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Reaching a Plateau Cycling

Hi all. End of my first season and after some advice from more experienced triathletes than me.

During my first season on my flatish 13 mile out and back TT training course, I've got my average speed up to a best of 21.5mph . My heart rate reaches 176 ish at the end of the session and the average over the last 20 minutes or so of the 36 minute workout is around 167 which I believe is my lactate threshold? This is all on my TT bike. Here is a recent workout I did. Unknown to me, the bike fitter who did my TT bike setup didn't tighten the saddle up enough so it was ridden with the front about an inch lower than it should be (was wondering why it was so uncomfy) : -


The highest I have got my HR on the bike to date is 182, that was on the last of 3x 3 minute vo2max intervals. It was a real struggle to get it above 180 to be honest as my legs didn't have any more push in them. During these intervals, I didn't really feel any lactate acid effect on my legs till the last minute of the last interval.

I am sitting at a natural cadence of around 100rpm when I train. Problem is, I am plateauing now. I don't seem to be able to get my speed higher. Certainly my heart rate can't go much faster than my 13 mile TT effort. I'm not sure how to get myself faster.

Oh, I am 33 now for what it's worth.

My question is, what is the best way to break through my plateau and keep improving my speed. No aero wheels on the bike yet but I am still a good way off the top bike guys in our local triathlons.


  • gavinpgavinp Posts: 168

    Like everything else it takes time to create your base to build strong seasoned legs. So having asked that, do you do any longer rides than your 13mile TT? if not then it's time to start building a good base and (I'm assuming your doing sprint races) start building up to solid rides of up to 2 hours over the winter at a moderate pace. Keep it to a pace of around 15mph to start and build up to about 18/19mph over time. Basically mix it up as you go longer over time with the slower pace to start and build from there.

    There's no two ways about it, you get fast by going fast. So at some point (around Jan/Feb/Mar time depending on your race season as you don't need to build speed until closer to the time) you'll need to develop the aerobic fitness to sustain that speed, and you won't do that riding steadily at a slower pace and longer distance. Change up to shorter and more intense sessions for at least one of your bike rides during the week (you also need to maintain your long ride to ensure you don't get injuries and maintain your fitness - phew!)

    So how do you go fast to get fast? By doing short sets known as speed intervals. Boost your speed above your comfort level for short bursts initially; hold it for 30 seconds, then back off. And repeat. Build from this as you go along extending the time (equal for both the intensity and recovery parts), give yourself a goal of 3-5 intervals to start within a session and then add more on top as you go each week. This is all people do with interval training, whether it's a tightly structured set of VO2 max intervals or half an hour of totally unstructured fartlek (e.g. "hammer it to the third lampost!"), or descending intervals (3min on,3min off; 2min on, 2min of; 1min on, 1min off etc). Lots of ways to cut it really.

    Hope this helps a little.

    Have fun!
  • Hi.  Sorry for the delay in replying.  I am able to ride for 4 hours on my own and average 18mph.  I should have said that each week now I am doing 2 rides of 60-70 miles.  One is a ride where I aim to keep an average of 150bpm for the 4 hours, although it's up and down of course depending on terrain and wind and really to stop me getting bored.


    The other is a more gentle group ride.  I normally go out on my triathlon bike for this and we potter along at 17mph in the group.  My heart rate sits around 120bpm for the 4 hours.

    As work permits I have been doing short 13 mile TTs in the summer/autumn but I have let these go now we are getting towards the tail end of the year as work is too busy during the week.

    What you are saying sounds like a brill idea, I will start building in speedwork in January.  Given that I can already ride for a good long while do you think the base building will still help??

  • I can recommend following the training plan(s) in Chris Carmichael's book " The Time Crunched Cyclist". I used this to get my IM cycle time under 5 hours (yeah, 4H 59min!). Be warned that you can't use this training plan and continue regular tri training so set aside 8-12 weeks to get your bike up to speed - the fitness will stay with you for the season. The sessions are brutal! 

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