We are almost there, it will soon be debut-time in Oman and Davide Martinelli (Quick Step Floors) is busy polishing up his fitness levels. During the last days the training plan lined up a few tough rides, up to 170 km (100 mile approx.) on a couple of occasions.
“It’s true – Davide says – the last long training sessions take place a week before the target event. They are usually long distances with a workload that is not too high. Then, as the debut event approaches, you cut down in terms of hours in the saddle but you keep the quality high. After this phase, you carry on with two / two-and-a-half-hour rides, and a couple of off-days in between. As a matter of fact, the 5 days that precede the race constitute a phase of reduced workload and recovery. The big chunk of work has been done and all you have to do now is refine your preparation with some motor pacing, with an intensity that is not high but helps gain speed and movement economy at 100-110 rpm ”.
We should remind the readers that to get to this phase, Davide has already racked up 3 training camps, where he put in his legs a considerable amount of work as training blocks:
All the activities are part of a training plan that has been drawn up with the help of the team’s coach, an essential member of the team for all racers, with whom it is important to have an ongoing, open dialogue, especially if you want to work together to understand what activities are best for every type of athlete. Being able to agree on the training plan is extremely important because in a racer there are delicate balances that need to be respected.
“For instance, a physique like mine – Davide continues – should not be asked to tackle a lot of climbing: if I work too heavily on endurance, I can end up compromising my explosive strength . It is still possible to work on it, especially when, like in 2017 Giro – very hard – it is important to be sharp until the end of the stage and the final sprint [he worked for the sprinter Fernando Gaviria, ‘maglia ciclamino’ – mauve jersey for points leader – at 2017 Giro).
Taking a step back, probably one of the most important phases of the preparation takes place 15 days before the race. During that period, quality training is combined with all-out sessions, i.e. at maximum intensity.
What does this mean?
“It means that we make 5-10 minute-long efforts at the threshold and 40-20 interval training. It means 40 seconds of efforts ridden at high intensity followed by 20 seconds of rest. The whole thing is repeated 10 times, to add up to a 10-minute-long set. You make a series of 3 of these 10-minute-long sets, with a 15 minute recovery break between sets. To carry out this kind of session you need a climb with an average gradient in between 6 and 8%”.
What does this work do exactly?
“With this type of interval training you develop a speed and an average wattage that is comparable to what happens racing flat-out on a climb. The advantage here lies in the fact that with this type of training you apply an extra stimulus to the muscles but you still have time to recover. It may feel like a not-too-hard training session but actually, when you analyse the data of the workout, you realize that the workload has been important, with efforts above the threshold at 550 watts and recovery breaks, that all together give an average power of 450 watts. I knew that the 40-20 interval training was going to be essential for the first race, in Oman, and I think I have taken the most out of them”.
NOT ONLY IN THE SADDLE: “As you already know – David continues – I like combining my training on the bicycle with some strength workout in the gym, without, however, loading too much weight. This helps learning and keeping a specific motor task. Muscles have their own memory and are able to retain it. For this reason, when I will be back from Oman, I will be able to resume the gym training without any problem because my body will have kept memory of it : a series of exercises that I will carry on doing until Spring”.
“Core stability makes for the other important line of work; it involves abs, lats and the rest of the back muscles. I think i will keep working on this aspect of my training two to three times a week. When the number of races start to increase, it will be time to focus all available energy on racing, and core stability training is brought down. The benefits, from my point of view, are many. If you manage to pedal for 5 hours during a race without back pain, you definitely are one massive step ahead. Getting off the bike and still being in good condition is also a decided plus. For instance, during the last week of 2017 Giro d’Italia I pedalled for 30 hours with no back pain at all. It means you are lucky. After a stage like the Stelvio’s one, 7 hours and 20 minute long, there is a risk that you get off the bike and you are not able to stand… … It is a kind of ‘investment’ you have to make to avoid problems ”.