One of Cycling Plus magazine’s readers has asked: “I’ve got my first 50-miler in six weeks, but have not yet ridden more than 30 miles. What advice can you give me?”
Eddie Fletcher, Wattbike’s lead sports scientist, kindly answered:
“It all depends how much prior training has been done. In principle, if you have ridden 30 miles then 50 miles is doable (even if slowly). My main recommendation would be to start putting structure into the training. First, you’ll need to understand the training zones (see here) and do a test to establish your heart rate and power training zones (see here).
“With six weeks to go, you’ll have four to five weeks of training, with tapering and recovery taking one to two weeks. Getting through a 50-mile ride is not about riding 50 miles in a single training session, but about the accumulation of training hours in the build-up to the event.
“You need to put in at least one long weekly ride over mixed terrain (including hills) of rising duration – for example 2hrs, 2.5hrs, 3hrs, 3.5hrs – then drop it for the taper weeks to 2.5 and 2hrs. You should also reduce the intensity in these taper weeks.
“On the long rides make sure your average HR doesn’t go above zone 2-3 (breathing hard at most), except on hills. Also, get used to using gears and cadence (rpm), particularly on hills where you should try to stay in the saddle using low gears/high rpm.
“Try to add a second long ride (slightly shorter) in the week – 1hr, 1.5hr, 2hrs and 2.5hrs, then taper to 1.5hr and 1hr. Just these two road rides will give you weekly riding times of 3-6hrs in the training weeks and 4hrs and 3hrs in the taper weeks.
“A third workout is a consistent zone 3 ride (breathing hard) either on a flat road route or a turbo/Wattbike. This is great for building sustained endurance/power. Again, build this each training week from 45mins to 1hr, 1hr 15mins and 1hr 30mins before dropping to 1hr, and 45mins in the taper weeks. Time in the saddle soon adds up and increases your weekly riding to 7.5hrs in training weeks and 5hrs and 3hrs 45mins in taper weeks. This also allows adequate time for rest and recovery, which is essential to help the body adapt to the training.
“If you still have time then the final weekly ride could be a 45mins to 1hr easy recovery ride – recovery zone and into zone 1 (still relaxed).”