Quick Profile: Strong Start or Fast Finish

Ride Overview

This ride consists of six 4-minute intervals. Pacing is the key to repeatedly working at an anaerobic effort during these long(ish) intervals. Riders will attempt either fast finish or a strong start on two types of simulated terrain. After the first four intervals, there is an opportunity for riders to choose how to pace themselves on the final two, guided by the inspirational coaching of the instructor. 

The playlist is varied, mostly rock-oriented. Intensity is given as power zones (seven-zone methodology), but intensity cues for the associated RPE of these zones can easily be usetd for those who don’t have power. (Note: Make sure to download the ICA Power Zone and RPE chart where you downloaded this profile.)

Jennifer’s Review of this Ride

On June 22, as the rain poured down and my outdoor ride was thwarted, I decided to take Bill Pierce’s most recent profile for a whirl on my bike at home. Let me tell you, it’s a winner! Bill is a master at his craft. We are blessed at ICA to have so many great journey and theme rides from Bill; his creativity is off the charts. But remember, not all his rides are theme rides, and no matter the ride, underlying every single profile that Bill assembles is a knowledge of proper training principles. 

This profile is not a “theme.” After riding it last night, I rate it among our top profiles on ICA. (Though one might have some fun matching songs to the profile from a specific theme. Note to self: take this task on in the future!) 

What you see in this profile is an excellent knowledge of the following:

  • Intensity and how long you should spend at each level. Bill knows his exercise science and how to apply it to achieve the desired adaptations from the objective of the profile.
  • An extended warm-up that tastes little bits of higher intensity to prepare riders for the main set without spending too much time there.
  • Proper recovery. Make sure you take every second of the provided recovery, and do it in Zone 1. Believe me, you will need it.
  • Bill also gives a 30-second “ramp-up” to Zone 3 prior to each higher-intensity interval. The 30 seconds are well placed, allowing riders to start preparing for the next interval with a smaller jump from Zone 3 to either Zone 4 or Zone 5 (depending on if you are doing the fast finish or the strong start). Since there is almost always a 15- to 30-second period of time required to establish a steady output at a high intensity (I refer to it as “fudge time”), this incremental step-up makes the transition from easy to hard a little less complicated.
  • Creativity. Bill is creative without relying on gimmicks for his creative genius. This is evident in the way he introduces the interval sequence in this profile, with a stepped-up or -down option, topped with the two different terrain options. The pièce de résistance is the final set of two intervals that empower riders to choose their preferred way to tackle the intervals. 
  • Never boring. The changes within each interval keep riders focused and engaged, but they aren’t haphazard changes like so many instructors seem to think they need to keep the class interested. 
  • Notice that he doesn’t prescribe standing—he allows riders to self-select when they want to/need to stand. They may not need it much with this ride because they will be focused on pacing. 
  • Musicality. Bill’s music choices aren’t always my preference (just like I’m sure not everyone likes all my songs in my profiles), but one thing I will say about Bill’s playlists—they ALWAYS work for the profile. The length, the timing, the tempo, the energy—it just works. Bill knows his music, he knows his rhythm, he knows many unique groups, and he always has variety. 
  • Cueing that recognizes the challenges riders face and asks them to look back on what they experienced, using that self-reflection to inform how they approach successive hard efforts. This is ninja-level coaching, folks. Don’t leave this part out!  

Our Quick Profiles only have minimal cueing for the sake of brevity and to allow your own coaching personality to come through. (Use the cues in our full-length profiles, as well as our numerous articles on cueing for varying levels of intensity, to sprinkle more coaching through your profiles.) As I mentioned in the list above, what limited cues Bill provides you in this ride are important in helping your riders make the important decision for the final two intervals so they are more likely to succeed. I want to explain my experience with that when I rode this profile. 

I had the printout in front of me and read the cues as if I was hearing them as a student. After having done the second interval (higher cadences), Bill asks riders to reflect on which one they preferred. I realized that at the higher cadences, I liked getting the harder part done first—my goal was to get it over with! After the next set of climbing intervals, the question was asked again, and I recognized that at lower cadences, I could manage building up to the hardest part at the end since the cadence was more manageable, and I liked the idea of taking on that challenge of increasing difficulty. Perhaps it was my way of proving (to myself), “See? I’m not a wimp!” Later, when it came time for the final two intervals in which Bill gives riders the choice to ramp up (FF) or ramp down (SS), I made my decision based on the revelation that Bill’s earlier question had empowered me to discover. I would start strong for the high-cadence flat and finish fast for the climb. 

Having been asked to reflect on that earlier in the ride made this choice easier to make in the moment.  

Here’s where it gets interesting. When I told Bill I did this ride, he asked me which ones I preferred for the self-selected intervals. After I told him my preferences, he replied: 

My preferences are the exact opposite. I prefer FF on the flat. I look at it like a race and I’m able to push myself harder toward the finish (somewhat based on the central governor theory). On a hill, I like to start strong to overcome the initial gravity outdoors or the initial resistance indoors. There is no right or wrong, but it might make an interesting study of sports psychology.

I agree—this ride can be an interesting study on why someone might choose one way or the other. Don’t leave out the cueing in this ride asking riders to reflect on their preference as they choose what to do for the final two intervals. Then ask them to ponder why they made those choices on the varying terrain. During your cool-down, it may help if you give the examples Bill and I gave for our preferences.

Here are the results of my ride (from Training Peaks software). Pink is power (watts), yellow is cadence, and red is heart rate. You can clearly see the ramp ups and ramp downs for each interval and the high and low cadence.

Bill and I would love to have your feedback after you’ve taught this ride, or any questions you have about coaching it. I would suggest doing it on your own if possible before teaching it to your riders. 

Here are a few more of Bill’s ICA profiles.

One Response to “Quick Profile: Strong Start or Fast Finish”

  1. MarissaAxell says:

    3 cheers for Bill, I count all of the profiles you referred to as some of my absolute favorites. In fact I’ve been alternating bewitched and when to push on a hill over the past 2 weeks as riders continue to work strength, pacing, and learn where their “ceiling” ofz5+ is. These profiles are evergreen and cant wait to do this new one, brilliant. Thank you!

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