World Champs Tips: The Bike

World Champs Tips: The Bike

By ITU Admin on 27/05/08 at 12:00 am

The Vancouver BG Triathlon World Championships are now less than two weeks away.  To help the thousands of age-groupers prepare for the bike course that takes athletes through world renowned Stanley Park, the organizing committee presents tips for the world championship bike course.

Because the cycle leg of triathlon is the longest discipline in regards to time and overall distance, it is critical that athletes aim to make the cycle leg as fast and efficient as possible.

What does fast and efficient mean?

You need to work on expending your energy equally over the entire bike distance in the most economical manner (both physically and mentally) possible.  In my years of racing I have seen it time and time again where age-group triathletes ride the house down and post massive personal bests on the cycle leg only to end up with a run time very similar to their bike times.  Alternatively I have seen athletes at major races such as World Championships become very excited and over aroused about being in the race with a large crowd with friends and family watching on. They start riding the first one or two laps of a multi-loop course way too fast and end up blowing up on the third or fourth laps and subsequently slow up considerably on the run.

The aim of the cycle leg should be to ride as fast as possible but in a way that you can still run at your optimum. Remember it is a triathlon not a cycling race.

The age-group cycle leg consists of four 10km laps for a total distance of 40km. Each lap consists of a 2-3km climb up Prospect Hill and a fast 2-3km descent. Therefore the climb and descent of Prospect Hill will be a significant determining factor in whether you have a great or an absolute shocker cycle leg on race day.

My aim was always to try and produce a fast and efficient time trial bike leg. This was achieved by maintaining very good momentum or rhythm for the entire ride. I always tried to ride each lap as even as possible. Riding an undulating bike course is always a challenge to holding momentum and rhythm. The best way to maintain rhythm is by controlling your cycling cadence and gear selection. Many cycling experts talk about the optimal cycling cadence during time trialing as 90-100rpm. Moreover, I constantly see people banging out a big gear with a cadence of 60-70rpm and then not being able to run off the bike. Unless your name is Craig Walton it is highly unlikely you can ride at that cadence and still run fast off the bike.

Firstly, the bad news is there is no magic formula for the correct gear selection or cadence for every athlete that will tackle the course on race day. It depends on an entire host of factors including your training history, fitness, power to weight ratio and preparation coming into the event.

Some athletes will be happy to drop down off their big chain ring and sit and spin up the climb. Others will be able to maintain a good cadence while still in the big chain ring.  Some will stand on their pedals some will stay seated and grind away. Whatever your decision, to climb Prospect Hill four times efficiently will ultimately be an individual decision.

The good news is that it is possible to have an awesome cycle leg and also run fast off the bike. You need to have a clear race plan and pacing strategy going into the race. I strongly suggest all athletes make themselves thoroughly familiar with the bike course.  In particular what gearing plan they will race and importantly what race line and cornering speeds they can safely hold over the technical parts of the course. This plan will set the blueprint for your time trial and should take into account the entire race, not just the bike leg.  Ask yourself the question, “Can I hold this cadence/gear selection every lap or just on the first lap when I am fresh? This will help determine the best gears for the climb.
Remember speed and efficiency will win every time. Good Luck!

Craig Redman is the National Development Coach for Triathlon Australia and oversees Coach Education, Junior Development and Talent Identification on a national level.

Craig holds a Bachelor of Human Movement degree and previously held the position of Head Coach of the Tasmanian Institute of Sport Triathlon EDS program. He has worked for the Australian Sports Commission as a regional coordinator of the Active After-school Communities Program.

Craig has won four gold and one silver medal from six Age-Group World Championship appearances.
He is also a coach for ITU Sport Development courses and projects around the globe.

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