The session I absolutely hate….
We all have them and they hang there on trainingpeaks, usually around the middle of the week.
They’re a few days after last Sunday’s battle – and a few days away from next Sunday.
Legs are as fresh as they can be and the mind is willing too. Cycling has taught me a lot about sport and science and attitude and application but the most valuable lesson I have learnt is that to be better you simply must train harder. There is no secret but hard work for a moderately-talented man.
Greg Henderson always says that to improve you must do more of the things you are bad at.
Where to start, I ask myself….
I sometimes don’t know where to start ‘working on my game’ but a very good place is to work on exactly the things I am bad at; sprinting and that 4-5-minute effort it takes to bridge to a break that’s heading into the sunset.
So, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that one of the best ways to do this is the good ol’ 5×5′.
This session is SICK and though short, it is incredibly painful. Done correctly, a ramp is hard to crest on the ride home. A bunny-hop is almost impossible.
How do I do it? Here’s how…
I ride out from Girona to the roundabout in Cassa de Selva. This takes half an hour but involves a warm-up I stole from a friend, Matt Holmes.
It’s a six-minute effort with the last minute at threshold after which I’ll do 3×6-second sprints in a very high cadence, think north of 120.
This is the warm-up complete.
Now starts the real fun.
To do this session correctly I know I have to hurt the entire time. I have to really train my mind to welcome and warm to that dull pain in my legs.
This pain will only present itself when I hit zone four. Yesterday I had no power meter on the bike so I went on heart rate and this means getting up to and maintaining 175 beats a minute.
Motivation is a mighty thing because nobody can touch it. It’s easier to be motivated in races because people are watching and the clock is ticking. In training, on a beautiful summers evening with the sun setting it’s actually harder than you think. I think of beautiful women at the beach, of cold drinks outside the Irish bar with football on the TV, of an idea for an article I can’t wait to write. Suddenly, my heart rate is 165 and I realise I have wasted time. FUCK! Tune in….McCrystal is getting away….
Ah yes, I need motivation but I need imagery now too, for this 5×5 minutes is the winning and losing of races. And McCrystal wins lots of them.
The opening 30 seconds of the 5-minute effort is a flat-out sprint and I imagine myself going after the aforementioned Bryan McCrystal, jumping clear of the bunch with a hard kick. The next four minutes are settling into the world of pain and suffering, of focusing every single ounce of energy on staying on McCrystal’s wheel. My whole body is trained on pushing power into the pedals and maintaining a good speed, while not going overboard. There is time for that in four minutes.
The imagery is working. I’m trading blow for blow with the big man, he needs rest too, sits behind me and this makes me drive harder. Up to three and a half minutes and I’m rocking and rolling now. The only sound is me and him. The bunch is behind us in the distance but in reality, there is no bunch today and McCrystal is nowhere. It’s me and the fields of Catalunya.
Into the home stretch and I can hear the feint din of people cheering us coming into the final. There’s a whopping €100 on the line and the guarantee of an exclusive interview with stickybottle.
I have 30 seconds of a sprint left so I flick down a sprocket and get into that tuck sprinters’ position.
10 seconds out of the saddle, 10 in, last 10 out. Throw the bike for the imaginary line and I think I’ve got it. If a madman landed next to me from Mars he’d think he was cured.
I think I got it.
Just four more to go.