How to Train for a Multi-stage Cycling Tour: Phase V

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

If you completed phase IV of 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—get ready for phase V. (In case you need it, here’s phase I, phase II and phase III, and phase IV.)

“Moving into Training Cycle V of VI, the aim is to maintain the fitness you’ve already gained,” 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. “Training duration drops and evens out through given sessions throughout the week. This cycle provides opportunity for event-day simulation by doing back-to-back sessions, two within a 12-hour timeframe. Interval sessions included will should have you recovering faster following progression from prior training phases. Choice sessions have been minimized in this cycle, as the focus is now predominantly on the bike.”

Note: Each training cycle covers 4 weeks, week 1-3 will progress in duration and intensity; week 4 is a recovery week.

*This program can also be used to train for a comparable multi-stage mountain biking event.

Goal: Maintenance and race-day simulation

8 weeks out
Week 1: 6 total training hours

Ride 1
Session: Moderate (6/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road bike on undulating terrain, focusing on higher cadence. Choose a gear that’s one easier than you’re used to.
Duration: 1.5 hours

Ride 2
Session: Mild Endurance (7/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road/ trainer with sustained effort for given duration.
Duration: 2 hours

Ride 3
Session: Interval (8/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road—perform 30-minute warmup, then cycle for 15 minutes at moderate intensity, 10 minutes at hard intensity, and 5 minutes at an easy pace. Complete 3x.
Duration: 2 hours

Rest Day

Session 4 *Optional*
Session: Crosstraining—anything but cycling (5/10 intensity)
Sport: Pilates, running, yoga, strength training, or swimming
Duration: 1 hour

7 weeks out
Week 2: 10 total training hours

Ride 1
Session: Moderate & Skills (6/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB sand riding. Select a route that includes a decent amount of sand. Aim to ride efficiently.
Duration: 2 hours

Ride 2
Session: Endurance (5/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road/trainer on flat profile, riding with a lower cadence than usual. Keep effort easy.
Duration: 3 hours

Ride 3
Session: Intervals (7/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road—perform 30-minute warmup, then cycle for 5 minutes hard and 10 minutes moderate. Complete 4x. Cool down for 30 minutes.
Duration: 2 hours

Ride 4
Session: Long, slow distance (6/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB—possible group ride on varied terrain and profile, using an easy cadence. Focus on equipment and trail refinement. Stick to a talking pace.
Duration: 3 hours

6 weeks out
Week 3 (8 total training hours)

Ride 1
Session: Moderate & Skills (6/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB—single track riding on varied off-road terrain. Focus on using momentum.
Duration: 1.5 hours

Ride 2
Session: Intervals (8/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road/trainer—cycle for 30 minutes, then go 2 minutes hard and 3 minutes easy. Complete 6x. Cool down for 30 minutes at moderate intensity.
Duration: 1.5 hours

Ride 3
Session: Endurance (7/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road on hilly profile. Work the descents hard (8/10), and climb easily and efficiently (6/10). Perform this in the evening for potential back-to-back ride with Ride 4 (tomorrow a.m.).
Duration: 2 hours

Ride 4
Session: Long, slow distance (5/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB on varied but easy terrain at talking pace with.
Duration: 3 hours

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

5 weeks out
Week 4 (4 total training hours)

Ride 1
Session: Easy (5/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB off-road, keeping an easy cadence throughout.
Duration: 1 hour

Ride 2
Session: Final 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: Moderate (6/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road with undulating profile; effort remains moderate.
Duration: 1 hour

Rest for the remainder of week.