How to train for an Alps cycle

Hi all,

i’m meant to be off to the Alps in September to take on some of the classic cols. My training so far this year has been a weekly cycle with some climbing, but i don’t have many long/steep climbs near me. Really want to head off off in the best shape, so have three months to build from here.

have a small apartment and not sure i have room for a turbo, but will investigate later today. ideally zwift would give me the access to hills etc…

any recommendations would be really appreciated.


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Are you planning to “survive” the climbs or ride them pretty hard? If you want to just survive some longer climbs, I would work on sweet spot/tempo efforts. Sustaining reasonable power for long durations (TT plan could work).

Is this an organized event? What are the details of the course, number or days etc?

You’re posting on the Trainerroad forum, so people will say, use Trainerroad. It’ll make you a training plan. You can do the workouts outside, though it is easier inside on the turbo. If you do them outside, it would be best to have a powermeter on your bike, but you could use RPE to estimate the efforts instead. There are also other apps, or you could look for an “off the shelf” training plan that is more suited to outside training.

You don’t necessarily need to ride in the hills as prep, though it does help. You should definitively ride more than once a week though.

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Just a trip with some mates, a week max and do a couple of the classics total.

I’ll have a look at Trainerroad, not a program I’ve used before but defo want to ride/enjoy. Don’t want to by dead on the second switchback

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In addtion to what you said - I’d add, build up to the distance of the longest day of your Alps ride, and try to simulate the amount of climbing that you will have. Practice eating during this ride to keep your energy availability high.
Years ago I did a 5 or 6 days cycling vacation in Italy (self guided) and in preparation I’d do 5 hour rides out the the coast and back which was about 70-80 miles with 6-7,000 feet climbing. Those big days on the bike definitely helped prep me for my trip. This was before I had discovered TR.

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I live in the Alps :+1:. The recommendation for SS and tempo is just fine. It’ll mean you feel more comfortable when gravity starts to bite, an hour into a climb.

Would also consider you have good gear, like a packaway jacket. The descents can last a long time and can cool you down a lot.

Some inspiration for you before you head out :). My ride today.


Not jealous…much :+1:


very jealous too!

i’ll have a look at SS and tempo tonight and see what i can do

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If you end up with a trainer, do whatever you can do create resistance throughout the entire pedal stroke. This will mimic climbing quite well, at least for your posterior chain to a certain degree.

  • Some magnetic wheel-on trainers have different resistances settings. Use the mountain or highest setting.
  • On direct-drive trainers, use a small gear so the flywheel doesn’t carry as much momentum. This means you’re more likely to keep it rotating at speed by continuously applying force via the pedals.

You may need to initially limit these settings to a few sessions a week until you get used to it. Or start by doing them at endurance, not above; giving you time to adjust.

I also like to match my upper body as well if possible. If you can raise the front of your bike for some sessions, that’ll help. But, also remind yourself to relax everything from your grip to your neck and shoulders.

Lastly, I would practice a slightly elevated cadence. I know many riders like to lower their cadence when they climb, or at least that comes naturally to them. However, if you’re doing long climbs and multiple days of climbing, anything you can do to lessen the musculoskeletal strain the better.

For me, this type of mountain enjoyment is increased if I can maintain souplesse for as long as possible. Go hard sometimes, enjoy the views at a slower pace other times.


Definitely a good idea, but realistically, it depends on the climb, especially the country and how they decided to build the roads (if they like to use tornanti at any point :joy:)

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Good point, practice some low cadence, too.

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Thread hijack… :eyes:

I’ve been preparing since autumn/winter for an Alps trip, departing around 11 weeks time, and have been out there before so know what to expect: riding long climbs day after day means chugging away at tempo or maybe sweetspot on the climbs so as not to ruin yourself too much, and having good muscular endurance is important.

My prep had been going well but then the plan got derailed for a couple months by various issues. I was able to keep up the longer outdoor endurance rides, so didn’t lose too much ground but I didn’t make the progress I would have had there been no plan interruptions - c’est la vie :person_shrugging:.

In TR I’ve used a mixture of plans: SSB, Sustained Power Build and the new Polarized Base & Build plans (:+1: to these), tweaking to suit my preferences, such as incorporating sweetspot progressions using the SS90 workouts (see “More Sweet Spot!” Team, :+1: to these too) and including plenty of longer endurance rides…

I’m currently one week into a build phase using the Polarized Build MV plan as a template, adding in one SS workout per week from the SS90 library, and replacing the two endurance workouts with longer outside rides. So on the bike 5 days/wk, for maybe 10-12 hours/wk total. The idea was to do this Build phase for either the scheduled 8 weeks (which includes 2 recovery weeks) or maybe cut it short by a week, and then use the remaining ~4 weeks doing stuff more specific to my “event”, eg. continue with the SS90 progressions (one per week), begin a Tempo progression (one/week, eg. Pioneer, Cumberland, Phoenix, Gibraltar), with just a touch of Vo2max each week and the remainder longer outdoor endurance rides. Travel plans in the week before the trip will enforce a taper, so there should be plenty of rest in the lead up.

How does that sound? Does introducing a Tempo progression in the last month seem like a good idea? I reckon these have good specificity for the long climbs, so wonder whether I should maybe consider these earlier?

I’m trying to use the remaining time effectively, so any input would be handy…

Not sure if you’re saying that you only ride once per week, or only ride with any climbing, once per week?

If the former, maybe the most useful thing for you to do as prep is simply to begin riding more frequently, and riding on back-to-back days to better mimic what a week or so on the bike will be like. Building up to riding on 3 consecutive days would be a good idea if you can manage that.

Try to add volume & extra days in a very measured way to ensure you don’t dig yourself a giant fatigue hole, and get plenty of rest in the week before the trip so you feel fresh on arrival rather than knackered from the big increase in riding you’ve (hopefully) been doing.

sorry if i wasn’t clear. i’ve only been riding one time a week. recently moved to a new area and busy with work/life etc.

defo need to get out a few days a week, and will do back-to-back.

not sure i have room for a turbo, and powermetters are so expensive. area doesn’t have many hills at all, but will add in hill reps.

I think any progression will be highly personal, depending on your starting point & how you felt, rather than being prescriptive.

I’ve favoured fewer longer intervals as opposed to more shorter intervals, eg. going from:
4x11, 3x15, 4x12, 1x40, 2x25, 1x50, 1x60 in one block; or:
4x11, 3x17, 1x40, 3x18, 1x45, 3x20 etc. in another.

I’ve begun the current block at 3x16, and depending on how I feel each week (due to the other riding) will likely progress something like 3x18, 3x20, 2x30 etc, and see how far I get in the time available.

Others with more knowledge might chip in!

Unless you live somewhere unusual, it’s likely your local hills bear no resemblance to Alpine-type climbs, where you can be pedalling continuously for a couple of hours. It’s the continual pedalling for long durations at medium+ effort levels that you need to practice for. Turbos are good for this, or long steady efforts on the flat, where you avoid free-wheeling and remain on the power.

It’d be useful to look at your bike’s gearing, and see if you can lower it prior to your trip, as it’s commonplace for people to find themselves over-geared, wishing they had a lower gear or two: gears that felt ideal on their local 5-15 min climbs can feel far from ideal when your climb lasts maybe 10 times longer! Magnified when you’re doing these climbs on back-to-back days.

“I wish I didn’t have such an abundance of low gears for these huge climbs!”, said no one ever. :wink:

Good luck, and have fun!


The trainer is a good idea. I do that for base work and just pedalling, no coasting, will help you a lot for when you are over here.

You’ll love it though. More inspiration for you


Also, this mammoth thread is useful @Dougal.Doughnut - lots of interesting stuff buried away in there - but it’s a real monster, so maybe try starting reading just the last 100 or so posts, skipping the earlier 2670 :laughing::

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