The 3 steps to achieve your cycling goals

Goals. They’re great to have. Smart goals are better. And a specific plan to get to said smart goals? The best. Here we will walk you through the three steps to achieve your cycling goals.

Those steps are:

  1. determine your goals
  2. determine the demands of your goals
  3. build the training timeline to reach your goals

We'll look at each of these things, and I'll use some examples of two-time Unbound Gravel winner Lauren De Crescenzo, whom I am coaching this year, as well as what I am trying to accomplish.

Step 1: Determine your goal(s)

First we need to determine what your goal(s) are: A-event and priorities. Generally 1-2 per year with enough separation in between for a proper peak. You can peak for about 1-2 weeks on average so sometimes you can sneak an extra event in that period.

Now, is your goal completing the event or competing in the event? Is your goal attainable and realistic? Make your goal SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

What are the sub-goals, processes or stepping stones you will need to get there? This part is really important because it helps map out getting from point A to point B. And it helps to keep us accountable and on track!

Step 2: Determine the demands of your goal(s)

Now that we’ve established our goal event or focus - what are the demands of this event? Consider the physiological, technical and environmental demands (weather and climate). When thinking about the demands of the race, also consider your limiters as a rider and if they overlap. For example, if you are an explosive, anaerobic rider but you are doing the Unbound 200, we probably need to slow down your anaerobic capacity a bit and focus on the aerobic training.

At a minimum we’ll need 6-8 weeks to focus on some specificity leading into your A-event. For Unbound 200 for example, this will look like a LOT of long rides in the 7+ hr duration.

Once we see some aerobic efficiency with that duration we might progress to include some race-specific intervals. ,such as some VO2 or threshold to simulate the mass start of a gravel race, a whole lot of endurance to burn up some kJs and then some late tempo/Sweet Spot to simulate the “race winning moves.”

This is also a great time to spend time on the event-specific bike, if that is not your usual training machine.

Also consider event conditions (heat, humidity, altitude).

Step 3: Build the timeline and the training blocks

What kind of timeline do we have? Peak fitness is not just built in 6-8 weeks. We probably need 3-4 months MINIMUM in order to build proper peak fitness for our A events.

Work backwards from your event date when planning (hint: use the custom plan builder in the Optimize app; it does it for you, building a stack of training plans right up until your event date).

6 to 8 weeks out - Race-specific intervals. VO2M and anaerobic if this is event specific (ex. road, crit, and never a bad idea for anything mass start). This type of fitness can be brought about pretty quickly. Race simulation rides for MTB or gravel. Long endurance with HARD start to simulate mass starts with the pros up front; conclude these rides with late tempo/Sweet Spot efforts.

Example workout: VO2 Depletion to Late Sweet Spot. 5 hrs endurance with 5x2’ VO2 after warm up. 3 hrs of endurance and within the last hour complete 2x15’ sweet spot. This is a great workout for mass starts and working on power late in the day when you are glycogen depleted.

10 to 12 weeks out - Base to Race. I like to consider a progressive build (linear in regards to intensity, ex tempo to Sweet Spot to threshold to VO2M). This is a really good time to work on threshold (both raising and extending TTE).

Example workout: Threshold Endurance (4:1). 2-3 hrs endurance and include 4x5’ threshold with 1’ endurance in between. Great for building TTE at endurance and increasing threshold power

20 to 24 weeks out - Base / general aerobic building. This looks like a lot of volume and endurance miles, tempo and Sweet Spot to build a big foundation. This is also a good time to work on non-event-specific training, weights, cross training, etc. Build up a strong, durable and resilient body.

Example workout: Classic endurance (3-4 hrs) with a 3x20 Sweet Spot throughout the ride. You can do this at the beginning, the end or even just every hour. Spice it up!

1 to 2 weeks out - Tapering. Some general recommendations are to cut volume and intensity (think time in zone) by half. This will allow some rest and recovery to commence and the intensity will be enough to keep your legs fresh (instead of flat) but not enough to hinder recovery. Less important for longer events, more important for shorter, more intense events.

A lot of individuality when it comes to tapering so make sure to listen to your body and give it what it needs. Time to get your bike sorted and carb up!

Lauren De Crescenzo's Unbound Race Specificity Block


Mid April to June 1 (6 weeks) including Gravel Locos on May 18: High volume block with key “race simulation” workouts.

Examples: 7 hrs, with 5x2’ VO2 in the first hour, endurance in between and finishing with 2x15’ sweet spot 5 hrs with 4x30’ tempo (spaced throughout the ride) on undulating terrain.

Midweek workout might be something lighter like 2-3 hrs endurance with 4x15’ sweet spot over/unders (4:1 ratio of sweetspot to threshold). Emphasis on riding gravel bike over similar terrain (flatter and rolling) to hit similar speeds, power output and cadence targets.

Elliott Baring's Belgian Waffle Ride North Carolina Race Specificity Block

Elliot at BWR NC

Late May to June 22 (6 weeks). Including MTB Marathon Nationals (June 15) and some local races. Moderate volume to balance racing and recovery with a few targeted sessions. Focus on climbing and technical gravel (riding in North GA mountains).

Workout examples: 5 hrs climbing endurance. Allow how you feel and the climbs to dictate the pace. Ok to bump power to tempo/Sweet Spot 6 hrs with 2x8’ hard start threshold followed by endurance and a 3x20’ Sweet Spot spaced throughout. Midweek workout: 2 hrs with 4x10’ hard start, first 1-2 min of interval over threshold and then settle into Sweet Spot for the time left.

Want to get on a custom training plan with professional guidance to help you achieve your goals? I can help! Learn more about my coaching here.

Want a Custom Training Plan Progression to work toward your goals?  Its included in Optimize!


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