No doubt, you will have a range of training options to choose from - fast bunch rides on flat terrain, longer bunch rides in the hills, weekly criterium races, mtb epics with your mates etc. It can be very confusing to decipher which of these options are going to be of most benefit for your preparation leading into your goal event.


Before deciding on which training sessions to include in your weekly schedule, I would highly recommend taking the time to thoroughly analyse the event you are training for. Some of the more obvious components to identify include:

-     Expected race duration, measured by
    time and/or distance.

-     Expected intensity, measured by average heart rate and/or norm power.

-     Variability of intensity throughout the race. Does the course include lots of short climbs and sections of twisty single track requiring     constant changes of intensity, or does the course have longer more sustained sections?

-     Are there any major climbs on the course? If so, what are their length, average gradient and how far into the race are such climbs situated?

By making a list of the course characteristics you will be able to determine the expected physiological demands and train accordingly.

Other, less obvious physiological demands will require more detailed data analysis. Training software systems such as Training peaks and Today’s plan have made it far easier to analyse ride data and therefore allow for more scientific training program development. Ideally, it is best if you have data from your own race-pace effort over the course you are preparing for.  If not, you may be able to gain access to race files from a fellow competitor.

Across, I have described a couple of the key Graphs that Training Peaks software uses to help identify specific course demands.


Most Training Software programs will generate distribution charts for power, heart rate and cadence. Such charts show how much time you spent riding at certain training intensities and cadence ranges.

The power distribution chart shown below is from a rider’s training session which involved 40min worth of threshold hill climbing. The tallest column (0-20w) basically represents coast time (not pedalling). The next tallest column is within the 240-260w range. This athlete’s Threshold power is 250w, so the graph tell me that the rider did a good job of sticking to threshold power during the 40min of climbing intervals.

If you are able to pre-ride a race course, or gain access to someone else’s data, this can be very beneficial to calculating the percentages of time you will be required to ride at certain intensity levels and cadence ranges by analysing the distribution charts. Training sessions can then be designed around this information. For example, if the power distribution chart shows that you spent a high proportion of time around threshold, then it makes sense to include threshold-based interval training sessions. If however, the chart shows that you spent fairly equal time in sub-threshold zones through to higher power zones, this is a fair indication that you need to train your anaerobic system more by including shorter, high-powered intervals.