How To Train Like A Tour Rider

  • By Kelly O'Mara
  • Published February 12, 2013
Photo: Graham Watson |

A former water polo player-turned-professional cyclist, New Zealand native Craig Upton has a wealth of exercise physiology knowledge that’s made him a popular cycling coach to Tour de France and Giro d’Italia riders, as well as top Ironman athletes.

The biggest thing triathletes could learn from cyclists, Upton says, is to simply train more. “The pendulum’s swung too far on ‘less is more,’” says Upton. Although rest and recovery are important, he says, many athletes skimp on the training necessary for Ironman or half-Ironman races.

That training depends on the unique needs of each athlete, but relies on certain key workouts he prescribes again and again. Many of those workouts involve strength and technique on the bike–something triathletes are often missing.

Borrowing training ideas from another sport – skiing – Upton doesn’t rely on long, easy, Zone 1 base rides.

Skiers, he says, often do their strength work first, when their muscles are freshest, and then follow that with power work. It’s only after they’re good and tired that they finally focus on building their endurance. Upton has adapted that idea, believing that a focus on hill and big-gear efforts during the base period will build an athlete’s strength. Then, when it comes time to do long aerobic rides, those endurance efforts can be done at a higher power.

Ultimately, a bigger gear and a higher cadence equals a faster bike split. Many triathletes neglect the high-cadence part of that equation. Training your body to adapt to a higher cadence is another thing Upton hammers home.

Try This Workout:
2:00 ride Zone 2 effort with the following intervals:
4×9 min uphill repeats at tempo pace, slightly below threshold. (Do the 9min as 2mina t 50–60 RPM and then 1 min at 80–90 RPM. Take a 3 min rest between each repeat.)

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