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The Pre-Race Spin

by Jamie Riggs, Integra IPS

You’ve done hundreds (maybe thousands) kilometres of training rides, picked out a new pair of socks, and scrubbed your chain with a Q-tip. On the day before the race, all that’s left to do is sit back and put your feet up, right? Not so fast. If you have a big race, ride, or weekend of training coming up, don’t make it harder on yourself by ignoring the crucial pre-race spin. A short ride, with some well-planned intensity, will bring you to the start line feeling fresh and rested, but also primed for a great result. If it’s a big event, you’ll have been tapering your training for at least a week. Gradually reducing your riding volume while maintaining the short, intense intervals allows your body to adapt to all the training done previously, and will bring you to the performance promise land via a somewhat magical physiological phenomena known as ‘supercompensation.’ The final day before the race is, ironically enough, where many cyclists unknowingly undo all of that magic. While some head out for a last hard, long ride in an attempt to get some final fitness, others take the day off and find their legs feeling decidedly dead on the start line. Give the ride below a try, and see how much better you feel!


Overall Ride Time: 1-2 hours

Details: The majority of the ride should be easy enough to hold a conversation with your riding partner (or yourself). Use easy gears, and spin your legs at 85+ rpm, thus avoiding any undue muscular fatigue. After an easy warm up, throw in the following efforts:

  • 2 x 5 minutes building from a 6 to a 9/10 exertion level. The final 1 minute of each effort should be at a hard time trial pace
  • Recover at least 5 minutes between efforts
  • 2 x 20 second sprints in the small ring, very high rpm
  • End with 1 x 200m max sprint, going for the finish line


Once you return home, be sure to eat a high carbohydrate meal within 30 minutes of finishing. A ride like this stimulates more physiological magic that makes your muscles extra receptive to storing carbohydrate, so take advantage of it and fill up the tank! You might also want to take a cool shower or cold bath, especially if you have done the ride later in the day or evening. High body temperatures following exercise have been shown to hinder sleep quality, which is the last thing you want the night before your big event. Finally, put your legs up, keep yourself hydrated, and look forward to your best performance the next day!

About the Author

Jamie Riggs

720598Jamie has a BSc in Kinesiology from McMaster University. His fascination with the human body, its limits and how to improve its function began long before this formal education. As a cyclist he was forever tweaking his training plans in order to squeeze any possible gain out of every pedal stroke. Guided by many great coaches, he eventually succeeded in representing Canada as part of the national team in Europe, at races such as the 2011 Olympic Test Event, and the Tour de l’Avenir. He retired from racing in 2012 after scoring a silver medal at the National Championships to focus on what he really liked to do – developing, refining and implementing training programs for athletes of all level.