Sky and British national team rider Ben Swift writes exclusively for Cycling Weekly


Mixing track and road is a fine art, one that I didn’t perform that well this year. If you get it right then they can complement each other very nicely. Track gives you cadence and the ability to produce power at cadence, which will give you a nice efficient pedalling stroke on the road. Whereas the road gives you strength and endurance, which will enable you to pedal a bigger gear for longer on the track.

My first target of the year was the Track World Championships, and to be in top shape for the team pursuit I needed to find that perfect mix of road and track. Here I will try to explain how I went about it.

As a professional road rider most of my training is done on the road, I started my winter training quite early, as I wanted to hit the Tour Down Under [January] already in good condition so I could make the most out of the race. I started with two weeks of fun riding to get my body used to sitting on the bike again. I then started phase one of my training, which was a six-week block of strength and endurance.

I made myself a plan: Monday would be a rest day from the bike and a gym session; Tuesday would be my day on the track doing up to three sessions, am, pm and track league; Wednesday would be a long endurance day with a gym session after; Thursday would be an easy day, just a couple of hours; Friday would be a medium-length road ride with a turbo session and a gym session after; Saturday would be another medium-length road ride; and Sunday would be a long endurance day.

I tried to stick to this programme the best I could but as the winter drew in more, so did the snow and as I don’t have snow chains on the bike, I had to resort to an old friend of mine: the turbo. After a week on the turbo, phase one was complete and everything was on track, I then headed for warmer climes and joined Team Sky in Majorca. This is where I started to up the tempo and get myself ready for  TDU. I was in Majorca for 10 days working in three-day blocks, all mainly long days with some motorbike work to get that race speed in the legs.

It was then home for a few days, taking it easy over the Christmas period. Shortly after Christmas I was perched in a seat for 24 hours on my way to Australia, where I would fine-tune my form in the Bay Crits and get that last bit of speed in my legs before TDU.

I wanted to hit the ground running in TDU so that I could actually race properly and come out of the race well, TDU would act as the last hard block before turning my attention back to the track. After a very successful week in TDU it was straight back to the boards in Manchester.

Ben Swift wins stage, Tour Down Under 2011, stage six

Ben Swift won two stages of the Tour Down Under and placed third overall

This is where my plan came unstuck, I found out that just because you have great form on the road does not mean you have great form on the track. I went through the normal re-orientation week of pedalling squares whilst wobbling around on your saddle. But things didn’t get much better I was really struggling to transform my road fitness into smooth, fast pedalling track fitness. With the Manchester World Cup approaching fast, my pedalling was getting better but not quick enough.

I had a tough time in the World Cup but came out of it a lot better. Sometimes you need to push your body to the limits to get to that next level. And at that time, the Manchester World Cup was my limit.

After struggling on the track it was back on the road with the Tour of Sardinia, this was to be our last endurance block before the Track worlds. It took a few stages to get used to the different style of racing from the track, back onto the road.

After Sardinia we had a week to recover and I used the rollers quite a lot. I wanted to make sure that when I returned to the track the following week, I was ready. This helped a lot, with all the track work done before Manchester and a few sessions on the rollers, I felt more like myself on the track. But still not at my best.

I was in a much better place than I was prior to the World Cup, but I was still not up to my best. The difference was that I was still feeling a lot better on the road than the track.

I just didn’t get it right this time around. I have learned a lot, though, and will use this experience to make sure I am 100 per cent the next time I hit the boards. Now it is time to focus back on the road for 2011, I have some good targets and can’t wait to get started with them.

It is disappointing to miss out on selection for what was my first big target of the year [Track World Championships] but I could feel myself that I wasn’t at my best. I have learned a lot and will use this experience. They have selected a very strong team and even though I won’t be there in Holland I will be watching and supporting them on the TV.

Now for me I get back into the thick of the action. First up I have Criterium International then a day’s rest and I start the Three Days of De Panne. I am looking forward to getting back on the Team Sky bus and making my return to the European peloton.

Ben Swift

http://twitter.com/swiftybswift

  • Dave Smart

    from Dave2020

    No Ben, mixing track and road isn’t the fine art, pedalling biomechanics is. The Italians have an expression for it – ‘bella in sella’, but that does not mean they have any better understanding of the science! ‘I’ve done some special training for the track and now I’m bad on the roads.’ – Giorgia Bronzini. How bizarre is that?

    You should never, ever be ‘pedalling squares whilst wobbling around on your saddle’. I could see that on TV. The problem goes all the way back to your formative years on the track. I’m guessing that the subject matter was rarely mentioned, and if it was the advice given, including basic stuff like position, was obviously wrong. The most efficient high-cadence technique should have been embedded in your neural pathways at least five years ago. Once it’s there you never lose it.

    Rower Andy Hodge got it spot on – ‘When you’re a length down in the Olympic final, your technique needs to be completely second nature.’ Can you point to any racing cyclist who can maintain perfect form while they extract the last ounce of energy from their bodies?

    This is the most interesting blog entry I’ve seen. It speaks volumes on the state of cycling coaching/sports science that you find yourself with this problem in the first place. It is also very revealing that no comments were posted on it in two months.