Get set for your first sportive

Preparation is the key to meeting your cycling goals says Ross Muir from the Cycling Academy. Here’s our eight-week plan and some useful tips

Ride out into the countryside or a nice Sunday roast at the pub? The temptation to delay the start of any training schedule is something many of us are familiar with. But why not signal the start of your training plans with a ride that ends with a pub lunch and rehydrating pint? Or stop on route and enjoy a coffee and a big slice of cake?

Take it from us, the latter is what many recreational and club cyclists do each and every weekend; even in places like Spain social rides usually end with tapas and beer. Remember, cycling is fun, both on and off the bike, so get started and let the fun begin.

Identifying and overcoming your training hurdles is key to achieving and enjoying your challenge, whether it’s your first cycle sportive, a challenge event or charity ride.

Yes, but what about the hills? Can I keep going for 100 miles? Can I really have my feet clipped into the pedal and not fall off? The answers to all of these is, of course, yes - just as long as you do some preparation and training.

And this blog is all about pointing you in the right direction with some helpful tips and an eight-week training programme for you to follow in preparation for the big day.

THE EIGHT-WEEK PLAN

The good news is that an eight-week commitment to training can get you to the event in the best possible shape to succeed.

To make life easier, we’ve divided this eight-week programme into bite-sized, four-week training phases, allowing you to concentrate on developing specific aspects of your riding.

The plan concentrates on two key components of fitness: aerobic endurance and strength in the first phase, before converting those into more event-specific demands in the second phase.

Mix up your training

In order to improve, you need to make your training measurable in some way. For this programme, we’ll use the following three-level rating of perceived effort.

Level 1: Easy

Very comfortably-paced riding; breathing normally

Level 2: Moderate

Harder-paced rides intended to develop your ‘tempo’ or slightly faster riding (involving more hill work than Level 1).

Level 3: Hard

Rides done at an intensity which is difficult to maintain for more than a few minutes.

The plan is suggested to be used as a guide. Don’t worry if you miss a session and don’t be afraid to adapt the plan to best suit your daily life. You will probably be surprised how making time for your training will instil an exercise discipline to your weekly schedule. You might even struggle to give it up and remain hungry for the next challenge. But first things first...

Remember, you can build up to cycling 100 miles and you WILL master the satisfaction of achieving a significant hill climb. 

Phase 1: Familiarising yourself with increased volume of riding, using mostly flat routes
  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Week 1 Rest 1hr @level 1 Rest 1hr @level 2 Rest 1.5hr @level 1 2.5hr @level 1
Week 2 Rest

2hr @level 1, with 10 min @level 2

Rest 1hr @level 2 Rest

2hr @level 1, with 10 min @level 2

3hr @ evel 1
Week 3 Rest

2hr @level 1, with 15 min @level 2

Rest 1hr @level 2 Rest

2.5hr @level 1, with 10 min @level 2

3.5hr @level 1
Week 4 Rest

2hr @level 1, with 10 min @level 2

Rest 1hr @level 2 Rest

1hr @level 1, with 10 min @level 2

2hr @level 1
Phase 2: Develop basic endurance and strength specific to climbing by incoporating more hill work
  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Week 5 Rest 2hr @level 1, with 2x10 min intervals of level 2, with at least 15 min between each interval into each hour 1hr @level 1 1hr @level 2 Rest 2.5hr @level 1, with 2x10 min intervals of level 2, with at least 15 min between each interval into each hour 3.5hr @level 1, with 2x15 min intervals of level 2, with at least 15 min between each interval into each hour
Week 6 Rest 2hr @level 1, with 2x10 min intervals of level 2, with at least 15 min between each interval into each hour 1hr @level 1 1hr @ level 2 Rest

3.5hr @level 1, with 2x10 min intervals of level 2, with at least 15 min between each interval into each hour

4.5hr @level 1, with 2x15 min intervals of level 2, with at least 15 min between each interval into each hour
Week 7 Rest

2hr @level 1, with 2x10 min intervals of level 2, with at least 15 min between each interval into each hour

1hr @level 1 1hr @ level 2 Rest

4hr @level 1, with 2x10 min intervals of level 2, with at least 15 min between each interval into each hour

4hr @level 1, with 2x15 min intervals of level 2, with at least 15 min between each interval into each hour
Week 8 Rest

30 min @level 1, with 10 min of level 2

1hr @level 1 1hr @ level 2 Rest

1hr @level 1, with 2x10 min interval of level 2

1hr @level 1, with 2x10 min interval of level 2

OUR TEN TOP TIPS

1. Get your bike serviced

Before your training begins, treat your bike to a service at your local bike shop. Most require you to pre-book.

2. Upgrade your pedals

You may be very familiar commuting to work using regular flat pedals but our advice would be to consider upgrading to clipless pedals and shoes. Specific cycling shoes and pedals make a huge difference to your comfort and cycling efficiency. There are two main types:

  • Mountain bike pedalsthese are doublesided so clipping in/out is easier; shoes are easier for walking, but a smaller pedal body gives less support over longer rides
  • Road bike pedalsusually lighter and most efficient pedaling, but very difficult to walk in; less versatile than MTB shoes

3. Know what to carry

Take a lightweight rain jacket on your training rides. Other must-haves include: two inner tubes, tyre levers, mini-pump, small multi-tool, some money and a debit/credit card to remedy any ‘get out of jail’ moments.

4. Learn how to fix a puncture

It’s the simplest of all bike fixes and an essential skill for any cyclist. If you don’t know how to do it follow a YouTube demo, ask a cycling friend/colleague to coach you, or see if your local council or bike shop offers basic maintenance workshops.

5. Buy some proper cycling shorts

Lycra shorts might not look cool, but they really do aid your comfort in the saddle. 50+ miles on a road ride and you will quickly appreciate the benefits. If you feel self-conscious wearing them, slip a pair of baggier outer shorts over the top like mountain bikers do.

6. Make a checklist

From clothing to nutrition, and race numbers to phone and keys, there’s a lot to remember to pack on the Big Day. Why not write a list in advance and prepare the day before?

7. Eat right to train right...

Be mindful that when adding several hours of physical training into an already busy lifestyle, your nutritional demands are going to rise accordingly. Try to stick to a good, healthy balanced diet at all times. Your training is based mainly on endurance, so sufficient carbohydrate food types such as pasta, potatoes, protein foods and dairy products are the key nutritional areas that you need to be concerned with.

8....And eat right on the day

In your training you will have found out what food and drinks work for you. Whether designer energy products or a good old marmalade sandwich, stick to what you know works on the big day rather than trying something unfamiliar. What about energy drinks and gels? In short, they have a purpose but don’t overdo it and don’t be afraid to carry 'proper food' (a flapjack or cereal bar). It’s also worth carrying two waterbottles - one with added energy drink and the other just water. An option is to carry one or two energy gel tablets that you can mix with water at a feed station on route.

9. Lose the booze

As with any physical activity, alcohol does impair performance - and recovery. Plan for moderation during the training phase and a post-event celebration. You’ll have deserved it!

10. Join the Cycling Academy

Cycling Academy is an LCC initiative to help sportier cyclists acquire the knowledge and skills to take their cycling to the next level. Sessions are held at closed road circuits across London and are packed full of tips and tricks to help you ride stronger, smarter, and safer.