Why spend months preparing for an event when all you really need is a few weeks? The reason unfortunately is that it takes more than three weeks to create significant fitness improvements, but what if you don't have months? Can any positive change be made in a shorter period of time and if so, what is the shortest possible time frame?
The Three-Week Peak is the 7-Minute Abs of the Cycling World
In 2010 I did something that I had never done in more than 20 years of racing. I planned an entire season of training around a single-day peak for the Philadelphia International Championship. In seasons past, team requirements have had me racing almost constantly from February through September, and sometimes even as late as November. I was able to plan my peak for certain crucial blocks of the season, but never had I had the luxury of focusing all my efforts on one single day.
Between fatherhood, coaching commitments and directing responsibilities with the Adageo Energy Pro Cycling Team, it was not practical or even possible for me to race every weekend. I did an early peak for the San Dimas and Redlands stage races in May before taking time off to ramp up for Philly at the beginning of June.
Although I had never done anything quite so specific before, it ended up working out perfectly. I hit my stride a few days before the race and came to the line on race day 100 percent prepared, not just with my best fitness of the year, but with very specific fitness to match the exact race that was ahead of me.
But then came the middle of June. I had to decide what to do next. Retirement was one strong possibility, but after the good ride I had in Philly, I was tempted to eke out one more big race. Looming high on the horizon was the 9,500-foot Snowbird Ski Resort, the mountain top finish of the final stage of the Tour of Utah, a mid-August event billed as the toughest race in America. How can I say no to that?
So with 10 weeks between the two races I had to determine the best strategy for taking the peak fitness I had in early June for a one-day classic and carrying it into the fitness I would need for a six-day stage race almost two months away.
And this is where the three-week peak comes in. I sat down at the computer and worked out a plan that would address all the important performance factors necessary for a race like Utah, which included strength, endurance, speed, power and mental acuity. Knowing the heavy work load that lay ahead of me, and realizing the general mental and physical toll that a long and stressful season had taken on my mind and body, I packed it all into the shortest possible time frame.