How to Train for a Multi-stage Cycling Tour

Tour de Tuli multi-stage bike event in Africa
Tour de Tuli multi-stage bike event in Africa Courtesy Image

When you partake in a multi-stage cycling event, you’ve got to prepare your body to withstand rigorous climbs, hours in the saddle, and mental fatigue—over and over again.

You’re somewhat of a mountain-biking masochist. It’s gonna hurt, but it’s also gonna be epic.

One such race is called the Nedbank Tour de Tuli, a four-day mountain bike excursion through the ancient elephant trails and unmarked routes of Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Cyclists cover roughly 200 miles, gassing their quads and lungs for a worthy cause.

Wilderness Safaris is an ecotourism operator, which coordinates fundraising events, such as the Nedbank Tour de Tuli. All proceeds go toward its non-profit partner Children in the Wilderness, an environmental education and life skills program for rural children.

The Mountain Bike Stage Race Training Program

The following 6-month training plan is designed by Ryan Hodierne—a sports scientist, biomechanist with the Sports Science Centre at Singapore Sports Institute, and member of the High Performance Advisory Committee to South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee.

The plan is appropriate for beginners, but progresses to a higher skill and fitness level, requiring a greater amount of time and effort. This can also be used to train for a comparable multi-stage mountain biking event.

Note: Each training cycle covers 4 weeks. Week 1-3 will progress in duration and intensity; week 4 is a recovery week. Hodierne has also provided the option of a choice session each week, which is to be taken at your own discretion and should only benefit the plan, not hinder it.

Goal: To improve baseline fitness, confirm bike setup, and get familiarized with training.

24 weeks out

Week 1: 6 total training hours

Ride 1
Session: Moderate (6/10 intensity)
Sport: Mountain bike (MTB) on varied terrain on- and off-road
Duration: 1.5 hours

Ride 2
Session: Mild endurance (6/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road/trainer on flat route with sustained effort
Duration: 1.5 hours

Ride 3
Session: Long slow distance (5/10 intensity)
Sport: Road/trainer on varied terrain including hills with low effort
Duration: 3 hours

Rest day

Ride 4 (optional)
Session: Moderate (6/10 intensity)
Sport: Additional exercise other than cycling (pilates, running, yoga, strength training, swimming)
Duration: 1 hour

23 weeks out

Week 2: 7 total training hours

Ride 1
Session: Moderate (7/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road with hilly profile (ride the hills hard)
Duration: 2 hours

Ride 2
Session: Endurance (6/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road/trainer on varied terrain with sustained effort
Duration: 2 hours

Ride 3
Session: Long slow distance
Sport: MTB on varied terrain with low effort
Duration: 3 hours

Rest day

Ride 4 (optional)
Session: Moderate (6/10 intensity)
Sport: Additional exercise other than cycling (pilates, running, yoga, strength training, swimming)
Duration: 1 hour

22 weeks out

Week 3: 9 total training hours

Ride 1
Session: Moderate (7/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road on varied terrain (ride the flats hard)
Duration: 2 hours

Ride 2
Session: Endurance (8/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road/trainer group ride where is pace is just manageable
Duration: 2 hours

Ride 3
Session: Skills (6/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB; discover technical routes in your area and challenge yourself to build confidence.
Duration: 2 hours

Ride 4
Session: Long slow distance (3/10 intensity)
Sport: Road/trainer with hilly profile and easy cadence; focus on efficiency.
Duration: 3 hours

Ride 5 (optional)
Session: Moderate (6/10 intensity)
Sport: Additional exercise other than cycling (pilates, running, yoga, strength training, swimming)
Duration: 1 hour

21 weeks out

Week 4: 6 hours total training

Ride 1
Session: Easy (5/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road/trainer; familiarization ride using new kit, equipment, nutrition, route, and/or strategies
Duration: 1.5 hours

Ride 2
Session: Interval (6/10 intensity)
Sport: Road/trainer: 30-minute warmup + 2x 15-minute easy, 15-minute moderate + 30-minute cool down
Duration: 2 hours

Ride 3
Session: Long slow distance (6/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road/trainer with varied terrain and low effort
Duration: 2.5 hours

Rest day

Ride 4 (optional)
Session: Moderate (5/10 intensity)
Sport: Additional exercise other than cycling (pilates, running, yoga, strength training, swimming)
Duration: 1 hour

In need of some new wheels? Check out our mountain bike buyer’s guide.

Get the rest of the training programs below: