Episode #35 – Motorpacing: Your Neuromuscular Secret Sauce

Episode #35 – Motorpacing: Your Neuromuscular Secret Sauce

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How are you training your neuromuscular response to your chosen event? Motorpacing is hard, dangerous and probably illegal where you live, but it might be just what you need to kickstart your speed.[buzzsprout episode=’81624′ player=’true’]

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It’s hard, fun and dangerous. The best type of training mix.

It’s favoured by the PROs. There are videos all over youtube of PROs behind bikes and cars. Farrar, Theo Boss, Taylor Phinney. Even Anquetil favoured intensity in his training of 2 – 2.5 hours of motorpacing behind a car or bike.

Today I’m going to look into why motorpacing is the secret sauce of race prep.

Using the motorcycle, you can work on leg speed, do tempo work, work on explosiveness, train with a group in cross winds, practice sprinting from high speeds.

The two main scenarios where motorpacing is useful for your training situation are:

1. Solo: Isolated by location, training goals, types of competitions, time of the year.

2. Bunch rides: where you can’t control the other riders. meaning they aren’t as good as you, or they don’t/won’t want to ride fast when you do.

But why?

Physical

It’s really all about specficiaty. Training for the spefic requirements of your event. In this case it means pedalling correctly for your given event.

It’s not just cardiovascular endurance that need to be trained to win bike races though. Speed and speed endurance, and your FTP and also relient on your neuromuscular function. There is a neuro-muscular component to the adaptation of pedalling at 50 km/h versus 40 km/h.

Neuromuscular function simply means how fast you can contract a muscle, how strongly you can contract it, and how long you can keep it contracted before relaxing it again.

To get a better idea I will refer to Hunter Allen and Andy Coggan use of quadrant analysis, which basically talks about four different types of power

I – high pedal speed & high force (e.g. sprinting at high speed) eg Crit
II – low pedal speed & high force (e.g. hard efforts, such at track starts)
III – low pedal speed & low force (e.g. just noodling along at low rpm).
IV – high pedal speed & low force (e.g. spinning fast but easy downhill)

To create power you either apply a huge force at a low speed (rpm) or lower force at a high speed (higher rpm). most of our “power” training is high force/lower speed (i.e lower cadence with higher force on the pedals) SE efforts, but then you go to a race and its all about spinning a gear and applying less pressure/force on the pedals.

Motorpacing moves you from quadrant II to quadrant I. Its like doing sprints down a slight downhill, your legs get going really fast and the force if pretty light even though you are generating more watts then you would if you rolled along and then jumped in a huge gear and mashed it. in this case doing the downhill sprint is much closer to the finish of a race than the “mash a huge gear from a track-stand” sprint.

So motorpacing is much more specific training because the way you generate power while motorpacing is the same as in a race. Which helps the adaption of your neuromuscular system.

On a side note this is an interesting way to tweak your training:

Have a think about exactly what type of neuromuscular response you need for your type of racing and where you can place this in your your training, other than practice races.

Skills

  • Areo
  • Dropping the wheel
  • Getting back on a wheel
  • Awareness and reflexes
  • Riding an echelon or paceline under heaving load

Mental

It also improves the psychological element of not being completely in control of pace, similar to a race. This is something that I always need to work on. Fighting through and adapting to the situation while maintaining a constant output is definitely one of the biggest metal benifits I see from this work.

Equipment

Scooter – the size of a scooter works best in mimicking the position of another cyclist. Plus the acceleration isn’t that great. Otherwise you will get dropped and the spikes of trying to get back on will eventually kill your training ride, unless that’s the plan of course.

Put a paint roller or bastardized roller from a set of rollers works best. Since a rider is aiming to hold the back wheel, the roller allows a tiny amount of contact, it will spin rather than slowing your front wheel. I have bounced off a roller at speed. It didn’t take me down but it was enough to convince me never to do it again.

Communication

Hand signals or whistle for sprints

Other Challenges

Finding a stretch of road.

Training

As the northern hemisphere comes off winter, now might be a good time to revisit your training program and look at where you can drop in motorpacing sessions into your structured training plan and you can progress over a period of weeks/months can see some great benefits come race day.

Some people see motorpacing as a final tweak before your peak, say a month out from your A race. Where they believe it’s not the place to build fitness.

While others like to incorporate it more into their training programs over a longer period of time and build the effort, just like standard intervals.

My take is to use motorpacing before any big races where you don’t have the leg speed coming out of a base or build block. In my mind I see it as training to race if that makes sense.

I have 4 workouts here that I’m going to go through to give you an idea of where you can slot it into your training.

Workouts

1. 1 to 2.5 hours behind the motorcycle with no sprints, just a constant high speed ride. Like mentioned earlier. Even this will have some variability to it that you won’t get on your own. This simulates time trials because of the consistent nature of riding. Just have a good pilot that can control the pace when you start to fade.

2. 1 hour fast behind the motorcycle with the last 25 per cent of the ride increasing in speed to the point the rider is just about ready to crack, and then hold it there. This can either be done in isolation or at the back end of a long endurance ride to further simulate a race. So riding high tempo for a couple of hours then jumping on the back of a motorbike to bring you home will really give your body the feel of racing.

3. 1.5 to 2.5 hours behind the motorcycle, either single or in groups with an easy warm up followed by sprints past the motorcycle to designated spots on the road such as mailboxes, street signs, etc. with the motorcycle staying at a constant speed and the rider having to jump back in behind the motto when it comes by. A good for technical skills, but also a hell of a workout. I dont know about you but with no time for recovery, this one is a gut buster. but will get you ready for attacks and counter attacks.

4. Same as above but with a group of 4 or less rolling over. Slightly less difficult than number 3, but still a hard workout to get you ready for team time trials or break aways.

 

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Photo Credit: ewwhite on Flickr

 

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