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How To Focus Your Cycling Training for the Right Event

What are you training for? 

Before you get on the bike for your next ride, you should be able to answer that question. If you’re preparing for an event, you should know what it takes and how to get ready for it. This is important so that you know how to focus your cycling training for the right event.

To put it simply, there’s a world of difference between cycling a century and pedaling a time trial. Training for one is not the same as training for the other. In this case, it helps to remember leadership guru Stephen Covey’s advice: “Begin with the end in mind.” Before you start training for your next big event, know where you’re going so you can plan how you’ll get there.

To illustrate, longtime cycling coach Darryl MacKenzie walked us through how to prepare for three of the most common cycling events. We will have detailed posts on all three coming in the future, but here we’ll just look at how your cycling training plan should change for each one.

Completing or Improving an Endurance Ride

So, how can you focus your cycling training for the right event? Cycling is an endurance sport, and randonneurs are no strangers to going the distance. That’s why this is probably the most common type of event to prepare for. Whether you’re getting ready for your first century or just trying to improve your time on a 50-mile ride, you need to train specifically for an hours- or day-long endurance test.

For endurance cycling, it’s important to focus one ride each week on doing longer miles — what Darryl calls the “LSD” ride for “long, slow distance.” This will probably be your weekend ride since that’s when most people have the time.

How do your train for a cycling event? Set weekly goals. Each week, work to increase your distance or improve your time in order to build stamina and strength for the big day. Like a marathon runner, you don’t necessarily need to work all the way up to the distance you’ll hit at the event, but you should aim to get to 80% or more of your eventual goal.

On your other two or three training days during the week, focus on short, hard rides. Your aim there is to push your heart rate up to get the body accustomed to riding at a higher pace.

Cycling a Multi-Day Tour

An extended tour takes endurance to another level, stretching over hundreds of miles and anywhere from five to eight days.

“The objective here is to make yourself able to ride at distance for multiple consecutive days,” says Coach Darryl. That means your training needs to mirror that ultimate goal.

In this case, you should set your training schedule so that you have blocks of days together. Back-to-back rides on Saturdays and Sundays work well, but you should also plan on another set mid-week. Take Monday and Friday off, but string together two or three days in between there to help your body adjust to that kind of sustained distance riding.

Exactly how far you go on those days will depend on the event you’re training for, but what’s most important when creating your road cycling training plan is that you structure your training in these multi-day blocks.

Pushing It for a Time Trial

If you’re training for a time trial, whether it’s on the flats or an extended climb, this is all about sustaining a much faster pace for a shorter period than you would on a distance ride.

For this, you want your Saturday ride to be focused on pedaling as fast as you can for the specific distance you’ll cover on event day. You may not be there at first, and that’s fine. In that case, you can use a method Darryl calls “gluing it together” — doing gradually longer intervals at your event target speed with short, slower breaks in between until you can sustain the full pace for the full distance. Ride hard for as long as you can maintain it, and use each Saturday ride to extend those high-pace intervals and shorten the slow ones.

During the week, it’s critical that you have recovery time for this kind of training. You can ride two other days of the week at a fast pace, but make sure those days aren’t consecutive. 

“You actually get stronger on the days you take off, not the days you ride,” says Darryl. Those rest days are essential for giving your muscles time to rebuild, especially as you get older and you can’t recover as quickly.

Here’s what it comes down to when deciding how to focus your cycling training for the right event: Don’t just get out and ride. Next time you’re getting ready for a big cycling event, think about what you can do to make your training more effective. In other words, when you train, train specifically. And when you train, you should always prepare for the inevitable, such as when your bike tires get stuck in a crack in the road.

Another important cycling training tip is to make sure you have the right bike equipment and gear. Luckily, here at Selle Antomica, we have a wonderful selection of ergonomic bike seats. Contact us today to learn more!


Look for more insights from Coach Darryl over at his website.

Photo by Andrew Gook on Unsplash