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Cyclingnews Fitness Q&A - February 29, 2012

Early season races make great training for the European peloton

Early season races make great training for the European peloton (Image credit: Bosco Martin)

Topics: Resuming training after a winter break, Drifting and motorpacing, Losing power over the course of a ride

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Resuming training after a winter break

Drifting and motorpacing

Losing power over the course of a ride

Resuming training after a winter break


My winter training season has been going pretty well until recently, when I had to get a minor surgery done. Recovery time from that surgery is about one month, and they recommend staying off the bike for that entire time. Most of my training involves short, but hard intervals. My first question is, how long should I expect before being back to the same level I was before the surgery? How much can performance degrade in one month? Then, when comes the time to train again, should I go back to what I was doing, i.e. short intervals/high intensity, or start again with longer intervals at a lower intensity? In other words, is that break long enough to cause a "reset" in my training program.



Scott Saifer says:

Hi Eric,

First, I'd never recommend a program that consists mostly of short but hard intervals. Depending on how long and how frequently you've been doing that, you might find that you are stronger after a month off than you were before the break. This is because a steady diet of hard intervals will leave most riders overtrained, so that time off serves as needed recovery time as much as it interrupts training.

A month is the length of a standard rest period at the end of a racing season, after which a racer on a periodized training plan would start base again. A month is long enough to lose most anaerobic capacity, and a substantial amount of endurance capacity. Generally you can expect the endurance and aerobic capacities to return with about 6 weeks of base training. I'd suggest eight weeks of base before starting intervals or other training above 80% of maximum, and then limit that harder training to two days per week, with the rest of your training done as base.

Drifting and motorpacing

Dear Panel,

I am interested to know the advantages of drifting or motorpacing while training. In other terms what are the benefits (if any) of riding at LT/sub LT or Z2 behind a scooter or inside a speeding peloton. In case of a positive difference could you please explain the underlying reasons?

Thank you


Scott Saifer says:

Hi Khalil,

There are potential positive benefits of doing a fraction of one's training behind a scooter or in a peloton. First, drafting skills are as important as fitness in massed-start racing. A rider who can draft closely and can make split-second side-to-side adjustments to stay optimally in the draft has a huge advantage over a rider who drafts farther back or doesn't quickly adjust for changing wind direction. Motor pacing is good and group riding is excellent for developing those skills, if the pacing is appropriate to the physiological training needs of the rider.

Second, many riders find it difficult to ride solo as hard as they can ride to keep up with a scooter or group. Riding a particular heart rate, position, power and cadence behind a motor, in a group or solo will give the same training benefits, but if following something makes it possible to ride a steadier hard effort, to sustain a hard effort longer or make a harder effort than one could riding solo, then following something can be beneficial a day at the appropriate pace and the appropriate points in the training cycle.

For riders who are moderately strong, group riding can provide adequate motivation to hard training. If one rider is much stronger than everyone else in town, group riding may not provide adequate challenge to simulate what that rider will find when racing his peers. Such a rider is a good candidate for motorpacing if he is not easily motivated to work hard.

Be careful with motorpacing and group riding to be sure that the pace is appropriate to training goals. If the pace of these sessions is hard, be sure to allow adequate recovery and don't overload with too frequent sessions.

Losing power over the course of a ride


I have a question about training and losing power during a longer ride:

I am encountering what seems to be a persistent problem with my power output on longer rides. Today i did a 5h ride, and toward the end I couldnt increase my power output and HR. I just couldnt get anymore power out due to my legs feeling dead.

Mt LT threshold is 244w, but the normalized power for the ride was only 156w.

Other stats for the ride

Peak 5m power 228w
Peak 10m 209w
Peak 20m 197w
Peak 30m 194w
Peak 60m 182w


Scott Saifer says:

Hi Ryan,

We call that getting tired on a long ride. It's possible that 5 hours is simply beyond your endurance ability but it's also possible that you are making poor gear choices, riding too hard for the distance, not drinking enough or not eating enough to keep youself strong. What is your typical cadence, how do you pace yourself, how much do you drink and eat on a ride, and what?

The Cyclingnews Form & Fitness panel

Scott Saifer ( is head coach, CEO of Wenzel and has been coaching cyclists professionally for 18 years. He combines a master's degree in Exercise Physiology with experience in 20 years of touring and racing and over 300 road, track and MTB races to deliver training plans and advice that are both rigorously scientific and compatible with the real world of bike racing.

Scott has helped clients to turn pro as well as to win medals at US Masters National and World Championship events. He has worked with hundreds of beginning riders and racers and particularly enjoys working with the special or challenging rider. Scott is co-author of Bike Racing 101 with Kendra Wenzel and his monthly column appears in ROAD Magazine.

Steve Hogg has owned and operated Pedal Pushers since 1986, a cycle shop specialising in rider positioning and custom bicycles. In that time he has positioned riders from all cycling disciplines and of all levels of ability with every concievable cycling problem. Clients range from recreational riders and riders with disabilities to World and National champions. He can be reached at:

Kelby Bethards, MD received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University (1994) before obtaining an M.D. from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 2000. Has been a racing cyclist 'on and off' for 20 years, and when time allows, he races Cat 3 and 35+.

He is a team physician for two local Ft Collins, CO, teams, and currently works Family Practice in multiple settings: rural, urgent care, inpatient and the like.

Pam Hinton has a bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology and a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She did postdoctoral training at Cornell University and is now an associate professor of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of energy balance on bone health. She has published on the effects of cycling and multi-day stage racing on bone density and turnover.

Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling competitively in 2003 and is a five-time Missouri State Road Champion, racing for Dogfish Racing Team.

Carrie Cheadle, MA ( is a Sports Psychology consultant who has dedicated her career to helping athletes of all ages and abilities perform to their potential. Carrie specialises in working with cyclists, in disciplines ranging from track racing to mountain biking. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology from Sonoma State University as well as a masters degree in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University.

Dave Palese ( is a USA Cycling licensed coach and masters' class road racer with 16 years' race experience. He coaches racers and riders of all abilities from his home in southern Maine, USA, where he lives with his wife Sheryl, daughter Molly, and two cats, Miranda and Mu-Mu.

Dario Fredrick ( is an exercise physiologist and head coach for Whole Athlete™. He is a former category 1 & semi-pro MTB racer. Dario holds a masters degree in exercise science and a bachelors in sport psychology.