You know you’re a high cadence spinner vs. a low cadence masher, when you go out to do some high cadence training and end up setting a personal best time hahaa. It was during a training ride at the end of summer last year that where I was doing high cadence drills that I discovered or re-discovered that endurance and pedaling efficiency is the bulk of what I need to focus on. I set out on my 2hr 50 mile ride and my entire focus on the entire ride was not speed or power, but just keeping a +100RPM cadence the whole way even on the hills if possible. When I reached the halfway point I looked at my computer’s stats and was shocked to see my average speed and watts where at a new personal best for the route, my average speed was about 2mph faster then my previous fastest time. I’ve even done the same route doing low cadence drills the whole way and my average ends up being the same as my typical average, so it’s not like mashing helped me go faster, it just made it a lot harder for me to go the same speed as I do when I self select my cadence to what feels right to go as fast as possible.
After having spent the last off-season doing a lot of strength and power work which lead to a lot of improvement on the bike, my thinking was that since endurance always came naturally to me and after seeing how much stronger others where on the bike that strength and power should be my main training goal. To a point I was right, and I did see dramatic improvement, but I took it too far to the point that I didn’t maximize my strength which is my endurance. I didn’t realize that since I was just getting back into shape, or into a new higher level of shape for the first time cycling that both endurance and strength would need to be improved, I thought it was must strength holding me back from keeping up with the fast riders. Since I saw rapid improvement with strength work, I thought more is better so I spent a lot of the summer trying to reach higher levels of strength and power, but it turned out that I had hit my peak in strength and power in the off-season, so by the end of the summer and fall my focus was on building a base and working on efficiency, and prioritize my training properly. I learned why they call a cardio base a “base”, as it’s the meat and potatoes of what you have to work on, strength and power come fast, but also go fast, but cardio fitness takes months and years to build up. Ideally you work on the 80/20 rule, where most of your training and riding focuses on the cardio base and the rest on strength, power, skills, equipment, mental training etc.
I learned a lot that day, I also learned a valuable lesson about how doing something in an easier way can give you a better outcome in the end even if the immediate short term feedback you’re getting is telling you different that it’s too easy. When I did my spin drills that day, I swore my average speed would be slower, or at best the same as when I ride “all out” at what I think feels like the fastest gear and cadence I can hold for the route. I think one reason is that by spinning I’m storing up and saving more energy for the hills, and by spinning on the flats I’m not going much slower then if I would go a lower cadence. Also spinning keeps local muscular fatigue from setting in as fast. I think if you crush the gears it beats your legs up and you can only keep that up for so long, you might go fast for a few minutes but overall your average speed will be much slower was you fry your legs.
So my goals for the off-season are weight loss, cardio, and efficiency, and a little bit of maintenance work to keep strength and power up, I’m building a proper base, and I probably will spend all next season continuing to build a base, then for the next years I’m going to continue with base, but throw in a 3x month strength program in the winter and race more. Ideally I should have been focusing on base training the last two years 90% of the time, instead of trying to keep up with the faster riders then doing nothing but strength and power work last year, I did make a jump in improvement but I believe most of that was because I lost a lot of weight and some help from the strength work. And it showed when I would race, I would do real well for 15-20 minutes, I’d feel strong and be in the game, but my endurance would quickly fade and I’d be struggling to hand on, hopefully this year, I’ll be able to hang on longer to when the real race starts in the final laps.