A professional cyclist since 2005, Marcato is in his sixteenth season as a pro. Although he hasn’t won many races in his career, his most important success was at Paris-Tours 2012. His victory came at an average of 48.629km/h over the 235.5km distance, a result that also earned him the “conquest” of the yellow ribbon, a recognition of the rider with the victory at the highest average pace in a race over 200 kilometers. Expert of races in the North, we asked him some questions about how to prepare for a race.
As you’re a rider for the spring Classics, when do you start your preparation for the key races?
“As you mentioned, I am a classics racer (one day races), so the competition period starts in March. I divide my preparation between “base period” and “race training”. The base is from November and December (the year before) and it is mostly endurance training, I do many many kilometers at low intensity – it is the hours spent in the saddle that count. The closer the races are, the more specific the training becomes. I start looking for higher intensity workouts and much more structure and specificity to my training”.
Can you give us some examples?
“Of course, let’s take Paris-Roubaix. The pavé sections are the ones that determine the race, with the maximum effort ranging in duration from two to five minutes depending on the various lengths of the pavé sectors. This means that in January and February, I start to train with intervals of two, three, four minutes, even 30 seconds at a VERY high intensity”.
How many hours per week do you train during the more intense / structured period?
“Around 20-23 hours. Once the races get closer, I reduce the load to about 15 hours per week to arrive at the races fresh. During this “tapering” period, I also focus on my form on the bike to be sure my pedal stroke is smooth, fluid and solid”.
How does the “unloading” period change between one-day and stage races?
“For one-day races it is a bit more difficult because there is less margin for error – you have to be at 100% on just one day. Try to rest but not too much – on Friday before the race, work needs to be done to remind the body of the intensity to come the next day. This refreshes the strength and top end for these intense races. For stage races, you can afford to be more rested at the start, knowing that three weeks of racing await. If you don’t feel at your best in the first days of a stage race, you have many kilometers and hours in the saddle to come into form”.
Do you follow a specific diet in the days before a race?
“Compared to the previous training periods, there is less rigidity. Until Thursday, if the race is on Sunday, I eat in a normal, balanced way. Then, on Friday and Saturday I eat just carbohydrates for lunch and dinner, the classic carbo-loading to fill the muscles with “fuel” for the intense racing to come”.
What do you eat on race day?
“Pre-race meals must happen at least three hours before the start. I usually eat pasta, porridge/oatmeal, some protein (like an omelette) and then bread with jam”.
How do you fuel during the races?
“While racing I try to take in 70g-80g of carbohydrates per hour. In the first part of the race a more solid type of food – rice cakes and sandwiches with jam and/or ham or cheese and also energy bars. With around two hours to go, only liquid carbohydrates – maltodextrins and endurance gels”.
Finally, your post-race plan is crucial. How do you manage your recovery?
“True, recovery begins as soon as you cross the finish line. The first half-hour after the race is very important. I have a liquid mix of carbohydrates and protein and then I eat in the usual way. For example, a wrap with chicken is one of my favourites!”.