Our Latest Cycling Tips Q&A

Apr 03, 2015


I have moved up to Cat 2 for mountain biking, which means races of 90-120 minutes. I do some solo training, but also enjoy group training rides. Some intervals, skills workouts, and recovery rides are all done solo. I view training group rides as a chance to push myself and to learn how to go harder, longer. This is much easier for me to do in a group setting.

Yet a discrepancy between group levels has created a question about using group rides for (race) training. Specifically, when you have a choice between two groups (riding at different times) that are significantly different in ability levels – and you are right in the middle of them – what do you do?

One group blows me up and drops me during their testosterone-fuelled warm-up and the other has me doing long pulls and getting the endurance workout, but no real red-line workout. There are other riding groups available, but going to them requires much more time than I have available.

Thank you!

Hi David,

Thanks for your question. I am sure this dilemma is experienced by cyclists all over the world when trying to make the most out of their group riding experiences. I have a few bits of advice which I want you to look at and apply to what you feel is needed most out of your training. This should help bring around better performances come race day.

Fast group: It would be a shame to ditch this group completely as it would be good to push your limits and get out of your comfort zone. Seeing yourself ‘hang-on’ for longer will be great for confidence as well. I would use this particular session as your high intensity workout and avoid mixing these group rides with other harder individual workouts as this can lead to large amounts of fatigue and a potential ‘burn-out’ if mixing both for prolonged periods.

Try to attend selected rides at this level (perhaps once every two weeks?) with fresh legs and full of motivation to do your best to get through the ride as well as possible. Also take no shame in avoiding the odd turn at the front if you feel this is needed. Take a few extra minutes sitting on so you can maintain your performance to stay with the group longer.

Slower group: I would use this as your only ‘volume/endurance’ workout and make your solo rides the more intensive efforts. An example of this would be to conduct 10-14 days of solid solo training workouts (with reduced volume) and a few longer endurance group rides with the slower group.

Then give yourself a few ‘easy’ days before taking on the fast group ride so you hit it fresh and ready to squeeze everything out of yourself to see how far you get. After a few blocks of doing this routine I hope you will see benefits in your ability to stay with the faster group for longer.

Hope this helps. Make sure whatever you choose to do, you enjoy the social side of riding in a group.

Answer by Stephen Gallagher.


Here in The Netherlands, near the coast, beach racing during the off-season is a big thing. In short we race on the beach with mountain bikes fitted with a rigid fork and wide tyres (without any profile on it).

It is kind of important to be at the start line for a good spot 30-45 minutes before the start. But because these races are mainly during the winter it can be pretty cold. These races are typically no more than 40-50km and take between 1 and 1.5 hours.

My question is: what is the best warm-up tactic in this case? It is important to be able to go full gas from the start to get a good spot as these races are typically influenced by the wind.


When you say that you have to be at the start 30 minutes before the race is it possible to use rollers on the start line? If you can, this is the best way.

For a warm-up you need to start off just spinning the legs for five minutes then do a 15-minute progressive ramp bringing your heart rate from zone 1 and 2 up to zone 5. After this, spend another 10 minutes easy riding but do a 10-second sprint every three minutes. You will then be ready for the fast start.

Answer by Dan Fleeman.

Hi guys!

My biggest thing with training is my mind at the moment. So my question would be, how do you train your mind to push past the “fear point” when trying to expand your skill range?

I cycle up to 250km per week and mountain bike ride also. While mountain bike riding today I found that I was holding myself back on trails I was familiar with because of the fear of crashing. How can I get past this?

I really look forward to hearing about this one!


Dave Acree

Hi Dave,

This is a hard one as fear is very hard to overcome. I would suggest working on your skills a little at a time and build up your confidence with progressively harder terrain. Try to avoid just jumping into really extreme riding. As you get more confident you can add speed to you skill work before progressing to harder trails.

Hope this helps.

Answer by Dan Fleeman.

Is training for an hour early in the day better than training for an hour in the evening?


Hi Jayson,

This is completely up to you and what time you have available and it’s not really a case of one being better than the other. Some people prefer the morning as they might be more tired in the evening after a day of work. But whenever you can fit your training in is fine in my opinion.

Answer by Dan Fleeman.

Hi Dig Deep,

I have been training pretty consistently over the last three months doing around three to four rides a week indoor on the turbo and one longer ride at the weekends (sometimes two rides at weekend). I feel that my progress has started to taper off and I have not seen much difference in my fitness in the last three or four weeks.

I normally do pretty similar sessions each week with some variance if I feel like it. I do lots of endurance riding and some big-gear work on the turbo to build strength which I feel I have lacked in the past when racing. I have three months until my first race and don’t want to stop progressing.

What can I do to stop feeling flat in my training and help boost my motivation to keep working hard? Any advice would be a great help.



Hi Karl,

Thanks for your question and this is something that is pretty common in many riders as they approach the new season.

Firstly you have to look at what you have done in the initial four to eight weeks of your training block and then what you did differently in the next four weeks to keep the progression going. If you maintain a similar routine for three months you will inevitably start to see your body plateau in progression. This is because you are not adding on the required stress or changes in intensity/volume/routine that are required for your body to adapt further.

So the first thing is to change what you are doing from previous training. Perhaps increase the intensity of the sessions or increase the repetitions on the current intervals you are currently doing.

Be careful to avoid increasing volume and intensity at the same time. This will perhaps overload your body to an extent that will bring about a negative effect on training. If you are feeling a little ‘flat’ then taking three to five days of recovery/rest will not only help your body reset and recover but it will help with the motivation. You will be fresh enough to build on new intensity efforts in the next three months.

Maintain some strength work on your approach to the season (perhaps once or twice a week) but increase the other two turbo sessions to more threshold/anaerobic workouts and keep your longer volume rides at the weekend and gradually increase the duration of weekend rides as you get closer to race season.

Keep in mind that if you do the same training week-in, week-out you will only see similar results and stop the progression. Mix it up and try to make it as specific as possible.

Good luck with the racing season.

Answer by Stephen Gallagher.


Thanks for the opportunity to ask a training question.

Currently in the winter my training is focused mainly on endurance, power training twice per week and an occasional cyclocross ride at sub-threshold or a CX race to give the VO2max a little boost.

I was wondering if it would be better to do more intensive training first and boost my FTP and VO2max and then continue with the endurance and work towards the start of the new season. The reason for doing so is that I would start from a higher level and the end peak shape would also be higher.

Never tried it myself but I was wondering if my theory is right.

Thanks guys.

Best regards,

Hi Edward,

Thanks for your question and I hope the training is going well so far. What you are talking about is something similar to reverse periodisation which is turning the traditional training periodisation pyramid on its head by building intensity first and then extending the volume and intensity length as fitness progresses and as you approach your goal.

This is something I have used on athletes in the past to success but it is not for everyone. Boosting your intensive efforts before you start increasing the volume/base to an optimal level can work for riders which may have had a longer history in the sport and/or competed at a higher level of fitness. This allows them to be able to handle higher intensity before the volume is added.

Depending on the particular event you are aiming for you will need to gradually increase your training stress and this is done by both volume and intensity so you need to have these at an optimal level before you begin to taper. Increasing only one of these (either volume training or higher-intensity training) on the final approach to your aim will leave you short in some part of your performance.

I would recommend trying a two to three-week build of intensity and maintaining your aerobic training to a level that will allow you to maintain some ‘good’ base fitness. But the effects of the volume training allows you to recover well enough to make the most of the intensive efforts.

Once this is seen to be progressing after a few weeks you could flip it around and lower the intensive efforts but gradually increase volume over a two to three week period. By this point you would have gradually increased your training load. The final ‘block’ of training — combining longer, intensive efforts in areas which you need to focus on for your goal, along with some volume work — will hopefully see you reach a peak fitness.

Again, reverse periodization is not for everyone but it can be effective if done correctly and balanced with proper structure/coaching.

Hope this helps and good luck in 2015.

Answer by Stephen Gallagher.


My question is: I have been in B grade track racing for a while and I moved up recently to A grade. I’ve been struggling to be on the podium. What are some things I can improve on?

Terance Hore

Hi Terance,

I’ll try my best to answer your question, given I’m unsure as to whether you are an endurance rider, or a sprinter.

Firstly, be patient. You’ve just moved up a category and therefore the competition is by its nature harder. The results and improvements will come; you just need to allow time to adapt to the different racing style, speed, intensity and sometimes distance.

Look at your gearing. If the racing is significantly faster in A grade then using a larger gear may help give an extra edge. Ask around, take note of what ratios your competitors are using and when. If you’re going on to larger gears you may need to increase your power/strength, and get used to a slightly decreased cadence. Hill reps are a tough but hugely beneficial way of increasing all-round power/strength.

Tactics and positioning are crucial in elite races. Tactics will come from thinking things through, analysing your race, and watching and learning from more experienced riders. Don’t be afraid of asking questions of other riders too … and learn by your mistakes!

I tend to favour a lot VO2max efforts for track racing, in combination with ‘sweet-spot’ work. It doesn’t work for everyone, but getting behind the derny or motorbike is a fantastic way of achieving a workout that includes VO2, endurance, power, and bike-handling skills.

I hope this gives you something to think about Terance. Good luck, and no doubt you’ll be on that podium soon enough.

Answer by Colin Sturgess.

Hi Dig Deep,

I’m a Cat 1 racer, and normally ride around 500km a week, with most of that being a 50km round trip to work, with a few longer rides in the evenings and on weekends. I have been training to power and have been gradually adding SST (sweet-spot training) blocks, starting with 2 x 10-minute blocks twice a week and progressing to 2 x 15 minutes.

My first race isn’t for a while so I am holding off any sprint/high-intensity work until a month or so out from the race. I’m just wondering if it’s worth carrying on as I am, adding more duration to my SST blocks? I’m currently getting three-week blocks of 16-18 hours done with a ‘rest week’ of around eight or nine hours at the end of the month. So overtraining isn’t an issue, I’m just wondering what the best plan of action is going forward!


J Smith


I think what you are doing sounds good and I would continue to increase the SST blocks until you get to a max of around 2 x 30 minutes. You could even do 1 x 40 some days. About a month out from the first race I would start to add in some V02max efforts.

Start with 4 x 5-minute efforts with five minutes recovery and slowly increase the number of reps to a maximum of 8 x 5 minutes. Once you start racing you can decrease the number of reps but also decrease the recovery period so the sessions become more “tolerance” work.

5 x 5 minutes with only three minutes recovery would be a very hard session. I would still recommend keeping a couple of SST workouts per week even when you start the V02 work.

Hope this helps and that the hard work pays off once the season starts.

Answer by Dan Fleeman.

Hi Dig Deep,

I have been recovering from an injury which has made my training a bit stop-start over the past few months and I’m unsure what I should be doing now. Normally I would be increasing the intensity at this time and I don’t want to lose out on anymore of my fitness after being injured. Should I continue as I normally do or go back in preparation?

Thanks for any help on this.


Hi Terry,

Thanks for your question and I hope you are recovering from your injury. The situation you are in is one many cyclists have been in and it can be frustrating when you see your fitness start to stagnate.

I would always recommend sitting back and looking at the bigger picture to see what you need to do and how to best manage your training. From what you have said I think going back a step and rebuilding your training will have bigger benefits later in the year. Pushing too much now to hit more intensive efforts might bring around a small peak in fitness but it will leave you fighting to push that fitness higher as the season progresses. Not doing that ‘build’ phase can create problems later in the season.

Sometimes you need to sacrifice an early season goal to get the basics right again and to be at your best for events/races later in year. As I said it can be a very frustrating time but keep positive and always look at the bigger picture.

We wish you a successful and injury-free season!

Answer by Stephen Gallagher.

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