Signing up for a cycling event can be a great way to test your fitness and have fun out on the road. But whether you’re getting ready to complete your first century or PR a 40km time trial, you’ll need to include some workouts that focus on speed, endurance and gaining comfort riding hard alongside others if you want to reach your goals.
Give these three interval workouts a try once or twice a week in the months leading up to the big event to improve your fitness and get to the finish line in a flash.
THE SWEET SPOT
In between tempo (zone 3) and threshold (zone 4), sweet spot intervals are designed to be a moderately-intense workout that helps you improve your speed for efforts in the 15–45-minute range. This is ideal for cyclists looking to improve power for a long climb or a time trial effort.
Pace: If you’re using a power meter, sweet spot intervals should be done at 84–97% of your functional threshold power (FTP). If you’re using a heart-rate monitor, aim for 90–95% of your maximum heart rate. If you don’t have either, aim for an effort level of 8 out of 10.
Warmup: Pedal easy for 10 minutes.
Workout: Ride at sweet spot for 5 minutes, using a cadence in the 85–95 rpm range. At the end of 5 minutes, ride as hard as you can for 15 seconds. Go straight back into your sweet spot pace and repeat 4 times for a total set time of 21 minutes. Complete 2–3 sets (depending on your fitness level) with a 5-minute recovery spin between each set.
Cool down: Spin easy for 10 minutes.
THE PACE LINE
Whether it’s a Gran Fondo or a local criterium, part of racing is getting used to pedaling hard while in close proximity to others. Organizing a pace line for hard riding on your next group ride does the trick.
Pace: When you’re on the front, ride above your FTP, or about a 9 out of 10 effort level. Your pace should fall to at or just below FTP when you’re not on the front.
Warmup: Ride easy with a group of 8–10 cyclists for 15–30 minutes.
Workout: For 10 minutes, take turns pulling at the front for 30 seconds each before peeling off the front and heading to the back of the pace line. At the end of the 10 minutes, ride easy as a group for 5 minutes before beginning the next set. Complete 4 sets.
Cool down: Spin easy for 15–30 minutes.
Most road races last anywhere from 2–6 hours. While including at least one long ride per week is recommended, interval training can help improve your endurance, too. Because these intervals are completed at a high intensity for short durations, it’ll also recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers for an added boost in the speed department.
Pace: As hard as you can pedal and maintain a steady, even effort for 2 minutes.
Warmup: During a 15-minute warm up of easy spinning, increase your intensity slightly every 5 minutes and spin at a cadence above 100 rpm for one minute.
Workout: At a pace you can maintain for each interval, pedal as hard as you can for two minutes. Recover with one minute of easy spinning. Complete 4–6 sets. As the workout becomes easier, increase the duration of the interval up to 5 minutes while maintaining a short recovery period.
Cool down: Pedal easy at a cadence above 90 rpm for 10–15 minutes.