Updated: Mar 17, 2020
It's not the gearing that makes a car go fast; it is the engine! The same holds for cyclists. The key to riding fast is building a bigger and more efficient human engine. Here are three ways to boost your engine while training indoors or out.
Increase the size and economy of your engine.
Focus training towards building your anaerobic threshold power (FTP)
Every type of cyclist benefits from having a higher lactate threshold and larger sustained power. Almost all the top riders have high 20 - minute W/Kg. Just like a highly tuned sports car, we can create the same level of performance and economy for our own aerobic powered engines. 10-20 minute intervals at FTP are great for training. Extend the duration and frequency of intervals as you gain fitness. The more sustained power you can produce over 20-60 minutes, the bigger your engine and the faster you ride. The bigger the better!
Obviously, this biological and physiological process is complexed. Building your aerobic engine will take some time so be patient in training. You will soon feel the cumulative effects of your hard work in the weeks, and months ahead. Research shows that years of consistent training creates higher efficiency and performance as we age. So why wait? The sooner you start, the faster you can begin reaping these powerful health benefits. The rewards of building the optimum aerobic engine will serve you well both on and off the bike for life!
Maximize your 1-minute sustain power.
Think of it as your "turbocharger" gear! This power can be used to burst up small hills faster, react quicker to attacks to avoid being dropped on group rides and produce the power you need for that winning break. Most competitive racers have this power, and some have tons of it! Honestly, is a great gear to have for all riders regardless if your race.
How can you build your own turbocharger?
Work on doing repeat intervals at 130-150% above your FTP. These intervals are intense and require total concentration and effort. There are no short cuts here. High watts sustained for 60 seconds with little oxygen to the muscles equals pain. Start with a low number of intervals and work up as you improve power. Pick out a couple of 1-minute sections on your indoor virtual rides and let it rip. Whatever motivates you, the key is to push those big watts for 1 minute! Write down your 1-minute power data and consistently train to improve this gear. Build up your turbocharger and when the time is right...light em up!
Increase your short 15-second neuromuscular power.
All good engines have an impressive level of acceleration or raw power. Who doesn't enjoy watching race cars smoke their tires and blast off the start line! The same thing goes for cyclists that wow the crowds with their 40+ mph sprint finishes. The truth is most cyclists are born with this level of raw power. I was not one of them! Regardless of your parents, we can all improve our top-end power. Just add some short sprints to your regular workouts, both virtual and outdoor group rides. Sprinting is hard but it can be fun too. Remember, If you don't work on this power burst, you will lose whatever you have. For me, I have limited supply so I want to keep every watt:) Again, write down your 15-second power data and focus on improving it often! You might be surprised how much power and speed you have for that next city sign sprint or Zwift race!