Getting serious about racing at 60

A ‘trainining makeover’ written for Cycling Weekly magazine and published in December 2019

Darrell BradshawAfter getting interested in endurance sport in his 20s, Darrell Bradshaw picked up a knee problem that curtailed his cycling for several years. Later, he switched to running and dabbled in triathlon, until an assignment abroad, working as a project manager installing fibre-optic cable in Russia, obliged a 3.5-year hiatus. However, in 2009 he returned to cycling and, realising his knee was holding up well, began training for sportives and veteran road races.

Now 60, he wants to up the ante and get more competitive.


  • Age: 60
  • Height: 5ft 4in
  • Weight: 64kg
  • FTP: 236W | 3.7W/kg (as last tested)
  • Race licence cat: 4
  • Hometown: Weybridge, Surrey, UK
  • Best results: Qualified for UCI Gran Fondo Worlds (55-59 age group) 2018


  • Compete in three LVRC races and finish in top 15 per cent of age group
  • Qualify for UCI Gran Fondo World Champs in Whistler, Vancouver (finish in top 20 per cent at Tour of Cambridge)
  • Achieve a top-10 finish in an LVRC road race by end of 2020

Cycling Weekly: Darrell, how did you first get interested in endurance sport?

Darrell: At school I ran cross country, making the borough team, and continued to run to keep fit up to my early 50s. I always preferred cycling, and in my 20s harboured ideas of joining a club and doing long-distance endurance events, but struggled with knee pain and was eventually diagnosed with chondromalacia patellae.

Cycling Weekly: What led to the cycling comeback?

Darrell: In 2011 I met veteran racer Julian Cann, whom I knew had nearly pursued a professional career. He, being a typical nurturing cycling fellow, suggested various ideas to help my knees, training plans, etc. My mileage went up, and I began riding with Julian and his race team, Colourtech, in Kent — I’ve raced for them six times.

Cycling Weekly: What are your ambitions now?

Darrell: I have a local job now, doing maintenance work in a care home, and my two children are grown up, so I have time to train. I want to start getting top-20 finishes in LVRC races and qualify again for the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships — but I know I lack race craft and top-end fitness… I don’t have any stand-out talents!

Cycling Weekly: In which areas do you most need to improve?

Darrell: I’m of the view that, at 60, the key is recovery — you don’t need to be doing four- to five-hour rides, as it’s just too difficult to recover from them. Instead you need to focus on strength and power, and they’re elements I know I’m not particularly good at. I have decent endurance — I’m a fairly hard bugger to drop, but when a break has gone and I need to make a four- or five-minute hard effort to bridge the gap, I really hate that!


Producing a threshold power-to-weight ratio of 3.7w/kg at 60 on less-than-optimal training, and now with the wherewithal to start getting serious, Darrell’s ambitions seem modest and I would encourage him to aim for age-group wins.

However, FTP is just one part of the physiological, tactical and lifestyle jigsaw that he will need to assemble to become an elite racer. For example, he will, need to be able to sprint at the end of a hard race, requiring strength, power and speed on top of sustained muscular and aerobic endurance. Especially at this age also, he will need to prioritize that snappy, top-end ability to make the brutal selections.

At this time of the year, in a periodized programme, Darrell needs to be laying foundations by building physiological resilience; strength, power and endurance. This week’s programme focuses on these, filling some key gaps in his current regime, while also keeping his threshold and Vo2Max systems stimulated but without overly-fatiguing him.

He also needs to being planning a race calendar: I would encourage Darrell to initially compete at a level where he can learn to finish a race off, but also at a level slightly above his ability to experience extreme race-intensity.

Darrell is in a good place at 60: he can get faster and learn, and has an array of new and exciting possibilities to look forward to.


Key changes:

  • Increase overall volume, particurlarly at aerobic base level at this time of year
  • Add weekly over-geared and other strength efforts to develop strength and resiliance as a base for developing power and speed later in the programme
  • Begin to develop top-end fitness to cope with the high-intensity demands of road racing
Mon 30min commute @ Z2 (15min each way) Rest and maintenance (foam rolling, stretching etc), or Z1 commute. Z1 to allows recovery over short distances. Regular ‘maintenance’ is especially important for older riders.
Tue 30min commute @ Z2 (15min each way)

Gym: 45min upper body & core session

2 x 15min. commute @ Z2 and incorporate 4 x 1 min. @ mid-Z5 @ 100-110 rpm, with 5 min. recoveries at least.

Gym session, incorporating cycling-specific heavy force activity (should be gradually developed under supervision)

‘Easy’ Vo2Max intervals will keep his Vo2Max system stimulated (important year round for older riders) but will not over-fatigue him (more specific Vo2Max work will come after Christmas). High cadence will keep his fast-twitch fibres activated and promote la souplesse (suppleness/efficiency).

Specific strength work at this time of year is highly recommended for older riders with declining muscle mass

Wed 30min commute @ Z2 (15min each way)

1hr turbo session inc. 2x (10min @ Z4 @ 70-75rpm cadence) with 5min @ Z3 recovery between sets; 20min @ sweetspot

2 x 20 min. commutes with 2 x 4 min. in each @ mid-Z4 with 2 min. recoveries. 16 min. accumulated @ Z4, with short intervals and recovery, will keep his threshold system stimulated and maintained but minimize fatigue (Z4 development to be targeted later in the programme),
Thu 30min commute @ Z2 (15min each way) 15 + 60min commutes; during longer commute do 5 over-geared, full-force efforts from near standing-start; 10 strokes each leg; 2 standing and 3 seated. Keep good form to maximize engagement of the core. 5 min. recovery minimum but 8 preferable. These efforts supplement gym work in developing critical strength and power at this time of year, later to be progressed to speed. Long recoveries aid more force. Drive-train should be in top condition.
Fri 30min commute @ Z2 (15min each way)

1hr turbo session inc. 50min @ sweetspot

Rest and maintenance (foam rolling, stretching etc), or Z1 commute. Ideally rest ahead of the weekend but, if riding to work is preferred, keep to Z1 to help recovery for the weekend work.
Sat Rest day or gym session 2 hours at easy Z2 To develop aerobic endurance but minimize fatigue ahead of tomorrow’s session.
Sun 2-3hr ride inc. 90min @ sweetspot; Z5 effort on 2-3 hills; final 30min @ Z4.

OR (if weather poor) repeat Wednesday’s turbo session.

3 hours mainly @ Z2 but include; 4 x 15 min. @ Z3 with and the last 5 min. of each interval over-geared @ 60 rpm, while remaining in zone. Gran Fondos are long and hard at age 60+; along with aerobic endurance he needs to develop extended muscular endurance and general resilience at this time of the year.
TOTAL 4-5hr   8hrs. (inc. gym)

Share This: