Training Plan Advice-Advanced Cyclist

I am a Cat 2 road/pro MTB who took 4 years off of focused training/racing. Last year I decided to train/race gravel. Had a decent year, won a couple of races, but couldn’t be as competitive in the bigger events as I would like. In particular at 179lbs and 40yrs old I struggled at decisive moments on longer climbs. Having an endurance racing background I never felt I struggled with the endurance part. I had 7-8hr races where my NP was 280+, but got popped off at the first 12min climb of a 5hr race this year.

Traditionally my training was the standard base, SST, VO2 based approach. But it seems to get me to about the same FTP I was 4yrs ago (although 6-7lbs heavier). So I decided to try something different, dumped Zwift and am trying TR this year. I am also not willing to put in the time I did years ago and really don’t think I need to, this year I was doing about 10hrs/wk on average and it worked fine.

Reading about the idea of focusing on my limiter (climbing) interests me and 30 weeks out from my target event would allow me to take a couple of weeks unstructured now and then do just that. That said I am wondering how that would look. Would it be, 2weeks unstructured, Build (which build ??), Specialty (climbing), then Base (6wk), Build (which build ??), Specialty (which specialty??)?

Has anyone tried this approach and have any real feedback, looking for very experienced users/coaches only.

I’m a Cat 1/Expert MTB racer (XCO, XCM, Ultras and recently gravel), race about 10-14 events annually and have been using TR for over 3 years. TR has taken me from mid pack Cat 3/Beginner to podium Cat 1/Expert. I suggest using Plan Builder and put in your expected races for the year. This will plan out a proper training schedule to peak you for an event or period of the year. Then you’re able to tweak any Base, Build or Specialty to cater to your events, needs and wants. For instance, Plan Builder typically schedules Short Power Build, which has worked over the years racing and winning Cat 2 events. However, as I’ve moved to Cat 1/Expert and my expected move to Elite/Pro next year, I feel Sustained Power Build is a better fit, especially for my XCM and MTB 100 events. Now that I’m no longer dictating the pace at the front of the pack my effort is more consistent overall then as punchy as it was.

Climbing typically comes down to your FTP and/or w/kg, depending on the length and punchiness of the climb. Climbing may be a weakness simply because the competition has a higher FTP and/or is putting out less watts (lower weight). So to target a climbing “weakness” one usually just has to focus on increasing FTP, unless you see long climbs where weight becomes a factor.

The Specialty phase of training is really just fine tuning. So Specialty should match what you expect your races to look like. Long sustained effort, maybe XCM or Climbing Specialty. If the races are punchy on/off high efforts with shorter duration, maybe XCO or Crit Specialty.


I completely agree on the point about the FTP, which is my hope in changing things up a bit. At my best I was around 4.7 watt/kg, which was enough to make me competitive in regional events, but at national events I wouldn’t be able to hold on when things got hard. Looking at my teammate who was competitive my FTP was clearly less. In all my years training I always seemed to get to the same spot, even this year my FTP was similar, I was just slightly heavier so I probably only got to 4.5. I guess racing with guys who use to be world tour pros it shouldn’t be a surprise that I get popped when it gets hard.

I actually talked with a friend who spoke highly of the adaptive training so maybe I will give that a go, I guess worse case I get to the same spot I always have :joy:

You should start with Plan Builder. It’ll ask you a few basic questions and then you are good to go. My advice is that you start with a mid-volume plan, not a high-volume plan, and then pad that with extra workouts (e. g. endurance workouts). The sweet spot base and build plans probably have more intensity than what you are used to. For reference, I’m of similar age (40) and comparable fitness (I peaked at 4.7 W/kg this year), and all this was done on mid-volume plan with some extra credit stuff.

The typical sequence is Base-Build-Specialty, and if there is time left, it’ll schedule a second Build-Specialty cycle. Sunday ride can be replaced with an endurance ride (e. g. outdoors). That alone adds quite a few TSS and about 1–2 extra hours of training time as I tend to like to spend more time outdoors than indoors.

As to what you should aim for, that’s tough. Given your weight, I don’t think it is smart to try to become a climber. I know what I am talking about: I live in Japan, and I have team mates who weigh about 55 kg. I weigh about 72–74 kg. Improving your W/kg is good, but given that you wrote about 5–8-hour races, I would probably invest a lot into getting a good base. For gravel races, I reckon the century/gran fondo plan might be an option, the XC marathon plan would be another. I would start with a mid-volume plan and add endurance work on top. For example, after a VO2max workout, you simply tack on 30–60 minutes of endurance work. Start with 30 minutes. That seems like nothing, but if you do that e. g. 4 times, you have tacked on 2 hours of endurance training.

Also, one helpful thing about AT is that it indicates how hard workouts should be. If a workout is marked as Achievable, you should not crank up the volume to 11 by selecting a much harder alternate. Achievable workouts should either be easy or moderate (according to the survey you take). Productive workouts should be mostly Easy–Hard. Of course, certain workouts (like 7 x 3 minutes at VO2max) are going to be HARD, so that’s that. But you shouldn’t have to empty your tank every time.

Keep in mind that this should be sustainable in the long run. Resist the temptation to go high-volume even though you are experience and in terms of hours per week it’d seem like an option. TR plans probably pack more intensity in the same time than what you are used to. I did one season where I was between mid- and high-volume, and I suddenly needed 8–9 hours of sleep, and if I didn’t get those, I could tell during workouts. All the little things become much more important and you have much less slack for when life happens.

1 Like

Wow, that’s super impressive!
Not to derail this thread, but did you lay out your approach/progression in more detail anywhere? Curious if you did anything with a longer time horizon or just took a few weeks off after every season, then started with a new plan builder? When did you start MTB’ing and what age did you start using TR, if you don’t mind me asking?

1 Like

No not really, I have mentioned parts of it where it was relevant on this forum.

I didn’t have a multi-year plan if that’s what your asking. I knew I eventually wanted to move up to High Volume plans. I was on Mid Volume plans for the first 2 years and have been on High Volume for the 2020/2021 training season and starting this Base season now. Yes, I take an off season for a few weeks after my racing ends in September. In 2020 I was a bit overtrained so I took a longer 2 month break and slowly got back onto training.

I didn’t own any type of bike. I had recently turned 40 and needed a new hobby, so in spring 2017 I bought a MTB to ride with friends. I instantly fell in love with the sport and entered my first XC race after owning my bike for 5-6 weeks. In July 2018 I cherry picked TR workouts, but eventually followed a structured training plan for winter 2018 into 2019 race season.

I think my growth can be contributed in part to my discipline. I never miss a workout, probably 99% compliant since I’ve been with TR. Also, I saw a big improvement when I moved up to High Volume plans.

I’ve recorded almost every race I’ve done and it can be seen here:


Thanks for the advice as mentioned I am going to give AT a go, it will be kinda fun letting TrainerRoad “take the wheel”, worse case I get to where I always seem to get to.

I am definitely not suggesting I will ever be a climber, but if I want to do well at some of these big events I need to get better at it and given these races, I think more of a climbing focus will help. My anaerobic and neuromuscular is definitely my strength and I can always get seem to find it without much training.

I put together a plan using the high volume and am going to tack on some endurance on my Saturday or Sunday ride provided I can get outside. 12-14hrs is a manageable volume, so 9 on the weeks I hit all of my TR workouts and 12-14 if I can get outside should work great. Add in 30min strength and flexibility 2-3x a week and I feel pretty confident about the plan. I will be sure to follow back up with my thoughts on how AT is working for me.

1 Like

I strongly advise against that, you should go for less volume and see how it works. Before I switched to TR, I rode longer on average, too. Going for high volume and tacking on extra workouts is not wise.

I appreciate the advice, but before I gave up racing back in 2016 I was doing 700-800hrs a year pretty regularly for probably 8 or so years (the first 2 with no power data). All self coached and I wasn’t just winging things, I got pretty into the science an was a slave to Training Peaks. Some years I did well other years I did too much and had no problem recognizing when to come up for air. Coming back to it when COVID hit, 10-12hrs a week never felt a bit mentally challenging and that was certainly packed with intensity, just mostly simple 2x20 type stuff and basic VO2 work on Zwift. Looking at what TR has scheduled out for the high volume my 6wk TSS is still going to drop from what it was most of last year unless I do the extra endurance.

I am just looking to change things up a bit, if it turns out that it is a bit much have no issue bagging my endurance “add on” or even backing it off the TR volume. On weeks that I can’t get outside which does happen I won’t be doing the endurance add on anyway.

1 Like

I get that, but I still think this is a bad idea. Like I wrote before, you should not look at hours — or TSS for that matter. I spent up to 15 hours per week in the saddle before we had our first child, but that was nowhere near as difficult as sticking a MV+/HV- plan. It is easy to rack up time and TSS if I can spend an entire day on the bike. TSS can be deceiving here as a workout with 4x10 minutes at FTP has the same TSS as 1x40 minutes at FTP.

Starting out with a HV plan and then adding more workouts to it is IMHO a bad idea.

And again, I genuinely appreciate your opinion, but understand that I do have some level of experience and knowledge and can make my own choices. My original question was based around the concept of stacking a limiter prior to the season, which was discussed on TR. Perhaps this was more of a concept prior to AT. I have been convinced to just go the AT route now, but am set on the HV. The extra endurance can be adjusted or avoided as needed. The only thing I am not a fan of on the HV plan is the volume during rest weeks, I typically drop it back a bit more than they have it.

Best of luck in your training.

I’ve always felt the recovery weeks were a bit too much with TR. I’d recommend using your best judgment here, as I’ve turned down the intensity/volume during these weeks as well.

1 Like

Thanks for the insight. Yeah for me I need an extra day off just from a mental standpoint, to “do life”. If I skip a day using AT will in back off future workouts thinking I physically needed the rest?

1 Like

Don’t think so. There is a Progression Level Decay built into AT so that your levels will drop if you have extended time off the bike (or at least extended time without any workouts that TR can interpret!) but a day off isn’t going to impact that. Interested to see how you get on with HV and AT. I’d done plenty of big volume before TR and a long history of training. I can do HV traditional base no problem (or at least equivalent time in zone and TSS done outside, rather than strictly following the TR workouts). HV SST has buried me both times I tried it, just about got through the first 6 week block and then fell apart on the second block. But that was prior to AT so it would be interesting to know whether AT would dial it back enough to make it work for me. Not inclined to test that out right now though!

1 Like

I will definitely keep this thread updated and have zero issues admitting if I need to dial things back a bit. I have have been deep down the overtraining path before so have figured out my limits and have become very aware of the early signs. I would pull the plug and switch things up at the first indicator this won’t be manageable.

Out of curiosity, has TR completely revamped the HV SSB plans when they updated the plans to make them more compatible with AT?

They look quite a bit different from what I remember, yes. Seems like more variety in the types of SS workout. Haven’t looked at them in a while and I’m going from memory though, so couldn’t swear as to whether the changes coincide with AT or were done before that.

1 Like

Yes it is significantly different. Wednesday’s are now recovery workouts instead of SS and Sundays are now Tempo. The progression of workouts is also now smoother.

Are you following it as prescribed and letting AT do it’s job, or do you swap out Sunday’s for endurance like some have previously recommended? The HV1 Sunday sweet spot looks more in between an endurance ride and a sweet spot ride and seems much more manageable.

I have not started doing anything but I was going to just tack on whatever endurance I had time for and just go out for an endurance ride. I agree Sunday seems better and I will probably try to target Sunday, but sometimes life/weather may require I do it Saturday