There are many ways to build fitness for cycling longer distances. First and foremost, it is worth noting that in any sport, there are at least two general aspects of fitness – general fitness and sport-specific fitness. General fitness refers to basic fitness measures such as aerobic and anaerobic fitness, muscle endurance and so on. Sport-specific fitness refers to the specific fitness requirements of the sport you partake in. For a simpler example, a climb requires a cyclist to put in a certain wattage over a specific amount of time, which requires a certain form of muscle endurance versus a sprint, which requires a cyclist to cycle at a higher rpm over shorter durations. Likewise, a shorter distance race may require different types of fitness from an ultra-endurance cyclist. At a simpler level, base fitness for a cyclist would refer to his or her aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels but sport-specific fitness refers to power in a pedal stroke, cadence and endurance in sustaining a certain wattage and cadence.
As mentioned above, there are many ways to build base fitness for cycling further. Generally, when training for an endurance or ultra-endurance ride, we should aim to have a 12 to 16 week training period, setting weekly goals for distance. However, seeing as to most of us cyclists are also working professionals, it might be difficult for us to squeeze in 6 hour rides everyday.
Laura Scott, an ultra-endurance cyclist who completed the 2,200 Trans Am Bike Race, uses what she refers to as a polarised training model, which comprises of 80% moderate intensity rides and 20% high intensity rides. She divides her rides into 3 categories, each of different durations and intensities.
1) Threshold Training
She does two fasted threshold sessions a week, each spanning 1.5 hours. This trains her body to perform and ride in a fasted state, essentially training her body to use her fat stores more efficiently.
2) Interval Training
Laura does two interval sessions a week for about a bit more than an hour each time. This helps her improve her endurance, overall fitness and power. She also adds that she usually does her interval training sessions on a trainer as it allows her to do intervals without the disruption of traffic.