CYCLING PERFORMANCE TIPS
It's tough to train in the off season, but hopefully you were able to maintain a winter training program as a good foundation or base for these early spring rides. A balanced program would have contained resistance (weight) training, cardiovascular training with an indoor stationary trainer or rollers, and an alternative or cross training sport such as indoor swimming or x-country skiing. Mountain biking, if conditions permited, was another option. But it's not unusual to burn out after a hard season of riding, so it's even possible you may have taken a few extra weeks off. If so, put in some easy miles as you build a mileage base before starting those intervals and pushing up the weekly miles. It is the base that decreases the chance of injury as you add intervals.
If you still have a month or two before the weather gets good, you can supplement your road time with an indoor trainer and weights. The stationary bike, especially in a spinning class setting, is really good for speed work. Two or three times a week, after warming up, do eight or ten 20 second sprints with easy spinning for 5 minutes between. Twice a week use your free weights, with more reps (12 to 15,) and lighter weight than you would use for building up muscle bulk. But road work is the key to a good riding season so, if possible, get out there and spend some time on the road building up that mileage base with endurance rides and occasional sprints to keep things interesting. From a rider:
Before beginning a rigorous training program, a good rule of thumb a base of ~500 miles of easy rides. If you had a good winter or off season training program, you can pare down this requirement. This is important to allow the muscles and ligaments to respond to the demands of increasing use. If this stage is "pushed" or minimized, the chances of injury during the early season increase. Remember to take the right gear to address the clothing challenges of these early season rides.
And if this is your first time for a regular exercise program, you might consider a physical exam and cardiac stress testing for asymptomatic coronary artery disease.
Once you feel comfortable that you've put in the long easy miles and have a good base, you can plan a training program that increases total weekly miles by 10 - 15% per week. The 10 to 15% figure has been used for years by marathons runners to minimizes musculoskeletal injuries with training. As bicycling is much easier on the joints and muscles, this figure could be increased with minimal risk of injury.
Once you begin the training program, it's important to try to ride at least 5 days a week, and take at least one day off. Depending on your level of training (or evidence of overtraining) the seventh day is either an additional intermediate mileage day or an additional rest day. A typical weekly training program might look like this:
The intermediate mileage days are midway between the short ride and the long ride in distance. At least one of these should be an interval training ride.
The ride which is your goal is the basis for planning your weekly long mileage days. Some coaches suggest you work up to a ride equal to the length (or even 125% of the length) of that event while others feel that reaching a distance equal to 75% of the event distance is adequate. This is usually a Saturday ride (with Sunday as a backup for bad weather or other unexpected circumstance that could derail your training program).
You can estimate the length of your training program by taking your long ride from your 500 mile base training period, increasing it by 10% to 15% a week, and repeating this until you arrive at a figure that is at least 75% of the length of the event for which you are training.
Most important, remember to be flexible and adjust your program to your lifestyle. A rigid program is destined to fail.
As far as pace of your training rides: