With the advent of virtual cycling setups, it’s no wonder that cycling Esports is becoming one of the world’s most popular new sports. Sam Hill, part of Team AERO, represented Australia at the 2022 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships.
The Tamworth, New South Wales rider takes us through a typical training week on the bike and some of his key stats.
Total stats for the week:
Kilometres covered: 575km
Number of hours on the bike: 18 hours
Number of hours in the gym (or other training): 30m of light stretching
Maximum power output: 1250w
Monday: Rest day
For me, I don’t start the week as I mean to go on! As far as I’m concerned, Monday is the International Day of Rest! I have one day completely off the bike, and it is always on a Monday. This includes long weekends and holidays. Sometimes I will go to the gym if I am in a strength phase of training. This will often be early in the season. However, if the gym is not in my program, I will spend as little energy as possible on Mondays.
Tuesday: High intensity intervals
Tuesday means intensity. As a non-professional athlete, I work Monday to Friday. This means getting in large amounts of volume throughout the week is difficult, sometimes impossible. Intensity is a great way to create a heavy training stimulus, without having to set an alarm for 4:30am or spend all evening strapped to the Kickr.
Quite often, I will race on Zwift on Tuesdays. High-intensity intervals are tough at the best of times, but a lot of the time, they are even harder following a day completely off the bike. Zwift racing is an excellent way to get intense training in because it is fun and doesn’t require motivation. I will often race with my Zwift team, Team AERO in the Zwift Racing League. I usually aim for 1h30m of riding and 75TSS points. This includes a warm-up and a cool down.
Wednesday – Focused endurance
With intensity on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I spend almost all my training on Wednesdays in Zone 2. However, this doesn’t mean it is an easy day of training. I always try and minimise time spent in Zone 1, as I believe this is reserved for full-time athletes with time to burn. With an FTP of 400 watts, my Zone 2 ranges from 240-315w, which is quite a large range. This means I can often do this ride of feel and successfully spend > 80% in Z2, even with hills in the ride. I ride for 2.5 hours on Wednesdays before work and usually get 120TSS. It’s important to have an accurate power meter like an InfoCrank to make sure you are actually in Zone 2 and not bludging.
On Thursday I will bite the bullet and often prescribe myself intervals. 20 minute sweetspot intervals are my go-to. At 90% of FTP, I will aim to do one or two intervals before The Chop. The Chop (a Zwift handicap race) makes for an excellent over/under session. I hit Zone 2/3 in the bunch and Zone 5/6 on the front. I usually walk away from Thursdays with two hours of riding and 120TSS points.
Friday – Recovery ride
On a Friday, it’s usually one hour of low Zone 2 or high Zone 1, also known as a recovery ride. I will still try and get 40TSS points riding at a constant power output. I find this is still easy enough to feel like a recovery ride on Saturday, however, it adds a quality hour of aerobic work to my week of training. I always train in the mornings on Fridays so I can be social on Friday evenings, because life is all about balance.
Saturday – Bunch ride
Finally, the weekend! If I am in a building phase, I will maximise my weekend to get lots of volume in relative to the weekdays. I love to start Saturday’s training with a bunch ride. This is a quality hour packed with lots of Zone 2 and 3 with a big anaerobic push towards the end. We race to the line and get to practice our sprint finish. We finish with a coffee and social riding afterwards. Saturday is usually four hours and 175TSS.
Sunday – Volume.
On Sundays, I go long. This is my big day, which is why Monday is always a rest day. Lately I have been doing a 220km loop with hills on a Sunday. 3000m of vertical ascent. This takes seven hours, and gives me 300TSS points. I often will burn more than 6000 calories on this day, so I maximise my energy intake from the beginning of the ride. I aim to consume 600-700g of carbohydrate on a Sunday. I listen to music for the last two hours of the ride to help me push through.
Tell us more….
What’s your favourite thing about training?
Feeling strong. I love to feel solid on the bike, and there’s only one way to do that: Train hard. I also love to eat as much as I please and not shy away from doughnuts or beer, so long endurance rides in my fat-burning zone are important to stay relatively lean. I usually hover around 11% body fat.
What has been your most challenging training session?
Nationals’ simulation. Essentially 16 x 6-7m @ Zone 4. This session feels like it never ends, but visualising riding with pros up Mt Buninyong helps you to push through.
What’s the best piece of training advice you’ve ever been given?
Fuel correctly for training. This was from my teammate Jesse Coyle. His tips on YouTube made me aware of how much energy you can burn during a training session and how much better you perform in key sessions when you maximise your carbohydrate intake.
What would you say is the biggest training mistake you’ve made?
Not tracking fatigue. As a young cyclist I would often overtrain and get run down and sick. Everyone handles training loads differently. It is important to identify how much training you as an individual can handle and not surpass it. This helps you to train consistently, which is the most important thing. Just because you can ride for 25 hours a week, does not necessarily mean you should ride for 25 hours a week. This is where a coach comes in.
What do you use your power meter for and what difference does it make to your training?
I use my InfoCrank for every single session. It is the most accurate power meter on the market. Having that piece of mind in training is priceless. I use it to measure performance in FTP tests and analyse my strengths and weaknesses using the PI Index on Today’s Plan. I also use it to dual record rides when I race on the Kickr. Every time I get an accurate dual recording with my InfoCrank and Wahoo Kickr Gen 5, it builds my confidence in the equipment, and it also builds my credibility to other Zwift racers. All the suffering and pain of training is worth it when you trust your equipment and you can measure your progress and performance.