Coach Hughes: Training Beyond the Cycling Century
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Intelligent Cycling Training—Training

Cycling Beyond the Century

How to train for and ride 200 km to 1200 km and longer brevets.

“An athlete should to the least amount of properly timed, specific training that brings continual improvement.” —Joe Friel, The Cyclist’s Training Bible

by John Hughes
© John Hughes 2011, All Rights Reserved

John Hughes is the author of Distance Cycling and many articles on training, nutrition, psychology and medical issues for RoadBikeRider.com. He is the the former director of the UltraMarathon Cycling Association and editor of UltraCycling, has been certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a personal trainer and by USA Cycling as a coach.

Riding 100 miles is fun and riding farther can also be fun if you prepare correctly. To do so you need a training plan that is targeted at the specific performance requirements of longer rides:

  • endurance
  • capacity to stay on the bike
  • power
  • cruising speed
  • event specific preparation

The most effective training plan targets these individually rather than trying to improve in every area at the same time. The training plan is divided into phases:

Base (3-4 months). During this phase you build the endurance necessary to complete your planned event(s). As a rule of thumb you should train up to 2/3 to 3/4 the duration of your planned event. So for a 10-hour 200 km brevet your longest training ride would be 6:30 to 7:40. For a 16-hour double century or 300 km brevet your longest ride would be 10:45 to 12:00.

If you are training for a 1000 or 1200 km then the 200, 300 400 km and 600 km brevets each serve as the long endurance ride before the next one. Rather than trying to maintain the volume between each brevet the intermediate training ride should be about 1/3 to 1/2 the expected duration of the next brevet.

Specific physiological changes take place when you ride at a moderate speed that don’t happen when riding harder so it’s important that you ride at the classic conversational pace.

During the base phase you also develop the core strength and flexibility to ride comfortably for longer periods.

Build (1-2 months). During this phase you build the power necessary to climb hills, deal with the wind and ride faster while maintaining endurance. You can accomplish this by alternating weeks:

  • Power week: two hard rides and one short endurance ride
  • Endurance week: one long endurance ride and one hard ride

Peaking (4-6 weeks). During this phase you combine your long-term endurance with your short-term power into longer cruising speed. You do moderate distance rides 1-2 mph about your normal endurance pace. You also do rides targeted specifically at your event. If your event has a hilly course, train in the hills, if you’ll ride at night, train at night, if plan a short overnight sleep break, train with one.

Taper (2-3weeks). A few weeks before the event you can’t get any fitter. If you keep up the training load you’ll not recover fully for the event. During the taper you progressively reduce your training doing just enough to maintain fitness while storing energy for the event.

Recovery. Throughout your training pay attention to your body and be sure your recover adequately. Your muscles get rebuild and get stronger while you are resting, not while you are riding. Each week include a couple of active recovery rides and build in periodic recover weeks when you do very little riding.

More Information
I have written a number of pieces directly relevant to randonneurs, all available from RoadBikeRider

  • Endurance Training and Riding—The three article bundle covers training, nutrition and the skills for finish rides of 100km and longer. 48 pages available for just $13.50 from RoadBikeRider.com
  • Brevets—The 16-page eArticle on how to train for 200 km to 1200 km and longer brevets is available for just $4.99 from RoadBikeRider.com.
  • Intensity—The 13-page eArticle on how to plan and gauge your most beneficial training efforts is available for just $4.99 from RoadBikeRider.com.
  • Nutrition—The 16-page eArticle on what to eat and drink on rides of 100 km and longer is available for just $4.99 from RoadBikeRider.com.
  • Butt, Hands, Feet—The 12-page eArticle covers how to prevent and treat pain in cycling’s pressure points. It is available for just $4.99 from RoadBikeRider.com.
  • Mastering the Mental—The 17-page eArticle teaches you how to prepare for the inevitable mental challenges and how to deal with them on a ride of 100 km or longer. It is available for just $4.99 from RoadBikeRider.com.
  • Riding the Long Ride—The 16-page eArticle covers the final preparations for a ride of 100 km or longer and then managing every aspect of the ride. It is available for just $4.99 from RoadBikeRider.com.
  • Showstoppers—The 65-page eBook on factors other than training that stop you from completing a ride is available for just $14.95 from RoadBikeRider.com.
  • Other articles by Coach Hughes