Chasing Ventoux: Rouleur's 3-month training plan – Part Two

Taking on a three-month training cycle building up to Haute Route Ventoux, in this instalment Marcus will focus on periodisation and the physiological and psychological benefits of rest in the perfect training cycle.

The rhythmic vibrations of my alarm rouse me from my dreams. I glance at my watch. It’s 5am. My instinct is to roll over and go back to sleep. That is until I remember the mountain ahead of me this October. Ventoux.

Famed and feared in equal measure, its barren peak looms large both in the skies of Provence and in my mind. It’s the reason that even now, at a time when the initial stages of my training are, relatively speaking, less demanding, I’m still getting into the mindset and routine required to handle the increasing demands of my plan.

Chasing Ventoux: Rouleur's 3-month training plan – Part One

So while the training rides are currently at the shorter end of the spectrum, such is the nature of a periodised training plan that there’ll be a gradual ramping up of both duration and intensity over the coming weeks. And as much as I’m approaching this journey as if I were a professional athlete, I’m also balancing it with life as a husband and father of two small (and very energetic) children, along with earning a living. This, among other things, requires me to have a structured routine, part of which is waking up early to fit my training in before the rest of the day begins.

Ride, Rest, Repeat

This same structure applies to the training plan I’m following, allowing for specific physiological growth through a repeated process of stimulus, recovery, and adaptation.

Such an approach works by stressing the body and its physiological systems enough to bring about an improvement in fitness when the body recovers.

Week three

Monday Rest Day
Tuesday 60 mins riding, including 3 x 6 seconds @ VO2Max – TSS 60.0
Wednesday 60 mins riding, including 2 x 20 mins SST – flat terrain – TSS 70.0
Thursday Rest Day

Friday

90 mins @ zone 2 – flat terrain – TSS 90.0
Saturday
2 hours @ zone 2/3 – flat terrain – TSS 120.0
Sunday 2 hours @ zone 2/3 – flat terrain – TSS 120.0

Week four

Monday Rest Day
Tuesday 60 mins riding, including 3 x 6 seconds @ VO2Max – TSS 60.0
Wednesday
60 mins riding, including 2 x 20 mins SST – flat terrain – TSS 70.0
Thursday Rest Day

Friday

90 mins @ zone 2 – flat terrain – TSS 90.0
Saturday
2 hours @ zone 2/3 – flat terrain – TSS 120.0
Sunday 2 hours @ zone 2/3 – flat terrain – TSS 120.0

For week 1-2 read Part One.

It’s by disrupting our bodies’ physiological homeostasis, the relatively stable equilibrium of our internal systems, that we drive change. We do this by subjecting it to various levels of stress, as seen in the training plan I’m following.

These efforts challenge our bodies’ current limits. It’s only through the subsequent rest and recovery periods that the desired adaptations can occur, allowing the body to establish a new, higher level of homeostasis. This is why a periodised training plan will look as if it’s taking three steps forward and one back, with the apparent backwards step the vital period of rest, recovery, and adaptation.

So this particular part of my training cycle will mix short intense intervals with longer recovery rides — representing a less intense period than the previous two weeks within my training plan.

When I first started training for various events and races, this idea of rest and recovery was the hardest part to understand and implement. Back then, I felt I wouldn’t be getting fitter and faster if I wasn’t on the bike riding hard all the time. What I didn’t realise was that such an approach is a one-way ticket to a downward spiral of over-training, enforced time off the bike, and eventual loss of fitness. That was the very thing I feared from easy recovery rides and taking structured rest days.

Rider-Specific Benefits

Marcus is using the Supersapiens app and Abbott Libre biosensor to help his training.

“I’m a big believer in periodisation because it works,” explains sports scientist and Rouleur Performance resident expert, Daniel Healey. “But how it works depends on what your rider type is. That said, the first steps are the same no matter who you are, be it Mark Cavendish, Tadej Pogacar or an amateur rider training for an event such as Haute Route Ventoux”.

“Step one: you’ve got to get fit, regardless of what type of rider you are. What that means is you have to increase cardio output — you have to make the heart strong. You also have to make all the arteries and capillaries supplying the muscles as healthy and numerous as possible. After that, you have to increase how efficiently the muscle takes oxygen and turns it into fuel. It doesn’t make any difference if you’re a time triallist or a climber, you must take these steps first.”

Related – What is Supersapiens

“So, increase cardio output, increase the number of roads that blood can travel down to the muscles, and then once the blood gets there, you must have these engines in place. Housed inside your cells, these little motors are called mitochondria. By increasing their capacity, you’ll be able to utilise the influx of fuel coming from your newly increased blood supply. After that — and that usually takes four to eight weeks depending on how you do it — you have to decide on how you periodise your training based on your focus and rider type.”

Hard is Hard, Easy is Easy

For me, the greatest change when I first began to follow a periodised training plan was that my hard days became a lot harder. On the flip side, there were rest and recovery days far easier than anything I’d experienced before. With the increased intensity on more challenging days came the acceptance that I was riding to train and not necessarily for enjoyment. This, in turn, meant picking routes specifically to match my training needs, as opposed to their scenic value. It was reassuring to discover my sentiments were shared by top-level cyclists.

Related – Is a 60km Hour Record Possible?

“I think one of the biggest changes to my training in the last 12 months has been introducing rest periods,” says Hagens Berman Axeon’s Joe Laverick. “Between each training block, whether that’s four, five, or six weeks, I have at least four days where I ride a maximum of one hour, all super easy”.

“It’s frustrating, as you feel like you’re holding back just as you want to push on. Yet it’s in those rest periods where you make the gains. The worst thing to do is be firing 365 days a year. Eventually, you plateau or burn out”.

Now, with a far greater understanding of the processes required to build fitness and peak for particular goals, I’ve come to relish the periods of rest along with easier days in the saddle. Although, with two small children at home, I don’t think there’s such a thing as a proper rest day, at least not physically. That said, the time I spend with them offers me a mental release from training, which in turn enables me to apply myself fully when I’m on the bike or doing strength work. Plus, I know that come October and Mont Ventoux, I’m going to have needed to execute every single training session perfectly if I’m going to be ready to race.