The benefits of low priority cycling races
Cycling goals are coming into view and the heart of the season is 4-6 months away. Competition is lurking and we must prepare for it! While early season goals, for most, are focused on strength and endurance, it doesn’t hurt to toss in the occasional off season event to sharpen the skills and test the physical limits. Low priority races/events can also be used throughout the year for training and more. They provide experience, training benefits, and a way to assess your early or mid-season form. Let’s look at the benefits of a low priority event.
A cycling race environment is unique in many ways. From the arrival to the finish line, a race can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially when you realize there are a few hundred to a few thousand others looking to do the same thing as you. Gaining experience in this environment is important to helping you feel more comfortable, confident, and able to avoid distractions during the race. Cyclists and athletes in general can get overwhelmed over the looks or attitude of their competition, creating self-doubt, excessive nerves, and a loss of focus. With a low priority B-C event, often a local or fun event, race results should be a secondary priority, with more emphasis on pushing your limits for the day and assessing how that felt.
An Intense Effort
Once the gun goes off and the pre-race jitters slowly disappear, it is all about a hard effort to the finish. B and C races are the most specific way to train for your main event later in the season. Mimicking race intensity outside of an official race is difficult, even on the hardest training rides. The nonstop action of a race is what makes it so intense. With people chasing you and others to chase, a race provides the motivation to push the limits and work hard intense efforts, whether it is a shorter 1–2-hour event or a longer marathon distance. Pushing limits, working threshold ranges, and giving it all you got at times will call upon your strengths and tax your weaknesses, resulting in bigger gains overall. Timing for these events is key, and the amount of them will depend on your level of fitness. Be smart with it, too much training and racing together can easily lead to an over trained state. Creating a smart plan to rest, train and race at appropriate times is the key.
One of the most important uses of low priority cycling races is as an assessment of your current strengths and weaknesses. For competitive cyclists, low priority races are tossed into training weeks at times and at times rested into. Either way, an event can teach you how much you can handle if tossed into a training block or it can show you strengths or weaknesses when tapered into. Tapering into low priority events is also a good way to assess handling skills, core strength on the bike and more, such as mental strength. If your rested going into a low priority event and you not only get through the event but are also feeling physically and mentally good after, then the goal is to get stronger as you can handle the endurance aspect. Another important assessment is of your bike. These events allow you to dial in bike mechanics, whether you’re on a time trial bike or a gravel bike, there are always things to learn with bike set up.
Every season of bike racing is different, and it is different for every person. At times more low priority races are included in the schedule and at times not for many reasons - fitness, time, focus and more. What’s most important among all cyclists is that they do incorporate higher and lower priority events within the season, and that they use them in the right way. Focusing on the fitness aspect of the day and assessment will allow you to have fun and get a great workout on the bike!
Mike Schultz CSCS