Plan builder : randonneuring

I’ve listened to a truckload of podcasts and heard about all kinds of cycling, but never randonneuring, cycling Audax Club Parisiene (ACP) brevets.

Gran Fondo might be close. We could use a Gran Fondo for a warmup or a cooldown.

So I put in my events, called almost all “B” events and let plan builder do its thing.

It will not, does not work.

I did my BRM 400 this weekend after following the plan. I got zapped after 160 km with about 1600 meters elevation. Energy levels zapped, and I had 240 km to go. The BRM came in at 894 TSS and the plan builder thinks I should do Bluebell tomorrow.

Now we don’t do events every now and then. The 400 was preceded by four weeks of events, 200, 200, 300 and 300. The Plan builder had me up for a ramp test between the last 300 (749 TSS) and this weekend’s 400 (894 TSS). Needless to say I bombed out and ignored the result. The next day Ebbetts was suggested followed by a rest day and then 400.

You can tell that there is no experience with this kind of cycling. When we randonneurs try to input our events, the TSS gets set at riduculous numbers (way too low).

I’ve been using TR for a couple of years now and can figure out (probably) how to build up my own plan, but the plan builder is simply not the way to go for high volume randonneuring, even if we enter the events. It is simply a black hole for the back-end algorithms.

I’ll start by NOT doing Bluebell tomorrow.


I also do Audax, so I am just jumping in here to snoop. This is an interesting post. Thanks for putting it out there for discussion.


Interesting post, I know what you are talking about, audax is the UK wording. TBH given that the TrainerRoad “mission statement” is to “make you a faster cyclist” the plans are generally, but not exclusively focused around racing, I say not exclusively as you have the Century plans and Ironman triathlons etc. The extreme mileage of the riding you describe are surely outside the scope of all existing plans.

I have no doubt there are many UK audax riders who can knock out a 300 or 400km ride without doing any specific training for it. I’ve done a few 300s and many 200s and didn’t particularly train for any of them, I just went out and rode them. I haven’t done a long ride now for a long time but know for sure that I could head out today and complete a 200km ride off the back of general fitness.


Plan builder doesn’t take the length of the event into account. It could be a 20min TT, or a 400km audax, it treats them the same. For B events, all it does is switch out the workout on the event days for the event, and switch out the workout of the day before for an opener (if selected). For A races, you get the taper week and a transition week after.

Agree that there’s a gap there. You do tell plan builder the expected length of the event, and it would be nice if it could use that somehow, at least to suggest what volume plan you have to build up to, and maybe to set recovery days after.


There are definitely workouts that would fit in. I’m leaning towards Vo2max workouts after some healthy recovery. They can be kept short, but can still deliver some good. I look at the long grinders and think “sorry, not going to do that. I get enough of that anyway.”

My main problem with this time was that my energy depots were close to empty when I started, due partly to the 300 km the week before, but also due to doing some prescribed workouts during the week.

I’ll probably toy around with going to low-volume and then whittling it down even more.


It is a lonely activity at times, but worth it :slight_smile:

Early morning, the last 80 km.


I hear you. The last couple of seasons with TR I’ve been satisfied with Sweet spot and that’s about it. It keeps general fitness in good shape and mixes in som Vo2max, at least in the second block. I’ll probably change my earlier mentioned tactic of starting with low volume and then whittling that down. I just may start with high volume instead. High volume sprinkles in more variation to pick and choose from.

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I’m interested in this also. was hoping to do some ITT routes (cairngorm loop, peak200 etc) this year. plan builder is definitely focused on those racing ‘shorter’ events. but also good if you want to peak for an A event if starting with less than the full 28 weeks. I haven’t found plan builder beneficial for me, so pick a full phase which ever suits.

I’m working on the principle that raising my ftp will allow me to work easier for longer, then increase mileage for mental/psychological training.


Probably a good tactic. I got all the mental training I need for now this last weekend. :slight_smile:

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This is my kind of riding. I did audax events in the UK last year, then PBP.
Like with ALL cycling disciplines, folks need to work out what their individual strengths and weaknesses are. And also their aims.

For events that start at 8 hours, and are largely solo affairs, the three main things you need appear to be:

  1. good mental skills to stay positive and on-track
  2. proper, steady pacing
  3. really strong aerobic base.
    The likely intensity factor for these long rides is ~0.7 and below, so I really can’t see much advantage in doing VO2 max work. Randoneers (well, those pushing the pace) need to be able to ride at 70% FTP for very long periods in comfort, to be able to constantly feed and hydrate, and maintain a positive mindframe.
    The traditional base or SSB1 HV would seem best suited towards this. I use a sort of hybrid between the two, with three sweetspot sessions and the rest endurance riding.

I do agree that it would be nice to see a plan for long-distance steady-state specialists like us - events from 100m time trial to 1000km+ ultra events. But even within that there maybe folks who believe over-threshold work will help them, and those that don’t.


I’m no expert on this. My thinking goes back to a comment Chad made in some of the in-line comments to a workout or maybe on the pod. The general gist was that VO2 max, sprinkled in judiciously, can have a very good benefit on raising the aerobic base. I was prepared for any cheap tricks on raising and widening my aerobic base :slight_smile:

Yep, when my reserves were totally empty and I just couldn’t get them up again, I reminded myself: “hey, you’re on fat burning. And you’re too fat.”

In Sweden you can go 100 km without really finding any place to get food, not even a candy bar, not even water for that matter. I had one of those this weekend. From 200 km to 300 km there was nothing. At 300 km there was a quick-food place, but it was going to close in x-number of hours. Made it with 8 minutes to spare.

Nice to hear that there are more of us out there.


I’ve used TR exclusively for training for randonneuring, up to and including 2 PBPs. Folks that do these rides will know what that entails.

I’ve never used plan builder, but it’s not rocket science.

A. 2-3 one to two hr weekday rides: one long interval sweet spot, one over/under like the Icefall variants and the Mallory variants (TTT sim… vo2 max and sprints

B. 1-2 long weekend rides. Either outside or inside 3-6 hrs endurance

That’s it. I managed PBP 15 in 79:43 and PBP 19 in 81 and change.

I also did PBP 07 before starting TR. 88:51

Not saying it was all TR that made me faster, weather and luck has a ton to do with it.


Yeah, that’s my plan when I talk about using the plan builder and then trimming it down. I am attracted to existing plans in order to be reminded of workouts that I might not remember if I just winged it along the way.

That’s pretty much what I did last year. This year I thought I’d let the plan builder tell me how I should be doing it. I still think it can work, but only with a lot of adjustments to its suggestions, ending up with more or less what you suggest. The weekend rides take care of themselves. I almost always do a double SR-series, close to 3 a couple of years back.

I’ve only done 2 PBP’s and one LEL, so I’m behind you … not very likely to catch up either. Age is catching up on me.

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LEL!! I’m jealous! That’s on my list.

I’m sincerely hoping that the next edition of PBP is back in San Quentin. That whole start finish in Rambouillet was a debacle. Lovely setting, horrible logistics.

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I was planning on it again and am close to “getting in.” They have a rule that if you do a 1200+ the years 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, you’ll get in. My 1200 for this year … isn’t going to happen, for the usual reasons. :frowning:

It is good, very, very good.

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Well, where to start…

1.) Planbuilder, while I’m certain a lot of good thought and elbow grease went into it is, to be blunt, nothing more than all the stuff you could find already some 10 years ago here and there with tries to automatically build you a training program out of the barest of restricitions you’d need: a weekly hour allowage for training hours and some idea of what training load you should do (beginner, intermediate, experienced).

It can’t schedule your weekly training load in some meaningful ways according to your preferences (i.e. you have 15 hours but you’d rather spent those on 4 than on 5 days etc.) and it falls woefully short in the regard of longer rides (anything above 2 hours). Plan Builder simply won’t go there. This is in some way in regard of Trainerroads mass clientele which simply can’t be ushered to do anything longer than 2 hours on a trainer and in another Trainerroads own philosophy and focus.

2.) to be fair - their focus as well as their personal interests are in road racing, mountain bike racing (all the shorter, more punchier stuff) and typical TT’ing. Yes, also in Triathlon but I can’t vouch for their Tri Plans as I’m no triathelete. Only lately they’ve gone a bit more on the longer, gravelly stuff. Of course, up to this day still emphasising that you can very much prepare for those also with short stuff. Who will wonder, it’s their selling point.

3.) But to be fair - yes, you don’t have to do only long stuff and you should also pay attention to short workouts working the different energy systems. It would be so nice though if TR would better address the need for stamina building for such long events.

4.) While I normally don’t do Brevets or Audaxes (I went straight into self-supported bikepacking racing) on those Audaxes you tend to find every kind of participant. In my gut feeling you find more of the “What? Training? Training is for wimps!” type of cyclists. Who might shun ideas of structured training and wouldn’t be caught dead on a trainer. But instead have this intrinsic urge to be on the road. If they are on strava, you see them logging 200+ km ride after 200+ km ride… While that isn’t the best time-for-your-money training you can’t deny the fact that sheer volume helps them. Don’t know what was first, though. Their genetic innate capability to just ride without end or the sheer time to spend and lust to ride and then came the stamina.

Bit of both, I guess. If you see what e.g. Lael Wilcox does or what Fiona Kolbinger (last years Transcontinental Race winner) rides seemingly just from their first sitting on a proper bike it makes you a bit jealous. You can’t really train that stuff. Or you can, but it takes you years. Time, spent by those two, would still put them up way in front of you.

5.) TL:DR. Plan Builder is not made for this stuff. I isn’t overly intelligent (as seen and judged by it’s results) and just can work in the very narrow confines of the underlying TR training plans. You can get properly prepared for long stuff and audaxes via sheer volume but also via short and structured workouts adressing your separate energy systems according to your needs. But you have to include longer rides strategically to really build stamina (energy wise, but also mentally and contact point - your behind etc. - wise).


Hi there,
Most of us don’t, cant do the high mileages you are doing(certainly without injury!).
Having read your post, it seems you are amazingly fit and strong ,and know exactly how to plan your rides. In fact do you really need to do any other training apart from your ultra long audax events?
If you do want to use TR, what about selecting all the workouts that suit your needs, then you get to decide what youre going to do. Last year ,I did the North Coast 500 (in Scotland) bikepacking, alone, and loaded up a bit, I managed between 65 -90 miles/ day for 5 days. I didnt do any training for it ,only a few 6 hour MTB rides in zone 2 + one interval session /week. Im a natural endurance athlete but no sprinter. So at the end of the day, could you make better use of the time/money not using TR? ps hope I dont get in trouble for this. I think TR is great for me!


:slight_smile: Don’t worry. I’m sure TR knows that we are all trying to be constructive.

Back before I started using the trainer, my basic strategy was something similar to what you describe. A 200 was training for a 300, a 300 for a 400 and a 400 for a 600.

The problem was that the first 200, after a winter of being lazy, was pretty tough (so I usually did 2). Then, as things turned out, I had a bad fall, wrecked my shoulder and decided that winter riding was history for me. I bought a trainer, started TR and realized, hmmm, they’re on to something. So I used it to keep my form from degenerating in the winter and then went back to the old 200, 300, 400 and 600 when the spring came around.

This is the first year that I’ve decided to keep using TR even under the season and I think I will find a balance. As others have pointed out, using the plan builder is probably not the answer, but it can give some good hints and nudging in the right direction. I know what I am lousy at (hills) and TR has definitely helped me with hills and all of our brevets are hilly.

I’ll have to say that even though I haven’t found the right approach yet, TR road has been worth every bit of my time and money so far. It just may go into low volume during the season now, but those hills are still out there and I can still get better at them.

The hours upon hours upon hours of riding … no training plan is realistically going to be able to do anything about that, and I don’t expect it. My biggest gripe (this week) was that it threw a brick at me when it could have just let me spin my legs and keep them loose :wink:

Don’t get me wrong … I don’t think that any audaxer/randonneur will claim that we do this for the sake of our health.


That’s true - the distances involved (and lack of sleep in the longer events) take a toll on all riders to a greater or lesser extent. But we don’t do these crazy things because they are easy, right?!

@dlridings it sounds like you have a pretty good handle on what you need to do year-round. Sounds like you are doing a big winter base phase to get you in shape for 200s, and then from there you maintain your aerobic base but put in some more specific work to help you get over the hills better, is that right?

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@GregElwell That is the plan this year. Last year I didn’t use TR much during the season, but this year I would like to keep up with some workouts on the trainer even during the season. But instead of a program, I plan to do as you mentioned: focus on a couple of things that are do-able. That sense of “success” in meeting goals is nice. Hills are a high priority. We have so many of them that quite a lot of time can be saved by doing better in them.

It has just been a bit of a mind game to get away from a set program (I follow them religiously), all winter, to optimizing a set of workouts to lift up my weak spots. There is such a wealth of workouts in TrainerRoad that I should be able to do it.

But yes, aerobic base and not being worried about 15 - 20 minute hills. Then I’ll feel like I am doing what I can … and not wearing myself out.