At the end of June I am cycling London-Paris (Newhaven/Dieppe route), aiming for a time within 24 hours. I will be 45, I'm 6ft 2in, 13st and generally fit. Having only taken up cycling in the last three years, I am putting in the training (up to 60 miles at the moment raising to 100-110) and also completed the Way of the Roses in two days. What should my focus be for the endurance (three hours' sleep at best) in 24 hours and what weight training might help?
The focus should be on upping the time in the saddle beyond the kind of distances you are currently completing, and riding at the pace you need to average to meet the 24-hour target.
Start by working out a rough schedule based on the mileage of the route and work out the average pace required when you factor in rest stops. Don't forget to allow for an occasional unplanned stop for things like punctures and comfort breaks (these are always a factor when riding for 24 hours). You'll find that when you've taken all these factors into consideration the average pace required is actually quite low and easy to maintain.
The problem is that you have to maintain it for a very long time and riders on such challenges often make the mistake of going much faster in the initial stages of the ride because the pace feels so comfortable, then suffer greatly in the latter stages having ‘blown up'.
So work out your pacing strategy and factor in a safety margin. Once that's done, simply get out for training rides for as long as possible where you work at around that average pace. Do these rides at the weekend, then, in the middle of the week, complete shorter rides at slightly higher pace (including some hill work).
Fortunately the route from Dieppe to Paris doesn't go anywhere near the Alps or Pyrenees, but you will be encountering some long, testing drags so prepare for these by riding hills at slightly higher intensity in your training.
As far as strength training goes, core strength is the most important issue in rides like this. Studies on riders who failed to complete the gruelling Race Across America revealed - almost universally - that the issues were structural (pain in the lower back, shoulders etc) rather than fitness related. Most reported that given the chance to compete again they'd spend more time in the gym.
So don't specifically target leg strength, aim for an all round core strength and flexibility routine.
Practise what fuel and liquid combinations works best for you on training rides, especially the percentage of whole foods and specific energy bars and gels that works for you.
Huw Williams is a BC level three coach
This article was first published in the June 06 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition (opens in new tab), UK digital edition (opens in new tab). And if you like us, rate us!
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