Welsh rider Luke Rowe has had a busy 2015, with a career-best eighth place at Paris-Roubaix in the spring and a Tour de France debut riding in support of eventual champion Chris Froome.
But the 25-year-old has also been busy off the bike too, pairing up with Olympic gold medallist Dani King to launch Rowe & King, a coaching company sharing the duo’s own training experience with clients.
In the first article in a new series on RoadCyclingUK we asked the Welshman about his favourite training ride – a session which anyone who watched the Tour de France would have seen played out in a race situation, with Rowe and Ian Stannard Team Sky’s early pace setters in the mountains of the Alps and Pyrenees, and one which you can replicate on the club run.
Considering he rides for a team so focussed on marginal gains and on power numbers, it may surprise many to find one Rowe’s preferred training session is based on feel (and competition), rather than data from a heart rate monitor or power meter.
Prior to the Tour de France, Rowe – only the third Welsh rider to take on the Tour – was in Tenerife with most of the squad who went on to guide Froome to victory, and a typical session on the Spanish island is one which Rowe believes helps to bring the best out of him as a rider, and also boost the camaraderie with his team-mates.
“One of my favourite training exercises, when it comes to full-on training, is actually one we do as a team,” he told RoadCyclingUK. “We obviously do a lot of individual, endurance efforts but I prefer them as a team. An example of a session we did in Tenerife, where we trained together before the Tour de France, was where we went to a 20km climb and were all given a target of where we had to get to.”
While the UK may lack 20km climbs, Rowe says it’s a session which can just as easily be replicated on local roads – just change the target according to the length of the climb. The key to the exercise, Rowe explains, is to pair your club or riding mates according to ability – so for Sky, that saw Rowe and Ian Stannard lead the way.
“We would be at the front, and we’d have to get to a certain distance up the climb, usually four or five kilometres, and then the ‘medium’ guys would have to get to another marker – usually the same distance away – and then the pure climbers take over and have to race until the summit.
“Efforts like that replicate a race in training and it’s absolutely as hard as it gets. You are going full gas. These are essentially the efforts that bring you on the most as a rider but also helps you to understand better the characteristics of the other riders.”
Rowe says the session is particularly easy for amateur riders to replicate because it relies on feel, rather than heart rate and/or power. Pacing your effect is key, he says, with the emphasis on riding full gas and emptying the tank, without blowing before your target distance or the top of the climb.
If your club run or group ride takes in a series of short, punchy climbs, as is typical in the UK, you would have those riders less adept at climbing lead the way, before the ‘climbers’ in your group take over when the slopes start hurting – before a rendezvous at the top or a coffee stop, naturally.
“It’s not done so much on numbers,” Rowe says, “A lot of people think we’re a numbers team [at Team Sky] but numbers are only good up until a certain point. It’s just all about the legs.
“You can be told to do a certain amount of watts but you can only do what you can do on the day – it’s all about feel, working together and communicating. Even if you’re in the red and really suffering, the communication’s really vital for getting the best out of each other.
“You can do exactly the same, simulated on the flat. It’s exactly the same thing, the same type of effort, but instead of going 20km/h on a climb you’re doing 40km/h on the flat.”
So, if you want to add some spice to your club run, why not replicate Team Sky’s training methods in a session which will work on pacing, boost your climbing ability, and improve communication and camaraderie between your riding buddies.
Luke Rowe has founded Rowe & King with world and Olympic gold medallist Dani King. For more information visit roweandking.com