How to make and smash your cycling goals for 2017
Whether you want to take on a 100k, 100 miler or something even bigger, Holly Seear, Casquette training editor and Level 3 British Cycling Coach, tells us how we can get prepped...
Q) Why should we set goals now?
Now is a great time to plan, but it’s a really good time to review what happened in 2016 – what went well, what didn’t go so well, what you enjoyed doing, what you’d like to do more of this year. It’s also good to start thinking about what the big goals are for the year so that you have the motivation to start working towards them.
Once you’ve decided what they are, I’d suggest sticking them up somewhere as a visual reminder to keep you motivated - particularly when you get those super-chilly wintry days when you just want to hibernate or raid the fridge.
If your goal is to compete or take part in big cycling events throughout the year, you should start getting prepared and organised to take part, especially as many have already opened or sold out. Book your places now and you’ll be more mentally prepared to get that training in.
I also find that if you share your goals with friends, family and colleagues and put it on social media, it becomes more real and you’re far more likely to work towards it.
Q) What are the first things you should do?
The first step is to work out where you are currently in your fitness. The best way to do that is through some sort of test. You could follow the British Cycling Standard Functional Threshold Test on their website, which is a set protocol and gives you the option to do it as an inside or outside test.
You can then repeat this through your training and see how you’re progressing. This is important, as you need to know your current level before you can decide where you want to go – if you don’t know where the gap is, how are you going to plan your training?
Now’s also a good time to iron out any issues with your bike. For example, if you haven’t been comfortable on your bike or if you think you’ll be taking part in different events this year, then it’s worth getting a fit to look at your positioning. If you got a new bike for Christmas, spending time setting it up to ensure a good fit is essential, too.
When it comes to tracking your progress, I believe: ‘That which is measured, improves.’ With this in mind, it’s worth tracking and measuring your progress in some way. Otherwise you’ll never know if you’re getting any better. An app like Strava is brilliant and super easy to get to grips with.
The gold standard is to measure using power, which means training using a power meter. That’s because it’s a true metric, so unaffected by anything else like weather conditions, the road surface or humidity.
Q) What should I be doing now and what are the main milestones I need to have in mind if I am a beginner but want to do my first 100km in the spring?
The most important thing is to progressively and gradually build the time you’re spending in the saddle and create mini milestones on the way. If you are only riding about 20 miles now, then plan to reach perhaps 10 more miles each week. During that gradual build up, make sure you have an easier week around every forth week, to allow your body to rest and recover. If you step it up too quickly, you run the risk of lowering the immune system and injury.
Another good tip for motivation is to see if you can find some friends to ride with – especially if you’re a beginner and you’re new to building up the distance. So, get a group together or join a club as it will make things much easier, especially in the winter. And if the weather’s too miserable/dangerous, I’d suggest training inside. If you’ve got a turbo trainer use that or go to a spin class in the gym.
Q) What should I be doing now and what are the main milestones I need to have in mind if I want to do RideLondon-Surrey 100 or Manchester to London 100?
Again, you need to set some progressive milestones. I would suggest entering a 100k event as part of your training for the 100 miles, to use as a practice event. You can use these to try out any new kit or to try out your nutrition.
The Ride London website has some great 16-week training plans – from a beginner’s plan to get you in physical and mental shape, to an advanced training plan for expert riders who are looking to put in their best performance ever.
If you’re a beginner building up the stamina and endurance should be top of your list. If you’re more advanced then you might want to look more at speed work and introducing things like intervals or doing hill training, so you can tackle the route more deftly.
Q) What should I be doing now and what are the main milestones I need to have in mind if I want to smash time trials?
If you’re thinking about time trials, you need to spend time in the winter actually on your time trial bike. You won’t just naturally be able to ride fast and powerfully in that different position because it’s a different position to your normal road bike (more aerodynamic and aggressive) and you need to get used to this by the time spring hits.
Your goals also depend on the distance of the time trial, from 10-miles to 24-hour time trials. The longer the time trial, the more your training needs to be focused around endurance, but if you’re doing a short one you’ll need to look more at speed work and riding above your functional threshold power.
Head to the Training Peaks website where there’s a variety of time trial plans, some of which cost a small fee. You can choose from your first race to time trial builds and 12 week 40km plans.
Q) What should I be doing now and what are the main milestones I need to have in mind if I want to do an ultra endurance event like the TCR?
If you’re thinking of entering an ultra endurance event, it’s worth going along to one of Emily Chappell’s (seriously amazing cyclist and Casquette cover star) talks. She’s part of the Adventure Syndicate, which is a collective of brilliant women cyclists who help others reach their goals through workshops, talks and leading rides and training camps.
There’s no substitute for finding out what other people have been doing and how to go about it. It’s a lot about strategy.
Presumably, if you’re doing something like this you’re already reasonably fit and have good endurance, but you may need to learn lots of other skills like map reading and navigation. You’ll have to plan your own route. You’ll also need to practice dealing with sleep deprivation and surviving on whatever food you can get your hands on, you’ll really tap into your survival instinct!
You can prep yourself by doing some long distance audax events in the UK. They offer varied rides up to 1,200km. You might want to build your way up through these and plan multi-day events throughout the year so that you can practice carrying your things, not sleeping, navigating and using your sleeping equipment.
It’s also worth visiting the transcontinental website, where there is lots more advice, from rider stories and race blogs to training guides, bike advice etc.
With all of these, it’s worth considering a coach. If you don’t find the right plan, having someone to coach you through and checking up on you can work wonders for your motivation. It also means you’re far more likely to reach your goals as you’ll have a training plan that’s tailored to you as an individual.
Pleasure and pain
Finally, how about treating yourself to a cycling holiday or training camp? Just booking a training camp can be the incentive to get out and train in the winter as it gives you something to work towards and look forward to when you are slogging it out in the gloomy UK winter. Try 45°North, in the Alps – they have lots of training weeks from introduction to alpine cycling to altitude training.
Holly Seear is a Level 3 British Cycling Coach, a Mountain Bike Leader, National Standards Instructor and Personal Trainer
Photo: Richard Washbrooke/Silverhub for Prudential RideLondon