Training tips for racing cyclists to start spring

20. March 2019

As a racing cyclist, your bike trips should be diverse at the start of the season. And not only in terms of the training duration, but also with regard to the cadence, speed, and gear ratio selection. 

Cycling is ideal for training according to your feeling. Speed up the next ascent, cycle downhill at a relaxed pace, ten minutes along the flats in a high gear, a sprint to the town sign – there are countless opportunities to vary your training.

Unlike in a 10-km run or short triathlon, a highly trained lipid metabolism is of importance for most (amateur) cyclists, especially if you are thinking about taking part in a bike marathon. Just as important: the ability to frequently change your rhythm (usually non-self-determined), save energy cycling in a group (slipstreaming), and maintain a fast and constant tempo on the mountain.

The ability to cycle fast requires patience and time, so it’s not without reason that the most successful professional cyclists are not 19 or 20 years old, but all in their 30s. Here are the best tips on how to diversify your training at the start of spring:

1. Start relaxed 

At the beginning of the season, long and less intensive training units are key and more intensive training units should only be incorporated gradually. Basic training units are simple: get on your bike and cycle for two to three hours. You can then determine whether you want to cycle at the same cadence (frequent gear changes required) or at the same intensity (controlled by either measuring your wattage, heart rate, or by how you feel). Generally speaking, you should start cycling at a relaxed pace and rather high cadence.

2. According to mood

A little perseverance and toughness are always good in this sport, however, if every training unit during the preparation and at the beginning of the year involves cycling in relentless windy and rainy weather, you will suffer motivational problems sooner rather than later and end up feeling burned out. If you don’t feel like it, it is better to give your training a break in bad weather and take half a day off when the forecast is good and complete a long afternoon tour then. 

3. Cycling in a group

Cycle with your training partner or in a (fast) group now and again. Firstly, it is entertaining and secondly, you will be forced to adopt the rhythm of the others. As a supplement to your individual feeling-based training, these imposed constraints are ideal for working on your tempo pace.


4. Change gears properly

Changing gears properly can contribute significantly to the efficiency and fluidity of cycling. A frequently observed error is changing gear too quickly. If you’ve just reached the crest of a hill and have already switched to a bigger chainring at the front and a couple of gears higher at the back, you will end up stalling at 40 revolutions per minute over the first metres of the crest before the bike can really accelerate. It makes much more sense to keep cycling in the same gear after you have reached the crest until you get up to approximately 100 revolutions per minute. Only then should you switch to the big chainring, accelerate to 100 revolutions again and then shift up a few gears at the back too.

At the start of longer ascents, the following applies: cycle up the mountain on the big chainring and only switch to the small chainring when your cadence falls below 70 revolutions per minute. Keep pedalling until you fall below 70 revolutions again, and only then shift down to the smaller gears at the back. The recommendation for the correct gear for a racing bike is the same as for a car: always change gear to ensure the correct number of revolutions. One last example: you cycle to a crossing and need to stop. When you get going, you realise that your gear is much too high. You should therefore always cycle with foresight and assess early on whether you need to stop or not. And depending on the situation, immediately shift down to a small gear before you need to stop.

5. Intersperse your training with intervals

Anyone who always cycles their 3000-5000 km per year in the “comfort zone” will build up perseverance but not get faster. Challenging interval training will increase your basic tempo. The comfort zone for most athletes feels somewhat faster than the slow basic training tempo but is not fast enough to significantly improve their tempo. Most amateur racing cyclist should therefore feel as if they are cycling either slow or fast, but only rarely in between. When cycling at the basic tempo it is possible to talk without any problems and after two to three hours you should still feel fit and not at all tired. If you master these units and do them regularly, there are no limits to interval training. Because only in this way will you be recovered enough to fully challenge your body. If you go cycling four times a week, you can combine two basic training units (2-5 h) with two short interval training units (60-90 min). A brief description of two prime examples of intervals:


Mountain interval

  • Cycle for 20 minutes to warm up
  • Cycle fast up a steep mountain at a high cadence for 90 seconds
  • Turn around and cycle downhill at a relaxed pace to the starting point; after 4 minutes start the next interval
  • It’s best to cycle at a relaxed pace for the breaks and repeat the whole exercise 5-10 times
  • At the end, cycle for 20 minutes at a relaxed pace. 

Tempo interval

  • Cycle for 20 minutes to warm up
  • Cycle 5 minutes in your threshold zone (full power), and then cycle 5-10 minutes at a relaxed pace
  • Repeat the whole exercise 4-8 times.

6. Technique training

Technique training can take many forms. For example, cycling no-hands or cadence training at high revolutions, as well as cycling up an ascent out of the saddle or deliberately only pushing the pedal forward or lifting it up at the back. Or you can shift your position in the saddle during a longer bike trip and experience how the muscles are taxed in a different way. Cycling downhill at cadences of up to 130 revolutions is also pure technique training and promotes your muscular coordination. Regularly set yourself technique exercises and complete them during a bike trip. This will not only improve your pedalling pattern, but the bike trips will be over in a flash.

7. Strength training

Strength training for cyclists means cycling up ascents in a constantly high gear at a low cadence (around 60 revolutions per minute or even lower). Select a not-too-steep slope that can be completed in about 5-10 minutes. Cycle up the slope at a constant tempo and take time to recover as you return to the starting point. You can repeat the whole exercise around four times. One special kind of strength training is when you cycle slightly downhill constantly in a relatively small gear (if need be at a specified wattage) at around 120 revolutions and always push on the pedal without having to shift to a higher gear. 

8. Mountain training

Anyone taking part in a bike marathon will automatically also need to overcome several metres difference in altitude.  This means that after a few weeks of basic training in spring, your training program will also need to include mountain bike trips. Mountain passes where you need to cycle uphill for at least an hour at a stretch are ideal. Depending on your fitness level and objective, you can vary the gear and intensity according to how rigorously you want to tackle the pass.