Race pace blocks

Race-pace-blocks-1Aim of Session

Once you've raised your race pace efforts (through "target intervals") we can use these repeated blocks to improve the sustainability at the new power level

Session description

WARM UP: Good progressive warm-up from zones 1 to 3 over 15 minutes, included in session duration

MAIN SET: At a 10 mile race power plus 5W, ie mid zone 5. 5 min blocks, equal recovery of easy pedalling. Training progression will be through more blocks, and also reduced recovery

COOL DOWN: Ease off with 15 minutes in zone 1/2, with high cadence, included in session duration


Whilst using target intervals helps the body recruit a new muscle fibre pool at new contraction forces, working for 5 minutes at this intensity improves the body's tolerance to the new desired race level. The body is able to reach a 'steady state' in oxygen uptake, ventilation rates, heart rate within 3 to 5 minutes. You can see this in the picture above - HR is just starting to plateau off at the end of each block. At this moment though, it is more of a pseudo steady state, as HR would probably keep rising until HR max if exercise continued beyond 5 minutes: this is the reason for cutting the blocks to 5 minutes - we take the body to the point of tolerance, ease off and come back - each time, we are encouraging the correct muscle fibres to contract and fire up the appropriate metabolic pathways. There is a high level of dependence not only on the peripheral (muscles) but the central (heart and lungs) physiology of the body - energy turnover is high, so the body has to be able to deliver and process a lot of oxygen to keep the exercise going. As mentioned above, right now you are probably not able to work at these powers in a steady state manner - the body cannot deliver and use oxygen at a rate that the body requires, so anaerobic by-products accumulate (e.g. lactate acid, hydrogen ions, ammonia).

Application for the Rider

Alongside the 'target intervals' session, this provides a 1-2 knockout punch to improving high intensity race ability. As the body gets fitter, it will a) produce less of the anaerobic metabolites and b) clear them more effectively - both enabling you to recover faster (reduced recovery time) and tolerate longer bouts so that eventually, you will be able to sustain a whole 20 minutes at your new race level....easy :-) There is a lot of new research stressing the importance of race pace work in training, as it appears the best way to become efficient is to ride at the powers you want to become efficient at - presumably because of the muscle fibre recruitment specificity. These blocks are ideal for that development as you are increasing the time at race pace without overdoing the total training stress.

Practicalities and tips!

  • Make sure you do this session in your race position, as a fundamental for this session is specificity of muscle fibre recruitment
  • Likewise, ensure you use race type cadences
  • Ensure you have stepped through all the progressions of the 'target interval' sessions before attempting the 'race pace blocks' - if you omit that step, you will always be playing catch up.

Evaluation of the session

  • Did you hit the same powers achieved in your recent target intervals?
  • How did the HR response compare to your recent race heart rates?
  • Were you able to maintain the powers across all prescribed blocks? What about cadence?


More in this category: « Target intervals