If you’re looking to cover some serious ground this summer, here’s how to prepare for it
Riding a bike gives us an ability to cover distance beyond what’s possible in any other self-powered sport. In running, 26.2 miles is literally a marathon. In cycling it’s a pretty average-length ride. Pros cycle hundreds of miles day after day during the Grand Tours, and every weekend thousands
of us take part in events where the distances covered press comfortably into three digits. At 100 miles, it seems, we’re barely getting started. Whether you look at the ancient art of Audax, the new 300-kilometre Dragon Devil in South Wales, or ultra-distance time trials lasting 12 and even 24 hours, the signs of our long-sightedness are all around us.
If you’ve been called by the song of the road and want to go long this summer, here’s a plan to help you prepare.
How to use this training plan
Together with professional coach Oliver Roberts, we have put together a range of cycling training plans to benefit any and…
The heart of this plan is your weekly pair of long rides — a classic Zone 2 ride on Sunday, and a ‘sandwich ride’ on Tuesday. Unlike prep for a multi-day event, these have been separated to give you the best crack at both, and we’d recommend leaving them separated even if you have to juggle days around. The rest of the week is focused on maintaining some general fitness that will come in useful for pacing climbs and for sticking with the group in the (likely) event that their pacing on short climbs is somewhat punchier than might be prudent. Every fourth week is a lot easier to help you recover and adapt, but we’d strongly suggest you include a shorter sportive that week, too. It’ll give you the chance to refine your approach to riding with others.
This plan is for you if…
You’re riding a really long sportive or Audax
You’re a time triallist aiming for a 12 or 24-hour event
Your eventual goal is a long-distance triathlon but your bike endurance needs work
The long rides in this plan are pretty epic and need to be treated with respect. Aim to drink at least 500ml and eat as much as two gels and half an energy bar every hour. Above all, make sure you get the efforts right. Maintaining as even and constant a power output as possible will really boost your endurance, but to do that, the climbs should feel almost worryingly easy while slight downhills will actually feel quite hard.
This ride starts and ends with an extended block of Zone 3a work. This sort of stacking depletes your muscle glycogen stores and seems to improve your endurance as a result. Don’t drop into the higher effort as soon as you leave the house, though. Give yourself 10mins or so in Zone 2 to warm up first.
Extended efforts in Z3b are one of the best ways to improve your overall aerobic fitness. This effort is likely to be very close to the climbing pace you’ll actually be able to sustain and repeat come the big day, so really focus on familiarising yourself with how it feels and how that feeling changes as you tire.