Training is important.
It seems all too obvious that training intelligently is an integral part of succeeding when you're trying to tackle a particular goal on the bike. Whether it's your first century, a hill climb TT, or a local road race, not being adequately prepared will invariably lead to disappointment. (It's never a good feeling to get dropped in a race... but that's a story for another time.)
But a lot of people make mistakes when training. This is true in many sports, but probably most obvious in sports that require cardiovascular endurance where many people think that training hard all the time is the right way to train. This might be true early on, when you're new to the sport. But it doesn't hold true once you've established a baseline of fitness. In fact, cycling or running hard constantly is probably detrimental in the long run and can lead to both overtraining, fatigue (both mental and physical), and even injury.
Last year, I trained using Chris Carmichael's book, The Time-Crunched Cyclist. It's actually a really great book for people who are just getting introduced to training on the bike. It does a good job of introducing one of the most important and efficient concepts in training: interval workouts. And it does a very good job in fitting in 6 workout hours a week, which is useful when that thing called life actually has other demands on you.
This year, I've decided to switch over and use Joe Friel's The Cyclists' Training Bible. This is the book that you hear tossed about the most by the "real" cyclists... you know, the ones who have legs that look like they were transplanted from a horse and who can drop you on a 12% climb on the big ring whilst taking a leisurely drink from their water bottle. I hate them. But they must be doing something right.
When you start reading this book, you realize that there's a lot of physiology behind "real" training. I'm a scientist by training and whenever I see graphs like this, I get very excited. It makes it seem more authentic and trustworthy. I mean, with all these lines and "data"... it must be correct, no?
One of the other things that the books asks the rider to do is to self-evaluate strengths and weaknesses. It does this through a variety of mechanisms, including both physical tests and questionnaires. Here was one about self-assessing specific aspects of riding. As you can see, I have literally zero confidence in my sprinting ability.
For that matter, I'm apparently have very little confidence in my time trialing ability as well. What does this help me realize?
I have no power. Now that's a great way to start off the week!