How To

Fitness: from bronze to gold in 2013 – part one (overview)

Now is the perfect time of year to look at your goals for 2013 and commit to achieving them.

This series of articles will complement Jo McRae’s series on technique, working towards achieving faster sportive times by improving your fitness.

In the chess game on wheels that is the sport of road cycling, it is not always the fastest rider who crosses the line first and receives the plaudits. Deficiencies in fitness can be clearly and cruelly exposed. Spending your time training smartly to maximise gains on limited time will be the focus of this series of articles, and each week I’ll  examine a different aspect of your preparation.

Tom Kirk (black and red jersey) will be handling the fitness aspects of our ‘bronze to gold in 2013’ series

‘Base’ fitness

Over the coming weeks we’ll examine several elements of training starting off with ‘base’ building. We’ll look at the crucial components of strength and endurance and how to make the most of limited training time. If you’ve not already started, now is the time to start working hard to achieve your goals for those big summer events, so we’ll consider how to fit in this important aspect of training around other commitments efficiently.

Group riding

The crucial skills needed to hang out in a sportive ‘peloton’ are best learned through riding regularly in a smaller group. However, the needs of the group will not necessarily match your own and there is often a wide range in ability, so we’ll look at strategies to maximise the fitness benefits of riding with a group, whether you’re the strongest there or hanging on (for now, at least!).

Training camps

Many of us take advantage of the warmer weather in Spain and the Mediterranean islands to get in some quality training in the sun. For the pros, this could mean more than 25 hours of training for several weeks but few of us have that luxury available. We will look at strategies to make the most of a one to two week trip to the sun to get you fit not fat (watch those all-you-can-eat buffets!) and avoid the dreaded illnesses and infections that an unusually high training load and air travel can bring on when you return home.

Training your fat metabolism

Tom’s work with Race Fit in the laboratory at Oxford Brookes University (and his PhD) has given him insights into the scientific side of fitness, such as fat metabolism

In long sportives, you’ll be using a lot of energy, principally from body fat stores and carbohydrates. While even the leanest rider has many thousands of calories in fat stores, the body’s carbohydrate stores are limited and are used up rapidly. Sparing the body’s limited carbohydrate stores by using more of your fat stores can save this precious fuel for intense efforts such as tough climbs or making that big effort to bridge over to a faster group, saving energy and improving times in the long run.  This article will focus on strategies to improve your fat use allowing you to ride harder while preserving carbohydrate stores for when you need them.


In most sportives the climbs will be the main difficulty you will have to overcome.  This article will look at how to train for different types of climbs you may come across in events in the UK and abroad, optimising your power to weight ratio and pacing strategies on long climbs to keep you strong through to the end.

Fine tuning the ‘engine’

After all that base work, you’re confident you can complete the distance. Now we look at those important last months and weeks and how to get fit and fast and get that gold standard time!

Pre-event fuelling

We look at getting in the right food and drinks at the right time before, during and after your event to maximise your performance and recover well.


The final push! Managing your training in the final week or so before the event, including around traveling to the event to arrive fresh and fit and ready to perform to your best.

Over the coming weeks this series of articles should help to give you the tools needed to achieve your goals and move from bronze to gold in 2013.

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