Question: I keep getting dropped on my local fast group ride when people put in surges. What are some sessions I can do to work on my 3-5 minute power, and my ability to recover from those kinds of efforts while maintaining a relatively high speed?
Here’s what we see in fast bunch rides and races: riders are able to follow the first surge, the second and the third surge. Almost everyone is good early in the ride. But as the ride continues, the group collapses.
The riders who are more aerobically efficient in their fuel source and have higher FTP than the others remain on the bunch. The riders with lower FTP numbers are forced to tap into their precious glycogen stores to stay with the group during the surge and keep up in between. But that energy tank isn’t bottomless. Eventually, these precious glycogen stores are depleted and the group says goodbye.
Training can do two things. One, it raises your overall fitness so that you can more easily handle easier sections, conserving your energy for tougher segments that call for more gas. Two, specific workouts can simulate the on/off throttling experienced in surges. The body will learn how to quickly ramp up in a pinch, and remove that lactate fuel in order to recover and continue on.
TRAINING FOR THE SURGE
A method that pro riders use to work on their aerobic efficiency is to complete long efforts with intensity based on HR. The target Heart Rate is 81-89% of threshold HR. According to coach Kevin Poulton: “Quite often, surging in bunch rides is short, lasting between 20-60 seconds. We focus training on long VO2 efforts of 3-4 min. Both of these types of efforts are going to produce high levels of lactate.”
Lactate is a fuel source. It’s the accumulation of hydrogen ions that causes the burning sensation in the muscles.
LACTATE SHUTTLING ON ZWIFT
“Building up the high level of lactate is absolutely mandatory. A good Zwift workout that includes such repeated, high-power efforts is Lactate Shuttling,” says Coach Kevin. It involves completing a long 3-5min above threshold effort, followed by 10 x 1min efforts at your FTP, with the recovery duration also at 1min. However, the intensity of the recovery period is around 75% of FTP. The back and forth intervals teach the body to surge, but also maintain a strong effort in between. This Zwift workout session is very specific on its work/rest duration, taking out the guesswork and making training easier.
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