Training for the BBCh road race


I have been running since 2005, and cycling since 2010. I have indulged in a few triathlons in the last 2 years. This year, I wanted to do something different, so looked up the BBCh (Bangalore Bicycle Championship) road race. They have two categories - 70km and 140km. So I thought of training for the 140km road race.I already had a decent cycling base, which started with training for the Goa Triathlon 2016, Tritheos 113 2016, and Goa Triathlon 2017. With two months in hand, I talked to the guys at Pune Wolfpack for some pointers into how to go about training for a 140km road race. Based on their inputs, stuff that I read on the internet, and discussions with Anand, I put together a rough plan on how to go about it.
  1. Setting the right expectations: 140 kms is a long way, slightly more than Pune-Lonavla-Pune. So it was necessary to put things in perspective, and set the right expectations. The BBCh sees some really good riders, even riders representing India. So there was no way I was going to keep up with them. So instead of comparing myself to them, I looked at my previous logs, and felt that an average of 28kmph over the distance sounded as an ok target to start with. I planned to revise it based on how training progresses.
  2. Its not the same as a triathlon: A road race is not like the bike leg of a triathlon. In a triathlon, you need to make sure you have enough in reserve at the end of the bike leg. But in a road race, you do not need that. So the bike intensity/effort is higher than a triathlon, and you need to train to be able to sustain it for the length of the race.
  3. Effort, not distance: All literature says that power-based training is the best approach. However, I do not have a power meter currently. So, relying on HR was the fallback. Instead of solely training based on distance targets, it seemed better to use effort and time based targets. Based on previous logs, it seemed that my heart rate on the cycle never went beyond 180bpm, while I have seen HR > 190 during some runs. So I took my max HR for cycling as ~180 bpm. Based on this, I determined my HR zones for training.
  4. The building blocks are the same: Like training for a distance run, the basic building blocks are the same for a cycle race.
    • Build base mileage - Accumulate a lot of miles
    • Add intensity - Add short high intensity training to the mileage
    • Build on the intensity/ Peak - Extend the intensity to longer distances
    • Taper - Taper down the training volume, keep up the intensity, get fresh for the race
  • Building Base Mileage: 3 weeks of base building, trying to clock 9-10 hours per week. The effort for most part was to be kept moderate. This meant 4-5 days of riding per week, with one long ride over the weekend. Though I tried to keep the effort within limits, sometimes it just did not work. One factor was the heat, which caused the HR to go up. Secondly, I did let myself go sometimes, ignoring the HR zone. But overall, it was mostly moderate effort. Instead of doing long ride on a single day (100km+) I took a leaf out of the running book, and split the long rides into a moderate distance on Saturday, and a longer distance on Sunday. This helped me put together decent mileage, with enough time to recover, and repeat it the next week. I did just one 100+ ride. Whether this is a good strategy or not is something to be seen. This is what the first 3 weeks looked like:

  • Adding intensity: In this phase, for a couple of weeks, I added some interval training to build speed. This typically involved short hard intervals at Z5 (anaerobic). Intensity was measured using a heart rate monitor. The workout below involved 11k easy warmup, 10X(30 second efforts near threshold, followed by a 3 minute recovery), easy cooldown till the end of the ride.

  • Longer Z4 efforts: This involved holding a tempo (z4) effort for a period of time, followed by easy recovery. The workout below shows a 3X(5 min tempo effort, 5 min easy), 1X(10 min tempo effort). The workout was bookended by ~30 mins of easy riding before and after.

  • Tempo rides: Tempo rides were done mostly in Z4. The purpose was to be able to sustain higher intensities over longer distances.

  • Planning for the rains: With the race right in the middle of monsoon, it was expected that some day or the other, the skies would open up and make it difficult for riding outside. So I borrowed a trainer from Kaustubh, and did a good amount of indoor training. These rides were purely time and effort, since I did not have a speed/distance sensor for the trainer. This was something new to me, but going by effort helped once again. Since the resistance does not change like on the rolling highway, effort can be held in a zone more easily. However, it does seem more difficult to take the heart rate into a higher zone.

  • Product Testing: An additional benefit of going into this training cycle was to be able to stress test a new apace product - cycling bib shorts. A lot of cyclists have given us feedback that while cycling shorts are good for short rides, bib shorts are much more comfortable on longer rides. So we have developed our version of bib shorts, with a brand new gel pad, and some unique features not seen on too many products in the market. The bib shorts will soon be available on our website, and some select stores.
Currently, I am less than 2 weeks away from the race, and the build-up is good. As they say, believe in your training, and that’s what I am doing!
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