay, so let’s go ride 60
But it’s smarter to listen to recent studies that point the way to an effective method of tapering,
one that is easy to employ and remarkably successful.
A SCHEDULE THAT WORKS
• Continue to ride. Don’t simply lie on the couch to rest. According to Jonathan
Vaughters, “Tapering doesn’t work well for elite cyclists. If I don’t ride every day, my legs feel
blocked. My most important training for a stage race takes place in the two weeks before the
start.” The same usually holds true for recreational cyclists who ride regularly.
• Reduce your mileage. Although you want to continue riding, you need to cut mileage
substantially to get a tapering effect. About 7 days before your important event, cut your average
mileage by about two thirds. So, if you’ve been averaging 200 miles per week, slice it
• Continue interval-type training. But reduce the number of intervals each day. Here’s
how the week before your event might look. After warming up for about 15 minutes, follow
Day 7 5x3 minutes at slightly above lactate threshold
Day 6 4x3 minutes at slightly above lactate threshold
Day 5 3x3 minutes at slightly above lactate threshold
Day 4 2x3 minutes, fast
Day 3 1x3 minutes, really fast
Day 2 Day off or light pedaling for 30-60 minutes
Day 1 Event
This tapering protocol reduces your overall workload because of the drastic mileage decrease.
You have more time to recover and less strain on your legs.
But the intervals guarantee that you retain the muscle enzymes that help you process lactate.
The fast riding also means that your neuromuscular system will be accustomed to going fast
when you ask it to during the event.
This type of taper works because it combines rest with intensity. It allows recovery but encourages
You can fine-tune the intervals for the event you’re aiming for simply by increasing or decreasing
their length. If your target event is a 40K time trial, do intervals 5 minutes long at
race pace and intensity. For a criterium with lots of high-speed jumps out of corners, you’d do
better by starting with 10 short, hard sprints on Day 7 and reducing the number of sprints by 2
each successive day.
CAUTION! Don’t make the mistake of doing too many
intervals too hard during this taper. You want your legs
to remember how to go fast, but you don’t want to tire
them in the process. So, if your target event is a century,
the time trial intervals of 5 minutes described
above would be plenty. Don’t start with 8 or 10 intervals
of 10 minutes each even though the event distance is
It’s smart to taper even if you don’t have an important event you’re pointing to.
Most training plans have a 3-week “build period” of gradually increasing volume and intensity,
followed by an easy week where both factors are decreased by about one third. Then they’re
increased by about 10 percent in the next 3-week training block before another “rest” week.
Tapering this way ensures that your body gets enough recovery to assimilate hard training
efforts. It’s also a great way to try different tapering protocols to see which one works for
you—and in which situations.
A taper is useful, too, after you’ve had an uncommonly tough week on the bike, such as the
high mileage of a tour.
Here’s a personal example to show how this works. In January and February of 2002, I averaged
8 hours a week on the bike (including trainer time) along with another 6 hours per week
of crosstraining—snowshoeing, hiking and weight lifting. Bike time included several rides of
3-4 hours when Colorado’s weather permitted.
I needed the long rides because I would be coaching at the PAC Tour Endurance Cycling
Camp in southern Arizona the second week of March. I’d be riding a loop that covered some
620 miles (about 35 hours) in 7 days, including climbs, headwinds and brisk pacelines.
I enjoyed the camp but was tired afterwards—a deep fatigue in my quads when I walked up
stairs, a disturbing tendency to take naps in midafternoon and an even more troubling predilection
to fall asleep in the middle of watching NCAA tournament basketball. If I can’t stay
awake for great college hoops, I know I’m fried.
Here’s how I organized my recovery:
March 16 Last day of the tour, 86 miles from Sierra Vista to
Tucson with 3,000 feet of climbing.
March 17 No ride. Drive home, 13 hours in the car.
March 18 No ride. Catch up on chores and get back to
work for RoadBikeRider.com.
March 19 1:20 ride at a moderate pace with a couple of
March 20 1:45 ride with a hard 10-minute climb and a few
short sprints. 1:00 walk. Light weight training.
March 21 1:20 ride with 4 hard jams of about 30 seconds
March 22 2:00 ride at a moderate pace
Notice how I cut back mileage drastically, at least compared to the camp week. Notice also
how I didn’t merely spin around but included some intense-but-short efforts. I limited most
hard work to sprints to open up my legs. When I did a longer hard effort (10 minutes uphill) I
limited the intense work to just one climb.
After this taper week, I wasn’t as comatose, my legs had regained their life and I was ready to
resume normal training. If I had stayed off the bike all week (or hammered too hard), my recovery
wouldn’t have been as rapid or as effective.
03-23-03, 05:22 AM
Thanks, guys! This is good stuff, just what I was looking for.
For what it's worth, I actually started tapering about a week ago, after Bikerdave's response. Mostly, I just skipped a long endurance (60-85 mi) week-end ride, which was leaving my legs and energy fairly flat for 2 or 3 days afterward. And I also reduced interval repeats by about 20%. Results are good so far. I didn't get the "ugh" response from my legs when starting the intervals, and performance during intervals has improved.
So, with one week to go, I'll take it down another notch. It really is hard to accept the reduced training load. If you race regularly, I guess you just have to pick your most important races, and mainly taper for those. Too much tapering would make Jack a dull boy! ;)
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