Priming the Pump: The Week Before Your Race

Cyclists in Race

On race day, you want to show up with fresh, punchy legs. The week before, you need to scale back on training so you arrive well rested, but you don't want to stop riding completely and show up stale.

Here, three experts—a rider, a team director, and a coach—explain what to do the week before a big event to put your body in prime condition for a Sunday race. While workloads vary based on a rider's ability and racing level, the basic premise is the same: balance enough intensity to keep your legs active with enough rest to allow your body complete recovery.

We asked Fuji-Servetto's sprinter Ivan Dominguez what he does the week before a race, Columbia-Highroad team director Allan Peiper what he has his ProTour athletes do, and coach Frank Overton what he recommends for amateur racers.

"Presuming you've trained hard up until the week before the race, rest will help you perform better and some mid-week intensity will keep your legs revved up and ready to throw down on race day," Overton said.

Peiper said training must be individualized based on how a rider is feeling, but the following template works well for top-level pros. The same formula, with reduced time in the saddle, can be successfully employed by an amateur.

"Monday, easy. Tuesday, a long ride so you're getting base miles in and you're doing the distance of the race," he said. "Wednesday morning, a recovery ride. Thursday, an endurance ride at the pace you'll do in the ?rst two hours of the race. That afternoon, ?ve or six climbs for three minutes each up at your top level, as you'll do in the race when the crunch comes down and you need to be with the leaders.

"Friday, ride behind the durney to get some speed in your legs. Riding at a high cadence simulates the race, but it's also getting rid of lactic acid in your legs that you accumulated the day before, letting you sweat, getting your heart rate up without using too much energy. Saturday, basically complete rest. For a pro, one hour is a rest day. Just two or three efforts. Then a massage in the afternoon, and you should be punchy and ready to go the next day for your race."

Like many domestic pros, Dominguez spends a lot of Mondays and Fridays ?ying to and from races, so his training needs to be crammed into the middle of the week. "I only have two longs days—Wednesday and Thursday," Dominguez said. "Tuesday will be easy trying to bring the legs back. It's like that the whole season."

Each of these schedules presumes the rider has done a race or a hard group ride the preceding Sunday.

"I like to have racers do a tune-up race or hard group ride that weekend before, have them race really aggressively for maximum training bene?t," Overton said. "Or, have them enter an easy race to boost their con?dence. I de?nitely avoid ass-kicker races the week before a targeted race because those are demoralizing."

Regardless of what you do in the week before, do something. The worst thing you can do, Dominguez said, is take the entire week off.

"A week off? Oh man, I would feel so bad," he said. "I don't know what's going on with cycling. With any other sport—baseball, football, soccer—you can take a week off, and nothing happens. You go and play like a champ.

"In cycling, you can train for the whole year, but if you take a week off, oh, you feel so bad. The legs won't respond. You feel like someone has been touching your bike and messing with your position. If you stop for any reason, it's a terrible feeling. I hate that feeling."

6 Days and Counting — The Ideal Week Before a Race


Ivan Dominguez

According to: Himself

The ProTour Racer 

According to: Columbia-Highroad team director Allan Peiper 

The Amateur Racer

According to: coach Frank Overton 


Completely off

1.5 hours easy

Completely off


1-2 hours easy 

6 hours

Completely off or 1 hour very easy 


5 hours "maybe go to a group ride to get some speed"

1.5 hours easy

1.5-hour ride with ?ve, hard, one-minute efforts


5 hours "If there is a climb in the race I have to do some climbing. A lot of the time I just go for the distance."

2 hours endurance in morning, intervals in the afternoon, with 5-6 climbs of 3 minutes each

1.5-2 hours easy 


2-3 hours

1.5 hours of speedwork "52x15 at 45kph behind the durney"

Completely off


1.5 hours, very easy with 1-2 sprints, massage 

1 hour easy, with 2-3 200m accelerations

1 hour easy, riding the course if possible, with four 45-second hard efforts


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