Five turbo sessions hand-picked by the pros

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

Turbo training is getting better and better. The features and perks provided by indoor cycling platforms 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 cyclo-crosser, 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 six pro riders and asked them to share with us their favourite indoor training session and explain why they value it, when they use it, and how it can work for you too.

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Toms Skujiņš, Trek-Segafredo – Seeking stage race rhythm

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

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 Grand Tour favourites Vincenzo Nibali and Richie Porte. 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 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

Ian Field (Photo by Ole Jensen/Getty Images)

Multiple national cyclo-cross champion, and founder of coaching company Veld Coaching (veldcoaching.com), 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: Cyclo-cross
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

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Ian Field says: “This session replicates the on/off nature of cyclo-cross. 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-La Mondiale – Making it count for the Classics

Oliver Naesen (Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

A perennial protagonist in the Spring Classics — last year making the podium in both Milan-San Remo and Ghent-Wevelgem — Belgian pro Naesen has also been an integral part of Ag2r team-mate Romain Bardet’s Tour de France tilts. When he’s not slogging out mountainous winter mileage in off-season training camps, the 29-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.

Joscelin Lowden, Drops – Keeping it sweet

Joscelin Lowden (Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Rider with UCI Women’s Continental team Drops, Joscelin Lowden includes a Worlds Mixed TTT bronze medal in her palmarès. 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

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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, Trek-Segafredo – Dedicated follower of attacks

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

Promising WorldTour rider Van Twisk has recently signed for Trek-Segafredo where she rides in support of fellow Brits Lizzie Deignan and Elynor Backstedt. Having 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.

Try this: CW’s favourite turbo sessions

2x 20mins FTP intervals

For a classic threshold-booster and fantastic time trial training, you can’t beat this session:

– Ramped warm-up: 2min @ Z1, 2min @ Z2, 2min @ Z3
– The session: 2x 20min @ FTP, with 10min recovery between
– Warm-down: 2min @ Z3, 2min @ Z2, 2min @ Z1

30/30s

It’s always satisfying when big numbers appear on your power meter, and this microburst session allows for just that. Pace your efforts, though, as it’s easy to blow up if you go too hard too early.

– Ramped warm-up: 2min @ Z1, 2min @ Z2, 2min @ Z3
– The session: 4x (5min alternating 30sec max effort, 30sec easy); 5min @ Z2 recovery between sets
– Warm-down: 5min @ Z1/2

This feature originally appeared in the print edition of Cycling Weekly, on sale in newsagents and supermarkets, priced £3.25.