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Ask the Experts: How far should you ride in preparation for a 100-mile sportive?

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Knowledge level: Beginner

Sportive

Article posted: 26/02/2014

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British Cycling Member Denis e-mailed in the following:

“I am new to Road Cycling and new to British Cycling, but it seems like an excellent website, I have learned a lot already. What is the longest ride you should complete prior to a 100 Mile Sportive?

My aim is to complete a Sportive in early summer, and like everybody want to make the best use of my time in training. The Beginner training plans look great for me, but  I have read a lot about LSD rides, but notice that your beginner plan does not seems to get close to the time you would spend in the saddle for a Sportive.  I am thinking such an event would take in excess of 5Hrs, so is current thinking not spend so long in the saddle during training?”

Your first question as to how far you should ride in preparation for a 100-mile sportive is tricky to answer as it’s very dependent on the individual, their experience and available time for training.

It’s more important, rather than thinking about the length of one particular ride, to consider overall consistent training volume from week to week. If you ride too far at the weekend, it will compromise your training for the following week and, by devaluing those weekday sessions, you’ll be limiting the endurance adaptations your body will make. Longer weekend rides are essential as part of this process, as well as teaching pacing and fuelling, but their length needs to be balanced against the time you’ll take to recover from them.

We’ve tried to be sympathetic to the other time demands that you have on your life. A 100-mile ride is realistically at least a six and a half hour commitment for most riders and for many taking that sized chunk out of a day just isn’t possible. Also, during the winter months, available daylight hours are also an issue.

The Beginner’s Training Plan is designed to prepare riders for a comfortable completion of a 100-kilometre (60-mile) sportive. The peak volume weekend will see you riding for four to four and a half hours on the Saturday and one and a half to two hours on the Sunday. This five and a half to six and a half hour weekend is then followed by a recovery week before the final taper week before the sportive. If you can find a 60-mile event that fits in with this, or plan your own 60-mile ride, that’d be ideal. If you can ride a 60-mile event fairly comfortably, the reality is, with a dose of grit and determination, you’d be able to cover 100 miles but, for a more enjoyable experience, you need to carry on progressing your training.

To do this, as your 100-mile event is in early summer, your best plan would then to be to move onto the Intermediate/Advanced 12-week Foundation Plan. From the start you will be putting in five hours over the weekends and will build up to six hours plus over the two days. This is combined with a higher volume during the week also and higher intensity workouts and will perfectly prepare you for your 100-mile ride.

The Member’s question you mention explained the balancing act between training and recovery, the use of carefully scheduled and monitored higher intensity workouts to maximise time effectiveness and, most importantly, the difference in approach to training that amateur cyclists need to adopt compared to full-time professionals.

The answer to your question about intensity versus duration is that both are equally  important to balanced training and that’s why both feature in all the British Cycling Training Plans. You wouldn’t be able to complete an endurance event without performing regular longer steadier rides but equally, with limited time available to most people during the week, shorter but higher intensity sessions will give better results.

 

 

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