How to Train Like a Tour de France Cyclist

How to Train Like a Tour de France Cyclist

When cycling becomes one’s profession, there’s a certain level of investment that goes into the sport. From 40-hour weeks in the saddle to climbing some of the world’s highest roads, there’s an upper echelon of fitness that’s required to compete at the world-tour level.

Sure, there are athletic prodigies and freakishly talented athletes who are natural-born winners. But there are also systematic processes that can move just about anyone with two legs into the top 10 percent of cyclists out there.

Training like a Tour de France cyclist is out of the question for most people, as the level of commitment is too demanding.  But for the youngsters and second lifers who are ready to commit to the sport of cycling, there are a few fundamentals in training like a pro. 

Put in Long Days on the Bike

Long rides are absolutely critical in building the endurance base to reach the professional-caliber level. Long rides are generally over 2 hours. But for cyclists competing in long-distance events of 100 miles or more, long training rides should consist of 4-5 hour rides minimum.

Long days on the bike should be kept at a relatively low intensity, aside from doing race simulation and key training sessions a few weeks out from the race day. In other words, a medium-effort conversational pace is critical.

But Crank Out Hard and Fast Days

Depending on the type of racing you’re doing, it’s also crucial to put in hard days on the bike while training. Typically, you don’t have to do more than one hard day per week, but for elite athletes, that could be more when properly executed.

Hard days often look like intervals on the indoor bike trainer or hill repeats to stimulate climbing stress on the body. Tailor your hard training days strategically based on the type of racing you plan to do.

Enjoy Active Rest Days

Rest days and recovery are just crucial as quality training days. This includes getting ample nutrition and sleep, as well as a little movement and activity to simulate the recovery process. This underscores the importance of active rest days.

Active rest days involve a low-effort activity that helps encourage greater blood flow to muscles and joints that are recovering from the rigors of exercise. For cyclists, this might look like hiking, riding an ebike, swimming, rowing, and other low-impact movements. 

Prioritize Diet and Nutrition

A key ingredient to the recovery process is optimal nutrition. This relies on eating a healthy and nutrient-dense diet that’s dense with vitamins, minerals, and quality amino acids (proteins). 

Diet and body composition are also important elements that go into elite-caliber cycling performance. Professional cyclists will often have very strong core and leg muscles but very light-weight upper bodies. This ratio is ideal for competitive cyclists.

Utilize the Best Cycling Technology

Not only have bike frame materials and geometry become increasingly high-performance, but the drivetrain, wheels, and accessories have also evolved tremendously.

If you’re looking to train like a Tour de France cyclist, you’ll want to lightweight bike to help maximize your competitive potential. Additionally, you may also want to consider investing in a quality set of carbon wheels and nice pair of tires. Wheels especially contribute dramatically to speed.

Mindset is Everything

As with becoming world-class in any sport, cycling is incredibly competitive worldwide. If you want to be a standout athlete and a top 10 percent contender, you need to have the right mindset.

That mindset is one that is calm, meditative, and intentional with training. But also tenacious and disciplined in putting in the hard work when it’s needed.
This article was contributed by Tyler Tafelsky, the lead editor at Better Triathlete.

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