What's Cool In Road Cycling

The Art of Tapering

Have you ever heard of the expression “All the hay is in the barn?” To many cyclists and farmers alike it has great meaning – the hard work (training) is over and now it is time to reap the benefits of a job well done.

With summer winding down and the racing season nearly over, it’s time for all good little cyclists to cut back on their training and begin tapering into peak form. It’s not complicated if you consider decreasing your training volume while maintaining your intensity. That’s code for adding more recovery days into your training and doing two sets of intervals instead of three.

At this point in the year any further fitness gains are unlikely to be realized in the time that’s left with the season, i.e. the barn is full. The temptation to train more should be met with firm resistance. Instead, consider training smarter (Hasn’t someone else already said that?). Keep the quality up, but cut back on the volume to give you body a chance to maintain what you’ve gained.

Closing the barn door
By now you’ve done countless intervals in all lengths and amounts. You’re in the best shape of your life and you’re ready to do whatever it takes to get that big result at the end of the season. But remember the hay – you put it in the barn and it was difficult. Let’s rest for a bit. Don’t stop training, but gradually decrease you training load by 10-20% each week leading up to your final rendezvous with the podium. Along with the decrease in load, increase your number of rest days. The length of your taper will depend on the length and amount of your build – size of barn and time it took to fill up. Most cyclists can afford 2-4 weeks of tapering without compromising their fitness.

Instead of going out and hammering your usual 15 minute climb, consider doing 2 sets of 5×1 minute hill repeats. Taper further down the next week by just doing one set. Instead of spending 3 hours in Zone 2, try 90 minutes the first week and just 1 hour the next. The idea is to stimulate the body just enough to remain fit and fast but to allow enough time for your body to adapt, overcompensate and turn you into the supa’ fast cyclist that you were born to be!

Frank Overton
Frank is a USA cycling certified coach and category 1 road racer. He can be reached at his website
and may be found tapering his training around Boulder, Colorado.

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