PezCycling News - What's Cool In Road Cycling : Pro Shop – Off to the Races

For many pro bike racers, the off-season is now over and it's time to take the next steps toward a successful 2004. In our last article with the pros, Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank), Bobby Julich (CSC) and Mike Sayers (Healthnet) described what their specific goals were during their break. We emphasized the importance of that time period as a means to recharge the body and mind in preparation for the upcoming season. Let's examine the next step and ask the pros how they transition from "the break" to the first races of the season.

PEZ: What do you do at the end of your winter program that helps you prepare for the first races?

Levi - Well, in my case and in the case of most pros, I have a very intense training camp with the entire team to act as a step towards competition. I also use the first race as a transition. That means, of course, the first race is not a priority.

Bobby - Getting started with competition is always tricky. You have to believe that your winter training was correct and take it slow. First of all, you have to make sure that your endurance and power work that you did over the winter transfers to the bike. Everyone is in the same boat during the first few races. It is a time of uncertainty, but you will quickly see during your first races if the training that you did over the winter was enough to be competitive right away, or if you still have some work to do. It is a long season and you have to stick to your plan regardless of your initial results. Many riders peak at different times of the year, so you can’t be discouraged if your fitness is not where you want it to be compared to the riders that are peaking for the early season.

Mike - Well, I have been working with Rick Crawford for the last few years. We have a specific transition period that entails specific leg speed workouts. This period is the most difficult training of the season but very necessary for race preparation. The next thing is to take a big rest period. This will entail 3 to 5 days of 1 to 2 hrs a day of easy riding. This lets me really recharge the batteries and get that "hunger" for racing back.

PEZ: Do you do any specific intensity workouts to prepare for your first competition?

Levi - I would recommend a small amount of threshold work and a very small amount of work above threshold. This will act as a warning for your body. That way the person is ready.

Bobby J. - Of course, the best way to prepare for your first competition is to train for specific racing conditions. This is difficult to do by yourself unless you are really motivated to be doing heavy intervals or motorpacing. I prefer to do training camps with my teammates and prepare by trying to stay with the fit riders of the team. Personally I like to use the first races as training and just adapt to the level gradually, always keeping in mind my long term goals and personal limits at the time.

Mike - I try to keep the intensity to the absolute minimum to get me by. We have a Saturday group ride that is pretty intense so that usually takes care of it. I am an aggressive racer and I spend a lot of time in breaks and doing lead outs. This means I get tons of intensity right from the very first race. I try to get just enough intensity so I can get through the early season events without being crushed on a daily basis. With all that, I live in Arizona, so getting intensity is easy since the weather in the winter is always good.

Summing Up
Let’s tie their comments together and see how we "mortals" can benefit from their advice:

The key word used is “transition? Levi, Bobby and Mike all have an adjustment period as they move into the racing season. The purpose of the transition period is to prepare the body and mind for high intensity work.

There is limited intensity in their programs. Their seasons (and lives) are extremely stressful and numerous races allow them to slowly gain the needed fitness for the important goals of the year. We on the other hand, don’t have that type of schedule. Given that, it is perfectly acceptable to have at least one high quality workout during the break and transition period. I know that Mike and Bobby used the famed Sacramento River Ride every Saturday (when they used to live in Sacramento) during the winter and spring to keep their fitness sharp.

A slow, deliberate program. Although they do not explicitly state it, Levi, Bobby and Mike all take their time and slowly build the fitness needed to peak at the right time of the year. For Levi and Bobby, the Tour de France is priority #1. For Mike, I know he is focusing on the Tour of Georgia and making the World’s team. This means that early season races can be part of this important transition period and top results are not a high priority.

For some bike racers, the early season races are the most important of the year. Perhaps you are working to get those points needed for a category upgrade and you see the early races as an opportunity to get those points. You must structure your off season to include some high intensity workouts and competitive group rides prior to those races so that you are ready to race when the season begins.

One important point to remember is to take your own season schedule into account when deciding how and when to transition into racing. Levi, Bobby and Mike compete in 80+ races a year and they start racing early in the season. Most athletes are still in the middle of their “break and can continue to build strength and aerobic fitness for another 4-8 weeks. It’s a long season, so don’t be rushed. The longer you take to get into peak form, the longer you will remain there.

Have a training question you want to ask the pros? Send an email to and let us know what's on your mind!

Bobby Julich's website.

Bruce Hendler created AthletiCamps to provide cycling specific coaching and training to athletes and cyclists of all levels. Find out more at


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