How to Finish Off the Road Season in Style
Managing the long Northern California cycling race season has many challenges - all of them good! The weather we are fortunate to enjoy allows us to ride year round and I believe that is one reason many successful cyclists at the national and world level are from California. It also poses a challenge as it is easy to become perma-fit. There is nothing wrong with being perma-fit as this can be a healthy lifestyle, but I do believe that an athlete will not achieve the highest performance level they have the potential for if they are not able or willing to take some time to rest, recover and let some of this fitness go at times.
I believe that is the key to the end of any long season - rest and recover. But also continue to train with high intensity that meets the demands of your remaining events - especially your limiters. More rest will allow for more mental and physical recharging to hit those hard workout targets for just a few more weeks. Assuming an athlete has been training properly and racing consistently throughout the season starting in late January, there is quite a bit of fitness and cumulative fatigue created at this point. The great part of this is that an athlete can surf this fitness with less high intensity workouts and more rest in between them to stay sharp. It is unlikely that significant fitness changes are going to happen over the last month of the season - maybe some new best performances with some well earned rest though. Many factors come in to this, such as what level of fitness an athlete reached earlier, but I do know I have seen many top performances late in the year when an athlete backs off a bit. This less is more approach can be quite challenging for dedicated athletes. I believe the key is to focus on quality and not quantity and let all of that hard work shine through with some new personal bests.
My advice is to rest a little more than you have been and be sure to continue to go really hard on your hard days - maybe cut back to 2 interval days if you have been doing 3 for example. Ride only as much as you need to to meet the demands of your event. If your remaining race is a 50 minute criterium, then it is unlikely necessary to ride longer than 2 hours at this point. If your race is a 4 hour road race, then I think it is best to make sure to ride 4 hours just often enough to keep your endurance where it needs to be. Stay on top of the little things - bike maintenance, stretching, nutrition, and hydration. It can be easy to get lax, so stay tough and a well deserved rest is just around the corner.