Why I’m not Racing this Winter

This year I’m planning to take a complete break from racing for at least 5 months. My last race of the season was in early September and I don’t plan to race again until early March.

It’s certainly not a new concept for cyclists to take time away from competition during the winter, with most pros and many amateurs taking time off from racing every year. I’ve not previously followed this traditional protocol; the last 2 years I’d continued to race sporadically through the winter months with no structured break before the traditional start of the season in March. This year however I’ve raced far more than usual (about 30 races since March) and have decided that not racing over winter will benefit me for following reasons.

picture of my 2018 race season

Space to build fitness

Despite our best efforts to overcomplicate it – increasing one’s fitness is remarkably simple. Stress the body with enough workouts of varying intensity and durations to cause a build up of fatigue. Accompany this with adequate periods of rest and you will become a stronger athlete. Repeating this cycle to build fitness can be relatively straightforward when there are no upcoming races. The difficulty with trying to increase fitness while racing every week is that you need to maintain a level of freshness before each race. There isn’t much point going into a race with a huge build-up of fatigue in the legs (not if you are planning to get a result anyway). Reducing fatigue without losing too much fitness before races is called the ’taper’. When racing consistently every week I’ve found it challenging to build overall fitness, while managing my fatigue. 

I’ll use the break from racing this winter to build my fitness as much as I can in time for the start of next season. Not having any races to ’taper’ my fitness for between now and then will allow me to complete big blocks of training, where I can accumulate fatigue without concern for my current race form.

Picture of my last race of 2018

The last race of my season, back in September

Mental break

As I mentioned at the start of this piece, I raced far more this season than I have previously. Between March and September I averaged just over 1 race per week, with several double-race weekends and even triple-race weeks. Every time I sign up to race I want to place as highly as I can and over time this self-imposed pressure can be mentally draining. Also the close nature and likelihood of crashing in bike racing forces your attention to be on high alert every time you go out to race, thus compounding the build up of mental fatigue. By taking the winter off I can recharge the mental batteries and attack next season with a refreshed mindset.

Focusing on fitness goals rather than race results

During the race season my goals never stretch much further than the next race. My racing goals tend to be very results orientated. ‘Place in the top 5’; ‘finish in the points’; ‘win this one’. Etc. Goals like this are fine, but there are always so many variables in racing that achieving them is not something I ever have full control over. 

With no races scheduled this winter I’ve been able to set myself some specific fitness goals that I am fully responsible for achieving. Much of my winter training will be focused around achieving my fitness goals. Barring any injuries or unexpected time off the bike, there is no reason why I can’t achieve them and go into next season as a much stronger athlete.

picture of winter training

Early morning winter training

Have a great week,

Sam