Maybe you’ve never thought of it this way, but you need an Anchor. If you’re a bike racer or aspire to be then you need that one ride each week that the rest of your riding and training revolve around. It just holds everything down. Anchor rides need to be the longest of the week in order to build, maintain, and sustain muscle endurance. But as the season begins and moves along, Anchor rides tend to get dropped as weekend hours are spent at the races.
I heard Fred Rodriguez give an interview a while back – he was asked what advice he had for up and coming bike racers. His immediate response was that you won’t get far without putting in at least one long ride a week – in the 3-5 hour range – consistently throughout the season. Two hour rides and interval training are great and necessary for speed but they don’t build the foundation that you need to race well and continue to progress. He mentioned that it doesn’t really matter how fast your turn of speed is, how many intervals you burn, or how many Group Rides you do, if you’ve got nothing left at the end of a 90 minute criterium or 60 mile road race then your season will slowly fizzle out (obviously, he was talking about amateur distances!).
For us extremely amateur cyclists, it’s usually not much of an issue early in the season when weekends are freed up. The hours can tick by on a Saturday in February. But when the racing season hits and Saturday/Sunday are spend at the races, it’s the Anchor ride that’s usually lost in the mix. When the Anchor ride is lost, that’s when racers start to see a decline in results as the season wears on.
I’ve heard the same advice from many of the veteran riders in my area that Fred Rodriguez gave. You can’t sustain a full season of good results without making the sacrifice (mid-week if you’re racing on the weekends) of hanging onto your Anchor ride. That might mean an early wake up call on Tuesday/Wednesday to get in a 3-4 hour ride before work. I tend to trust those who have been at it much longer than me so I’ve been working in the 5am alarm bell on Wednesdays.
Here are 4 reasons why you need an Anchor Ride:
- Physiological Foundation – Joel Friel and others talk about how fitness is like a pyramid – the peak of your fitness can never go higher than the foundation is wide. Sounds obvious, right? So why is it that many amateur bike racers continue the same in-season training routine of focusing on hard, 90-120 minute rides with a few anaerobic minutes and rarely continue to invest in the long, slow miles that set the foundation for a high peak? Especially as the season wears on, racers gain “racing” fitness for 60-90 minute crits but can tend to neglect the depth of fitness that the Anchor provides. Over the course of the season, these racers hit and stay at a certain level without progressing.
- Avoiding “Hour Power” – Many recreational racers can ride strong for about an hour without an Anchor. After that, the lack of a weekly Anchor ride starts to show itself. Because most Group Rides are in the 1-2 hour range, this weakness never really shows up during the week in a Group Ride. But watch the end of any local crit in June and you can tell who’s still getting in an Anchor ride.
- Allows You to Trust Your Training -Two scenarios come to mind: 1. It’s late in the race and you find yourself in a small break trying to hold off the pack, or 2. You’re sitting 6th wheel on the last lap, perfect position to launch your sprint when the race hits that last corner. In each of these scenarios, you want to know that your fitness is DEEP. In the first scenario, you don’t want to be soft-pedaling in a break to save yourself for a sprint that might never happen because you get caught by the bunch – you want to drill it even harder as the finish line approaches. In the second scenario, you don’t want to wait ’til it’s too late to start your sprint because you’ve been at your limit just holding a wheel in the lead-out – you want to make your jump as early as you can (but not too early) and definitely not too late. When you have DEEP fitness from an Anchor ride then you’re in a position to trust that your legs will respond when it counts.
- It Really Does Pay Off – Through a full season of racing, you will notice a difference if you haven’t been getting in your Anchor ride. Especially when the summer rolls around. No one wants to be at the end of a hard race in July just suffering to hold wheels or looking for a overly-risky tactical advantage. We all want to be riding strong, anticipating that perfect moment to unleash the kick to the line. The Anchor ride gives you that luxury to power on the throttle when everyone around you is wilting. Confidence in your training can’t be underestimated.
If you have an anchor ride, what is it and are there additional benefits not listed here that you see?