• Structured Cycle Training: A guide from Paul Mill

    Posted in cycling on July 8, 2013

    Many of us are seeking new goals for the 2013 season, only to realise that we are really hard pushed to find the time to succeed. We asked Cycling expert Paul Mill how he coaches riders on limited time to achieve their objectives.

    The first and most important question for anyone on limited time is, how committed are you?  Without commitment, reaching your goal is pretty much impossible.

    I help riders set clear, defined and achievable goals. I also believe in setting your goals high.

    For riders with busy lifestyles training has to be very structured and well executed to maximise both volume and intensity. You need a balanced and consistent approach to training and “periodisation”, which basically means dissecting your training year into chunks of time is a key element of that process.

    The Periodisation Pyramid


    The training periodisation pyramid


    The Endurance/Preparation phase

    The word endurance really is associated with putting the hours in on the saddle. However, when time is limited this needs to be focused.

    Aim for a general steady state ride of around 2-3 hours once a week at least.

    The key thing for endurance is to make sure you are working in your aerobic range, which basically means at a pace where you are able to hold a conversation.

    When time is limited we need to work at a slightly higher intensity for a shorter period of time to get results.

    So, why doesn’t everyone just do it this way and save time?

    Ideally the more aerobic training you do at this stage the better as it helps develop a strong basis for the next two phases and improve overall performance. In my opinion, the transition from doing a steady wide base of training will give you a better and higher performance level. That is why riders at Professional level ride thousands of miles to increase body fat utilization and maintain a high aerobic fitness. Basically it’s like preparation for an engine getting it to run smooth for a long period of time.

    Working at even a slightly higher intensity may also mean that you become more fatigued, so when you are just starting out, breaking the endurance session into segments can help.

    The key thing is to set goals such as keeping a steady heart rate throughout. As you progress you can decrease the rest period in between the segments so that you can then bring them together into one piece.

    Pre Competition Phase

    This phase consists of more race or event discipline specific sessions. Sessions of a shorter duration at a higher rate will increase your speed and endurance and also help with your anaerobic conditioning. This really helps with accelerations either in a bunch or, if you are trying to pick your pace up, on a steep gradient.

    This phase is all about decreasing volume and increasing intensity.

    Simulate racing by participating in smaller events but approach them the same as you would the big race – plan your nutrition, fluid intake and practice, practice, practice.

    What about increasing pace?

    It’s all about cadence. Improving your cadence and being more efficient as a rider will mean that your travel across the ground quicker.

    And increasing pace on longer climbs?

    We all dream of being able to climb like the world’s best. Improving your power to weight ratio is a key i.e. producing more power with less body weight.

    A colleague at Maxi nutrition, Gareth Nicholas explained that we are looking to decrease body fat not muscle mass and high intensity aerobic interval training,“HIIT”, is the most efficient way to achieve that.

    Competition Phase

    Now things get really exciting.

    At this stage most riders now feel the need to pick up their training even more. Wrong. Yes we still need to train hard, but it needs to be structured so that volume is decreased and intensity is now at race speed.

    Hitting your sessions fresh with lots of rest and recovery are key in this phase. Focus on feeling good and staying healthy. Replace carbohydrate and protein within 30 minutes of finishing exercise. It will help with energy refuelling and muscle repair.  Are you ready to achieve your goal? Of course you are, now go and succeed.

    To find out more about training with Paul, check out the coaching options with Elite Cycling here. Paul is also an adviser for Maxinutrition and will be at the Maxifuel stand at the The Tour of Britain (22nd September at The Mall in London), if you fancy a chat!

  • New to Cycling? New is Scary… But New is Also Fun.

    Posted in cycling on

    Gary Willis, Former British Cycling Talent Coach, Scottish Cycling Performance Manager and Technical Operations Manager for the road cycling events at the London 2012 Olympic Games, shares his tips for getting started in cycling.

    There has been a huge explosion in the popularity of road cycling over the last four years with more and more people either returning to their bike after a long time apart or just discovering the world of biking for the first time.

    Whatever camp you find yourself in, a great way to get the most out of your cycling is to get some coaching. Most people can ride a bike which is fantastic and goes to show why the sport has become so popular as most people have the basic knowledge to pick a bike up and go, making it really accessible. But with a bit of guidance and support you would get from a coaching session it will help you to avoid a lot of those early pitfalls and get you up to speed quickly and efficiently.

    For those that have experience in cycling or as you progress, so too can the skills and technique that go into you’re cycling. Cycling is much more than pushing on the pedals, there is group riding, descending, climbing and braking. There is also the environmental considerations of being out there cycling in all kinds of weather and what clothing to choose and how to ride in those conditions.



    Here are a few of my top tips for getting started in cycling:

      Find a quiet area like a car park or closed road area. Practice your slow speed control, covering the brakes and manoeuvring around different obstacles. To go fast first you must master how to go slow! Think about where your hands are on the handlebars, what are you looking at going round corners, where are your feet when you are cornering.

    Don’t be scared to stop and adjust! Your bike should be fitted to your body- not the other way around! It is amazing in the early days of cycling or riding a new bike (especially when you ride with others) that people don’t want to stop and adjust the niggling little part of the bike. If it’s uncomfortable its more than likely not going to stop by ignoring it and hoping that in an extra few miles it will go away. The outcome is usually the complete opposite.

    Ride with others. Getting out riding with a group of friends is really going to bring on your cycling in terms of the distance you travel and speeds you will go at. Working as a group allows you to cover so much more distance by sharing the load. Also if you are with a group it also makes my last point more enjoyable too.

    Whenever possible have a coffee stop on your ride!

    Road cycling suggests just that…cycling on the road. The mistake most people make is to just get out there onto the roads before they have really prepared themselves for what lies ahead and it’s a harsh environment for those new to it. It’s a bit like buying a boat and then just heading out into the open sea. We mostly all drive cars but it’s quite different when you sling your leg over a bike. That simple return journey home you do in the car every day turns out to be a gradual climb the whole way. The prevailing wind that you never really noticed (unless you are a sailor) turns out to be quite tough when you are already a bit tired. Getting some coaching to learn how to deal with all these little areas and will help you to overcome and master the elements.



    But that’s maybe the tough side I have focused on! Once you are out on your bike you also discover all those small roads with very little traffic that are like a rabbit warren running over the countryside. Hills will soon change from being something that you “try” to get up and become a challenge to see how hard you can “try” on them. Sprinting for landmarks like Mark Cavendish and riding up climbs like Wiggo will become the norm (in your head at least). Oh and you will also start to build a good knowledge of cafes in the area, how long it takes to get to them and the pros and cons of carrot cake.

    Get some coaching, get out there and happy cycling this summer.


    You can find out more details about Gary’s coached sessions here. His next training camp is 9-12 August in Morzine, France and will focus on helping female cyclists tackle their first sportive.

  • Our top 5 Tour de France-inspired long London cycle rides

    Posted in cycling on July 10, 2012

    The 99th Tour de France has been nicely sandwiched in between Wimbledon and the London Games, making sure that we’re not getting live sport withdrawal symptoms. If you’ve been inspired to get into the saddle by the Tour, we’ve got some great long rides around London to try including:

    • Loops to Epsom
    • Long rides in Essex
    • Easy riding from East london
    • Flat routes to Tonbridge and
    • Big climbs in Brighton

    So there should be something for everyone!

    London to Brighton, 59 miles. Difficulty: Hard.

    At a glance: Made famous by the annual charity ride, the London to Brighton route is a long and challenging route, with a couple of monster climbs along the way.

    Route: After getting out of London (15km or so.) the route really opens up and is largely spent on country roads with great views over the rolling countryside. Starting off on Clapham Common and heading towards Tooting and then on to Carshalton, as you move away from the city your surroundings soon become noticeably greener and the climbs become noticeably more difficult! After 20 miles you will come up against your first hill but with plenty of flat cycling to come you will have time to recover for the challenges that lay ahead.

    After another tough climb at Turner’s Hill, miles 35 to 50 are much easier on the legs and should leave you in good shape for the infamous final hurdle; the Ditchling Beacon. A tough climb in it’s own right, let alone after having just completed nearly 50 miles of punishing road cycling, the Beacon has claimed many victims over the years. The advice from experienced London to Brightoners is to let the low gears do the hard work and to avoid the temptation of rushing up the Beacon in the vain hope of ‘getting it out of the way’. Find a speed and tempo that you are comfortable with and stick to it, know that you are very close to the end and have a nice downhill bit to look forward to.

    Tour de France equivalent: Macon – Limoux – Foix, 191km, Flat(ish) to start with then an eyewatering climb (18% gradient at times!) finishing with long downhill.

    Crystal Palace to Tonbridge, 28 miles, Difficulty: Medium.

    At a glance: This route, starting in South East London, is a real hidden gem; usually surprising Londoners by how quickly they are enjoying views of rolling British countryside.

    Route: From Crystal Palace head towards Elmer’s End and on to West Wickham (D on the map). From here, head towards Corkscrew Lane which leads you to the top of the North Downs where, on a clear day, you can see for over 30 miles. Westerham is the next port of call where speeds of up to 40 mph can be reached when coming down into the village. From there head on the B2027 towards Bough Beech Resevoir and Penshurst (Which could be a good place for a stop at the Little Brown Jug pub for a few well earned refreshments,’c’ on the map). After refuelling, continue along the same road until turning right at Leigh station and follow the road until turning left on to Hayesden Lane and follow that road all the way in to Tonbridge.

    Tour de France Equivalent: Arc-et-Senans – Besancon, 41.5km, Flat with plenty of speed.

    Acton to Bradfield, 55.45 miles. Difficulty: Hard.

    At a glance: For the experienced rider looking for a long and challenging route.

    Route: Heading out to East London, starting at West Acton station, take the Uxbridge road towards Dormer’s Wells. Then head South towards Hounslow and along towards Staines on the A30. The next stretch from Staines to Bray is particularly easy on the eye with both towns having some very nice places to stop for a bite to eat (The Fat Duck is particularly nice we’ve been told…). Heading on from Bray to Maidenhead and then through Henley  the route gets a little hilly and the roads a little rural so make sure you’ve got your map with you. Once you arrive at Bradfield and you’ve dusted yourself off there is a quick 3 mile cycle to get to Theale Railway Station from where you can head back to London.

    Tour de France equivalent: Bagneres-de-Luchon – Peyragudes, 144km, A tough test at times but downhills at key points make things easier.

    Central London (Tottenham Court Road) to Basildon, 33.9 miles. Difficulty: Hard. 

    At a glance: For those of you who are looking to make the most of these long, warm(!) summer nights by going on a longer blast on the bike.

    Route: Starting off right in centre of London and using a combination of quiet roads, bridle and cycle paths you should be able to relax and enjoy all 33.9 miles of the route. Start by heading North East towards Victoria Park and cut across towards the Olympic park and head due East towards The Chase Nature Reserve . Continue East, breezing past the M25 as you go and you will soon reach Basildon, hopefully feeling refreshed and ready to head back to the city.

    Tour de France equivalent: Bonneval – Chartres, 53.5km Long, flat ride with plenty of chances to be aggressive.

    Clapham to Epsom loop, 36.1 miles, Difficulty: Medium.

    At a glance: If you’re looking for a slightly more challenging loop that contains a good balance of climbs and flat portions this route to Epsom racecourse could be ideal.

    Route: Starting in Clapham it will be a challenging cycle out of London via Wimbledon common with plenty of uphill work. The route then takes in Kingston Vale and carries on along the A3 towards Tolworth. Having taken the A240 towards Ewell, Epsom is now within striking distance. After stopping at Epsom racecourse and taking in the great views back over London you are then faced with a nice downhill cycle back in to London. On the way back head towards Purley and then take the A23 towards Tooting Bec.

    Tour de France equivalent: Rambouillet – Paris, 120k the showpiece sprint with a famous landmark waiting patiently for the winner.

    If you have any of your own suggestions we’d love to hear them! Inspired to get into the saddle and want to make sure you’re technique is top notch? Add your email here and we’ll let you know as soon as our cycling instructors are live on the site.