Switching from Base to Race

Switching from Base to Race refers to the transition in training from the base phase to the interval phase. 

Now that we’ve hit the home stretch of winter and the first season’s races are on the horizon, intervals looms large for all well prepared cyclists.  I’m not talking about sweet spot or tempo intervals; I’m talking full gas as hard as you can go race specific intervals.  In this training tip I will explain when and how to switch from building your ‘base’ in training and moving on to intervals.

I like to call it “switching from base to race”.


I like to have athletes switch from base to race 6 weeks prior to their first A race in the first half of the season.  Proper planning and goal setting determines when that six weeks occurs.  Ideally this time frame is known by the off season and then that time frame determines how long the athlete has to build their base or CTL*.

Say for example a rider has chosen a set of Memorial Day Races as their training target.  Thus I am going to have them switch from base to race the week of April 16th. Until then I will keep driving their CTL* up and up.


Working backwards from Memorial Day and now April 16th, now I know as a coach that I have until April 16th to put the finishing touches on the rider’s base and drive their CTL* up as much as they have time to train for.

*CTL: Chronic Training Load, a rolling 42 day average and power-based metric derived from the athlete’s daily Training Stress Scores (riding intensity and duration).  CTL is quantified graphed visually very nicely in the Performance Manager Chart in TrainingPeaks & WKO (also see image below).

In order to drive the athlete’s CTL as much as possible it is nice to set aside 18-24 weeks of ‘base’.  In the final 6 weeks of this build I use the approach we have designed in our sweet spot part 3 plan.  Here I prescribed a fairly aggressive build by using variable power advanced aerobic intervals to generate larger TSS’s than previously accomplished with the athlete:

  1. Criss Cross Intervals
  2. Over Unders
  3. Sweet Spot and Aggressive Race Like Group Rides

The criss cross and over unders begin to ‘tickle’ short race specific power outputs the athlete will face in their racing but aren’t so difficult that they can’t keep building.  I also call these six weeks ‘Group Ride Season’ where the athlete is encouraged to join the local Saturday Group Ride and throw down (aka ride hard). 

Not only do these group rides provide opportunities for the athlete to practice their pack riding skills but they are really good for generating large TSS's.  Large TSS's push the rider's CTL higher and higher which is the goal of this final 6 week base phase.

Example Performance Manager Chart:

The Performance Manager Chart (PMC)  is wonderful during this crucial 12 week stretch of training.  In the Performance Manger Chart below the athlete's training load is projected out to Memorial Day and then the day-to-day power data fills in the chart (solid line versus dashed line).  We will use the PMC in real time way to monitor the athlete’s training to make sure they are on track 4-6-8-10-12 weeks out from the A race.

For the athlete that is switching from base to race for a Memorial Day, here is a real world example of the Performance Manager Chart in play showing actual and projected data from March 8, 2018.  The athlete is on a good build until March 24th where their CTL peaks out at 97.  Then the training plan makes the switch from 'base to race'.  A rest week removes fatigue from the athlete and CTL begins to decline (intentionally) leveling out one week later. 

Then a race specific interval plan begins. During the 6 week interval phase, CTL is not the goal; raw full gas interval power output is. Day to day, the type of interval training after the switch depends on the type of athlete's goal race. Criterium training is different from time trial training. However the shape of the athlete's performance manager chart remains the same. Finally on race day the training load is adjusted so the athlete has a positive Training Stress Balance (TSB) of 21 which is where they'll rip the cranks off.

In Conclusion:

Use the Performance Manager Chart to plan and project training from the athlete's A race date or time frame. Work backwards in two parts: allow 6 week of race specific intervals to prepare the athlete for the power demands they will face in that type of racing.  Beyond 6 weeks use the Performance Chart to build as big of a 'base' as possible for the athlete.  The bigger their 'base' as represented by their CTL, the bigger the aerobic foundation they'll have to generate more power during their interval training phase.

Which Training Plans?

The two training plans mentioned in this training tip are:

For race specific intervals, choose road, mtb, time trialing, criterium, stage racing, etc... for twelve awesome weeks of training!

Frank Overton is the founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO.

To talk with Frank or the FasCat Coaches about coaching fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation or browse over 70 training plans using the same coaching methodology!

Copyright ©2023 FasCat Coaching - all rights reserved.

Join our *FREE* Athlete Forum to nerd out with FasCat coaches and athletes about your FTP, race data, power based training, or anything related to going fast on the bike. For access to all of our training plans, subscribe to our Optimize Training Platform.

About Frank Overton

Frank founded FasCat Coaching in 2002 and has been a full time cycling coach since 2004. His educational background includes a Masters degree in Physiology from North Carolina State University, pre-med from Hampden-Sydney College. Frank raced at a professional level on the road and mountain bike and currently competes as a "masters" level gravel and cyclocrosser. Professionally Frank comes from medical school spinal cord research and molecular biotechnology. However, to this day it is a dream come true for Frank to be able to help cyclists as a coach.

Hire Coach Frank!