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Put Some Training in Your Training Races

By PCG Coach BJ Basham

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Training races should ideally act as an extension of your normal training program to help prepare you for the bigger events in the heart of your racing year.

The start of the 2020 USAC and UCI seasons is just around the corner. With ZWIFT racing already in full swing, many riders are approaching these virtual races the same as they would any other event in the calendar.

This is fine to a point, but training races should ideally act as an extension of your normal training program to help prepare you for the bigger events in the heart of your racing year.

How do you get the most out of a training race?

Remember that it’s about training and not so much about racing. The training goals of a training race can be quite varied, depending on your racing experience and capabilities. For some riders, training races are a great place to work on pack-riding skills. For others, they can be used to try out tactics and work on team strategies and techniques. For still others, they’re the perfect place to pinpoint the rider’s limits, strengths, and weaknesses.

I have only two rules when incorporating training races into an athlete’s program.

First, you have to go into each training race with a goal to try something new, work on a weakness, or try some tactics without worrying about if they work or not.

Second, I don’t want the training race to totally take the place of training for that day. Most spring training criteriums, and even some road races, aren’t really long enough to get in much of a workout, so it’s ideal to augment the training race with extra time on the bike to make it into a full training day that includes the race and then some endurance or skill training.

There are many things we can learn from a training race, especially if we’re racing with a power meter. The most helpful data comes from events where we fail in some way; we can look at what was going on leading up to the problem and then figure out what can be done to avoid the failure the next time around. We might find that we aren’t attacking hard enough to get a gap on the field, or we may find that we’re simply working too much and too hard in the race until eventually we can’t keep up. Training races give us a great opportunity to make mistakes we can learn from and to find out what we need to work on.

So how do you put training in your training races?

Establish a goal for each event and remember that it’s more about training and not so much about racing. After the race, think about what happened, both good and bad, and see what you’ve learned. Talk to your coach or teammates about the race and find out if they noticed something you may have missed. Training is about getting stronger, and if you’ve learned something that will help your racing, you will be stronger because of it.

BJ Basham is a USAC Level 1 power certified coach and a PCG master coach. His coaching philosophy is based on flexibility and communications. He believes that every training plan should be written in pencil, as very few people can control everything that may come up in their lives or know exactly how they will respond to a given training load or personal event. He can be contacted through the Peaks Coaching Group.

Back to list of our training, coaching and nutrition essays