When you are preparing for a 7 day stage-race, you are going to want a training plan.
In fact, if you are preparing for any race, a training plan will most likely be beneficial to your success.
An essential step in the development of a training plan is considering your goals and the physiological requirements needed to fulfill those goals.
Let us have a look at how this applies to my Project Haute Route.
What is the goal?
My goal for the Haute Route Alps i August 2020 is broken down into multiple elements.
I would like to achieve:
- to complete the race in style
- to climb the mountains with a feeling that I am racing, as opposed to simply getting to the finish line
- to place in the top 100 overall
In my mind, 1 and 2 are absolute goals I’m dead set to accomplish. Number 3 is a relative goal that would be fun to reach.
Goals settled, then.
Once you have your goals sorted, you need to figure out what is actually required to meet those goals.
Only then can you design a training plan to ensure you meet those requirements come race day.
Haute Route Alps requirements
Let us have a look at what the Haute Route Alps 2020 will be throwing at me.
Come August 22nd I will be faced with:
- 7 straigth days of racing
- A total distance of 800 km
- A total altitude gain of + 20 000 meters
This means most days will include somewhere around 4 hours of riding – give or take an hour or two.
In the 2019 edition, which boasted a slightly shorter (692 km), but also slightly steeper course, the winner kept an average speed of 32,9 km/h.
In comparison, the rider who placed 100th in the overall standings rode at an average speed of 26,3 km/h. To place within the top 50% (200th overall) you needed to keep a speed of about 24 km/h.
I expect these average speed will be harder to accomplish than they sound, seeing how 3 of the descents are done after finishing respective stages. In other words, the course includes more (kilo)meters of climbing than it does descending.
A big 30 hour week
By last year’s standards I will need to finish in an overall time of 30 hours to meet my ambition of a top 100 finish. In other words, 30 hours of riding within the range of easy to moderate intensity (a fair bit high intensity is also inevitable).
At the very least, I need to be able to manage 30 hours of riding in a single week. As such, the very first thing I need to address is getting my weekly training volume up.
Intervals are a key part of any training plan, but no amount of intervals alone, nor clever training “optimization” can prepare you for long endurance events if you don’t have the sufficient training volume onboard.
Specifically, I would am for getting in weekly training volumes of 10-20 hours throughout the spring and summer. The immediate task at hand this winter is to start building my volume so that I will be able to sustain, and more importantly, adapt from those hours.
What about power outputs?
What kind of work will I be needing to produce on my bike to get through the Haute Route in style?
My past experience with training with power meters provides some insight.
Due to my 191 cm I am usually required to put out 200-250 watt to negotiate gentle climbs. When the hills get steeper I may need to produce 250-300 watt to climb at a fair pace.
Up until now I am someone who has been riding my bike when and how I feel like it. This usually means an eager start up in April, and regular but somewhat inconsistent riding through April-August.
Throughout the summer this allows me to ride comfortably at 200-250W, to put out tempo and moderate efforts in the 250-300W range with anything between 300-350W being at and above my anaerobic threshold.
Consider your effort duration
In order to analyse the requirements for your training goal, you should consider the duration of the efforts involved.
The duration of your efforts, and potential repetitions of these efforts will tell you a lot about which energy systems you will be depending on during your race.
Granted – in cycling you will nearly almost depend heavily on your oxygen-dependent aerobic system. However, identifying the durations of your key race efforts may allow you to target your training specifically for the required durations, and thereby the required working intensities.
In the Haute Route Alps 2020, the climbs vary between 5 and 20 kilometers. This means I will be looking at continuous efforts from 30 minutes to 3 hours – and then some.
As such, my performance will depend largely on what power outputs I can produce at the intensities below my anaerob threshold.
This year, I wold love to bring my sustainable climbing power from the 200-250W range, up to 250-300W. Additionally, I would love to be able to work in the 300-350W range without exceeding my anaerobic threshold.
If I am able to achieve this it should result in a significant improvement in my climbing speed.
How to improve submaximal performance?
A big fork in the road on the way to reaching this new level of submaximal performance is deciding on how to distribute my training intensity.
This is a recurring question for all cyclist – where should you focus be? High intensity training? Threshold training? Or the lower intensity “sweet spot” or “tempo” training?
Also of interest – how hard should your endurance rides be? Should you adhere to the “go easy when training low, go hard when training high” mantra? Or should you use tougher endurance rides where you spend time at your racing power targets?
Personally, my approach will be to split my efforts in three phases.
1 December – March // Polarized training
The goal for my initial 4 training months will be to improve my VO2 max and develop a training base through high intensity intervals and easy endurance rides. This is in line with the research showing strong short-term results for both VO2 max and threshold power development in trained and well-trained riders when doing polarized training.
Throughout this period I will gradually extend the total session duration, as well as the time spent on high intensity per interval session.
Example I: A 4×6 min high intensity interval in December may extend towards 4×8 and 5×8 minutes throughout the winter.
Example II: A 90 min endurance ride in December may extend towards 3 hours over the course of the winter.
2 April – May // Pyramidal training
At the start of the outdoor season my initial focus will be to increase my training volume considerably. Primarily through extending the duration of outdoor endurance rides.
Simultaneously I will maintain some high intensity training while also adding increasing amounts of threshold training. Here, I will need to balance the addition of low intensity training and threshold training. The low intensity training will probably getting priority when conflicts between the two arise.
3 June – August // Low and moderate focus
During the last two months preceeding my taper (August) I will adapt a more race-like approach to my training. In line with the principle of specificity, I will use long back-to-back endurance rides, and focus intervals around tempo and threshold power outputs.
Meanwhile, I will also have to include some aspects of high intensity training, in order not to loose the physiological properties already developed by this training.
Getting into the top 100
Regarding the competitive level of Haute Route, I really have zero knowledge other than that portrayed in the explosive documentary Icarus.
For obvious reasons, the level of ex professional riders with a murky connection to performance enhancing drugs is far out of reach.
Nor can I expect to compete with the really strong age group riders in the peloton. I simply will not have the sufficient training base for that to occur.
For no other reason than my personal competitiveness I would love to be in the top 25% (top 100 out of 400). I deem that a lofty enough goal, seeing how my physical attributes do not favor uphill climbing.
Based on 2019 results, this means I must probably finish the race in a total time of no more than 5-6 hours after the winner.
We will see how I fare come August 2020.
37 weeks to go.