Almost thirty years ago when I started in the sport of cycling training meant riding. Just ride your bike lots and you should get better. Eventually talk of interval training, heart rate monitors and power meters began to enter into the conversation and it became evident that if you were going to improve as a cyclist simply riding the bike wouldn’t be enough. You were going to need a plan.
This year after nearly 20 years away from the local peloton I decided that I wanted to return to racing. At first the goal was simply “don’t crash, don’t finish last”. As the season progressed my goals changed and I wanted to be competitive.
I needed a plan. But I needed one that was workable within my reality. I’m a 48 year old father of 3 with a glamorous day job and bike time is at a premium.
Recently Velo Press released a new edition of Chris Carmichael’s The Time Crunched Cyclist. This new edition comes with new plans for commuters, mountain bikers and cyclocross. This year was to be my first season trying my hand at cyclocross so I would use the Time Crunched Cyclist as my plan of attack.
If you’ve been following cycling as long as I have the name Chris Carmichael should be familiar to you. He was part of the ground breaking Team 7-Eleven that revolutionized cycling and brought it to a global audience.
Carmichael’s Time Crunched Training Program (TCTP) focuses on intensity in absence of time. If you’ve only got 6 hours a week to ride, you should maximize every minute and the TCTP gets you there with very intense interval training that balances effort and recovery.
Carmichael calls cyclocross “a perfect application of the TCTP”. Cross races are short and intense, exactly like the workouts in his book. What I liked about the Cyclocross training in the book was the fact that it mixed things up. A combination of intervals and basic cyclocross skills practice kept things fresh.
A word on the intervals: they are hard Very hard. But you have to be honest with yourself and give the effort prescribed in the book. For someone who hasn’t done intervals in ages Power Intervals and Power Intervals with Run Ups make you dig deep and hurt like hell. Eventually, you learn to love the pain. Fifty Shades of Mud.
I entered ‘cross season in week 4 of the plan, as allowed in the book. My first cross race was an eye opener. I had never encountered that kind of intensity in cycling. And it didn’t stop. After 50 minutes at maximum effort my goal was to simply survive. I was begging for the bell. It didn’t go well.
As the weeks progressed, I noticed a change in my power and a little snap coming back to my legs. I did the work and in tandem with eating on the Simply for Life plan I was on my way to losing twenty pounds.
My goal was the provincial cyclocross championships and I arrived ready to race instead of dreading it as I had been earlier in the season. Despite being over-geared for a crucial section the race went very well. I was battling for the top three, a placing I was nowhere near earlier the season. The TCTP also helped me save some bullets for the 10 minute warning and I was able to commit to a final charge.
In the end, I placed 3rd in my category, a nice end to my season. What’s more important is that with the intense, structured training in The Time Crunched Cyclist I was able to boost my fitness, drop twenty pounds and fall back in love with racing my bike.
Next year I`ll have goals focused on road racing and the Time Crunched Cyclist will play a major role in achieving those goals.
The Time Crunched Cyclist is available from Velo Pres. It`s easy to understand despite the fact that there is a lot of science behind the plan. Whether your goals include road racing, mountain biking or a fondo the TCTP could play a huge role in achieving them.