Follow our road racers' cycling training plan to sharpen your racing edge
Here's how to get ready for a season of road racing - we've partnered up with Alzheimer's Research UK to bring you in-depth training plans for your cycling goals
This plan is for: Anyone getting started in racing who wants to reach a peak fitness for targeted road events of 30-90km.
This plan will: Develop your road racing ability and build on your current base fitness. The priority is to develop your race pace intensities and work on specific areas of performance which are crucial come race day. If you are looking to start racing, this plan will help sharpen your racing edge. Alternatively, if your fitness has stagnated or you have not seen progress in the past months/seasons, then this plan will help you step up a level and hit new peaks.
You will need: A solid level of base fitness from at least one year of consistent training, riding several times per week; confidence to ride fast in a bunch.
You can find more of Cycling Weekly's training plans in partnership with ARUK over here.
The first five weeks of the plan work on your ability to react to changes of pace. The intervals will help simulate the extended surges encountered in the peloton or when climbing during a road race — tougher sections of terrain, attacks, etc. This period also works on your anaerobic threshold by combining some longer sustained efforts just below your threshold using sweetspot blocks, before developing your higher-capacity efforts.
In the second five weeks, the plan works on your tolerance to high intensity using short but explosive efforts. This enhances the body’s ability to process lactate and recover adequately to maintain performance, even when under fatigue. Your VO2 max power and anaerobic capacity are addressed as the final icing on the cake before you take on your big goal.
The priority of this plan is targeting specific race intensities, in a strategic way. Overall volume is kept relatively low to avoid excessive fatigue or burnout.
Weekly volume: 7hr 40min – 8hr 45min
Total volume: 76hr over 10 weeks
Our 2023 training plans are brought to you in partnership with Alzheimer's Research UK
Cycling training plan for racers
Click here to download a high resolution PDF of the 10-week training plan.
How to use these cycling training plans
For our training plans, different parts of the rides are described using numbered cycling training zones. The plan is to work at that level of effort for the time given. Making the most of your time means working at the right effort level for you. Here’s how to work out where your training zones are.
Understanding the intensities
During each training day, each effort has a prescribed ‘Zone’ (e.g. Z1, meaning Zone 1). If you do not have a heart rate or power meter, you can also use Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) to judge intensity. The Borg scale, from one to 10, provides a guide to how these effort levels should feel:
|Perceived exertion||Effort level|
|0||Nothing at all|
|8||Starting to hurt|
If you have a heart rate (HR) monitor and/or power meter, we suggest finding out your training zones. We recommend Andrew Coggan’s training levels, explained on the table below.
To find your functional threshold HR and power (needed to develop your zones), you will need to complete the following procedure:
After warming up, perform an all-out 20-minute effort, either inside on a turbo or outside on a quiet road. This effort is similar to a time trial effort. Once you have your average HR and power number for this 20-minute test, use this number as your 100 per cent threshold figure. Take your average power for the 20 minutes and multiply by 0.95 (e.g. 225W average x 0.95 = 209W FTP). This number is your Functional Threshold Power — and your zones are based on a percentage of this figure.
|Zone||Name||Average power (% FTP)||Average HR|
(% FTP HR)
|1||Active Recovery||<55%||<68%||<2||"Easy spinning" or "light pedal pressure", i.e. very low level exercise, too low to induce significant physiological adaptations. Minimal sensation of leg effort. Relaxed breathing.|
|2||Endurance||56-75%||69-83%||3-4||"All day" pace, or classic long slow distance (LSD) training. Sensation of leg effort/fatigue generally low. Breathing is a little heavier than in Zone 1.|
|3||Tempo||76-90%||84-94%||5-6||More frequent/greater sensation of leg effort/fatigue than at Zone 2. Requires concentration to maintain. Breathing deeper and more rhythmic than in Zone 2. Breathing too hard to chat.|
|Sweet-spot||Sweetspot||84-97%||88-100%||6-7||Between high Zone 3 and low Zone 4. For riders who aren’t using a power meter, I’d call sweetspot “medium hard”. It’s just below your 25-mile TT race pace, but harder than a traditional tempo workout.|
|4||Lactate Threshold||91-105%||95-105%(may not be achieved in first few efforts)||7-8||Similar to TT race effort. Relentless feeling of leg effort/fatigue. Breathing too hard to say more than the odd word or two. Mentally very taxing to maintain.|
|5||VO2 Max||106-120%||>106%(may not be achieved in first few efforts)||8-9||The maximum effort you can sustain for three to eight minutes. Intended to increase VO2max. Severe leg effort/fatigue. 'Ragged' breathing; unable to speak.NB: Average heart rate less useful as a metric, as HR will be rising throughout the interval.|
|6||Anaerobic Capacity||N/A||N/A||10||Ultra-high-intensity intervals of 10-30 seconds, designed to increase anaerobic capacity. Flat-out; no holding back. Heart rate of limited use.|
The above is based on both the Borg scale of intensity and the training zones developed by Andrew Coggan.
Understanding the terms used within these training plans:
Cadence (rpm): the number of revolutions of the crank per minute — the rate at which a cyclist is pedalling/turning the pedals. If you do not have a cadence sensor, then simply think in terms of ‘medium’ (85-95rpm), which should feel natural and normal with no increase in upper body movement; ‘high’ (95-120rpm) is often described as ‘spinning’ — it feels out of your comfort zone and may cause you to bounce slightly in the saddle and breathe at a faster rate.
Threshold Efforts: The term ‘threshold’ means the upper limit of the effort level you can sustain for the period requested. ‘Lactate threshold’ or ‘LT’ refers to the byproduct of anaerobic exercise — the harder your effort, the more lactate accumulates in your blood. The point at which lactate begins to accumulate more quickly than it can be processed is your LT or, in riding terms, the fastest pace you can maintain for 20-40 minutes.
Tempo: Tempo is an intensity often referred to as ‘hard aerobic’ training — a ride that requires more concentration and effort than regular endurance riding. The term tempo means a consistent ‘solid’ effort, suitable for periods of 20 minutes to one hour.
Aerobic Ride: This is generally a short ride (one hour or less) at low intensity. It works your aerobic system without putting too much training stress. Typically, this is a training session that can be done either indoors or on the road. Easy!
Endurance Ride: These Zone 2 endurance rides are carried out at a lower intensity but for longer durations, so they build your ability to perform exercise for prolonged periods of time. Levels of fatigue post-ride will be higher than that of the aerobic training sessions. These rides are normally longer than 1hr 30min.
Cross Training: Cross training describes another activity that’s not cycling: a range of activities either outside, at home or at the gym. Mixing up your activities allows you to work different muscle groups while giving your main cycling muscles a break.
Slow Tension Efforts: These focus on building your overall strength on the bike. We all know strength plays a big part in cycling fitness, and using strategic on-the-bike strength workouts we can maximise this essential component of performance. Generally, these efforts are completed at a low cadence, below 70rpm, and at a moderate intensity.
Endurance Fatigue Resistance: Enhancing aerobic fitness by developing your base endurance, these workouts recruit slow-twitch muscles fibres and train the body to use fat as a fuel source. This session has the additional benefit of teaching your body to work hard while fatigued. Make sure you hit the required duration.
VO2 Max: These is maximal aerobic intensity, lasting between two and five minutes. These intervals are intended to increase VO2max — your maximum rate of oxygen uptake. (Note: It takes a minute or two for heart rate to reach its VO2max level, so do not rely on average HR in these intervals.)
Burst: A burst is a short acceleration out of the saddle, intended to mimic a short/intense change of pace. This is not a full-out sprint; it is more like an effort to jump on to a passing wheel or accelerate over the top of a hill. After the burst, return to a solid steady state effort.
Tolerance Efforts: These efforts develop your capacity to endure prolonged high intensity without fading. This is achieved by completing short durations at a high intensity to accumulate a high lactate state, followed by a short recovery period, inducing oxygen debt and speeding up recovery.
Cycling Weekly provides these training plans in collaboration with Dig Deep Coaching – a global coaching company that works with athletes of all levels across road, track, cyclo-cross and MTB. Whether you are taking part in your first ever Gran Fondo or aiming to compete in the professional peloton, Dig Deep Coaching offers personal coaching to help you build your training around your lifestyle and make sure every pedal stroke counts. Learn more about Dig Deep Coaching by signing up to its Training Tips & Advice mailing list HERE, or follow Dig Deep Coaching on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
If you would like a digital version of your chosen Cycling Weekly training plan, with smart-trainer-ready sessions, please contact Dig Deep Coaching via this link here.
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I’ve been hooked on bikes ever since the age of 12 and my first lap of the Hillingdon Cycle Circuit in the bright yellow kit of the Hillingdon Slipstreamers. For a time, my cycling life centred around racing road and track.
But that’s since broadened to include multiday two-wheeled, one-sleeping-bag adventures over whatever terrain I happen to meet - with a two-week bikepacking trip from Budapest into the mountains of Slovakia being just the latest.
I still enjoy lining up on a start line, though, racing the British Gravel Championships and finding myself on the podium at the enduro-style gravel event, Gritfest in 2022.
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