Build your cycling strength and aerobic fitness first

Contrary to popular belief that High-Intensity Interval Training, focusing on speed training, is the Holy Grail to solving every training problem, it’s unfortunately not the case.

While speed training is still important, the improvements are gained quickly and lost quickly. The level of improvement you get from it is also determined by the amount of base and strength training you have done previously. Unlike base and strength training which you can continue to build for most of the year, there is a limit to the amount of speed training you can do before you start to plateau or, in some cases, start going backwards.

As we are still quite a few months of from L’Étape Australia, there is a very high chance that any benefit from a large block of speed training done now will be lost by the time you get to the event in December. There is no harm in doing a little bit of speed work now, but I’d recommend that it not be your primary focus for the moment.

At this time of the year, it’s more important to work on building you base and strength, then, closer to the event you can reduce your base and strength training and focus on your speed training.

Aerobic Build
This riding is done at around 80% in E1 and 20% in E3.
E1 is around 65–74% of your max heart rate or 56 – 75 % of your FTP if you are using a power meter.
E3 is 85 – 91 % of your max heart rate or 91-105 % of your FTP.

I recommend that the majority of your base training be done during the weekend when you have more time to train. If you are a shift worker, you’ll want to do this training back to back on the two consecutive days that you have off work.

The remaining base training is done in your recovery rides at E1 and preferably at higher cadences of around 90-100 rpm on flat courses or a home trainer, during the week.

Strength Training
I recommend that your strength training is done in five or ten-minute intervals at E3, either on the home trainer at lower cadences of fifty, sixty and seventy rpm or hill repeats of the same duration and rpm over different gradients out on the road. If you don’t have any long climbs in your area or access to a home trainer, then finding a stiff headwind and driving into it in your preferred hill climbing position is a great alternative.

Any off the bike strength training should be focused on developing sustained power needed to climb hills at speed and fast moving bunches, rather than the explosive power that you would use for sprinting.

You can download a complimentary training plan for L’Étape Australia on Cycling-Inform website


David Heatley is the founder of Cycling-Inform and an international cycling coach that helps the busy cyclist quickly get awesome results with their cycling through a unique time saving cycle training system with coaching support. For more information please visit his website.