Triathletes who can hold their own on hill climbs often find they struggle on the flat. Dan Holmes of Clapham Chasers explains how to boost your bike leg.
Many less experienced triathletes get frustrated when they cycle with pure cyclists, and the recurring issue tends to be that although they can hold their own on the hill climbs, they find it difficult to keep up on the flat sections. To them, it feels like this should be the other way round, but what this highlights is a lack of pedalling technique.
On the hills, the resistance is increased, therefore you have a natural resistance to work against to generate power. By improving your technique you can still generate the power without added uphill resistance. This will not only allow you to keep up to speed on the flats, but more importantly it will reduce your cycling splits.
Here are some excellent sessions to perform in the winter as they are not reliant on peak fitness to get the benefits. Use your rides to have a bit of a play to learn better control of your own style and to find out what works best for you. These drills will improve your technique and your power-generation on the flat and you don’t even need a power meter.
Up and Overs
- Find a stretch of road that has a slight incline and then levels off, ideally about 3-5 per cent and takes about 90 seconds to climb.
- Stay seated with your cadence around 85-90rpm, really focusing on engaging your whole leg. Feel like you are pushing and pulling, using your hamstrings and your quads to make powerful circles. This should be hard work.
- As the road flattens out, focus on maintaining that feeling of powerful pedalling. You will have to change gears here as your cadence should increase.
Tip: When on a training ride, always try and push on over the top of any climb for 90 seconds for extra practise.
Turn it on and off
- When out on a ride or a trainer, set a one-minute timer that repeats times. Follow these sets:
- Minute 1: Relaxed, smooth, continuous pedalling.
- Minute 2: Engage your legs. Increase your pace by making the whole pedalling action more powerful, pushing and pulling.
- Minute 3: Hold a high cadence at your increased speed.
- Minute 4: Relaxed, smooth, continuous pedalling
- Repeat five times.
Tip: Short intervals with generous recovery allow you to concentrate on your technique without fighting too much fatigue.
- Use a gym or Wattbike that can measure your power.
- 10 minutes warm-up varying your cadence and the resistance.
- 6x3min intervals at 75, 80, 85, 90, 95 and 100rpm.
- Have a one-minute rest between each interval at whatever cadence feels comfortable with very little resistance.
- As you increase cadence with each interval, decrease the resistance so that your power output reads the same.
Tip: By breaking it down, you will learn to maintain power output at your most comfortable cadence. You should aim to target this cadence level on race day.
Benefits of a power meter
A power meter will help you analyse your pedalling and effort level. Unlike your heart rate, there is no delay in feedback and it removes all other factors such as wind, gradient and road surface that can affect metrics such as speed.
The bottom line is, it shows you how well you’re riding, which is not the same as how hard you’re riding, or the speed you achieve.