Zoning into the Great Zuurberg Trek

Zoning into the Great Zuurberg Trek

Renowned cycling coach John Wakefield is discovering all sorts of zones on his way to peak fitness for the 2016 PwC Great Zuurberg Trek. This is his story.

Well, I’m back and survived the Panorama Tour.

Besides the bad luck we had on day one, when we lost 30 minutes due to mechanicals, my form was a lot better than I had expected.

I did notice that I was slightly short of where I needed to be at the sharp end of the race when the attacks started on the final climbs.

It made sense as pretty much 80% of my training was aerobic and I had done no anaerobic sessions nor explosive work.

These aerobic sessions consisted of steady longer duration intervals like 10, 15, 20 and 60-minute efforts at a steady Zone 4 heart rate or power output. For me that is around 300W and I am 61kg.

These types of intervals are all at 75 to 80% and you want consistency in them. Below is a graph of a set of five 10-minute seated climbing intervals at Zone 4 or 300W in my case with 10 minutes of rest between each.

What you don’t want to do is start the first one so hard that you fade by the last one or in some cases don’t finish the set at all.

Graph one

After I came back I realised what I was missing so I started to build in race type simulations into 10-minute efforts.

In the graph below you will see the three spikes, this session I did was “10 minutes over unders”.

What you do in this session is again start your 10-minute interval in a high Zone 3/low Zone 4 heart rate or in my case power wise 280 to 300W.

Then, every three minutes, I would perform a one-minute Zone 5 effort 360W and then fall back into the high Zone 3/low Zone 4 bracket.

The second 10-minute session I did was a little different. I would sit at Zone 4 or 320W and after five minutes I would perform five 40:20s – I would aim to hit 470W for the 40s efforts.

A 40:20 is 40 seconds all out with 20 seconds rest in between.

I found these sessions really made a difference to what I was lacking in my training and racing.

Graph two

To build onto those sessions and to work purely on anaerobic, a session I can’t say I really enjoy but find works well for me is 15 one-minute intervals with two minutes of rest between each.

It is a really hard session and I would focus on hitting and average of 500 to 550W for each effort but often that isn’t easy when your vision starts to fade and you’re in a world of snot and tears.

As you can see in the graph below the first four were better than the last 11.

These efforts I always do on an incline. This help you not spin out and be able to keep pressure and force on the pedals at all times during the interval.

I would recommend anything from a four to 10% gradient, depending on your strength level.

Graph three

As you can see in the picture below, one minute all-out is never a pretty affair, especially when you haven’t done them in ages.

GZT blog photo LLR

For pure explosive work I would do 10 30-second sprints all out with five minutes of rest between.

When they first do these, athletes often ask what a mere 30 seconds will do for you.

If you truly go all-out for 30 seconds it feels like a lifetime when you are out of the saddle smashing pedals in the hurt box and it hurts like no other at the end.

Again, I do these on an eight to 11% gradient to make sure I don’t spin out and keep power down at all times.

Graph four

The final piece in my puzzle now is to lose some weight but not allow it to have a negative effect on my training.

Many cyclists are all about losing weight and being the lightest they can possibly be. While this does hold true in some ways, being too light does have a negative effect on you.

Negative effects are not recovering correctly after training and losing power.

If I use myself as an example: at around 61kg, I’m good on the bike but, if I drop one or two kilos, I’m actually totally useless.

I cannot sustain a high power for long and I don’t recover quickly and often fall ill.

John is a director and coach at Science to Sport and competes in cycling events as one of the country’s top age-group competitors. He has coached several riders to national and world titles.

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