With only a few weeks left to go until your major objective of the year, most of your preparation is obviously over and done. Nevertheless, the fine weather and the opportunity to tackle some big climbs in these last few weeks mean it is still possible to make substantial improvements.
Note however that if you are preparing for the first Haute Route (in mid-August) you will not follow the same schedule as someone preparing for the third one (in September).
Let’s take a look at this in more detail.
Overall, a good way to tackle the last 8 weeks is to break them down into two cycles of 4 weeks, each with 3 weeks of rather intense training followed by a week of recovery. Those riding the first Haute Route may need to reduce this to two cycles of 3 weeks, each with 2 high-intensity weeks followed by 1 week of recovery.
The content of each training session will of course – as always – heavily depend on your level as a rider, the time you have available and your goals for the Haute Route.
Here are the main points:
In these last few weeks, volume is more important than anything else, closely followed by climbing. Use the weekends during the high-intensity periods to go on long group rides or better still participate in a cyclosportive. The objective is to gain more experience in bunch riding while increasing the distance and the time spent in high-intensity zones (lactic threshold and VO2max).
Most people have less time available to train during the week. In this case, you should spend as much time as possible during your 1h30 to 2h30 rides at VO2max (zone I5), especially during the first 4 (or 3) week cycle. The goal is to increase the time you can spend at this level, which is the maximum effort you can sustain for a period of 5 to 6 minutes. Specifically, try doing several series of 2 min at I5, 2 min at I1/I2.
It is important to continue developing your ability to push hard on the pedals at least once per week. If you have already been working on this, you can now take it still further and make 6 to 12 short climbs in succession in the highest possible gear (without significantly increasing your heart rate). Concentrate on the pedal stroke to make it as smooth and technically perfect as possible. If you are lucky enough to have an Infocranks power meter, aim at getting the Torque Effectiveness measure as close to 100% as possible.
You should also continue developing your ability to pedal at a high cadence. Take advantage of any false flats or gently rising slopes (<4%) to select a low gear and climb for 2 to 5 minutes spinning your legs at a high cadence (> 110rpm). Your heart rate will naturally increase: let this happen but without getting completely out of breath.
Finally, if you can fit in another ride during the week you should focus it on tempo, riding 3 to 4 series of 10 to 20 minutes each at 80-90% of your maximum heart rate.
The importance of recovery weeks
Two or three weeks of high-intensity training create the conditions for improvement, but the improvement will only happen if you allow your body the time to adjust.
During the recovery week you should divide both the number of training hours in half and also reduce the intensity. You can include a few short sprints to break the monotony and exercise your fast-twitch muscle fibres, but keep this to 5 to 8 sprints of 20 seconds.
The final week before the start (or the final 10 days for those with less training) should be focused on tapering. The goal is to reduce the volume considerably in order to build up your energy stocks and eliminate all the side-effects of the hard training.
Some people may find it hard to manage the pre-race nerves in these last few days. It is important to realize that it is now too late to expect any progress and it is much better to be completely rested.
Make sure you eat healthily, avoid stressful situations and sleep as well as possible in order to arrive at the Haute Route at 100% of your potential. Don’t completely stop riding however, because your body is used to the regular exercise.
For the most highly trained riders, it is still possible to ride a cyclosportive 7 days before the Haute Route (on condition that you don’t finish exhausted). Some people actually need this in order to remain at their peak.
Assuming you have just 8 weeks to go:
It is important to manage these last two months correctly in order to peak at the right time. There is not much room for error: it is highly undesirable to miss a session, even if the weather is bad. All the sacrifices will be worth it when you reach the finishing line.
So no excuses: get out there and ride!
Previous: the Build period
Updated on 13 November 2016