7. Training in the Build period

The longer days and warmer weather at this time of year make training easier. This is good because from now on it is important to increase significantly both your training volume AND intensity.

Over the course of these two months, you need to make your training progressively more and more like the Haute Route. The major themes to work on are:

  • Longer rides, at a higher intensity
  • A significant amount of climbing
  • Developing your VO2max

Crank up the volume: longer rides at the weekend!

Following on from the previous two months you should be progressively increasing the length of the weekend rides, for example on a schedule such as 4h – 5h – 4h – 5h30 – 4h – 6h – 4h. The objective is to create a significant amount of fatigue on the first day and then do some targeted training work in the fatigued state on the following day.

Key Insight #7An example would be to ride 100 to 120 km on Saturday, with several sections at tempo/race pace, followed by 80 to 100 km on Sunday focused on climbing in a high gear (low cadence/high force).

You can of course take part in a race (preferably a long-distance cyclosportive) on Saturday, before a long training ride on the following day, or even a second race if you are fit enough.

Crank up the volume: try training twice per day!

Breaking a long ride into two halves can be a good way to train, reducing your level of fatigue and thus helping you progress:

  • Easier to combine both high intensity and high volume on the same day;
  • Develops the ability to make repeated efforts;
  • Improves your ability to ride when fatigued;
  • Easier to reach “supercompensation” (the improvement in form that results from a very heavy training load followed by a period of light recovery).

It is best to plan the highest intensity ride for the morning. Here is an example:

Morning ride: 2h30 with several blocks of 20’ on the cusp of Zone 3/Zone 4, low cadence/high force (60-70 rpm)
Afternoon ride: 2h at high cadence (100 rpm)

In June you could increase to 3h in the morning and 3h in the afternoon/evening, if you can free up enough time.

Them thar hills

There’s no escape; from now on you have to get really serious about climbing. You will not be able to manage over 20,000 m in seven days on the Haute Route without building up to regularly climbing 2000 to 3000 m per day.

If there are no mountains where you live, find the biggest hill and keep repeating it. If you start by climbing 1000 m in early May and increase this by 200 – 300 m per week you will reach 3000 m in July.

Increase your VO2max

This now becomes one of the major objectives. At first you might include only one VO2max session for every six to eight other sessions, but you should ideally increase this to one out of four during at least a month, after which you will just need to need to maintain it by doing occasional sessions.

Developing your VO2max is simple in theory: you have to work at an intensity level (Zone 5) which is very close to your maximum (it is sometimes called Maximum Tolerated Power MTP). Zone 5 is normally considered to be between 106% and 120% of your FTP (Functional Threshold Power) where FTP is the maximum average power you can sustain for 60 minutes.

It is very easy to start too hard. You will need to judge the maximum effort that you can hold constant for the required time. It will feel extremely hard on your legs, which will be burning after a very few repetitions.

Over the four to five week period focused on developing VO2max, you should progress steadily in terms of the length of the intervals:

Step 1 = 10 to 15x (1min at VO2max – 1min active recovery)
Step 2 = 10 to 15x (2mins at VO2max – 2mins active recovery)
Step 3 = 8 to 10x (3mins at VO2max – 2-3mins active recovery)
Step 4 = 6 to 8x (5mins at VO2max – 3-5mins active recovery)

If you are able to do this session outside, don’t hesitate to break it into two blocks with 15 or even 30 minutes of active recovery in between. The benefits will be increased.

Be aware that these sessions are extremely hard and will result in a high level of fatigue. They are, however, indispensable if you want to make significant progress and develop a bigger “engine”. Don’t think that it is not for you. There is no secret: to cycle faster you need to develop your VO2max…

Finally, the most highly motivated can tackle the (in)famous Gimenez exercise, which consists of 9 repetitions of 1 minute at Vo2max (Zone 5) followed by 4 minutes at tempo (Zone 3). This is an extremely demanding exercise.

A couple of easier variations are:

  • Begin with only five repetitions and increase progressively to nine;
  • Include some active recovery during each repetition, such as 9 x (1’Z5 – 3’Z3 – 1’Z1)


Previous: the Base period

Next up: the Pre-Competition period


Updated on 13 November 2016

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