Five turbo sessions hand-picked by the pros

We sent out a distress call to pro riders pleading for their favourite turbo sessions

Image shows a professional cyclist training on a turbo trainer.
(Image credit: Getty Images / Bas Czerwinski)

Turbo training is getting better and better. The features and perks provided by the best indoor cycling apps are multiplying all the time as indoor training becomes ever more enticing. Who knows, perhaps it won’t be long before our status as cyclists depends wholly upon our virtual badges of honour. Back in the real world, the turbo is a powerful tool for improving your fitness and preparing to ride outside.

Pro riders are becoming just as partial to indoor sessions as we time-crunched amateurs. They know that a targeted session can effectively home in on a particular aspect of fitness. Whether you’re a cyclocrosser, time triallist, crit specialist or stage racer, choosing the right workouts will help you build a power profile that best suits your racing. To that end, we have spoken to five pro riders and asked them to share with us their favourite indoor cycling session and explain why they value it, when they use it, and how it can work for you too.

Toms Skujiņš, Trek-Segafredo - Seeking stage race rhythm

Image shows Toms Skujiņš racing.

Toms Skujins (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images / Tim de Waele)

The first Latvian to earn a spell in the Tour de France’s polka-dot jersey, Skujiņš currently plies his trade at Trek-Segafredo, where he has the enviable task of supporting the team's leaders in the Grand Tours. Naturally then, when the indoor trainer calls, the three-time Tour of California stage winner uses it as an opportunity to fine-tune his stage-racing craft.

Best for: Stage racing, long one-day races

When to do it: Fortnightly

- Warm-up: 10min @ Z2

- The session: 2 x (20mins alternating 30sec @ 90rpm, 30sec @ 120rpm);

5 mins recovery between sets

- Warm-down: 5min @ Z1

Toms Skujiņš says: "I really struggle with race rhythm. When I don’t focus on it, I ride a pretty low cadence, but being able to ride a higher cycling cadence is beneficial because you’re saving your muscles for the finale. If you ride at 80rpm the whole day, your muscles are too tired when you need to push. At the same time, riding at low RPM is necessary to build strength."

CW says: Skujiņš uses the turbo as a means of fine-tuning his efficiency for the rigours of stage racing, as well as building leg strength. Ultimately, he works on sparing his type-two muscle fibres for the final kilometres of a stage race — saving himself for a fast finish, or to be able to perform the best domestique duties possible.

Ian Field, 5x British Cyclo-cross champion - Cross purposes

Image shows Ian Field racing.

Ian Field (Photo by Ole Jensen/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images / Ole Jensen)

Multiple national cyclocross champion, and founder of coaching company Veld Coaching (, Field uses an indoor session during the week leading up to a big race, citing it as the perfect sharpener for cross racing.

Best for: Cyclocross

When to do it: In the week leading up to a big race

- Ramped warm-up: 3min @ Z1, 3min @ Z2, 3min @ Z3, 3min @ Z4

- The session: 2x (15sec @ max effort, 15sec @ Z1; 30sec max effort, 30sec @ Z1; 45sec @ max effort, 45sec @ Z1; 1min @ max effort, 1min @ Z1)

- Recovery between sets: 10min @ Z1

- Warm-down: 10min @ Z2

Ian Field says: "This session replicates the on/off nature of cyclocross. From my experience and the research we’ve done using race data, we know there aren’t many long efforts in cross — there’s always a corner or technical section breaking up the effort.”

CW says: Although this is a fairly typical turbo trainer session — time-efficient with lots of top-end work — it melds perfectly to the explosive efforts Field needs to execute to compete at the highest level of cyclo-cross.

Oliver Naesen, AG2R Citroën Team - Making it count for the Classics

Image shows Oliver Naesen racing.

Oliver Naesen (Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images / Luc Claessen)

A perennial protagonist in the Spring Classics — making the podium in both Milan-San Remo and Ghent-Wevelgem in previous years — Belgian pro Naesen has also been an integral part of the Ag2r team in the Grand Tours as well. When he’s not slogging out mountainous winter mileage in off-season training camps, the 32-year-old steps astride a turbo trainer for a high-intensity threshold session with plenty of bang for its buck.

Best for: Improving threshold power

When to do it: Once a week

- Ramped warm-up: 2min @ Z1, 2min @ Z2, 2min @ Z3, 2mins @ Z4, 5min @ Z1

- The session: 3x 10min @ Z4

- Recovery between intervals:

10min @ Z1/2

- Warm-down: 10min @ Z2

Oliver Naesen says: "I’m never on the turbo for too long, but it’s always high-intensity work. I usually do about an hour. I always start with a gradual warm-up: two minutes at 200 watts, two minutes at 250 watts, two minutes at 300 watts and two minutes at 350. Then I’ll do five minutes easy. After this, I always do 10 minutes on and 10 minutes off. I’ll often do a threshold session so about 400 watts for 10 minutes, then easy for 10 minutes, finishing with a warm-down."

CW says: Naesen weighs about 74kg, making his 400 watt threshold intervals equate to a whopping 5.5 watts per kilo — the kind of power some of us are lucky to hold for more than a few seconds. Perhaps incorporating more threshold work into our weekly sessions could edge us mortals closer to the Ag2r man’s WorldTour pedigree.

Joss Lowden, Uno-X Pro Cycling team - Keeping it sweet

Image shows Joscelin Lowden racing.

Joscelin Lowden (Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images / Luc Claessen)

Rider with UCI Women’s WorldTour team Uno-X, Joscelin Lowden includes a Worlds Mixed TTT bronze medal in her palmarès as well as, the overall win at the Tour de Feminin and the Hour Record. She opts for sweetspot efforts — conventionally considered to be 88-93 per cent of your functional threshold power (FTP), an effort level described as “comfortably uncomfortable”.

Best for: Time trialling; improving FTP

When to do it: Once or twice a week

- Warm-up: 10min @ Z2

- The session: 3x 20min @ sweetspot

- Recovery between blocks: 5-10min @ Z1

- Warm-down: 5min @ Z2

Joscelin Lowden says: "Training at sweetspot is really good to get in some quite high-intensity without too much stress or load. Minute for minute, it’s hard to beat the adaptations gained. Training harder than sweetspot induces greater physical strain, of course, but the recovery cost is also greater."

CW says: The classic sweetspot workout may be simple, but it is also very good for you. Because it’s a comparatively sedate session, it’s possible to do more than one a week. Doing blocks of sweetspot increases mitochondria — the powerhouse of the cell — and is considered a great way of boosting all-round fitness levels. Lowden’s long intervals should see her in great form for the start of TT season.

Abi Van Twisk, Former Trek-Segafredo rider - Dedicated follower of attacks

Image shows Abi Van Twisk racing.

Abi Van Twisk (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images / Daniel Kalisz)

Former WorldTour rider for Trek-Segafredo Van Twisk used to be a key support for fellow Brits Lizzie Deignan and Elynor Backstedt. Currently away from pro cycling after having a baby, Van Twisk marked her arrival to professional cycling with notable performances in the Santos Women’s Tour, Van Twisk often takes to the turbo to tune up her top-end fitness.

Best for: Improving dynamic power

When to do it: Weekly

- Warm-up: 20min progressive through each zone up until 85 per cent max

heart rate

- The session: 3x (10min alternating 30sec @ Z4, 15sec @ Z1); 5min recovery

- Warm-down: 10min @ Z2

Abi Van Twisk says: "Because it’s short and intense, it replicates following an attack, before recovering, then following when they go again."

CW says: Van Twisk’s 60-minute workout is time well spent on the turbo. It’s a long session that incorporates hard efforts applicable to racing scenarios.

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