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

Bikers cycling across Africa as part of the Nedbank Tour de Tuli
Bikers cycling across Africa as part of the 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 III. (In case you need it, here’s phase II.)

“The third training cycle focuses on mountain-biking skills and technical riding with the aim of maintaining accumulated fitness and building confidence over technical terrain, like sand, climbs, descents, and single-gear riding,” 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.

“Within this cycle, it should begin to feel easier through the weeks and allow you the ability to focus on your technical riding aptitude,” Hodierne advises.

That means you can get creative about how you include or go about the skills and technical inclusions.

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 throughout the month. 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: Training phase III is designed to have you regenerate and maintain fitness while building confidence and technical skills.

16 weeks out
Week 1: 6 total training hours

Ride 1
Session: Moderate & skills (6/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB with technical climbing—varied terrain off-road, challenging yourself to build confidence on technical (steep/rocky) climbs
Duration: 1.5

Ride 2
Session: Mild endurance (6/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road/trainer with sustained effort, riding at a higher cadence than usual
Duration: 2 hours

Ride 3
Session: Slow long distance (5/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road with hills (keep your effort low)
Duration: 2.5 hours

Ride 4
Rest day

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

15 weeks out
Week 2: 8 total training hours

Ride 1
Session: Moderate (7/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB on hilly profile—ride climbs hard and give moderate effort on descents and flats
Duration: 1.5 hours

Ride 2
Session: Endurance (6/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road/trainer on flat profile, sustaining effort for given duration
Duration: 2 hours

Ride 3
Session: Skills/intervals (6/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB on a thick sandy stretch (i.e. beach)
Duration: 2 hours

Ride 4
Session: Slow long distance
Sport: MTB/road/trainer on varied terrain and profile, using an easy cadence and focusing on comfort and efficiency
Duration: 2.5 hours

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

14 weeks out
Week 3: 8 total training hours

Ride 1
Session: Moderate/skills (6/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB on technical descents with varied terrain off-road, challenging yourself and building confidence on technical (steep/rocky/rutted) descents
Duration: 1.5 hours

Ride 2
Session: Endurance (6/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road/trainer on hilly profile, building effort over the top of climbs and down descents (start with moderate effort on climbs)
Duration: 2.5 hours

Ride 3
Session: Skills under fatigue (8/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB for 1 hour on varied terrain using moderate to high effort, then progress to 30 minutes on technical single track (sharp turns; short, steep climbs; rocky, sandy terrain)
Duration: 1.5 hours

Ride 4
Session: Slow long distance (6/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB/road at easy pace or go on group ride taking alternative routes
Duration: 2.5 hours

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

13 weeks out
Week 4: 6 total training hours

Ride 1
Session: Easy (5/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB using single gear (select your route wisely)
Duration: 1.5 hours

Ride 2
Session: Time trial (8/10 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: Slow long distance (5/10 intensity)
Sport: MTB on undulating profile over easy terrain with low effort
Duration: 2.5 hours

Rest day

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