Cycling is fairly unique as far as endurance sports go in that it isn't a steady effort but thousands of tiny hard efforts that get you to the finish line. With the advent of power meters we are able to see that a graph of rides that seem to be steady look like the EKG ready of a speed junky. The following workouts improve your ability to put out steady power and increase the number of harder efforts you can do on a ride without fatiguing.
If you look at a power output graph from a race or fast group ride, it's all over the place. The main thing I've noticed is the number of hard efforts directly corresponds to fatigue and decreased performance. Setting out to find a way to increase the number of hard efforts a rider could do before noticeably fatiguing. This lead to a number of experimental workouts. These are the ones that I found to yield the best results.
For those who have read any of my training articles, you will be familiar with the basic premise of Velmax Intervals. After warm up go 30 seconds hard/30 seconds easy for the prescribed number of repeats. If you use a power meter you will do them at 135% of your functional threshold power. If you don't have one, go hard (8 out of 10 perceived exertion).
With Velmax Blocks or sets you will do multiple blocks of Velmax intervals with the aim of increasing the total each week. Start with 3 set of 10 repetitions. Add a rep per set each week. Once you are up to 12 reps go the 4 sets of ten reps and then build from there. I don't recommend going much more than 4 sets of 15 reps as that puts a huge load on the legs and can takes many days to recovery from.
The workout will look like this.
Warmup 15-20 minutes
3 Sets 10 X 30 seconds hard / 30 seconds easy
4 minutes recovery between sets
These are another workout that hits many systems so you get a lot of bang for your training buck. A ladder interval starts with a short interval and increases in duration. The intensity will start well above your functional threshold power (around 140 %) and slightly decrease with each longer interval.
We start with a hard 30 seconds for the first interval, then 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 4 minutes and finally 5 minutes. The recovery time after the interval matches the duration of the interval. I suggest starting with one set and each week adding around 2 minutes per week until you are up to 3 sets. So you would do a full set on week one. Week 2 you would do a full set plus the 30 second and one minute intervals of the second. Week 3 you would add the 2 minute interval.
As with any plan, make every third or fourth week a lighter load to allow recovery.
A workout would look like this:
Warm-up 15-20 minutes
30 seconds hard/30 seconds easy
1 minute hard / 1 minute easy
2 minutes hard / 2 minutes easy
3 minutes hard / 3 minutes easy
4 minutes hard / 4 minutes easy
5 minutes hard / 5 minutes easy
Rinse and repeat
Hill Climbing Repeats
These are as simple and as hard as they sound. Find reasonably long hill (one that takes 3-8 minutes to climb) and do repeats. Climb to the top of the hill, turn around, come down and do it again. You can mix these up climbing at different paces or alternate doing one time up seated and the next standing. Depending on your fitness level, start with 10-20 minutes of total climbing and work to increase the number of repetitions you do each week. Keep the increase to around 10% per week. Once you know how long it takes you to climb the hill, divide that by your target climbing time to figure how many repeats you are going to need. Over time this will build a lot of fitness and muscular endurance in your climbing muscles. As well it will remind you if you are over your cycling weight. The easiest way to improve your hill climbing is burn off the excess fat you may be carrying.