“Coach told me that in order to be a pro I need to train at least 30 hours a week” or “If you want to run a marathon, better run 130 Km a week” What did Eddy Merckx mean by “Ride Lots.”? Yehuda Gershoni: “Junior rider (age 17-18) should ride20 Km in 27-28 minutes, using regular bikes with simple wheels”.
Almost all riders can maintain a world champion’s pace on the plain for 1 Km.
This is the first part in a series of articles, in which we’ll try to slowly unfold the great myth of endurance training and their relation to performance enhancing substances and the Lance Armstrong scandal.
The Articles are :
What are the criteria for setting a world-record pace ? (see here)
What actually we Get from Endurance training
What big tour are we Planning on doing this year as A Age-grouper ? (-:
What are the main performance enhancing substances used in endurance training?
Summary – how can you improve without using performance enhancing substances ?
The criteria for setting a world-record pace
I’ve met too many young riders that said to me “Coach told me that in order to turn pro, I need to train at least 30 hours a week“.
A similar quote from young runners is “If you’re training for a marathon, you’ve got to run at least 130 Km a week”.
Few young runners bragged about running 160 Km a week (which is way too much for a 16 years old, even if they were exaggerating and were actually running “only” 130 km). Even I, in the 2005 Eddie Merckx’s book preview, wrote “just ride a lot”. I did write it, but that was 8 years ago and the true meaning of Merckx’s saying “ride, lots” is probably something else.
Setting the criteria
Yehuda Gershoni, a top level Israeli cyclist, says that categories shall be determined according to the riders TT skill. In that manner, an Elite rider can cycle 20 Km in less than 27 minutes, junior rider will do the same distance in less than 28 minutes, a cadet will travel this distance in less than 30 minutes. The TT test is chosen since the race is without any tactic or politics. Each rider gives all he can give and receives the real evaluation of his current ability.
“Once every rider and coach knows the true value of each rider, the cycling branch can truly succeed in Israel” (Yehuda Gershoni, 2007)
Similar strategy was told by the Kenyan marathon team, when asked about his runners. According to him, the young runners are required to run in a world record pace for a short distance (500 m, 1,000 m and so on). The way to the top is very tough and is not based on endurance training, rather on many intervals of technique, strength, coordination and finally speed. Every year the distance will increase, but the pace will remain the same.
One of these training methods, from the mid 80’s, was adopted by our cycling club in 2007: cycle in top pace for 1 km, then learn how to control this pace and maintain it for longer distances.
Almost all masters riders can keep up with the world championship pace for 1 km on a flat route (~50 km/h). Can they hold it for 20 or 40 km?
This specific method drove Avichai Grinberg to the win in 2009 and was also adopted by Ran & Dan Alterman to increase their anaerobic ability in triathlon (2008).
Physiology of long aerobic training
Long, slow distance (LSD) running sessions, in which a weekly total of 150-180 km is reached, demands long training sessions of more than an hour. These session will cause
- An increase in blood vessels to the muscles
- Increase in total mitochondria count and increase in myoglobin.
Yet, clinical trials found that the impact of such sessions on aerobic capacity is limited.
Oxygen delivery in the blood
Oxygen is delivered in a diffuse process from the lung alveoli to the blood capillaries, carried in the blood by a ferrous-protein molecule in the red cells: hemoglobin. The blood capacity for carrying oxygen decreases as the hemoglobin levels decrease.
These factors can inhibit ferrous productions:
– Iron deficiency
– Lack of vitamin such as B12 and folic acid
– Genetic conditions
Just Ride A Lot
Pro tour riders who train according to the “Old-school” protocols, will spend 27-35 hours a week riding.
The 14 years old, Varoslav Akimov, lived in the sports school of St. Petersburg and cycled 38,000 Km a year – an average of 720 Km a week. In 1996, as a pro rider, he nearly doubled the distance. What happens in the body after 6 hours of cycling, after more than 34,000 pedal rotations? The damage to the muscle tissue is pronounced. The first physiological process will be a decrease in red blood cells, then accumulation of damaged muscle tissues and more. It will take at least 72 hours to remove all the “physiological garbage” and recover.
As any road cyclist can testify, a 10 minutes interval in the first hour of cycling will never be the same in speed/output as one conducted in the 4th hour of the same ride.
What did Eddy Merckx mean by “Ride Lots.”?
He probably meant “Race to train” – improve your physical fitness via lots of racing.
Ride, lots = race, lots!
Hence, the training protocol for a European cadet/youth rider (in any country with a long tradition of cycling, like Belgium, the Nederland’s, Italy etc.) is
– Take some time off training/competing at the end of the year
– Increase power by participating in winter sports at the beginning of the year (cross-country ski, gym work and other activities to enhance speed and power)
– Do some CX races in January – April (pre-season), to get to the beginning of the season with a distinctive depth of racing in the legs (meaning, anaerobic work and the feel of race speed, not a lot of long endurance rides)
– Between April and October, the European kermesse season, there are as many as 5 races a week (with a limit of 3-4 races for young riders). This is the time to ride lots. By racing a lot, the young riders learn to pace their ride in the race speed, they familiarize with the physical load and most important – the mental state of racing a lot. They don’t burn time on the saddle during long, boring, meaningless hours of endurance rides.
Next article – What big tour are we training for?
…As a Age Grouper ?
Most of the Text books, coaching theories, and even research papers in the sports sciences, are usually (but not always) based on accomplished or professional athletes. Nevertheless, it appears that the field of training Masters sports has developed greatly in the last 10 — 15 years. The definition of a ‘masters athlete’ is not so much about biological age. A masters athlete can also be a 22 year old guy who works 8-9 hours a day, but likes sports and competes in races. It has nothing to do with his level of achievements or fitness, it is more a matter of definition – how he perceives himself as an athlete. There are Elite athletes competing in the highest levels in the world while working almost full time (or half time), and there are masters athletes working half-time job and training in very high intensities and volumes, almost like pros.
For The second article – click here
For The third article – click here
For The Fourth article – click here
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