Training for the Other Kind of Tour
How to train for multiday events.
One of the remarkable aspects of sport is the variation you can find within each discipline. As a cyclist, you have the choice to participate or compete in many different events, and multi-day tours and trips are growing in popularity. If your goals for the year include a weekend bike tour or trip with friends, your training needs to address the unique demands of these events.
In 2004, I was part of the coaching team assigned to prepare cyclists for the Tour of Hope, a cross-country ride to raise awareness for cancer research and clinical trials. Our job was to take 20 amateur cyclists, and prepare them over a period of four months, for an eight-day, 3000-mile relay from Los Angeles to Washington, DC. These were not professional cyclists, nor people who could give up their day jobs; in fact, every one of them worked at least 40 hours a week through the entire training period. The lessons they learned in preparing for their successful trip can also help you succeed in your next multi-day excursion.
The most obvious challenge was to increase the aerobic strength of the riders without the luxury of high-volume training. When you?re working at your normal day job, there are only so many hours you can realistically train. As a result, we increased the intensity of the workouts so we could get greater gains in less time. This meant interval workouts from the very beginning, but the length of the intervals was the key rather than the intensity.
When you?re training for a multi-day event, it?s essential that your aerobic system delivers most of your energy. You simply don?t have the recovery time to come back from hard efforts on day one and expect to perform well on days two and three. Instead of short, hard intervals, spend more time performing long Tempo, SteadyState, and ClimbingRepeat Intervals. A single Tempo interval can last up to about 60 minutes for a moderately-trained amateur cyclist, and it is performed in a big gear, a cadence of about 70-75 rpm, and well below lactate threshold.
SteadyState and ClimbingRepeat intervals are similar to each other, performed at an intensity just below lactate threshold power. The difference, as the names suggest, is that SteadyStates are performed on flat roads while ClimbingRepeats are on steady climbs. Since they are harder, these intervals are shorter than Tempo intervals, and range from 15-30 minutes each (recovery is typically equal to the interval time). If you?re training for a two to four-day event, aim to build up to three 15-minute SteadyState or ClimbingRepeat intervals.
The arrangement of interval workouts can be as important as the interval work itself. Since your event demands that you spend several hours on your bike for a couple of days in a row, back-to-back training days, or blocks, should be incorporated into your training schedule. Start with two Tempo workouts on back-to-back days, then take two days of easy riding before completing another two-day Tempo block. If you?re training with power,