Every year in September, I have my cyclists review the racing season that’s just ended. This past September one of my riders had just finished racing his first season on the velodrome. He’d had a lot of fun with this localized racing and wanted to continue it in the coming season. Racing with the same competitors every week was challenging but it was fun too! It gave him the opportunity to try new and different tactics on a weekly basis. And, of course, saving 60 dollars worth of gas to race in LA every weekend was a nice break too. The previous year (2010) we’d focused his training on improving general fitness and learning all the different tactics and races demanded of the velodrome cyclist. With a lot of hard work, those goals were accomplished. It was now time to step up and improve upon what he’d worked so hard to attain.
So we sat down together in 2011 to talk about how he could improve upon his last season. We defined clear and specific training goals that would capitalize on his natural abilities. For example, we chose weightlifting in order to improve his neuromuscular power. We added focused tempo efforts at much longer durations to improve his overall aerobic fitness. We focused on specific durations of time at intensities that we agreed showed weakness in certain races. Finally we added motor pacing to help bring his speed up at the peak of the season.
The process I’ve just described is critical: sitting down and asking the questions, “What did I do? What did I do well? And what can I improve?” is important to your development as a cyclist. The answers to these questions will help you set attainable goals. And you should always have a ‘dream’ goal, a goal that may seem out of reach now, but that is also realistic. Improving as an athlete is all about goal-setting; let me suggest a way that will be successful for you.
Set three goals for your next riding or racing season. The first goal is a short-term goal. It should always be something you want to accomplish in a short amount of time, perhaps two to four months. This goal can be as simple as making it through the toughest section on a local club ride (e.g. ‘Stud Loop’ or a hard climb like Honey Springs Road).
The second goal is a mid-term goal and should be challenging enough that it will entice you to keep pushing forward even when you don’t quite feel up to it. This goal can be as simple as finishing that certain race that you’ve always found difficult, or finishing that race with the main group. It can also be as ambitious as setting your sights on finishing in the top ten with the leaders of the race!
The third goal, and my personal favorite, is the dream goal. This should be your most challenging goal, but a goal still attainable if the opportunity presents itself. A good example would be the decision to compete in a really challenging multi-day race. Or you could decide to take that trip overseas that you've always wanted, a trip that includes a race in Belgium or a gran fondo in Italy. These are great examples of dream goals, those goals that are both challenging and rewarding, that are seemingly out of reach but can be attained by committing yourself to the short-term and mid-term goals.
Goal-setting gives intentionality to all athletic endeavors and in the case of cyclists, our riding and our racing. I ask all my riders to write out their short-term, mid-term and dream goals on paper. It’s important to display those goals in a place where you’ll see them every day, like on a bathroom mirror or refrigerator door. Following these simple steps will help you remember what to focus on in your training, how to challenge yourself as you train, and what to feel good about when you accomplish your goals. If you need help deciding which goals to pursue, don’t hesitate to call a coach!