Tapering for a serious Grand Fondo event

Hello everyone!

I’m looking to modify final two weeks of my training plan to allow tapering phase ahead of my main Grand Fondo event this season.

Firstly about the event. It’s 230km/ 4,700m of elevation Peaks Challenge. Although not a race, I have a very ambitious goal completing it in 9 hrs. Statistically less than 5% of participants finishing with this time. In order to do that, I will try to stay with an organised pace group for the entire duration of the event. The event is on Sunday (last day of the 4th week of my final training block).

Secondly, a bit about my training. I went through a low volume Base / Sustained Power build phases and now in the 2nd week of 2nd block of Low volume Century speciality phase. However in addition to indoor Traineerroad workouts I’m doing long hilly weekend rides and mid-week commutes. Currently I’m doing 800-900 TSS during non-recovery (working) weeks. I guess, this is a fairly high volume of training…

I’ve been listening to your recent podcast on tapering and did some research on the Trainerroad forum. It looks like the recommended tapering approach involves reduction of the volume without dropping intensity.

Looking at my current Trainerroad calendar, the final week 4 of my current plan looks like a standard recovery week. It has 3 Endurance/ Z2 workouts.

I’m planning to start taper from next week (week 3) by reducing volume by about 20% (from 900 to 700 TSS). I want to keep all my intensive Trainerroad interval sessions but drop commute/ endurance elements and make my weekend ride shorter, i.e. drop the volume but keep the intensity.

Not quite sure what to do with final week 4 though… Should I drop both intensity and volume (i.e. do few Endurance/ Z2 as planned)? Or follow the same strategy as in week 3 – i.e. keep the intensity high but drop the volume to say 500 TSS. Which means I would only do few 30-45 intensive sessions ahead of the event.

One reason for me looking to change standard recovery week is the way I usually feel after any recovery week. I do feel fresher, however I find my legs somewhat ‘lazy’ and not willing to work as hard in a week following the recovery. So I thought doing shorter but sharper workouts during tapering phase should address my fatigue level whilst keep legs ‘primed’ for the event.

If you suggest to replace week 4 Z2/endurance workouts with shorter but more intensive ones, can you please recommend 3-4 workout options from your library?

Please let me know if you have any better suggestions on tapering ahead of this event.

Thanks in advance for advice.
Illya

What I did recently for a gran fondo, was delete the last couple of weeks of my plan, put in the event and then let plan builder build me a plan around it, worked a treat!

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Oh it very much is a race! I’ve done 3Peaks 4x, best time was 8h 15mins, for that one I was climbing 5000m per week for 3-4 months prior. I didn’t do anything outside the norm on tapering other than just take it easy the week before event. Eat lots that week and enjoy!

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Have a look at the final week of the Climbing Road Race specialty plan for ideas on taper workouts. You’re on the right track though, reducing volume but keeping similar mix of intensity. Century plan (which I guess is what you’re on?) seems to end with a recovery week not a taper week - not sure if that’s for physiological reasons or the TR guys just don’t deem a century to be a race.

I’m not sure I’d take the taper out to 2 weeks. I think those long tapers are only really necessary for running or triathlon events, where it takes longer for the fatigue to clear out of the legs.

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be careful not to overdo the taper, it’s a common mistake

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Thanks for the idea. Last 2 weeks of climbing road race plan look along the same lines of what I was planning to do: some volume reduction in week 7 and even more in week 8 whereas the intesity is the same. One thing I found different is that my sustained build and century plan workouts haven’t been involving anything more than 120% FTP. The climbing road race workouts involve some intervals up to 150%. Which makes sense from the racing vs grand fondo perspective. I wonder if in my case I should modify taper workouts to keep the lid at 120% FTP for VO2 intervals…

Did you mean doing too much or too little during tapering weeks?

8hrs 15mins! That’s insanely fast time for 3 peaks. What I meant by saying it’s not a race is that it doesn’t involve so much of high-powered short tactical efforts, to me it’s more about sustaining a level of power for a very long time… But otherwise it’s a totally brutal challenge - you need all of your 110% to finish it.

I remember my first year doing 3 Peaks thinking it’s only 35 km’s from WTF corner to the finish… I didn’t know at the time it would be the longest 35km’s of my life. To put it context for those who haven’t done the “Back of Falls”, there are riders who will spend 4-5 hours on the final 35km’s, not joking.

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My A race for the last few years is 325km with 3000M of climbing. My finish time was 9:23 (10th in a 4/5 masters race group).

So overall very similar demands to what you’re doing. I did really well with a two week taper. Mon - Baird (1hr), Tues - half of Perkins (1hr), Wed - 3/4ths of Tray Mtn +3 (1.5hrs), Thur - 30 min of Recess, Fri - off, Sat - 1h outside at 20mph avg with a couple 1000W sprint efforts, Sun - off, Mon - Baird -3 (30 min) and Dans at 120% (30 min), Tue - off, Wed - Whorl (1:15), Thur - Black Giant -4 (50 min), Fri - off, Sat - Race Day

The entire day went perfect and I felt perfect. Legs were sharp and I was ready to go. I picked rides that kept varying intensity, some of those were hard sweet spot (Tray Mtn), some were VO2 of varying lengths (Baird, Black Giant). Basically I tried to touch up every energy system each week while keeping volume down. Overall that was a reduction of my normal volume by about 40-50%. Not saying this is the right Rx for everyone but it worked really well by me. I hand picked each of those workouts to be exactly what I wanted/needed. I did Black Giant on the Thursday before every race this year, it worked really well as opener to my openers. For an event this long I don’t think any openers or warm-up are needed.

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I think it depends hugely on the gran fondo and how you’re likely to ride it. If you’re likely to spend a lot of the time riding solo and/or doing long climbs where there is no draft benefit, then you need the ability to ride for a long time at tempo to sweetspot intensities and not much above that (though training above that helps lift your ceiling). If it’s a flatter event with a big field and you’re likely to be spending a lot of time in a pack, then your effort will be more polarised, with quite a lot of coasting and easy riding interspersed with some hard efforts to get over hills, close gaps, etc. In which case it would be beneficial to incorporate some anaerobic training, improve your repeatability for those kind of efforts, etc.

I’ve done both. I’ve done gran fondos or sportives which are basically just a training ride, with a few hundred people out on a marked route on open roads, riding solo or in small groups, stopping at aid stations, etc. And I’ve done a few of the qualifying events for the GF World Champs, which are basically just races (at the front end at least) with big pelotons, closed roads, high speeds, and where you need to do whatever it takes to try and stay with the group.

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here’s a screenshot of a basic taper for a road event…you really want to shed all fatigue whilst staying sharp…less hours, slightly less duration of intensity.

Good luck at the event!
Brendan

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Should add that Back of Falls doesn’t sound too bad on its own: 23.4km at the average of 4.2%… But, first 8km are about 10% on average and with 3 Peaks, this climb comes after 200km of riding and 3500m of evelation in your legs already. People just run out of steam on this climb, I’ve seen so many riders walking up this climb with their bikes last year…

That’s really helpful, thanks @wstinger. I’ve checked these workout, I think I will use some of them to replace my recovery endurance workouts in my last week ahead of the event.

There’s a lot of climbing during the day - 3 main climbs are 30min, 1hr 40min and 1hr30mins in duration. However there are 2 big flatter sections too. One is about 20km long and another, undulating part is about 80k. For these sections, I’m planning to stay with organised pacing groups. We are not going to race against each other, the idea is to stay together with pace leaders to save the energy and stick to chosen time limit. With my TR training being all about muscular endurance and sustained power, the biggest risk is to get dropped from the group and miss my time goal. I won’t be able to massively improve my ability to deal with polarised efforts but may touch on high powered intervals in the remaining 3 weeks. Thanks for the suggestions.

Thanks @brendanhousler. Will try to match your TP plan suggestions with TR workouts. I think I’ve got an idea.

Use the Bicycle Network guys as domestiques, let them sit in the wind! I used the 8 hours guys between the Meg and Hotham, through Dinner Plain to Omeo, and through Alpine National Park. Having them to help keep the pace up is how I chopped off 30 minutes from the year before.

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That’s my plan as well! I want to stick with 9 hr pacing group. I did a training ride with them last weekend (175km 4000m). Something I found for me to consider, they seem to go a bit easier comparing to my solo pace on climbs but harder on flat sections and descents. I’m a ‘ok’ descender but not super confident. So I’ve got behind on one of the major descents by about 30secs. I then tried to solo chase them hard only to join them on the next short rest stop (I was about 1 min behind them). Lot of energy expended… Then come a final 17km climb that I’ve coped with well until about 4km to the top. Lights went off, in the end I finished about 3min behind. I was still very happy with the result but the margin for error at 3 Peaks is very slim. The 9 hour pacing group is planning to finish between 8:50 and 8:55 so at best I have 10 mins to play with. Not a lot if I get dropped in the wilderness between Dinner Plain and WTF…

Was that the Reeton, Lake Mountain, Donna ride? That looked great, had quite a few mates do that one, such good loop (can I call it a loop?). Good luck with 3 Peaks! Remember to eat lots on the ride, it’ll make all the difference in the world for the last 70km or so.