If you've put in some early-season miles, you're poised to boost your fitness for a big event, whether it's a bike century, a multiday tour, or a road race. The key is to turn your regular outings into training rides—incorporating varied but increasingly focused efforts, says coach James Herrera, MS, founder of Performance Driven, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Use this basic week-long plan as a building block. As you move toward your goal, remember that training isn't one size fits all. If you're working a regular job—40, 50, 60 hours a week—pay attention to your recovery. "You need to train hard when you're fresh, and rest when you're tired," Herrera says. In other words, adjust your plan to fit your life.
The Basic Plan
Six to eight weeks before your event, begin working the following types of rides into your schedule. Increase your ride time by roughly 10 percent a week. After two to three weeks, cut the volume back by 40 to 50 percent for a week before ramping up again. We assume you've been riding for the past few months—say, a couple of group sessions each week and a weekend effort of two-plus hours.
Monday: Rest, cross-train, or ride easy.
Tuesday: Tempo day: You're pushing it, but not gasping for air. Work three 15-minute efforts into your ride.
Wednesday: Endurance ride at a steady cruising pace.
Thursday: Tempo day, similar to Tuesday. Do more (and longer) intervals as the weeks progress.
Friday: Short, easy recovery ride.
Saturday: Long group ride. Practice skills such as drafting and taking a drink in a paceline.
Sunday: Long endurance ride. Aim to pedal for double the amount of time you spend on your usual rides.
Go Fast: "Many people just aim to finish," Herrera says, "but if you include high-intensity workouts in your training, you'll feel better when you get there." For example: After a 15-to 30-minute warm-up, ride hard for three minutes, then recover for 90 seconds. Repeat the sequence four more times. Work up to five-minute efforts.
Practice With The Pack: "Riding in a group is a great way to learn bike-handling skills," Herrera says. "And if you learn how to draft, it will pay huge dividends on event day."
Hammer Your First Road Race
Train Hard: Consider rearranging the schedule to do two or three days in a row of hard training, then a day of recovery. For example: During a three-hour spin, ride 12 minutes at tempo pace, then three minutes all-out. Recover for 10 minutes and repeat the sequence.
Train Your Gut: Don't experiment with new foods or drinks on race day. Instead, use hard training rides to figure out what fueling strategy works best for you—then stick to it.
Survive a Weeklong Tour
Ride Lots: "Training for multiday trips is about consistency," Herrera says. Ride as often as possible, and if you can ride only for an hour one day, get out for that hour. But that doesn't mean forgoing harder sessions. For example: During a two-hour ride, include 20 minutes at tempo pace, and three 10-minute efforts at threshold (just less than all-out) with 10 minutes of recovery between each.
But Not Too Much: Cycling should be fun. If you're feeling drained or dreading the ride, take an extra rest day.
View full plans for these events at Bicycling.com/trainingplans.