Q. I'm pressed for time. Is there anything I can do to develop enough endurance for a three-hour ride when I only have one hour to spare for training sessions?
A. Training specificity is extremely important, so limiting your endurance training isn't an ideal strategy if you want to be competitive over longer events. However, most of us don't have much free time, so if you can't ride long enough, the next best thing is to increase intensity to improve your endurance. I'd recommend the following:
The first is a tempo-based ride, performed twice over seven days at an effort I would call 'steady hard'. After a good warm-up, this is a continuous ride at 75-85 per cent of your maximum one-hour bike time-trial power (or around 75-80 per cent of your maximum heart rate) nonstop for the full hour.
The next ride is a composite session that hits several different areas. After a warm-up, perform two 15-minute blocks at 85-90 per cent of your max one-hour time-trial power (or 85 per cent of your max. heart rate). Have a 10-minute recovery between the two blocks. After that, take another five-minute recovery and finish with five efforts of one minute as hard as you can sustain, with a one-minute recovery between each. These sessions will stimulate your lactic threshold and your V02 max - both key performance markers of an athlete - and they will squeeze as much quality out from the hour as possible.
Two other quick tips:
Pacing is critical in any event. Because you may not have performed any rides as long as your event, estimate how long you think it will take and 'negative split' this by going slightly easier over the first half using power, heart rate or perceived exertion as a guide. In the second half, you will have the energy to up the ante without falling apart.
Use the best bike equipment you have - good wheels, aero helmet etc - coupled with a good bike fit, to make you as powerful and aerodynamically efficient as possible, thereby cutting down the time you have to spend out on the course.
Bryce Dyer is senior lecturer in product design at Bournemouth University's School of Design, Engineering and Computing, and is a member of the Design Management Institute. He is currently conducting research into sports technology used by elite athletes. A passionate cyclist and triathlete, he has competed internationally in events ranging from 1K track pursuits to an Ironman.