Words: Scott Bugden
As promised in my previous article, here are some of my thoughts on training for Andalucia Bike Race and some specific examples relating to Mel Alexander and how we have adapted her training to better prepare her for the race this year.
As I said in my previous article, I have been working with Mel Alexander (Contessa Scott Syncros) since the beginning of the 2012 season with the aim of her representing Wales in the XC event at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. With that event in mind we sat down at the end of the 2013 season (during a very long flight back from the Guiyang International in China) and talked about plans for 2014. Like most of us Mel isn’t paid to ride her bike full-time so any plan has to have some flexibility built in but we always start with the main goal for the year and work back from there. In this case, Mel needed to be in her peak condition in Glasgow in August but she also needed to get results early in the season to guarantee selection for the Welsh team. This led to a double-periodised plan for the year-in simple terms, a plan to have two peaks of form. One would be early season for the first two National MTB XC races (for selection purposes) and the other around August for the Games. So how does Andalucia fit into this plan?
Last year, we didn’t have time to do any preparation for Andalucia Bike Race because the opportunity to compete came up at the last minute. This year however we pretty much knew that Mel was going to race at the end of September which meant that we could plan around the race and plan for Mel to be in better shape going into the event. In order to do that we have effectively made the end of February a “mini-peak” in the year.
Since the middle of October Mel has been averaging around 20hrs of training a week including some time in the gym as well as some yoga (by the way, if you haven’t tried yoga you should). With MTB XC becoming shorter, more technical and more explosive all racers need to be stronger and more powerful than they used to. Gone are the days of the featherweight five foot tall climbers who can hardly pick up their bike dominating the sport! As well as off the bike training there has been a fair amount of riding as you’d no doubt expect but the emphasis is always on quality training rather than quantity so almost every ride has contained efforts of some sort. For example, one session calls for efforts around a 20-minute MTB loop – one easy lap is followed by a flat-out effort before repeating the pattern, normally for a total of three or four hard laps.
As I said before, a six-day stage race with over 10,000 metres of climbing is a pretty good block of training for anyone and this year we have planned to use it as the culmination of Mel’s first higher intensity training block of the year. Mel has just had her last rest week before the race so the next five weeks will be pretty tough in terms of training load. At this point in the plan, there is a shift in emphasis towards high intensity and therefore a move towards shorter efforts. For example the session that I mentioned now moves to a 10-minute loop but follows the same format and Mel’s favourite two-minute standing start intervals come into the plan more often. Despite the increase in intensity, at this stage we try to keep the volume up as well. With the overall training load being a combination of volume and intensity that means that Mel is going to be working pretty hard for the next few weeks. The last week or so before Andalucia will be an easier week to allow her to recover a bit so that she should feel pretty good going into the race.
After the race is another area where we have to have some flexibility. A few days off are planned to recover from the six days of racing but exactly how long that recovery needs to be will depend on how the race has gone and how Mel feels as a result. What is certain is that the beginning of training after the rest days will mean another step up in intensity in order to build on everything gained from over 350km of hard racing. Efforts will become even shorter and more intense and this time the volume will drop a little as well so that Mel isn’t too tired to complete the efforts properly. If all goes to plan this should mean that she hits some pretty good form in time for the first two National races, the first proper peak of the year.
In my opinion, that’s how Andalucia Bike Race not only fits into but adds to an XC racer’s year. If you’ve got any comments or questions feel free to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or if you’re planning on riding the event I’d be interested to hear where your plan is similar or differs?
Scott Bugden has been a professional coach for nearly 10 years working for British Cycling as a Go-Ride Coach in the Southeast and London before moving to Wales to take up the position of Performance Development Coach for Welsh Cycling. He now runs Fit In No Time, offering personalised coaching, skills coaching sessions and led Mountain Bike rides across the UK. www.fitinnotime.co.uk