Cycling evolves. Aero frames, disk brakes, skin suits, power meters, wheels and even types of sunglasses can promise to give every cyclist an advantage. Most manufactures claim to save so many watts, if a person will just use a certain product. It reminds me of the golf industry. My father had just about every kind of gadget that would “shave strokes” off of his game. Some of the claims are absolutely ridiculous. As soon as you buy one thing, there is something even better. It is an $84 billion dollar industry, according to a 2018 Forbes magazine article.
Cycling enthusiasts are just as bad, in the way of seeking out anything that will suddenly make them go from a 15 mph average rider to the UCI WorldTour. Most of it is unrealistic. Many riders could start by losing 25 pounds and work on pedal stroke and gearing efficiency. No, you do not have to look like Tom Dumoulin at the start of the Giro (wow that was shocking at first look), but controlling what goes into your mouth and how you train are good places to start. The gradual increase to being better is just that . . . gradual. Some people are just incredibly gifted when first climbing on a bike, like Michael Woods and Primoz Roglic; however we normal humans are not so blessed. It takes work. The work can be fun and a bit of suffering from time to time, but it pays off if done correctly. If it were easy, the A group would be a lot bigger on Tuesday night.
Group rides are fun, but they should not be a rider’s main focus of training. Sitting in the paceline at 20 mph, pulling for a mile or so and sprinting at the end of the ride does NOT make an increasingly better rider. Instead, use a group ride to better yourself and have a goal when you arrive. Also, pick a group ride where most of riders are faster and stronger than you. Try a breakaway, even though you know you will eventually pop and get caught. Allow yourself to slip off the back a for a few seconds and then bridge back up. Repeat. Remember that your goal is not to just finish a group ride. Sometimes you will ride in alone because you have completely destroyed yourself, but you will be stronger for it. Believe it or not, getting “dropped” is a good thing when a rider teams up with stronger riders. Hold on. Do the work. Last a little longer the next time.
Have an idea. Make a semi-solid plan for each week. Many riders just carry their bike to work or wake up and decide what to do that morning or as they are actually heading out on a ride. Have an idea of what you want to do each week and what you want to improve can point you in the right direction. Here is a key: work on what you suck at. Poor climber? Climb. Terrible at sustained power? Various interval work. Doing the exact same thing every week will only allow you to be as good as your were last week. You must stress your body in order for it to get stronger in the recovery.
Gym rats have a saying: you grow outside of the gym, not in it. It is the same for cyclists. Adequate recovery and nutrition are crucial for you to become better and better. The body must have time to heal and replenish to be efficient. Yes, it can be trained to recover quicker, but it takes time. Small gains will result in big benefits on the bike. Trust the system. Do your research. What works for one person might not work well for you. Each rider is an individual with different muscle and bone structure and natural abilities. Fueling is crucial. Dig into the data available on podcasts and articles about on-the-bike nutrition and recovery. “I ride hard so that I can eat whatever I want” is only good for a person who only wants to be just so good. Be a cyclist on and off the bike. For Pete’s sake, you shaved your legs for this . . . or maybe you just enjoy shaving your legs.
Work until one day you are surprised when your breakaway actually sticks.