Ultra Endurance Cycling Training – UPDATED – Ultra Endurance Bike Training Plan
Ultra Endurance Cycling Training
Every year more and more ultra endurance cycling events turn up on the calendar. With ultra endurance racing becoming more popular, more and more cyclists are getting lured into multi-day bike events. These events test your endurance but also self-sufficiency and mental stamina.
While riding for more than 300km may entail long hours on the saddle, most cyclists don’t have the time to replicate this in training.
Whether this is because of family or work, many athletes have to do their ultra endurance cycling training with limited training time. So following a training plan specific to ultra endurance cycling can help you be more efficient with your time. It can also improve your fitness and increase your confidence leading into the event. All while fitting into your lifestyle with the limited time you have.
A good ultra endurance cycling training plan is more than just a program though, it also helps organize your time better and help build your mental preparation for the event.
Building your aerobic engine is one of the most important aspects of training for an ultra event. The general rule in building your aerobic fitness requires lots of zone 2 training, meaning the majority of the riding should be done at 60-75% of your maximum effort. Having a strong aerobic foundation will enhance your cardiovascular efficiency and improve your mitochondrial function.
Since you will be riding for long hours and sometimes even for days, the better your aerobic system is, the better the body will handle the fatigue.
That means that 80% of your training should be in zone 2 and the other 20% of your time spent doing interval training. The interval training will help develop power and stamina to handle climbs and other hard sections on race day. It can also help to strengthen the mental toughness needed in the later stages of an ultra event.
Ultra Endurance Bike Training Plan
As we talked about above, your ultra endurance bike training plan should be 80% zone 2 based. So it is important when training for this type of event that you set aside some key dates to practice long rides. It will help to track your current fitness and experience the fatigue you may encounter during the event. These long rides should focus on being 6, 7, or 8 hours or more in duration. And should be included in your training plan at least once a month. Then as you get closer to the event and your fitness improves, try increasing this distance to help the body adjust to spending long times in the saddle.
Outside of these long rides, you should include multiple mid-length rides each week. These rides should be distanced-focused but not as long as the long ride we discussed above. Then every 4th or 5th week, ease back the mileage by 50% to allow adaptions to occur and give yourself a mental break.
In terms of intervals, you should be focusing on steady-state efforts by including threshold intervals and longer tempo workouts. Both of these workouts will help increase your overall power and help you get over any longer climbs you may face.
Focus on one long and two medium-length rides per week, and add two interval sessions a few days apart. For the remaining days available, either take them as complete rest days or add an extra recovery ride.
Cycling Endurance Training For Beginners
If you’re a beginner starting cycling, it is important not to overreach too early. Cycling endurance training for beginners takes time, and the focus should be on consistency rather than volume or intensity.
Building your endurance requires many months of aerobic riding and will provide a base for you to build upon later. During the early stages of endurance training, the focus should be on consistent riding each week in zone 2. Ideally, starting with 2-3 rides per week and increasing this as your fitness improves.
On top of those 2-3 aerobic rides, your plan should also include 2-3 days of light riding or complete rest days. As your fitness increases, you can start raising the number of long days on the bike and reduce the number of rest days. Preparing your week this way will help the body adapt to the training and allow enough recovery for long periods of consistency.
Once you have spent close to 10-12 weeks of building mileage, you can then look to implement some of the steady-state intervals we discussed.
Don’t forget about your bike position in the beginning. Bike position is the key to staying comfortable on the bike, so if you’re new to cycling, spend some time seeing a qualified bike fitter that can set your position up correctly. It will pay dividends in the long run as your mileage increases.
Ultra Distance Road Cycling Race
Once you have started preparing for your ultra distance road cycling race, there are many events you can enter. While it all depends on what event you want to target. We recommend starting with some shorter events to test your fitness and then move on to some longer events as you become more confident.
Below are some ultra distance road cycling events that are suited to beginners because of the distance. These events, even though shorter, should still be considered hard because of the elevation climbed. So while not 100% beginner-friendly, they are much friendlier to the beginner than the 1200km plus distance events.
Hell of the North West 800km
The hell of the North West starts in Clitheroe England and tackles some of the famous Lancashire, and Cumbria climbs. The event climbs more than 14,000m and isn’t classed as a race (even though the results are published). The course is pre-marked, but it is up to the rider to navigate and track the route. Once the event starts, you can decide how long you want to ride before resting, but there is a 3-hour mandatory break of 3 hours each cyclist must take at some point during the event.
BikingMan runs a total of 7 events located in France, Portugal, Brazil, and Oman. Each event is 1000km long and takes in spectacular scenery and varying terrain and weather conditions. While the terrain varies over each event, the distance stays the same. While slightly longer than the Hell of the North West. It still provides a good route for the beginner starting ultra distance cycling.
The easiest of the three, Normandicat is a single-stage cycling event that offers three distances of 900, 400, and 200km. Because of the shorter distances, it makes it perfect for the beginner ultra cyclist. The event isn’t classed as a race either, but more of an orienteering event. Just like other events, you have to be self-supported and carry your equipment with you.
Image (Litespeed Bike): Felix Wong CC BY-SA 4.0