Three weeks at altitude

I have the chance to spend the last three weeks of August at 8000 feet in Aspen. I’m looking for ideas on how to plan my training before, during and after the trip to see the best possible fitness benefits (while still enjoying the riding while I’m there). I’ll be able to do a few 60-90 minute rides during the week and longer rides on the weekends.

Right now I’m slowly coming back from a crash where I got a chainring in the back of the leg, expecting to be ready for intensity again a week or two from now. That’ll be roughly 3-4 weeks off the bike or doing only zone 1. The aim is to generally raise the long-term fitness and set myself up for next season, though it would be nice to hit an end of season peak some time in October/November. Without the trip I’d probably plan to do SSB2 followed by sustained build. But the altitude “camp” would be right in the middle of the build, and I’m tempted to do more base and move to the build immediately after returning to sea level.

My main questions:

  • Is it better to come in rested and have three weeks of intensity, or fatigued to start with a recovery week while I’m also acclimating to altitude? Or something in between?
  • Does the relative benefit from higher intensities (eg VO2) suffer at altitude? Am I better off concentrating on more sustained (eg Z2 and/or sweetspot) work?
  • Once I’m back at sea level, what takes best advantage of altitude adaptations to turn them into longer-term gains?
  • Most importantly, where’s the best riding (road or gravel) to be found near Aspen?

The biggest question is if you know how your body will react to the altitude.

Prob feel ok that first couple days, but then it might hit and the riding gets tough. Everyone is different though.

Personally (N of 1!), I’d plan for more base miles, and prob need to lower the FTP a bit (there are some charts online to assist).

Then, once you’re back at sea level, hit the high intensity!

For best riding, I’d look to strava, search around some routes and ask people what their favorite loops are!

Enjoy the trip!


Do a VO2 block. If you aren’t adapted to that altitude level then “gasping like a fish” will be an easy state to achieve. I kid… I kid…

Personally, I would go for longer rides and enjoy the scenery and mountain climbs and downhills. Call it base, but don’t get fixated on your power numbers as altitude will skew them quite a bit.

Stay well ahead of hydration.

Brendan is right - day 3 or 4 is often the toughest. I usually plan an easy day #3 when taking alpine trips on the mountain bike.

Most of all, have fun!

I’d vote for focus on hours and volume and wait with the intensity when you get home and have some high altitude adaptations. Take the opportunity to ride new roads and work on your base.