Want to know how the world’s best riders train? For each article in this long-winded article MY WEEK IN EDUCATION series from Printed edition of Cycling Weekly, we sit down with an elite rider who tells us in detail about the last week of training. This time it’s Swiss professional Marlen Reusser’s turn.
Marlen Reusser, who was late on the bike who didn’t compete in her first race until the age of 25, quickly made a name for herself as one of the strongest time trial lists in the women’s peloton. The 30-year-old Swiss driver retained the European TT title in August and won a silver medal at last year’s Olympics while also becoming a three-time national champion against the clock.
A qualified medical doctor, Reusser is a woman of many talents – she won the gravel stage at the Tour de France Femmes in July, has 14 UCI victories to her name and is a two-time victor in the Swiss road racing championships. Here he tells us about his pre-TdFF education.
What was the purpose of this week?
I caught Covid after the Women’s Tour [6-11 June] and it took me a while to feel good again, so I spent these two weeks in Livigno in the Italian Alps and did some low-intensity endurance riding for the first week. The second week I put in a lot of effort, but it felt like the most brutal and hardest training of my life. I was way off my normal wattage. my coach [Hendrik Werner, who is also Reusser’s partner] did a little lactate test with me using a mobile meter and it was interesting to see how my body adapted and got better over the two weeks. One of my strengths is that I adapt very quickly to training.
Do you have specific TT sessions?
If I want to do a very hard but fast TT, I’d put six minutes of effort in VO2max on my time trial bike. Anyone can do it for four minutes, but six minutes will make you even longer. It’s about holding the pressure on the pedals for a good amount of time.
Driver profile: Marlen Reusser
Height: 5ft 11in
Their lives: Bern, Switzerland
Rides: SD Study
Best results: 2x European TT champion (2021, 2022); Stage 1 – 4, Tour de France Femmes (2022); 2. – Olympic Games TT (2021)
Is there anything you took away from your education?
Yes, I no longer do strength and core training. I was really disciplined about it but always had trouble with my lower back pain and I noticed that during the core workouts I only activate my back a little bit. So I stopped doing core and strength exercises and it’s better now.
Does having a medical history help?
Of course, it gives me an advantage as I have good feelings for my body. I can also read ingredient lists and calculate how much of it is marketing and find the right nutrition. Those who do not understand science think more about everything, but I am very comfortable studying these subjects. Having the knowledge, I can explain things.
Week: Facts and figures
When: 11-17 July 2022
Where: Livigno, Italy
Education: Tour de France Femmes
Total ride: 24 hours
Z3+ effort: 2 hours 40 minutes
Monday: VO2max intervals – 4 hours 15 minutes
I will remember this day for the rest of my life as it was my first hard TT session in a long time. I descended to an altitude of 34km and after a while I made an effort on my TT bike, where we also measured my blood lactate for the first time. It was five eight-minute VO2max threshold work, but it was a disaster. I felt fine for the first eight minutes, but from the second I couldn’t hold the wattage and kept getting worse each time. It wasn’t a pleasant experience but we repeated it a week later and it went much better, so it worked my body.
Tuesday: Easy endurance ride – 5 hours
Due to the difficult times I had the day before, I was not looking forward to this journey. I was very tired, but in the end it was much more fun, with the help of horseback riding. [SD Worx team-mate] Chantal van den Broek-Blaak and later Zdeněk Štybar [Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl]. It was the last day of a three-day block and it was a basic endurance ride, a really easy Zone 2 day covering 129km and 2,700m altitude.
Wednesday: Rest day – 0 hours
Today was a rest day, so my boyfriend and I went to a small mountain resort for a nice meal while he was jogging next to me while I rode my mountain bike. If I feel my legs need a lap on a rest day, I take a short stroll, but it rarely exceeds 90 minutes. It’s easy for me to do nothing on rest days.
Thursday: Extremely low ranges – 4 hours
At TrainingPeaks I called it the ‘Second Trial of Monster Ranges’. We tried a week ago but failed and had to stop the session, something that rarely happens. We went back to sea level and got my lactate under control. My pre-warm consisted of three six-second sprints and three 30-second high-cadence sprints. Proper warm-up was done in 20/40 intervals, followed by a six-minute rest. Then I did 13 times in 30/15 intervals, which was very difficult, followed by a 10-minute rest. Next up were the upper and lower thresholds: four times four minutes ‘top’, one minute ‘bottom’, finishing in two six-minute intervals at V02max. After failing a week ago, I was so touched that I finished this time.
Friday: TT intervals – 4 hours 30 minutes
More TT intervals on my road bike, including four eight-minute efforts. The first effort was sweet spot intensity, the next two were on the threshold, and the last was split into 30/90s, with 30 seconds of sprint speed and 90 seconds of brisk riding. I produced more watts with lower blood lactate on the third and fourth trials, indicating form precedes Tur.
Saturday: Long mountain ride – 6 hours 15 minutes
It was a long, Zone 2 endurance ride that involved climbing the Stelvio with money cyclist Matthias Schindler, who was not as trained for long distance riding as my coach and I. I’m not one to pick up the pace in training – in fact, I’m probably the slowest! I can get bored with endurance rides, but I know they’re very important to be able to do longer stages, and it gives us greater aerobic capacity. When I’m bored, I listen to audiobooks, solve my problems and keep my mind busy.
Sunday: Travel day – 0 hours
We had a four-hour drive to get back to Switzerland. Since I can’t move as often as I want, I don’t count travel days as rest days, but when we stop for gas, I try to change the position of the car and walk.
This article was first published in the print issue of the newspaper dated September 22, 2022. Weekly Cycling magazine. Subscribe online and get the magazine delivered to your door every week. (opens in new tab)