How many times have you finished a race and not had that last extra effort needed to win or get a top finish? You go though the race and feel great. You are aggressive and active. Then when you need that extra kick or final effort, you just stall as your legs turn to cream cheese? Perhaps you watch in amazement as other racers go by you like you are standing still, wondering where they got that energy.
Nothing is worse than having a great race and then not being able to finish it off with a placing that you want/deserve. After it's all over, you may justify your lack of performance with "it's mental." Or, I "should have gone harder at the end." Let's look at a few possible explanations as to why this common occurrence may happen and what you can do to remedy the problem:
More: Race Strategies for Breaking Away
Raise the Floor
One of the most common occurrences in our sport is that a rider will have success at a lower category (e.g. Elite 3 or 4), then when they upgrade, it's like they are starting all over again in terms of fitness and they struggle for results.
Perhaps you have an excellent finishing kick or sprint that has enabled you to acquire all your upgrade points. You upgrade and find you can't sprint yourself out of a paper bag at the end of races. Most of the time, the first thing a rider says to solve the problem is they need to work on is their sprint. Although that may be true (we can always work on everything), what they need to work on is the exact opposite!
They need to work on their ability to get to the finish line fresher, which requires a lot of aerobic work. I call it "raising the floor." As an example we had a rider who pretty much won everything at the Elite 3 level. When he upgraded to Elite 2's, he had nothing at the end of races, commenting on how fast the races were. What did we do? We worked on increasing his watts per kilo at threshold and never touched his sprint. The result was after a few months he was winning Elite 2 sprints rather easily. He had "raised the floor!"
More: Aerobic Gains: Sprint vs. Endurance Training
Adjust the Training
In general, we can classify ourselves as one of three types of riders: Aerobic and sustainable (the Toyota Prius), power and acceleration (the muscle car) or some combination of both. If your strengths are more aerobic and sustainable, focus on two different types of workouts to help you through the harder parts of races:
- High intensity efforts at the beginning of the workout, when you are fresh.
- The exact opposite where you work those efforts at the end of the workout, when you are tired.
It's important to do both! In turn, if you are the muscle car, do more of what we discussed in the "raise the floor" section, working on longer sustainable efforts.
More: Improve Your Sprint Finish With a Strength Workout