How to Train for a 200-mile, Multi-stage Cycling Tour: Phase IV

Mountain biker participating in Nedbank Tour de Tuli
Mountain biker participating in Nedbank Tour de Tuli Courtesy Image

If you’re keeping pace with our 6-month multi-stage cycling training program—designed to prep cyclists for the Nedbank Tour de Tuli, a four-day, ~200-mile mountain bike excursion through Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa—prepare yourself for phase IV. (In case you need it, here’s phase II. and phase III.)

“Training cycle IV focuses on time in the saddle and may prove to be the toughest four weeks thus far,” says,” says program designer Ryan Hodierne, a sports scientist and biomechanist with the Sports Science Centre at Singapore Sports Institute, and member of the High Performance Advisory Committee to the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee. “But given the nature of a multi-stage event, it’s beneficial to do back-to-back riding.”

To maximize your efforts, do two sessions over the weekend within a 12-hour timeframe. So, do Session 3 on Saturday evening and Session 4 on Sunday morning.

The interval routines will help further your fitness, however if you find you’re getting fatigued, drop them and focus more on the longer/easier rides.

Note: Each training cycle covers 4 weeks. Weeks 1-3 will progress in duration and intensity; week 4 is a recovery week. Hodierne has also provided the option of a choice session to crosstrain one day out of every week. They’re to be taken at your own discretion and should only benefit the plan, not hinder it. *This program can also be used to train for a comparable multi-stage mountain biking event.

Goal: Grow stronger and maintain fitness while building confidence in technical skills.

12 weeks out
Week 1: 8 total training hours

Ride 1
Session: Moderate (6/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB off-road; challenge yourself and build confidence on technical terrain
Duration: 1.5 hours

Ride 2
Session: Mild endurance (6/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road/trainer; give sustained effort for given duration, riding at a higher cadence than usual
Duration: 2

Ride 3
Session: Long, slow distance (5/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road on flat profile with low effort
Duration: 2.5 hours

Ride 4
Session: Intervals (7/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road/trainer; 30min warmup – 20min moderate (7/10) – 15min hard (9/10) – 10min easy (5/10) x 2 Duration: 2 hours

Session 5 *Optional*
Session: Crosstraining—anything but cycling (5/10 intensity)
Sport: Pilates, running, yoga, strength training, or swimming
Duration: 1 hour

11 weeks out
Week 2: 8 total training hours

Ride 1
Session: Moderate (7/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB on undulating profile, riding climbs easy and going hard with sustained effort on descents and flats
Duration: 1.5 hours

Ride 2
Session: Endurance (5/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road/trainer on flat profile, riding at a lower cadence than usual, keeping easy effort
Duration: 1.5 hours

Ride 3
Session: Intervals (6/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road/trainer: 15min moderate (7/10) – 10min easy (5/10) – 5min hard (9/10)
Duration: 2 hours

Ride 4
Session: Long, slow distance (5/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB on varied terrain and profile, taking an easy cadence and focusing on enjoyment, and comfort at a talking pace
Duration: 3 hours

Session 5 *Optional*
Session: Crosstraining—anything but cycling (5/10 intensity)
Sport: Pilates, running, yoga, strength training, or swimming
Duration: 1 hour

10 weeks out
Week 3: 10 total training hours

Ride 1
Session: Moderate and skills (6/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB with technical climbs and descents on varied terrain off-road (e.g. sand, rock, steep hills), challenging yourself and building confidence
Duration: 2 hours

Ride 2
Session: Endurance (6/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road/trainer on hilly profile, building effort on climbs, easing off over the top and sustaining moderate effort along flats
Duration: 2 hours

Ride 3
Session: Intervals (7/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB: 15min moderate – 15min easy – 15min moderate – 15min hard x 2
Duration: 2 hours

Ride 4
Session: Long, slow distance (5/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road at talking pace, possibly a group ride with friends, focusing on time in the saddle
Duration: 4 hours

Session 5 *Optional*
Session: Crosstraining—anything but cycling (5/10 intensity)
Sport: Pilates, running, yoga, strength training, or swimming
Duration: 1 hour

9 weeks out
Week 4: 6 total training hours

Ride 1
Session: Easy (5/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB n easy route off-road, riding with a high cadence
Duration: 1.5 hours

Ride 2
Session: Time trial (9/10 intensity)
Sport: Road/trainer—warm up for 30 min; complete 1-hour time trial for maximum distance (keep route consistent for comparison in weeks to come); cool down for 30 min.
Duration: 2 hours

Ride 3
Session: Endurance (5/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB on undulating profile over varied terrain. keeping effort low
Duration: 2.5 hours

Rest day

Session 5 *Optional*
Session: Crosstraining—anything but cycling (5/10 intensity)
Sport: Pilates, running, yoga, strength training, or swimming
Duration: 1 hour