Getting Fit and Prepared for Gran Fondo Season

By February 13, 2019 April 9th, 2019 No Comments

The successful cycling preparation for a new season happens during an off-season. It is a great time to recover, build on fitness from previous season and rebuild the cyclist’s new physiological profile. 

The off-season is a period immediately after the racing season when no races are happening. For professionals and some amateur cyclists, this is only a three or four months in length, whereas others may have only a few months of racing and off-season is much longer. 

Duration of your off-season preparation will depend on your particular goals and number of races you undertake. In any case, the off-season should contain recovery phase to withstand intensity of preparation and entire cycling season, then phase that focuses on building your base and phase that builds on top of your base with specific areas of fitness. 

In order to orient yourself with preparation throughout the season, have a seasonal overview and split season into monthly phases with adaptation weeks usually every 4th week. Training Peaks uses a great annual training plan tool where you can in very detail schedule your workload intensity by weeks and automatically schedule when to be in shape. Therefore it is important to know what are your targets in upcoming season and all your events. 


As physical and mental demands of preparation for upcoming season are high, it is important to be well rested. Before the preparation starts, include once in a year recovery phase. This can be about 3-5 weeks of complete recovery without any structured training. The goal is to reduce total body stress accumulated from previous season and get mentally prepared. Focus on things outside of cycling, practice different sports and enjoy food which you can’t normally afford during the season. Give your body and mind rest in all directions. Professional cyclists also usually take time to go to spa or go for holiday.


Building a solid base will lay foundations upon you can build your intensity later on. The goal of base training is to gradually build your aerobic fitness and muscular strength to the point where your foundations are strong enough and prepared for more difficult, race-oriented training. In this phase spend more time on lower training zones developing endurance and strength and losing weight through long rides and fasting rides.

Duration of base depends on your particular goals and your current state of fitness, but usually last around 2 months.

Base will require that you work on key fundamentals, here are some of the examples of types of training :

Endurance & Sweet Spot

Do long endurance rides at lower training zones developing basic endurance and losing weight. Usually 4-6h ride. Additionally, aim to spend about 1-2h a week at a zone below your threshold ( 88-92% of your FTP ), ideally in long climbs. 

Strength training 

Developing muscular strength on flats and climbs. In climbs stay at 40-45rpm at 88-92% of your FTP for 4 min and repeat several times. On flats you can do 8 min effort at 55-60rpm.

Fasting metabolism 

Ride once or twice a week without breakfast at endurance pace. This will teach your body to be more effective in using energy from food and you’ll get better at burning fat too. 

Pedaling technique

For a few min about twice a week, pedal with only leg at the time on flat. This will help you to improve your pedaling efficiency. You’ll learn how to pedal all the way. 
High Cadence 

Once a week practice high cadence ( 105-115rpm ) workouts on flats and in climbs. Duration varies, but anywhere from 4 min to 8 min and repeat few times. You can also do short 30s accelerations on flat with super high cadence +130rpm. 

Core training & stretching 

Practice core training and stretching before or after your training about twice a week. This will improve your flexibility, strengthen your body and improve your recovery. 


Once you establish a solid base, add training for more specific abilities. Which abilities depends on what time of race you are undertaking. Unlike criteriums or time trials, Gran Fondo preparation requires less intensity based trainings. For any Gran Fondo it is essential to have optimal weight and solid endurance along with strength which you should have developed by now. Now you’ll also need to add one high intensity training per week in order to raise your functional threshold power. You should start about 2 months before your first Gran Fondo and practice high intensity workout about once a week. Remember that every training day should focus on a different aspect.

Example of some of the trainings are :

Lactate tolerance training 

Anaerobic Threshold training that focuses on improving lactate tolerance – 40s at 120-130% of your FTP and 20s at endurance pace, continuously for 10 min in steady climb. 

Alternating threshold 

Very useful workouts for developing threshold power is altering pace at longer climb – 15 or 20 min at about 90% of your FTP with every 2,5 min 30s acceleration at 120-130% of FTP. 

Preparing for your Gran Fondo can be challenging, therefore it is important to maintain high motivation. Make sure your goal is realistic but ambitious. Identify your gap between where you are now and where you want to be and each month evaluate your improvements. You can also visualize your target race in very detail and focus on a best outcome possible.

To receive a custom build training plan and support from one of the leading coaches, visit Pro Cycling Coaching website and schedule a free consultation. 

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Author procyclingcoaching

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