Are you a cycling novice? Or perhaps you’re starting from square one after a long lay-off? This plan’s for you

Most of the training plans we publish here are aimed at relatively seasoned cyclists — regular riders looking for a new approach to reinvigorate their riding or help them prepare for their latest and greatest challenge. This plan is different because it assumes nothing at the start other than that you can ride a bike and want to take part in your first event this summer.

>>> Watch – Training zones: what are they and why do they matter?

You don’t need any high-level cycling fitness to handle it, just the ability to ride a bike, the confidence to push the boundaries of your fitness carefully and with our guidance, and the enthusiasm that challenging yourself with a new and exciting goal brings.

>>> Download your summer fitness training plan now

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How to use this training plan

What’s involved

We’ve divided the plan into three straightforward four-week blocks. The first block takes you from essentially a standing start of just one hour of riding and builds quite quickly to a long ride of two-and-a-half hours. In the second and third blocks, however, the increase in duration slows down as we introduce and then extend some harder blocks and more frequent changes of pace. Every fourth week is a recovery week, which means that the amount of training it contains is cut back to give you a mid-programme break and your body time to adapt to the demands of your new training schedule.

This is the plan for you if…

You’re working towards your first sportive
You want to finish strong and ride well, but aren’t too concerned about beating riders around you
You’d like to improve your general cycling fitness, but aren’t sure where to start

>>> Download your summer fitness training plan now

Key sessions

Long rides

It might seem daunting to think that by week 10 of your plan you’ll be riding for four hours without stopping, but by then your fitness should be more than ready to cope. The key is to treat the ride as true training, riding at the right efforts, not taking long breaks halfway through, minimising freewheeling, and eating and drinking sensibly.

Negative split rides

You’ll also notice that your long rides get harder at the end. Research suggests that starting conservatively and picking up the pace as you go along is the most effective way to pace a long effort, and these rides will help you to practise that as well as improve your ability to maintain harder efforts.

Sweet spot blocks

These tend to have the biggest overall effect on your fitness minute for minute of any riding. How hard you find them will depend on many factors, but you don’t want to start out too hard and then suffer through them. Take the first five minutes of each block to get your heart rate up to the right level, then monitor it carefully so that you stay in zone whatever the terrain. Be careful not to push too hard to get back into zone if you’ve had to stop or freewheel through a corner.