Sharpening the pencil in the lead up to a sportive allows us the best possible chance of clocking up an awesome time. But could tapering for a sportive limit our fitness potential? We ask the expert...
Head Physiologist and Coach at OTE Performance Centre and Founder of VitFor personalised online training, Craig Stevenson said: “Tapering can be more individual than most people think. It is something you need to practice to try and find the sweet spot for volume, intensity and load.”
What is tapering?
Tapering refers to the gradual reduction in training load (volume and intensity) in the weeks leading up to an event.
There is a fine art to reducing your training load in the weeks prior to a sportive in order to expel the fatigue you’ve built up in training without losing your fitness (the balance between freshness and fitness).
Should you taper for a sportive?
Tapering should be an essential element of your training plan. For some of you, a Struggle will be the hardest cycling event you’re yet to complete and May is decorated with a big red circle in your diary. If that’s you, a taper is essential to your success and you should scroll down to find out more about how to taper for a sportive.
Can tapering for a sportive lose fitness?
Milan-San Remo, Gent-Wevelgem, Ronde van Vlaanderen, Paris-Roubaix; there’s no time for the pros to taper for these back-to-back UCI races.
If you have a Peter Sagan-style jam-packed calendar of sportives you could soon find yourself losing form and fitness as the season continues if you rest and recover between events. A build up of fatigue, coupled with a lack of high-end intensive training could cause your fitness to plateau.
Craig Stevenson said: “Multievent tapering is a common issue we have with our elite athletes when they sometimes have two mid-week tour series crits and a road race at the weekend, for example.
“To maintain form through the season we opt for an extreme polarised approach; maintain volume, maintain intensity of the top-end work, but really slow down your long rides to keep the fatigue under control.”
Top tapering tip!
Ensure you manage an on-point nutrition strategy to recover after each event.
To beat residual fatigue that could build up during the months, ensure you give yourself a rest week (lighter training) every 4-6 weeks in order to allow the training adaptation to take effect.
When to taper for a sportive?
You should taper for a sportive if you’ve chosen it as a target event and are aiming for a personal best. You should also taper for a sportive if you are inexperienced in the distance and terrain and will find the sportive a ‘Struggle’!
Cyclists aiming to complete a series of sportives throughout the season can avoid tapering fully for every event in order to avoid a fitness plateau. “The use of partial tapers where you still decrease the load, but to a lesser extent of a full taper can be used very effectively,” says Craig.
How to taper for a sportive?
One method of tapering is to start two weeks before your target sportive depending on your level of fatigue. In week one look to reduce the volume/distance/intensity/time your train by 20-25%. For example, reduce your four-hour ride to three hours and limit your intervals to shorter efforts or less of them.
One week out, aim for your long ride to be a two or three hours of steady riding. Look to reduce the volume/distance/intensity/time your train by 30-50%. Your mid-week rides again should be half the duration/intensive work than usual.
“Aim to do one of these sessions two or three days before your event, followed with a day off or even a light 30min “prime” (Leg loosener) the day before. Then spend time resting, sign-on, eat, check your bike and prepare your kit,” says Craig.