How to train for your first road race: a beginner's guide to racing

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How to prepare for your first road race: a beginner’s guide to racing

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The foundations for form are laid in the winter, according to Spragg, or at least after a period of base training, where long, steady rides are used to build aerobic efficiency. The same principle applies whether preparing for a long sportive or road race.

“Base training is when you lay the foundation for your aerobic efficiency on the bike,” says Spragg. “Everything is built upon that – without being efficient aerobically, you’re always going to struggle later on. If you’re not aerobically efficient, then your threshold might not be high enough, which means you’re going to be dropped on the climb on race day.

“Think it like a pyramid. If your aerobic efficiency is the base of the pyramid, then the bigger the base the higher the form peak can go. Everything’s built on those foundations and it’s a really important part of training.”

Base training provides the foundation for success for professional and amateur racers alike (Pic: Tim de Waele/OPQS)

Keep it steady

Base training typically takes place in zones two and three, or between approximately 60 or 80 per cent of your maximum heart rate, and while riding slowly to race fast can feel counter-productive, Spragg says it will pay off in the long run.

“A lot of people train too hard, especially early in the year, and they’re putting in too much fatigue at an early level, so by the time they hit the start of the season they’re already plateauing because their fatigue levels are too high and they can’t improve without having a rest,” he says.

“It’s important to lay that base but it’s also important to lay that base without putting too much fatigue into the system.”

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