Bike Faster In A Triathlon
The reasons why we fail to cycle faster in a triathlon are because of some or all of the following reasons.
AERODYNAMCIS – being too aero can result in loss of power. The more people lean over the less power they often generate. Also being cramped up or over reaching or stretching low can also give you back ache and stop you being able to stride out during the run.
Too aero a position can result in you having to sit up in the latter part of the triathlon bike from tiredness and fatigue resulting in more time lost than gained being low at the beginning. Arms too close together on triathlon bars can constrict breathing by closing up the chest. Aim for arms to be in front of legs for best aerodynamics.
Finding the balance between aerodynamics and being able to go as fast as possible but not compromising not being able to run afterwards takes if you are lucky one year of practice to find the right balance. If you do not train in the aero position for long periods of time then you will not be able to do it during the race!
AVERAGE SPEED – the ability to maintain the same speed without blowing up and slowing down. To do this expect the perception to increase from about 80% of the bike (32km of a 40km Olympic bike distance) just to maintain the same pace.
On a windless day with no hills your average speed should not drop by more than 0.5 mph 0.8 km ph from 20 miles of a 25 mile Olympic distance (32km) to the finish if you have paced yourself properly.
BIKE FIT – having your bike correctly set up will help you be the most efficient. This is vital and time well spent. Have this done at least 8 months before your target triathlon. If you are overstretched you are using your core much more and will either fatigue earlier than normal. Some athletes even will have difficulty get into their running straight after the bike if your bike position is incorrect.
CADENCE – find a good cadence that helps you go fast for long periods of time without creating fatigue. The triathlon Male & Female winners often have the same gears that the rest of us have on our bikes but they just have a higher cadence for longer. Find the best gear that you can go fast in, will nearly always be not the biggest gear you can force around!
Try this test. After at least 15 minute warm up. Practice covering a short circuit that takes 4-6 minutes. Spin easy for 5 minutes between each effort. Test yourself in different gears and see which one you go the fastest, and then consider can you keep this going?
CONCENTRATION – the ability to keep working at the same effort and pace is paramount to become a fitter biker and achieve your potential during the triathlon bike leg.
CORE FITNESS - It is vital to train your core because no matter how much endurance you have your core is often the weakest link between your legs and arms. Core often fatigues long before your arms and legs.
COURSE – choose a triathlon course that will suit you. Go and drive then cycle the route so you can go away and train on similar terrain prior to the race. If you are big and powerful choose a fast flat course or if you are good on the hills find a hilly course. Some athletes are unable to keep going at a high intensity and prefer a rolling course for easier harder sections.
It is not coincidence that local athletes usually excel. Apart from not having to travel to the triathlon for many hours you can train the body and know the course with every pot hole and twist and turn. Doing this your body does learn muscle memory for the course you train on.
If you are looking for a fast time and do not want to worry about a slower run then consider a triathlon bike course that has fast age group times. Discount the fastest pro cyclist because they may be the exception to the rule.
DRINKING – avoid drinking in the first 10 minutes after exiting the swim to allow you to find your cycling legs, then little and often.
GEARS – pushing too bigger gears using your strength will result in you fading and slowing down with fatigue in the latter portion of the bike.
HEART RATE – not keeping below your anaerobic threshold throughout the 40km bike ride .If you go over your limit for more than 4 minutes expect your overall time to be slower than your potential. Work hard on the down hills and even paced up the climbs. Spin your legs on fast down hills rather than stop pedaling to help keep the blood flow moving around the legs and body.
HYDRATION – drink enough during the bike and know your sweat rates. Expect to need to drink 500-750ml every 60 minutes during the ride. Fluid requirements depend on temperature and your own perspiration rates.
HARD – if you try too hard in training you will not learn to teach your muscles what they will actually be doing during the race and will end up going too hard then slowing down on race day. Train at race pace once a week for the last 12 weeks for your key triathlon.
ROAD SURFACE – picking the fastest line usually where the car tyres wear the road down can be the smoothest part of the road. Not only will you go faster but will be less bone shaking than riding on the rough part of the road surface. If the road surface is wet this may be slower due to loss of traction.
SELF CONTROL – the mental strength to hold back in the early parts of training will teach you the ability to come back stronger at the end. This will be very important all events last more than 60 minutes.
TAPERING - if you do not rest up enough you will not have the optimum storage of energy available. Maintain quality but reduce total volume.
THINKING TRIATHLETE - know yourself, when to eat, drink and how much & when. Hold back in the last 3 miles (5km) a little and change down one gear and increase cadence (spin more). This will help you get into your running much easier.
RAINING – get use to your bike and train for at least 15 times the distance of your bike ride within the last 8-10 weeks. So if you are training for a Olympic triathlon 40km (25 miles) you need to train 600km (375 miles) or average per week 60-75km (37-47 miles) to be able to complete the distance.
Starting your training build up for a triathlon more than 28 weeks in advance is usually a plan for disappointment because you will have gone past your best come triathlon day. Train slower in your build up then 15-20% of each week at race effort for the last 12-14 weeks.
Train on a heavier bike during the winter for added sport specific strength. Exact detail of what to do when and for a personalized training schedule seek a triathlon coach who is still competing. They should also ideally still compete and have been successful on the course and distance that you want to excel at.
NUTRITION – how many calories an hour do you burn up and how many can your body absorb during actual triathlon pace is very important for success.
Eating little and often keeps you topped up without putting strain on your systems. Eating a whole energy bar during a competition is like having a big Sunday meal it wears you out. For more detailed information check out Ironmate’s race day nutrition as calorie requirements depends on size and speed that you travel. Practice your race day plan at least once a week (10-16 times) for 3 months before the event.
WATTS not evenly generated throughout the ride will always result in poor performance. Just like down loading and reviewing your heart rate should be a level line on a hilly or flat route for optimum performance.
Find out your average threshold power generated for 60 minutes on a reasonably flat course to get a better average (than a hilly course) then divide this by 75 to allow you to have a guide to keep to during your even paced Ironman bike. For example if you produce 200 watts average during a 60 mile private time trial test then aim for between 115 -155 watts during hilly Ironman bikes and 135-150 on flat Ironman bike sections.