Wednesday, April 8, 2009


By Brett Aiken:

First of all let me say that the world of pursuiting has changed dramatically over the last 10 years in the approach to training, gearing and positioning. Up until the late 80's it was still common amongst many cyclists and coaches to include a lot of weight training, and high cadence interval training, and there was very little emphasis on aerodynamics. Gradually since then though, there has been a constant redirection towards more specificity on the bike and less in the weights room. There has also been a push towards larger gears (lower cadences) and a much greater focus on positioning and aerodynamics which can to an extent be attributed to Chris Boardman's winning ride in the Barcelona Olympics on the Lotus carbon fibre bicycle.

With the introduction of larger gears and lower cadences being the trend of most elite pursuiters in recent times we are now seeing track riders going back to road racing as their ideal preparation to improve their overall strength. I point this out because it is a common misconception in the cycling world that to be a good track endurance rider you have to do weights and intervals. The truth is that there is probably less than one percent of elite endurance riders (road or track) that do any weight training at all. You only need to look at Brad McGee's record ride (4min 17sec) at the Commonwealth Games last year within days after the Tour de France to see that this performance was purely done on a road racing preparation.

Having said that we don't all have the benefits of a heavy road racing schedule to prepare for a pursuit and I therefore believe that weights and intervals should be an integral part of a training programme when this is the case. Two exercises you will benefit from the most in regards to weight training are the squat and the leg press. For maximum strength I recommend focusing on an ideal weight that will allow you to do a range of five to eight repetitions for a single set with a three set buildup where you are gradually increasing the weight before going all out on the fourth set. The ideal weight should be so that if you can do more than eight reps then the weight is too light and if you can't do at least five reps then the weight is too heavy. Of course with all weights, technique is absolutely crucial to avoid injury.

In regards to intervals there are many different types that are important to training different energy systems in the build-up to a pursuit event. The one which should dominate your program though should be based around five sets of five-minute efforts at 80 to 85 percent of maximum with an effort/recovery ratio of 1:1. Maximum here refers to power output, though if you're using heart rate as a measure then it should be at about 90 to 95 percent of maximum in the last two minutes of the interval. If you want to be more precise then the best way to do intervals is to buy a good ergometer and run a cadence meter on it. Just in case you're interested, Brad McGee pumps out about 550 Watts of power in his pursuits on a gearing usually between 102 to 106 inches.

On the issue of getting an ideal position, I would recommend having an experienced coach look at you, take some video footage of your current riding position and compare this to some high level pursuiters. It is important to remember everybody is different though. There are very few people in the world who could successfully emulate the low riding position of Chris Boardman without sacrificing power. There is a balancing act between having a great riding position and one which still helps you put maximum force through the pedals. Sometimes it is better to go for the latter. Good luck!

Cycling News

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