The Cycling Leg – The Proverbial Long Haul
The cycling leg is the longest portion of the triathlon, in both time and distance. Typically about 50% of your race is spent on the bike, compared with less than 20% on the swim and about 30% on the run. It is crucial to stay comfortable and smooth on the bike to conserve energy and stay relaxed.
Keep Your Cadence High
The first skill to master is maintain a high cadence. Cadence is the number of rotations per minute of your pedals. To calculate your cadence count the number of times the right foot completes a pedal circle within 10 seconds, and multiply by 6 to give you the total number of rotations per minute. A target goal for triathlon cycling cadence is about 90 rotations per minute. Although this may seem high at first, within just a few weeks, you will begin to achieve this rate of speed.
Learn How To Power Shift
The second skill to master is proper shifting. Triathlon cycling bikes have many types of shifting systems and several numbers of gears depending on the bike, however one thing remains the same. The purpose for shifting gears on your triathlon bike is to stay as close to the cadence of 90 rotations per minute as possible. Once you begin use your gears to achieve your target cadence, you will notice that you shift gears in small amounts constantly throughout the bike ride.
Use Circular Pedal Strokes
The third skill to master is using a circular pedal stroke. Most beginner cyclists spend a majority of their effort pushing down the pedals, and very little effort pulling through the back stroke of the rotation. Triathlon bikes mostly use toe cages, or clipless pedal systems. Learn to identify “dead spots” in your stroke. These are spots where you feel less tension on the chain, which may result in a loud sound coming from your bike chain. Your goal is to eliminate these “dead spots” as much as possible. This will increase your energy efficiency and allow you to expend more energy during your run.
Relax Your Upper Body
The fourth skill to practice is relaxing your upper body. Since the bike ride focuses mainly on using your leg muscles, it is important to relax your upper body including y our neck, shoulders, arms and hands. Attempt to reduce as much side to side or up and down motion of your upper body during your ride. Conserving as much energy as possible from your upper body will allow your legs to receive more oxygen during the bike ride.
Becoming an efficient and flowing cyclist is only a matter of time when you practice. While you are training, it is important that you practice these skills throughout the ride. In no time at all, you will begin to become more efficient and relaxed on your bike. Achieving these few simple steps will conserve energy and prepare you for the run.
Bikes Are Vehicles Too
Remember what you learned in Drivers’ Education in high school?
Checks both lanes before changing lanes…
Signal before you turn or change lanes…
Be aware of hazardous road conditions…
Know how to control your vehicle…
Stay in control when passing other vehicles or being passed…
Obey the rules of the road in traffic…
These rules apply to bicycles also. It is important of treat a bicycle as a regular vehicle. These rules are only enhanced in a group or race situation.
Following these rules are even more important while training. During training, there is no race course, no barriers, or cordoned off race track. Most accidents occur during training due to cyclists not following these rules.
The Triathlon Cyclist Workout
Most triathletes are already cyclists. They have a training regimen that usually consists of regular loop training and an occasional weekend road trip. You will have to make a few changes to your regular workout to be competitive in your triathlon race. With little effort you can easily introduce some valuable high-intensity training exercises into your existing routines 2 or 3 times per week. You will soon see a significant boost in cycling fitness without adding any extra logistical stress or planning hassle to your routine. Here are four specific workouts to try:
1-hour Loop With Threshold Work
Threshold intensity is more or less your 40K time-trial effort level. Training at this intensity will improve your performance not just in triathlons featuring a 40K bike leg but also in triathlons of any distance because it produces physiological adaptations that generally improve your capacity to sustain hard efforts.
To turn a one-hour loop into a threshold workout, just throw in one or two blocks of riding at your known or estimated 40K time-trial power level/speed. Don’t worry about the effect of turns, winds and hills on your speed. Just maintain a consistent effort level.
Be sure to begin the workout with at least 10 minutes of easy spinning to warm up. Beginners should do no more than 10 or 12 minutes of threshold riding in their first session. If you’re fit and competitive, you can build up to 2 x 20 minutes, or 40 minutes straight. (Note that doing a given amount of threshold riding in two equal blocks instead of one block is always a little easier.)
As you gain fitness, your threshold power level/speed will gradually increase. Allow this to happen automatically, rather than forcing it, by always riding at the same subjective effort level.
1-hour Loop With VO2 Max Work
VO2 max intensity is approximately the highest work level you can sustain for 10 minutes. Training at this intensity produces big gains in aerobic capacity and fatigue resistance at very high effort levels.
The simplest form of VO2 max training is three-minute intervals. To incorporate VO2 max training into your one-hour loop, start with 10 minutes of easy spinning and then complete three to six intervals of three minutes apiece at the maximum effort level you could sustain for 10 minutes in race conditions.
Spin for at least two minutes after each interval. Limit yourself to three intervals in your first VO2 max interval workout. Build to five intervals if you’re moderately fit and competitive and six intervals if you’re highly fit and competitive.
Again, pay no mind to turns, winds and hills and how these factors affect your speed. The point here is to make do with your favorite one-hour loop, not simulate laboratory conditions—after all, isn’t this supposed to be fun?
1-hour Loop With Power Work
Power is the ability to apply force quickly. In cycling, it is the ability to turn big gears at a high cadence. Your maximum pedaling power is the greatest number of watts you can produce during a very short, all-out effort. There is a common misconception among triathletes and cyclists that maximum power is more or less irrelevant to endurance cycling performance, but it is not.
The best endurance cyclists typically have much greater maximum pedaling power than average endurance cyclists, and increasing your maximum power is an effective way for anyone to improve his or her performance in longer race efforts.
The best way to train your maximum power is to perform multiple short sprints. These can easily be incorporate into a one-hour loop ride. Cycling coach Hunter Allen recommends the following format: Start at a slow speed—five or eight miles an hour—and a middle gear in your small chain ring.
Do a 10-second sprint with only one or two gear changes. Wind out the gear before you shift, like you do in a car. Go up to 120 RPM. Recover two minutes after each sprint. Start with just four sprints if you haven’t done anything this intense recently (or ever!). Build up to six or eight sprints if you’re moderately competitive or 10 or 12 if you’re highly competitive.
Do make an effort to perform your sprints on a sensible stretch of road (no sharp turns, good pavement, relatively flat) within your one-hour loop.
1-hour Loop With Hill Work
Most hill workout formats require that you ride up and down the same hill multiple times. Obviously, that doesn’t work with a one-hour loop. A radical but still effective alternative is to simply work with what you have by attacking any and all hills that exist on your one-hour loop.
If there are three hills, two of them short and steep and one of them long and moderate, then ride each as hard as you can without emptying your tank for the remainder of the ride. If there’s just one big mountain to get over, attack that.
This approach is certainly not as systematic as your typical, structured hill interval session, but it beats the common alternative, which is to ride the hills a little harder than the rest the loop but certainly not to attack them. You will definitely gain additional climbing prowess by working with what you have on that favorite route, whatever it may be.
*excerpt taken from Active.com