How to Prepare for a Century Ride


What is so special about riding 100 miles? It’s just a number. But when you can say, “I just rode 100 miles!” you can take pride and stand up straight when you say it. Pedaling 100 miles is a “milestone,” pardon the pun, no matter if it’s your first century ever or it is the first one of your season. Most of us vividly remember our first century. I do, even if it was back in the summer of 1985. For someone who has never spent that much time in the saddle, it can seem quite daunting. Even for more experienced riders, completing your first 100-mile ride of the season takes preparation. Setting out to do a century and completing it takes time and proper training.

Weather may dictate your training plan, but all riders preparing for a century need to follow a plan that builds in steps. Most riders will benefit from one of the three training recommendations below.

The Weekend Rider

If this is your option, divide your training into two parts: quality and quantity. The quality comes from your indoor sessions. The quantity from your outdoor sessions. In this case, when training indoors, you are doing long, sustained efforts to work on building your lactate threshold (LT). During these rides, it is also beneficial to sprinkle in some shorter efforts in order to add intensity. In your standard work week, plan on doing one or two structured sessions on your trainer. Any other indoor sessions should consist of recovery or low tempo rides. The goal is three or four indoor rides during the week.

Example of Quality Indoor Session

2 X 20’s LT Builder

  • 15 min warm up Zone 1 into Zone 2
  • Do 2 X 20’s at 92-95% of your FTP
  • 10 min recovery low Zone 2 between efforts
  • 5 min cool down letting HR drop slowly to low Zone 1

2 X 20’s LT Builder with Jumps

  • 15 min warm up Zone 1 into Zone 2
  • Do 2 X 20 minutes
  • Minutes 1 to 18 for each effort at 90-93% of your FTP
  • Minutes 18 to 20 for each effort at 120% of FTP
  • 10 min recovery Low Zone 2 between efforts
  • 5 min cool down letting HR drop slowly to Low Zone 1

3 X 10’s LT Builder

  • 15 min warm up Zone 1 into Zone 2
  • 1 X 5 minute at 100 of FTP
  • 5-minute recovery low Zone 2
  • Do 3 X 10’s at 100-107% of your FTP*
  • 5 min recovery low Zone 2 between each effort
  • 5 min cool down letting HR drop slowly to low Zone 1

*You could do a version of the 3 X 10 minutes with a one-minute jump at the end of each 10-minute effort. Keep the same FTP target.

Recovery Ride

  • 15 min warm up Zone 1 into Zone 2
  • 1 X 25 minutes at 60-70% of your FTP
  • 5 min cool down letting HR drop slowly to low Zone 1

Do the quality work indoors, then work on the quantity on the weekends while riding outdoors. The outdoor training here depends on your endurance base. Ultimately, the goal is to have one ride of four to five hours under your belt two to three weeks before the century with the goal of targeting saddle time versus distance. Working backward, build your training time up slowly. Begin with one to two hour rides six to seven weeks out. Then, for the next three weekend ride days, add 30 minutes to one hour each day you ride. If you can get outside both weekend days, that’s a bonus! Do one longer day at upper Zone 1 into Zone 2. The other day would be a shorter recovery ride in Zone 1. The long day combined with the shorter day will help build your overall endurance. One week prior to the event plan for a rest week. During the rest week, keep active on the bike by riding easy outside for one to two hours and doing one or two easy rides on the trainer.

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About the Author

TrainingPeaks provides the complete web, mobile and desktop solutions for enabling smart and effective endurance training. Products include TrainingPeaks web and mobile platforms for athletes and coaches, Best Bike Split performance prediction software, and the new WKO4 desktop software for cutting-edge, individualized analysis. TrainingPeaks solutions are used by Tour de France teams, IRONMAN world champions, Olympians, age group athletes and coaches around the world to track, analyze and plan their training. Learn more attrainingpeaks.com.
TrainingPeaks provides the complete web, mobile and desktop solutions for enabling smart and effective endurance training. Products include TrainingPeaks web and mobile platforms for athletes and coaches, Best Bike Split performance prediction software, and the new WKO4 desktop software for cutting-edge, individualized analysis. TrainingPeaks solutions are used by Tour de France teams, IRONMAN world champions, Olympians, age group athletes and coaches around the world to track, analyze and plan their training. Learn more attrainingpeaks.com.

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