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Training for a Two-day Cycling Event

By Sheila Ascroft


Training for a 2 day cycling tour - Rideau Lakes Cycling Tour

Photo: Perry McKenna, OBC

For 1300 cyclists, riding from Ottawa to Kingston and back on an early June weekend is a cherished annual club event. For the first‑timer though, doing the Rideau Lakes Cycling Tour (RLCT) is a huge cycling challenge. The following eight‑week training plan culled from veteran riders of the tour will prepare you for this 354 km (220 mile) two‑day tour, or any other double-day tour.

“In my mind, what makes this such a challenge is that you have to get up the next day and do it all over again. For first‑timers, it takes a considerable amount of mental energy and determination,” said Rick Potter, RLCT organizer. It’s as much a mind thing as a physical one.”

“Cycling long distances is addictive,” said Avery Burdett, a former Ottawa Bicycle Club president. “If you do the Casual Route (100 km or 61 mile) this year, next year you will want to do the Classic” (177 km or 110 mile).”

“I would try to do more hill distance on Wednesdays, but no one will go wrong with this program (see below), it makes a lot of sense,” said Bob Hicks, a veteran of 30 RLCT rides.

This eight-week training plan assumes you’ve been riding about 80 km (50 miles) per week for the past two weeks and can do around 25 k/hr (15.5 mph). If you cannot, I’ve added two pre-training weeks to the chart. Start with those. Depending on how you like your numbers, you can use either the two-day kilometre chart or the mileage chart to help with your training.

To counter the physical demands of the training, schedule Monday and Thursday as rest days. Each Tuesday and Friday ride at 25 km at pace or the average speed you intend to maintain on the tour. Every Wednesday ride 25 km at a brisk speed of about four to five kilometres an hour faster than pace speed – or else ride lots of hills. Weekend rides should be done on terrain with plenty of rolling hills.

WEEK ONE: Make sure your road or touring bike is in good condition. This tour is not for hybrid bikes. If you belong to a cycling club, then try to join the weekend ride as they usually progressively increase in distance. If not, find a training partner or two or three. With three other cyclists, you each take a turn leading while letting the others draft or ride behind out of the wind. By taking turns at the front often, your effort is reduced 30%  and you will all be able to take longer, more enjoyable rides.

Training: Ride 50 km (30 miles) each Saturday and Sunday. Weekly total 175 km (109 miles).

WEEK TWO: Mark your progress with a training log. Pace your rides so that you’re working at about 70% of your maximum heart rate. If you don’t use a heart rate monitor, use the ‘talk test’, you should be able to talk but it takes effort. Cadence is crucial, try to pedal quickly (80 to 90 rpm) while applying slight pressure, instead of using slow arduous strokes. Pedal in circles. Don’t just push down on the pedal, pull back and up.


Training: Ride 65 km (40 miles) each Saturday and Sunday. Weekly total 205 km (127 miles).

WEEK THREE: Assess your accessories. Is your helmet too heavy or poorly vented? Is the padding worn in your bike shorts? Do you need wider cycling shoes to stop numb toes? Would an anatomic saddle relieve the sore butt?

Training: Ride 75 km (45 miles) each Saturday and Sunday. Weekly total 225 km (140 miles).

WEEK FOUR: Stretch during and after a ride. Long rides can be crotch busters, so stand on the pedals whenever you can. Standing uses different muscles and restores blood flow to those tender tissues next to the saddle. Also prevent numbness by changing hand positions frequently. For neck stiffness, roll your head from side to side.

Training: Ride 100 km (61 miles) each Saturday, 75 km (45 miles) Sunday. Weekly total 250 km (155 miles).

Training for a two-day cycling event - Rideau Lakes Cycling Tour

Photo: Perry McKenna, OBC

WEEK FIVE: Develop your mind. The real challenge of the tour is the second day. Practise back‑to‑back hard rides for physical stamina and mental toughness. You need about 1,500 km (900 miles) in the saddle before riding a long two-day event. Practise riding hills if your tour route has a lot of hills. Beat fatigue by distracting your mind with pleasant thoughts or by concentrating on proper pedalling technique. Get at least 8‑9 hours of sleep nightly.

Training: Ride 120 km (75 miles) Saturday and 105 km (65 miles) Sunday. Weekly total 300 km (200 miles).

WEEK SIX: Recovery matters. Drink like a fish. Aim to finish one water bottle (one litre) every hour on the  back‑to‑back long rides. Energy drinks such as Gatorade help make the water go down. Add a third water bottle cage or buy a backpack designed to hold water or use a Camelbak.

Eat often! While riding, eat energy bars or gels, bananas, fig bars or even baked potatoes. Within 30 minutes of finishing, drink a liquid high‑carbohydrate drink or some other liquid meal replacement that includes a bit of protein to enhance muscle recovery.

Training: Ride 140 km (87 miles) each Saturday and Sunday. Weekly total 355 km (208 miles).

WEEK SEVEN: Acknowledge the benefits of cycling – new friends, new routes, toned muscles, better endurance, less body fat and hands‑on knowledge of how to fix a flat tire!

Training: Ride 100 km (61 miles) each Saturday and Sunday. Weekly total 250 km (155 miles).

WEEK EIGHT: Get psyched. Expect the worst – headwinds, difficult hills, black flies at rest stops, too much heat, humidity or rain – but visualize yourself riding well regardless. The weather could turn out to be pleasantly warm with only light breezes. Enjoy the ride!

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1 comment to Training for a Two-day Cycling Event

  • Lauren

    So, what do you suggest for beginners to train for a 2 day ride. It is in Vancouver 6/6/2012 and goes 250 km to Seattle by 6/17/2012. I would like to sign up as a participant on a team of friends who are cancer survivors, but do not cycle. Is 6 months enough time to train??

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