The Exact Training You Should Do To Ace The Cape Town Cycle Tour

There's just a few weeks to go. It's not too late to train.

Kirsten Curtis |

The 2019 Cape Town Cycle Tour is just weeks away and you’ve barely got on your bike since the 2018 edition. Don’t panic. While you’re not going to win it, you can still put in some decent training in these last few weeks to at least enjoy the 109 km lap of the peninsula.

Related: How To Survive The Cape Town Cycle Tour On No Training

We’re not talking hours and hours on the bike. Actually, trying to cram long-distance training in now will do more harm than good. The experts over at the Cycle Tour offices have put together a training plan of the type of riding you should be doing in these next few weeks:

Monday 18 to Sunday 24 February

Aim for four to five rides for this week, the longest of which is about three-quarters of the time you expect to ride the Cape Town Cycle Tour in. So, if you are a five-hour warrior, four hours in the saddle is the goal. Stop halfway for a coffee and a croissant – pace and distance are not important, it is just about getting time in the saddle. Try to find a group to ride with, so you can practice your bunch riding skills and get comfortable with riders around you. The long ride on Sunday 25 February will be your last big one.

The other four rides don’t need to be more than an hour. And three will do, if you can’t find the time.

Turn two of them into mini races, choosing a hilly route if you can, and try for an average speed that matches your target time in the Cycle Tour. This is harder than it sounds, even over a short time, because you won’t have the draft from riding in a bunch, or the adrenaline of the day, but it will teach your body to perform at the level you require. Aim to get home exhausted, after just one hour, and then rehydrate and have some protein to rebuild.

The other two (or one for the time-pressed) are to keep the legs rolling – what the professional riders call active recovery. Ride really slowly – under 100 heart rate, if you are Garmin-ed up – 30-60 minutes. Resist temptation, just soft-pedal and smell the flowers. These low-impact sessions allow the body to recycle and repair the muscle fibres damaged in the hard sessions far better than resting completely.

Related: How To Supercharge Your Cycling Endurance With Weights

Cape Town Cycle Tour
Photo: Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust

Monday 25 February to Sunday 3 March

Five rides is still the goal – keep your body used to riding – but now we start tapering the efforts so that we are rested for the Tour itself. The biggest mistake riders make is training too hard in the last two weeks, in a panic, and getting to the start line fatigued. It is too late, a fortnight before. Rather cut your losses and be rested enough to use every scrap of fitness you have accumulated.

Make three of the four short rides recovery rides. You should get home thinking you could have done more. This is important – you want the body to stay active, but not break down the way it would in harder training. The fourth ride – either on the Tuesday or the Wednesday – can be a full race-pace affair, your last chance to impress yourself before you wind down fully.

Sunday’s ride should be two hours or so, with a few hills. Don’t ride flat-out, and don’t try to claim any Strava KOMs, even if the wind is just right. Focus on bunch riding, feeding on the bike without wobbling, and checking everything is ship-shape mechanically.

Cape Town Cycle Tour
Photo: Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust

Monday 4 March to Sunday 10 March

Three rides of 30-60 minutes – Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday – is all you need to sharpen your fitness perfectly. All three should be at a gentle pace – if you can’t talk, you are going too hard – with half a dozen flat 30-second sprints. Many riders rest totally the day before a big event, but research is telling us that a short ride with some brief high-intensity efforts works far better.

OK, so that should read four rides with race day on Sunday 11 March.

Related: From Poverty To Winning Bronze At The Commonwealth Games

Off The Bike Tips:

  • Make sure your bike is in top shape. Get it serviced now – don’t leave it until the week before the big race.
  • Train in the kit you’ll be using on 10 March. Never try something new on race day.
  • Try and stay as healthy as possible – you don’t want to get sick now. Drink plenty of fluids, eat healthily and wash your hands, often.

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