3 Key Workouts to Train For Your First Century Ride

Marc Lindsay
by Marc Lindsay
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3 Key Workouts to Train For Your First Century Ride

Riding a 100-mile event for a cyclist is probably the equivalent of a marathon to a runner. While this distance can seem daunting, it’s totally within your reach if you’re willing to put in the proper training.

These three workouts help build your fitness and get you as prepared as possible to complete that century ride:

THE 4-HOUR PLUS SOLO RIDE

Century rides can be long, grueling affairs that require lots of mental toughness to complete. Riding solo with nobody to talk to, no one to draft off of and no one to offer any encouragement when things get hard is one way you can build this mental toughness and prepare for race day.

For this reason, you should aim to complete a few 4-hour plus solo rides before race day. While the event itself takes longer to complete, if you can ride about 75% of the distance on your own, you should be able to complete the other 25% of the distance on race day when there are others on the road to draft off of and more encouragement from your friends.

You’ll want to start training for your long ride at least eight weeks prior to your event. Each Sunday (or whatever day of the week works for you), ride as far as you can comfortably and try to increase the time you ride each week until you’re up around the 4-hour or longer mark. The goal is to be able to ride 75% of the distance at least 2–3 weeks before race day. If you can complete more than one of these rides prior to your event, that’s even better.

THE TWO-DAY BLOCK

Increasing your training load over a few days is another way to simulate the kind of effort you can expect during a 100-mile race. In the two months prior to your event, plan a few two-day training blocks. These back-to-back rides should be about three hours long, with the two rides totaling a time close to your expected finishing time.

Ideally, you’ll complete these back-to-back training sessions with two or three training partners. Try to simulate race-day conditions as much as possible, riding terrain (hills, flats, etc.) that mimics the race course. Practice drafting off of each other and keeping the pace the same as what you expect to ride on race day or even a little higher.

Since the effort should be tough, expect the second ride of the two-day block to be harder than the first. The key to getting the most out of the workout is to not let off the gas and complete the second ride at the same intensity of the first. Your body will likely feel worn down if you aren’t used to riding on back-to-back days, but this helps simulate the fatigue and energy drain you’ll feel in the latter half of a century ride.

Just remember, after the two-day block of training, take a day or two off to recover properly. Stay hydrated and concentrate on your diet, stretching and recovery techniques like massage and foam rolling to prevent injury.

THE GROUP RIDE

Riding alongside others in close proximity, often at high speeds, is something you’ll have to get used to before race day. While drafting is often a welcomed benefit in this environment because you’ll conserve energy, being confident in your bike-handling and knowing what not to do to stay safe is a must.

To get comfortable, you should practice riding in a large group as much as possible. Club rides or group rides organized by your local bike shop on the weekend are good ways to practice your bike-handling skills in a group setting and become more aware of how a group operates. While nothing simulates actually doing it, here are a few group-riding principles that can help you on race day and before you head out to ride with your local club:

  • Don’t overlap wheels: When behind another cyclist, keep a safe distance and never overlap your front wheel with a person’s back wheel. If you overlap wheels, and they have to adjust to a pothole or other obstacle, it could cause a crash.
  • Keep your head up: Scan for obstacles in the distance and be aware of changes in the pace of the group.
  • Know your hand signalsYou’ll need to know what riders in front of you are signaling and be able to signal to other riders when a turn is approaching or an obstacle needs to be avoided.
  • Be predictable: This includes not braking suddenly or moving side to side unnecessarily. Learning how to ride in a straight line is a required skill.

TRAINING TWO WEEKS BEFORE THE RACE

Two weeks before your race, it’s important to begin reducing your training volume to allow your body to recover. Attempting to cram in more training rides in fear that you’re under prepared won’t help and can hurt your performance. What’s done has been done, and when you’re inside two weeks of an event you won’t be able to increase your endurance much more than what it already is.

Instead, decrease your total training volume by about half two weeks before. If you normally ride 200 miles per week, aim for no more than 100 miles two weeks before the race. Adding intensity instead of volume can help prime your muscles and get you used to a faster pace. Short 30-second, all-out efforts on your indoor trainer, a few 5-minute intervals mixed in regular training rides or a 20-minute time-trial effort are a few workouts you can do while you taper for an event to get your body ready while decreasing total volume.

When you’re in race week, back off even more, decreasing your training volume by about 75–80%. Other than a few easy rides, focus most of your efforts on diet, staying hydrated and feeling as good as possible leading up to your event.

About the Author

Marc Lindsay
Marc Lindsay

Marc is a freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a master’s degree in writing from Portland State University and is a certified physical therapy assistant. An avid cyclist and runner of over 20 years, Marc contributes to LAVA, Competitor and Phoenix Outdoor magazines. He is the former cycling editor for Active.com.

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