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In case you missed it, we’re on a mission here at inGamba HQ. The lovable Jim Merithew suffered some health woes this spring and now needs to be whipped back into shape. At the same time, I’m queued up to share some of my experience as a World Tour professional to help Jim and you all become better, fitter, more focused cyclists. You can catch up on our earlier instalments here and here, or dive right in with one of the most important training tools out there.

It’s time to talk about Tempo! We’re starting with the basics, so this is something everyone can do. If you really want, later on we can take our training indoors and do all physiological testing that a number crunching PhD sports scientist drools over, but this is the kind of training required to get the discipline back into your weekly regime.

We’ll try for three-day blocks with the hope that you can link together three consecutive days and then rest one day. Three on, one off, three on, one off. There will be plenty of times when life gets in the way and that’s not possible, but let’s pretend it is right now.

The point here is to build momentum. That means both within the single day and then within the three-day block we are getting progressively more intense. So, work up a little sweat and with 15-20 minutes warmup before doing any kind of work and then let’s go to work.

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How to train for tempo
Begin with that solid warmup. You want to get the blood flowing and a decent sweat; at the same time, don’t overgear yourself and bog your muscles down right away. Just spin at a good rate (95-105rpm), and get ready to ride.
Now, it’s 2 x 10’ (FYI, ‘ = minutes, “ = seconds). On flat, rolling, or slightly uphill terrain you’re doing two 10 minute efforts at tempo. On the very ambiguous perceived rate of exertion (PRE) 1-10 scale, that’s about a 6 or 7. Harder than endurance, but not quite threshold (max one hour) power.
Think of it as the hardest pace that you could keep for two to three hours. Keep your cadence in that 95-105rpm range, your breathing should become more and more labored, but still controlled. You’re not hyperventilating, so focus on big deep breaths. Rest at least eight minutes, do it again. If you’re feeling saucy, do a third effort.
We’re building a foundation. I don’t know how much time you have to ride, but even if you can do an hour like this, you’ll see the rewards. Preferably, you’d aim for two hours of total ride time with the rest in a general endurance pace (PRE = 3-4). If you can do three hour rides, super.
Tempo riding is fundamental to improving as a cyclist. It’s just above pure aerobic effort, but still below your lactate threshold. It’s not easy and you couldn’t do it all day, but you won’t burn through all your matches either. In pro terms, Tempo is the typical pace of the efficiently moving peloton and working on this will greatly improve all aspects of your riding, especially all day endurance, allowing you to arrive at the finishing sprint with some kick left in those legs.

Check back soon for more tips from Ted on how to train for Threshold and VO2 max.

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Colin O'Brien

Colin is an author and journalist from Ireland. He first met inGamba's founder João Correia back in 2013. João handed him a bidon full of Chianti Classico and took him to a three-course lunch. They've been friends ever since.