Posted in Cycle
image of road rider training

Preparing and tackling a Standard/Epic distance sportive isn’t something to be scared of. It still requires a bike, some kit, planning and a bit of hard work. The difference this time is it needs a bit more training...

In this guide we asked Radeon Cycle Coaching to put together some top tips on training for a longer distance sportive. For more information on Radeon Coaching, reference the contact details at the bottom of the guide.

Preparation

Preparing for a Fun distance doesn’t need to consume hours and hours of endless hard intervals. What it does require is that you invest somewhere in the region of 4 hours a week; this can be relatively low intensity riding, designed to give you a good foundation to go on and attempt your first sportive.

Ideally you want to start looking at your training a minimum of 8 - 12 weeks out from the event (depending on your current level of fitness), obviously the earlier you start the better prepared you will be! If you have already completed a lot of ‘Fun’ distance events this would suggest that you already have good foundation to develop further.

Below we have created a number of sample "sessions" you can perform on your bike to prepare for this kind of event. We use the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale in the table below to gauge the effort that you put into each part of a session.

Preparation table

Example sessions

Session 1

Warm up:

  • As part of your warm up, ride for 5 minutes at Level 1 of the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). This means you will be breathing lightly and able to talk easily.
  • Then step things up, and ride for 5 minutes at Level 2 RPE; this means you'll be noticing the effort you are putting in.
  • Finally, step 3 of the warm up is to ride for 5 minutes at Level 3 RPE. Now you should be feeling warm and breathing a bit more heavily.

Session:

  • This is main part of your session.
  • After your warm up, return to Zone 2 and do 5 minutes here.
  • Then ramp things up again with 5 minutes in Zone 3.
  • Repeat these two steps four more times.
  • Concentrate on spinning your legs at a speed of 90+ Revolutions Per Minute (RPM)

Cool down:

  • You've done the hard work now, time to cool down and spin things out
  • Do 5 minutes at Zone 3 RPE.
  • Then down to Zone 2 for 5 minutes, then finally take it really easy in Zone 1 for 5 minutes.
  • All the time concentrate on your breathing and on spinning your legs.

Session 2

Warm up:

  • 5 minutes in Zone 1 RPE
  • 5 minutes in Zone 2 RPE
  • 5 minutes in Zone 3 RPE

Session:

  • 5 minutes in Zone 2 RPE.
  • 5 minutes in Zone 3 RPE.
  • 2 minutes in Zone 4 RPE.
  • Repeat 4 times.

Cool down:

  • 5 minutes in Zone 3 RPE
  • 5 minutes in Zone 2 RPE
  • 5 minutes in Zone 1 RPE.
  • Whilst easily spinning your legs aiming for a cadence (Pedalling Speed) of 90+ RPM

Session 3

Warm up

  • 5 minutes in Zone 1 RPE
  • 5 minutes in Zone 2 RPE
  • 5 minutes in Zone 3 RPE.

Session:

    • 3 minutes in Zone 2 RPE
    • 5 minutes in Zone 3 RPE
    • 2 minutes in Zone 4 RPE
    • 1 minute in Zone 5 RPE
    • Repeat 4 times

     

    Cool down:

    • 5 minutes in Zone 3 RPE
    • 5 minutes in Zone 2 RPE
    • 5 minutes in Zone 1 RPE.
    • Whilst easily spinning your legs aiming for a cadence (Pedalling Speed) of 90+ RPM

    Session 4

    Warm up

    • 5 minutes in Zone 1 RPE
    • 5 minutes in Zone 2 RPE
    • 5 minutes in Zone 3 RPE

    Session:

    • 3 minutes in Zone 2 RPE.
    • 5 minutes in Zone 3 RPE.
    • 2 minutes in Zone 4 RPE.
    • 2 minutes in Zone 5 RPE.
    • 2 minutes in Zone 6 RPE.

    Repeat 3 times

    Cool down:

    • 5 minutes in Zone 3 RPE
    • 5 minutes in Zone 2 RPE
    • 5 minutes in Zone 1 RPE.
    • Whilst easily spinning your legs aiming for a cadence (Pedalling Speed) of 90+ RPM

    Sportive training

    Training guidelines

    • The above sessions are only guidelines, and depend on your current level of fitness. You may need to keep using Session 1 for a couple of weeks, then move to Session 2 for a couple of weeks and so on.
    • Don’t rush yourself! Take your time and don’t over do it. Fitness comes from the recovery so constantly going out riding won’t make you any fitter and faster, in fact it may do more harm than good.
    • Terrain will also play a part in what shape your training may take, if it's fairly flat you won’t need to work too much on the higher Zone 6 - 10 of the RPE Scale, if the event demands are quite hilly, you would need to invest more time at this end of the scale after working and developing Zones 1 to 5 RPE at the beginning.
    • Aim to do at least one of the above sessions as well as a long (3 hour) low intensity (RPE Zones 1-4) ride each week will help to develop the components of fitness needed to complete a Standard or Epic distance sportive. If in doubt of you requirements, speak to a qualified coach to help guide you on where to aim your training.

    Alongside physical fitness, good technique is also very important. You can read more about technique in the Beginners Guide to Road Cycling.

    Road Cycling - Intermediate

    Pacing

    If this is your first attempt at a Standard or Epic length Sportive, then pacing is always going to be at the back of your mind. When pacing yourself, it is important that you use the way your body feels to help guide you. You should find a rhythm that suits you. Don’t try to keep up with the group in front if it’s out of your comfort zone. You want to finish, you want to make it a pleasant experience. This is your personal challenge! It’s not a race!

    Don’t go too hard too soon, you may feel comfortable at mile 10-20 but will you feel the same at mile 80-90? Always ride like you have a little in reserve and this will see you through.

    Use the scale of Rate of Perceived Exertion to help you pace your efforts. Keep in the lower intensity zones (1-4) and keep your legs spinning. Make sure you use your gears to keep your cadence up like you have been practicing in training (90-100RPM); this will help to reduce fatigue on the muscles.

    RoadCycling - Intermediate 2

    Nutrition

    We need to make sure that we fuel our bodies for the task that it has to achieve. The best advice is to eat a well balanced and healthy diet. Basic advice on nutrition can be found in the Beginners Guide to Road Cycling. Here are some additional tips on how to fuel for longer rides:

    • Plan what you are going to eat a couple of days before the event; plan what you’re eating before, during and after.
    • Get your nutrition strategy sorted before embarking on the target event. Try different food types; solid food such as fruit, and flapjack, as well as energy bars and gels. Everybody is different in what agrees with them and what doesn’t. Find what suits you before the event.
    • Have a good meal the night before, some that is high in carbohydrate. 60-70% of energy for exercise is derived from carbohydrate, as opposed to 55% for normal life. It’s important then to always take on board more carbohydrate as this is easily digested and absorbed by the body.
    • During the ride eat foods that are high in carbohydrate and easy to eat whilst on the bike; cereal bars, Jaffa Cakes, dried fruit and bags of jelly sweets (Haribo!) are good for this, and if needed, top this up with a energy gels. Aim to be eating high carbohydrate foods every 20 minutes or so to keep topping up the reserves. Don’t start eating when you’re hungry, the fact is your probably already too late and on your way to ‘the bonk’. Plan the strategy and keep to it.
    • Drink Plenty! As little as 1% dehydration will cause a decline in performance, 7% and you will collapse. Drinking is possibly the most important part of the nutrition strategy. 2 hours before riding try to take on 500-750ml of water, and then aim to drink 100-150ml of water every 15-20mins, keep drinking after you have finished to re-hydrate. If the event is over an hour it is worth adding in carbohydrate drink mix to your water. Bare in mind that if the weather is exceptionally hot you will need to drink more!

    Sportives and nutrition

    Recovery

    • Cool down: Don’t forget to include a cool down. Use one of the cool downs from the sessions above to help return the body to a rested state and help the body start "flushing out" the waste products of exercise such as lactic acid.
    • Re-fuel: After exercise your muscles are at their most receptive to generating and storing glycogen (which is used during exercise); blood flow is at its greatest to the exercised muscles and creates a great environment for muscles to use glucose and protein. This is why it’s important to eat and replenish the stores as soon as you can after exercise.
    • Eat something: 50 grams of carbohydrate is a great ball park figure to aim for immediately post exercise, along with 10-15 grams of protein. This might take the shape of a recovery shake or something as simple as three slices of toast with peanut butter. Including protein will help your body start repairing muscles as soon as possible after exercise.
    • Have a main meal: Between 2-4 hours after exercise you need to get a well rounded meal inside of you; aim for a ratio of carbohydrates and protein of 4:1.
    • Re-Hydrate: Re-hydration is also an important part of the recovery process. Keep drinking after the event has finished. Adding a pinch of salt to your water can encourage you to drink more.
    • Active Recovery: A gentle recovery ride, known as "Active Recovery" is also recommended the day after an event. This will help loosen you up and flush lactic acid out of your muscles. Keep it to a really low intensity; no more than Zone 1-2 RPE and less than 30 minutes in duration. Spin at a high cadence. It may also be worth introducing some static stretching to free up your muscles subtle, if in doubt about the stretches you should perform speak to a qualified coach.

    Most of all, enjoy your riding!

    Recovery