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The 3% Rule

April 26, 2016

The 3% Rule

“Chicago Women’s Elite Cycling Team Warming up for the Time Trail at Joe Martin Stage Race.”

by  Jennifer Sharp, ALP Cycles Coaching


You spend money on equipment, coaching, nutritional advice, etc. yet are you getting the most out of your racing? If you knew that you could improve your cycling by 3% and increase the likelihood of winning a race – you’d do it right?

At this point, you’ve probably pined a number or two to a jersey and raced. And by now, you should have a good idea about what you need to take with you in your race bag. You’ve likely figured out that a gel 15 minutes after you complete an effort. And hopefully it’s been at least a little while since someone clued you in on not wearing under-roos beneath your cycling shorts.

While there are a million general rules of thumb you could apply to becoming a better racer, there are two things that can help you with that top 3% of improvement: you warmup and cool down.

Why focus on a warmup? A proper warmup promotes blood flow to your legs by increasing your muscle and body temperature. By warming up, you dilate your blood vessels, improve your range of emotion and can mentally prepare for the effort at hand. Your warmup should be specific to the type of race you’re about to do – whether that be a road race, crit, time trial, short track, endurance mountain bike race, etc.

What kind of warmup? For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to focus on crits. At ALP Cycles we prescribe the following warmup protocol:

Total crit warmup time: 38 minutes
10 minutes in zone 1/2, easy spinning
3 x 1 minute high cadence (110+ rams) with 1 minute of easy riding between
2 minutes zone 3
1 minute easy
4 minutes zone 3
1 minute easy
2 minutes at functional threshold power
2 minutes easy
:30 seconds HART
5 minutes easy

After you complete your race, you should immediately start thinking about your cool down as a way to aid recovery. Post-race go for an easy recovery spin or hook up to the trainer. Your perceived exertion should be a 3 or less out of 10, with a cadence between 80-100. Easy cool down rides help you recover from the race more quickly and allows you to train again in a shorter amount of time. If you can grab a recover drink (3:1 – 5:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio) and sip it while you cool down, even better. Cool downs should last anywhere between 15-20 minutes.

Contact ALP Cycles Coaching if you want to learn more about the 3% rule or other warmup protocols designed for your specific race and what you can do to maximize your results on the bike.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


jen sharp - alp cycles coachingJennifer Sharp, a USA Cycling Level 1 Coach, started racing in 2004 as a means to fulfill her competitive itch. Previously a national level boxer, she grew tired of getting hit in the head and decided to pound the pedals instead. She bought a pink Kona road bike completing several recreational rides and found herself passing as many people as possible. Since then she has multiple podiums at elite track national championships, master track national championship titles and world cup finishes under her belt.

Jennifer, a Seattle native, joins the ALP Cycles Coaching with a background in road and track. Her experience as a USA ParaCycling team tandem pilot, part-time work at USA Cycling in the Coaching Education Department and love for all things cycling is a welcomed addition to the ALP Cycles Coaching team.

About ALP Cycles Coaching

ALP Cycles Coaching is located in the mountains of Colorado, and is a cycling coaching company with over 25 years of professional sports experience. ALP Cycles Coaching is unique in that we have 4 coaches, Alison Powers, Jennifer Triplett, and Patricia Schwager who each brings her own coaching strengths and personal experiences. We work together to create a training plan that works for each and every person. Visit them online at

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