With my new job at Naples Cyclery, I started doing some of the fast Naples Velo road group rides. And I was painfully reminded how different road and tri cycling is. And because they are different disciplines I need to change up my training.
Both road and triathlon are wicked hard when raced at your limit. With triathlon you have the added challenge of running off the bike, and potentially up to a 16-hour extreme endurance event. For best race results, steady controlled pacing at a percentage of your threshold wattage is key.
Bike racing is much more explosive, and generally shorter events at the amateur level. Sustained speeds for fast group rides and racers are as high as 30 mph. A road bike (and rider position) is way less aero than a tri bike so short bursts of high power are needed for pulls at the front Attacks and sprints are also done way above threshold power. And most climbs on the East Coast are in the 5–15 minute range and and are raced above threshold power. But unlike triathlon, drafting is legal so it’s possible to recover a hard short effort while in the pack.
I can see this difference clearly when I compare the power distribution chart in Training Peaks for two of my recent training rides, one on a tri bike with a small group of triathletes, and the other on a fast group road ride (see the graphs above). Both rides were about 50 miles, and both had at average speed around 23 mph.
The power distribution chart creates a histogram, and breaks the time spent in 15-watt power “bins”. And then adds up the time spent in each bin. My current threshold power is 280 and for the tri ride I spent 3 minutes above my threshold, and the normalized power of 160 was solidly at my endurance pace. For the group road ride, I spent 24+ minutes about my threshold and the normalized power of 225 was in my tempo range.
We all need to adapt training to simulate our racing. For triathlon a key workout is a long steady paced ride that simulated you target race wattage. This is best done solo or with only a few other riders, as when you are on a tri bike your wattage will be low when drafting (even at fairly high speeds).
For bike racing and fast group riding, you need to incorporate short VO2 max bursts over threshold wattage. My favorite is a ladder interval starting at 15 seconds, with 1 minute recovery, and increasing the interval in 15 second increments up to 90 seconds and then down.
In closing make sure your training simulates your discipline and racing. But don’t be afraid to also mix it up occasionally as that will make you a stronger athlete.
See ya on the road!