If you’ve never trained for or ridden 100 kilometres or more before, then the goal can seem quite daunting. There will be many hours in the saddle required before the event and the training needs to be structured in such a way as to ensure you do not burn out either physically or psychologically ahead of the event itself.
But there’s no reason why training for a 100km event can’t be both as enjoyable and rewarding as the ride itself. Here’s our top five tips to help you approach this milestone in your cycling career in the best way possible.
1. Ensure you have a suitable training programme in place.
With such a big challenge ahead of you, you need to start by developing a comprehensive training plan – one that is appropriate to your current level of fitness and the level of fitness required by the event. You could either put this together alongside an experienced cycling coach or you can create a programme yourself through some independent research.
One key aspect of training is tracking your level of fitness. At its simplest, this can be done by recording the time you take to complete your various training rides. As the times decrease, you can infer an increase in fitness but this is a very blunt tool. Training with a power meter is by far the best way to track your fitness.
2. Ensure you follow through on the training plan.
All that work to develop your training plan is only really the first step. It’s no use if the plan stays stuck to your refrigerator door and is never looked at let alone followed through!
There is no substitute for hours in the saddle, unfortunately you cannot imagine or think your way to increased fitness. First and foremost, commit to actually following the plan you have set yourself to the letter. There will almost certainly be times you are unable to complete a training ride or two – it happens to all of us. If you do need to miss a session, then carry on as regardless and try and regain some of the distance elsewhere.
Alternatively, you might find that subscribing to our PowerBrain platform can help. PowerBrain automatically updates your training programme based on what you actually do, always with the eventual end goal in mind.
3. You cannot make up for a lack of consistency by dramatically increasing the training volume towards the end of the training plan.
Similar to the previous point, consistency in training really is key. You cannot expect to complete only 50% of your training rides for 80% of the programme and then spend the remaining 20% of the programme tripling the workload.
This may lead to mental burnout, physical burnout and possibly even injury. This may seem an obvious point, but it’s surprising how easy it is to skip a training ride when the weather is bad, or your ride partner bails on you, or you’re feeling a little fatigued or ‘insert excuse here’. If the training plan was right to begin with, then changing it in the above way makes no sense. There will be times where missing a ride is understandably unavoidable, but if you want to hit your goals, try to stick to your original plans.
Image: Michael Blann
4. Do not ignore event specificity.
What type of ride are you aiming for? Is it flat, mountainous or hilly? Is it a combination of all three? Is it held in the middle of winter or summer?
All of these factors matter. It makes no sense to train on routes or in conditions that you will not encounter on the day of the event. If your event takes you through some of the steepest climbs in the Italian Dolomites in the middle of summer, then doing all your training on flat roads and in cold weather will not leave you suitably prepared. Riding for 100 kilometres or more in the mountains is an entirely different proposition to 100 kilometres or more on the roads of Holland – so find ways to train in similar conditions to your event if possible.
5. Ensure you cover at least 75% of the distance in training.
This final point is as much about mental as well as physical fitness. Ensuring you know what it feels like to ride long distances is the best way to be prepared. Riding over 100 kilometres at speed will challenge most newcomers psychologically. You will feel fatigued and elated in equal measure and sometimes in unpredictable ways. But you will need to be able to summon up the resolve when things start to become difficult, which they do for even the best of us.
Pushing through those moments is ultimately what makes you a more accomplished cyclist as it gives you the confidence to go further for longer. So make sure that you have covered at least 75% of the total ride distance on a training ride, you can then be almost certain that you will get round successfully and have a fantastic day.
If you’ve noticed a theme throughout these tips, it’s the importance of having a plan and sticking to it. To really make the most of your training sessions we recommend that you be as objective as you can about your performance and train with a power meter. This is the most sure-fire way of ensuring you are where you need to be from a training perspective.
There is no magic way to become fitter and stronger, it really does just come down to hard work and discipline. But that’s what makes it even more satisfying when you do hit those incredible targets.