Three hundred kilometers on a time trial bike. Twenty thousand meters (65,000ft) climbed in a single week. Four thousand kilometers ridden in a single month. These stats, from Geraint Thomas, Egan Bernal, and Chris Froome, point to a purposeful use of massive rides ahead of the professional season. But the pros, quite clearly, are not like the rest of us.
- Froome put in about 4,000 kilometers of training – with plenty of climbing on top of the distance, of course – in January of 2018. Thomas uploaded a photo of his Garmin, mounted to TT bars, in December of 2019 with the odometer at 309.4 kilometers. While most of us were sleeping in, eating leftovers, celebrating, or recovering over New Year’s week, Bernal got in around 1,100 kilometers in on the bike.
- For the pros, the weeks before racing kicks off again in mid-January to February offer and a chance to focus fully on building fitness without the stress of getting ready for a big race right around the corner. Often, it is a time to build back into form after a period away from rigorous training. For Ben Day, a high-performance coach with Mitchelton-Scott and for other athletes, that break in the action is the critical starting point for any offseason training program.
- The idea is that these long rides stimulate adaptations related to aerobic endurance and also mitochondrial density, and improve the body’s ability to burn fat as fuel. Development in those critical areas ideally allows cyclists to work harder and more efficiently in training moving forward. Their bodies move oxygen better and use energy more efficiently.
- Neal Henderson, who counts Rohan Dennis (Ineos) and Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) among his many esteemed coaching clients, says he is a known “heretic” when it comes to base miles.
“Some athletes will clearly perform pretty well off of a more volume and lowered intensity approach for certain types of efforts,” Henderson says. “You will find some other athletes who try to do that same type of training and will not gain the same benefit from it. They would find greater yield from doing three- or four-hour rides with more high-intensity efforts.”
- Indeed, that specificity of training for each individual athlete is a major factor at play for the pros posting monster rides to Strava ahead of the season. There is value in such rides for the pros regardless of their opinions on base miles.
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