Ultra cycling plan?

Just wondering with the increase in ultra distance cycling would it be possible to have it in speciality plan in the future? And as a long distance cyclist who has been advised to go the Century specialised plan why is there no long workouts like 3 to 4 hour workouts in that plan where as you have up to 5 hour workouts on the triathlon plan. Surely to do a century or more you would need some longer spins than 2 hours.

  1. A good idea to do them… yes.

    • (for a variety of reasons beyond “training”)
  2. Necessary to do them… no.

    • (Nate nailed his sub-9 hour Leadville Trail 100 with no training rides over 3 hours, and only one prep/training event that was even close to that total time).

They addressed a very similar comment in a recent podcast, but I am struggling to find it. I know it was towards the very end of the main cast and will share the episode when I find it.

The point is that is not necessary in all cases. Those longer rides can and do offer a benefit, but also come at a cost. Most of the plans include the optional Endurance rides (listed in the weekly notes) as opposed to the shorter SST options. You can easily do those or plan long outside rides in place of that. It’s really about the only difference as you would likely keep the normal workouts about the same anyway.


Interested in this topic for the same reasons as @teamkennyg

TBH I have always assumed that longer rides helped me more with pacing, nutrition, bike fit, motivation etc. But surely there must also be a psychological benefit to go with the longer recovery required afterwards? You wouldn’t train for a marathon by just running for 30mins :slight_smile:

But what about when ultra means 12, 24, 36+ hours of riding ?


I completed a Super Randonneur series last year while doing the SSB->SPB->Century Specialty progression. The series consists of 200KM, 300KM, 400KM, and 600KM unsupported rides, each separated by a month. While I wasn’t particularly fast, I definitely had sufficient aerobic endurance to finish the rides.

I did several of the optional long slow rides, especially during the base and specialty phase. During these rides I experimented with saddle position and on-bike nutrition and hydration.

This year, in an effort to go faster, I started with Traditional Base and will follow with the SSB, SPB, and Century programs as last season. I plan to substitute the weekend SS workouts for the longer options throughout. I think this is the closest thing to an Ultra plan using the TR platform.

So yes, it’s absolutely feasible to prepare for an ultra endurance event using TR. That being said, I’d like to see an Ultra specific plan. I envision such a plan to shift the emphasis from suprathreshold towards aerobic and muscular endurance. However I’m not an exercise physiologist or coach, so I’ll leave it to them to figure out the details.


Take something specific, like the Transcontinental, or RAAM. Surely the training demands are quite specific to be good at those I’d imagine.

Would love to hear from someone who has used the trainer to prepare at least in part for something like this.

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I think the bottom line is TR can be incorporated into any long distance plan but without doubt for 24 hour ultra cycles you need to do at least 7 or 8 hour spins for obvious reasons eg: mentally, nutrition wise, bike fit and even back to back centuries on back to back days is a good idea. In 2017 I done 555km in 32 hours, In 2018 in 27 hours but this improvement was mostly nutrition and experience by being able to stay on the bike more but I actually didn’t get much faster, only slightly. This was my reason for going towards structured training to make me faster over these distances and I have no doubt TR will do that but only with 6 to 10 hours rides thrown in regularly by substituting a few TR workouts . You need time in the saddle. Personally I could do a 4 to 5 hour spin at endurance pace and it wouldn’t give me any more fatigue than a normal workout on TR.


For ultra distance, specifically multi-day events like TCR, it becomes a measure of psychology over physiology. If you can put out 100km+ in a day, in all likelihood you’ll be able to physically do this over the course of multiple days, it’s just the mental fatigue that becomes harder to overcome the further you get into it.

I think the high volume plans would work really well here - essentially repeating efforts with little rest between should help get into the repetitive nature. Supplementing these with one or two long weekend rides. I was looking to build something in the calendar for the new year that has 1 day of 1-2hr endurance one day, then 1 hr high intensity the next, and repeat this pattern over a week. No idea if this is sensible but it feels like it would help prepare for the specific strains of an ultra.

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To echo what’s already been said, the long outside rides are not necessary to finish the event, but are helpful for all the reasons mentioned above. I trained exclusively for MTB XCO (1:00-1:30 hour races) all 2018 season. Last minute, one month prior, I signed up for a MTB 100 (10,000 feet of climbing on singletrack) . I did 2 long rides (sub 50 miles, 4-5 hours moderate pace) just to test gear and nutrition.

My goal was just to finish the event (my first 100) and I had a stretch goal of 10 hours. Everyone I knew thought I was crazy and that I’d be lucky just to finish.

I finished in 9:16 and could have easily been sub 9 with a few minor changes. I never thought I wouldn’t finish and the fitness was there. However, the last 2-3 hours was all mental. As long as you have decent hydration, fuel and pacing, you can keep going if you can win the mental battles.


@teamkennyg I’ve said this on the forum before but I think long rides outdoors are a very important part of endurance training. Most people who can’t complete an endurance ride fail for mental, mechanical, or nutritional reasons. Getting out and doing long a long ride 6 weeks, 5 weeks, and 4 weeks out from the target event help reduce the probability of those things happening.

Can you do it without? For sure. You will be better prepared if you do the long rides, though.


Among bikepackers the term ‘ultra’ is a route or race, where sleeping is necessary for even the fastest riders, otherwise its considered a day ride.

The problem is with a fixed plan for ultra distances is going to be hard to do. Training for the Stage coach 400(miles), where you smash yourself to pieces for a day or two then hold it together for the last bit, is very different to the Tour Divide (2750miles). Add in the technical type of riding for the CTR or the AZT and you have a very very different type of training.

Pete Morris summed it up really well, by saying something like ‘everything is easier when your ftp is high’.

Having an FTP of 350 will get someone home quicker than 305. Travelling at 70-79% of your FTP will not only be quicker, but your less likely to blow up if your chasing someone down.

On the other hand long rides are necessary to not only get your fitness, but to prepare your mind, stomach and body right. long rides being, a 24hour race, 300 mile audex or something along those lines. The day you can do a 24hour race on a saturday/sunday and your stomach feel ok in work on Monday, you know your there.

looking forward to what others have to say and gleaning insights from others


I do long distance bikepacking races.
My training follows SSB1 mid - SSB2 mid - General Power Build mid - Marathon XC Specialty phase mid.
I supplement the plan with longer trainer rides on sundays and then practice overnight rides a few times a month in the 2-3 months before the event (these are 5 hours on friday night, 5+ hours on saturday).
These types of races are unique in that they are actually quite low average power outputs (about 50% of FTP) so getting the FTP up is really helpful (as others have stated “everything is easier when your ftp is high”).

My overall plan is 1) get the FTP up and 2) concentrate on short punchy power and I don’t concentrate on endurance (my longest race day was 280km, my longest training ride was 180km). This works for me, I finished the BC Epic (1000km and 11,000m elevation gain) in 90 hours last summer riding for 22 hours to finish at 0230am. But, I believe it would be challenging for someone without YEARS of base endurance to follow this approach.


600km ride can be done without sleep - I’ve done it once or twice. Last time I did Paris-Brest-Paris in 2015 I had a 4.30pm start time and did Paris-Brest without sleep (about 620km/380 miles) in about 33 hours. 2 hours sleep and eat then on the road again.

I don’t think you can approach that on the trainer solely. They have the Super Randonneur series (200k, 300k, 400k, 600k) as qualifiers for good reason. Apart from fitness, knowing how you respond to being on the bike for such a long time can only be found out by doing it. Comfort issues that would not manifest over 100 miles will over 400 miles.

That said, my 2015 ride was my fastest and it was also the year I started TrainerRoad. My FTP was well off the pace despite completing a 1300km event in Scotland in 2014 as I’d not been on the bike much and been working on strength. FTP test in January 2015 was under 220W and it took me over 12h for a 200km ride on my fixie. I would already have qualified by the time I got going on TR and my FTP was around 240W, and I was also burning more fat. By the time PBP came around I was up to 260W having been following the sustained power build plan and adding some outdoor rides.

I did that PBP on the fixie - and completed the first 200km in 8h30 and the whole 1240km in 76h44.

PBP 2019 is coming up in August and my FTP is 236W. I’m ahead of last time. With a full base/build/speciality cycle I’ll hopefully arrive in better shape. I expect to go with the Century plan and then do longer outdoor rides at the weekend.


Just out of interest, what minor changes would you make?



Generally I think I’d agree with @Jcambourne and @MI-XC that once you reach a certain level of fitness longer rides or races are more a matter of psychology. The fitter you get and the more you ride the better it will go. Riding moderately hard on consecutive days using some of the high volume plans I think would be a good path to take rather than looking to replicate the target event, although a few longer outdoor rides are probably sensible to look a bike position, nutrition and the like.

I entered a 12 hour TT a couple of years ago on a bit of a whim relying on IM training and a longest ride of around 5 hours to see me through and did OK without any longer or more specific rides. It was an odd feeling passing the 6 hour mark in a ride and knowing that I was only halfway! I’ve got other targets next year but I’ve got a goal of going over 500 miles in a 24 hour TT maybe the year after and I don’t imagine I’ll train much differently for that.

The randonneuring season in the U.S. is nearly year-round. I have found that I have to be careful how much TSS I do near longer rides and have overdone it and ended up over-trained. Which is a real disappointment when it happens. 300k seems to be my limit for a positive training effect, and with longer rides I have to lay off the training plan for a while.

I still think the best thing you can do is raise your ftp and do any long training rides outside. I like the road race training plan if I ever manage to get through a build plan. Once the season starts in earnest (SR series) I like to do a HIIT workout once a week, but avoid sweet spot workouts because they seem to tire me out too much. I’m planning on trying to reach a distance goal this year (10000k of organized events) and so all of this is going to be a problem for me.

The coaches say that time on trainer is about 1,3-1.7x and outdoor ride so could you technically do a week of say 5 or 6 hours at endurance on the trainer to mimic a week of an ultra?

How much different would that be to doing a week or day 8 to 10 hours endurance outdoors?

The fitness part of indoor training can be met and yes, constantly pedaling indoors equates to longer hours than if done outdoors. However what missing indoors, as this thread has discussed, is the mental, nutritional and hydration learning that can only be accomplished riding/testing during long outdoor rides. Theoretically you could do a 5+ hour indoor ride and get near the same benefit if not more. But good luck on the trainer for that long because that sounds like a nightmare!


As others have said it’s a mental, nutritional and logistical game. While it depends what you understand under ultra cycling (is a 24 hour race already ultra for you or do you follow the more conventional - I think - definition of multi day events like the Transcontinental race?) I’m a firm believer of the “raise your ftp” mantra, too.

And for this, any plan which works for you, is cool. These plans doesn’t have to have more than 10 to 14 hours per week also.

Some people try to do a brevet series of 200, 300, 400 km and more to prepare for such an event. Some even want to include night rides to try to train riding at late hours or even tired.
I’m no fan of this. You should have done night rides and long rides. Yes. But for the sole purpose of learning how your body reacts to those and to learn how to cope with the circumstances. Apart from that follow a sound training regime which is slowly building you up without disrupt your progress by too many very big or even monster days out. As such, any plan from any coach which is perfect for building up for an alpine gran fondo is great for ultra racing, too.

With the “raise your ftp” there’s one thing to consider, though: the slope of your critical power curve. Say your are training for a set lenght of racing. Maybe a 24 hour TT. Some people can have a high 20 min power and derive a high ftp from it but aren’t that good in holding it for 1 hour or fractions thereof for 6 hours and maybe 24 hours which might be the target here. Another person might have a lower ftp but is way better in holding fractions of this value for 6 or even 24 hours.

Question is: could you really derive a CP curve for such long durations by any sound means other than the one or two 24 hour events you race? Question two: could you really meaningful alter your slope or the other longer CP durations by training? Yes, in part certainly. It’s mainly a question of energy production and then again: psychology. Wouldn’t you be better off in any case with just getting fitter (higher ftp) overall while also not neglecting the endurance energy systems? I think so. Because in anything longer than 24 hours it just comes down to how long can you ride per day and how much watts will it be when you pedaling at 0,45 to 0,5 Intensity factor?

Have a look at the recordings and daily mileages (and Intensity factors) of the winner of the last 2 editions of the TCR, James Mark Hayden: http://jamesmarkhayden.uk/stories/the-power-of-recovery-what-it-takes-to-win-the-transcontinental-race-2017/

And here you find tables of daily milage, watts, TSS, Intensity factors and more from me, a middle of the pack / in time for the finishers party finisher (text of the article is in German, though): https://torstenfrank.wordpress.com/2018/09/28/das-transcontinental-race-zahlen-daten-fakten-tcrno5-und-tcrno6-im-vergleich/

As you can see, my average Intensity Factor is 0,52.


Was this in the UK? I want to do something nutty like this!