'Forget about average speed – keep the easy rides easy': Lizzie Holden's golden rules of training

The on-form Manx rider shares the training and motivational wisdom that helped her claw back her racing mojo

Lizzie Holden racing at Flanders
(Image credit: Getty)

For each article in this long-running WATT WORKS FOR ME series from Cycling Weekly's print edition, we ask a pro rider about their favourite things in training: what has helped them most in getting to where they are today.  The aim is to get to the heart of the beliefs and preferences they hold dear when it comes to building form, maximising fitness and ultimately achieving results. For this edition, we speak to Le Col-Wahoo's Lizzie Holden...

How did you first get started in cycling? 

My dad [former pro rider Rob Holden] was a cyclist, so it’s always been in the family, though I never really enjoyed it when I was really young. I did swimming for seven years, but that ended up being quite boring! Aged 13 I went on a track trip with [legendary Isle of Man cycling mentor] Dot Tilbury, and it was just like a big group of friends going away cycling, and from then I knew I wanted to keep riding. 

Why does the Isle of Man with its tiny 85,000 population produce so many great cyclists? 

That’s the million-dollar question! Probably the main reason is Dot Tilbury – she still runs the Tuesday night racing with 200-300 kids every week. Also, there’s not much else to do, and the roads are so hard that you have to really enjoy riding your bike to keep at it! 

What did you learn from racing in Spain with Bizkaia-Durango over the past two seasons? 

When I went there, I felt very out of my comfort zone, and sometimes that’s what you need to push you to the next level. I enjoyed most of my time there, and it pushed me to learn the language. It could be lonely at times, and with the strict Covid lockdown imposed in Spain, I ended up not seeing my parents for two years.

Rider profile: Lizzie Holden

Age: 24

Height: 5ft 8in

FTP: 275W

Lives: Girona, Spain

Rides for: Le Col-Wahoo

Best results: 21st – Women’s Tour of Flanders (2022); 18th – Amstel Gold Race Women’s Edition (2022)

Twitter: @lizzie_holden

Instagram: lizzieholden

Lizzie Holden portrait picture

(Image credit: Alamy)

Your recent seventh place on GC at the Thüringen Ladies Tour suggests you’re in excellent form? 

Yeah. Last year I lost the love for it a bit but the people around me, especially my boyfriend [Australian pro rider Nick Schultz], pushed me to carry on. Part of me knew I didn’t really want to stop, not on a low note. I don’t feel like I changed anything over winter – I’m just enjoying riding my bike again. My head is in a different place; I actually want to race now.

Does it help with motivation being in a relationship with a fellow pro? 

I’d say we definitely both motivate each other. When you see someone else going out and training hard, it makes you feel like you can do it too. And when you’ve endured a hard week of training, you both understand the need not to do very much at all! Obviously there are hard times once the season starts and it gets to July and you realise that you’ve hardly seen each other because of all your commitments, but we’re happy for each other to be chasing our dreams. 

And what about the role of your coach Andrew Roche? 

The coach is the one person who knows everything about you – you rely on them to guide your training and recovery – and yeah, Rochey is really good, especially with female-specific advice, for example, how the menstrual cycle affects training. That’s really motivating for me personally.

Have you ever made a training mistake that you now advise others to avoid? 

A few years ago, I used to be really obsessed with average speeds in training: always wanting to average 30kph no matter where I was riding. I would ruin myself and not be able to do my efforts properly. Keep the easy rides easy! 

Name an improvement you've made to your training lately. 

Over the past winter I did more off-the-bike strength training. It’s easy to forget how important it is. Simple things like doing a core routine once or twice a week all year round makes a real difference

Quick-fire faves

Motivational turbo music? Old-school R&B

Pre-race meal? Bowl of porridge with banana, honey and yoghurt

Place to ride? Isle of Man

Type of course? Punchy, Ardennes-type

Best day ever on the bike? Flanders this year, even though it was also one of the hardest days on a bike. I’ll never not be excited riding next to Marianne Vos

Worst ever day on the bike? Stage three of the 2016 Tour Feminin International l’Ardéche up Mont Ventoux

Cafe stop treat? Chocolate croissant

Inspirational cyclist? Lizzie Deignan

Race you’d most like to win? Tour of Flanders

Post-race treat or guilty pleasure? Haribo

This article was originally published in the 16 June 2022 print edition of Cycling Weekly magazine. Subscribe online and get the magazine delivered to your door every week.

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