You have had your eyes on a challenging race course or event for a while now but you live in a city so how on earth can you ever expect to prepare for a race like that? Well I am here to tell you that from both personal experience and from coaching two athletes to compete in Haute Route events whilst living and training in London, it is totally possible. In fact it’s more than possible, you can actually be competitive in these sorts of events. So, what’s the secret? Now I can’t promise it will be the most inspiring training but there is a lot that can be gained from certain sessions on a turbo trainer (and no you don’t need all the fancy climbing extensions).
One of the key elements to hitting a challenging hilly or mountainous course is strength in the legs. This is due to the fact that as the race goes on you’ll become increasingly fatigued no matter how fit you are and having a strong muscular base will hold you in good stead to keep pushing those pedals. There are many ways to build strength but if you want to build specific bike strength whilst being time crunched and city based take to your turbo and execute short intervals between 1-2 minutes long where you work hard in the hardest gear you can manage. Here the aim is not to hit power numbers or replicate race pace cadence but to solely work on muscular strength (ie making just your muscles scream without cardiovascularly taxing yourself).
Make use of any hill you can get access to and get repping it. Ideally you want a hill that takes you at least 3 minutes to climb but if you can only get to a hill that is much shorter that is better than nothing, you’ll just need to complete more reps up the hill. The ascent of the hill should be your hard effort and that can be done at a mix of big gear and race pace efforts. The descent is your recovery so take it easy on the way down and practice your descending skills.
Implementing these two strategies into your training plan will give you a good starting point to tackle some of the most challenging race courses but remember strong mental aptitude is also key. Single day or multi day challenging events seriously test the mind and more people end up dropping out of events as they are mentally beaten rather than physically. With that in mind, before taking on any challenge make sure you practice enduring uncomfortable periods of time training so build up that mental resilience.
Go chase some mountains!