Possibly the most important phase of training!
If there is one area of cycle training that is most often over-looked (and massively under-valued) it's the aerobic base-building phase. I think there are a few reasons for this, but I will cover that later. First let's go over some gutsier issues:
Firstly, I would like to dispel the notion that aerobic base training constitutes "junk miles", nothing could be further from the truth. In fact if you are riding at a high intensity almost every time you throw the leg over, chances are you are already on the junk miles treadmill and ironically a stint of aerobic base training may be the only way off. JUNK MILES are miles ridden without a purpose or miles that contradict the training goals for that ride. If you are the sort of cyclist that repeats the same weekly riding schedule, over and over, then you are going nowhere and almost certainly limiting your progress as a cyclist.
FACT 1: Your high intensity training will be significantly more effective once you have built a solid aerobic base.
FACT 2: Your recovery from high intensity sessions (and races) will be far more effective if you have a solid base.
FACT 3: Good form will last longer once a solid base is in place
FACT 4: Your body uses more fats and less sugar...........
FACT 5: sub-maximal Blood lactate levels will be lower...........and we all hate lactate!
Consider this; almost every time a professional cyclist has a "standout season of form" they will credit a "solid winter" (and being injury-free). A solid winter means an uninterrupted block of consistent base miles. Without it even the very best riders on earth play catch-up for the entire season. Almost every amateur rider I know avoids base training and for those few who do give it a try, the pace is ALWAYS too high. If a pro rider churns out base miles at 28kmh (from Bjarne Riis's book) why on earth is the local club rider doing their "base miles" at 30kmh??
Why do cyclists miss this important part of the training cycle?
These are all true to some extent, but all it needs is for someone to take the lead, after all the racing season happens at the same time for everyone. Training cycles could and should follow a similar pattern and bunch rides could be so easily structured to facilitate a more structured and sensible approach. Just a thought!
Base training can and should be the most enjoyable part of the season, a long slow ride in the hills with your mates talking s*#t. Only one pre-requisite....leave the ego at home and forget the strava PR's, they will come later and come they will.
As I like to say; Know Your Numbers, Train Smart and Race Hard
Brian Bubba Cooke
Exercise Physiologist, coach & cycling tragic for 30 years. Love the freedom, reward and sense of achievement that one can only experience in our amazing sport.