The fundamentals of training for this event
Before I get into it, I wanted to talk about the fundamentals of training for this event. The ride on average will take between ten and thirteenth hours.
During the ride, you’ll be doing a lot of climbing, over 4,000 meters which is made up of the following major climbs:
Tawonga Gap will take you on average between 28 and 35 minutes to climb:
Mt Hotham will take between one hour forty and two hours twenty to climb.
While the back side of Falls Creek will take you around two hours and two hours forty-five.
What to focus on with your training towards the Peaks Challenge Falls Creek
Based on this information this is a long endurance event that focuses on a lot of climbing. The key things we want to achieve from the first four weeks training for this event are:
- To start building a good aerobic base so that we can build on it in weeks five to eight
- Laying the foundation of developing strength and efficiency with our hill-climbing technique
- Focus on volume not speed.
As most of us have family and work commitments around which we fit our cycling training, we want to do these two things as efficiently as possible.
So this means that for the first four weeks the ideal training is based around building your aerobic base by getting out on the bike regularly and building up your endurance first so that you’ll be able to start riding around nine to twelve hours of training a week for a sub-thirteen-hour ride and thirteen to fifteen hours a week for a sub-10-hour ride.
During this time, you’ll want to focus on the balance of these three things:
- Low-intensity endurance training during the weekends that includes spending much of the time climbing hills
- Specific long interval low cadence indoor training sessions where the focus in on good pedalling technique and low-intensity recovery rides during the week
- Off the bike-specific functional strength training
Why you shouldn’t do too much speed work early on in your training
It’s not the time to be sitting in fast-moving bunches along flat roads or doing short high-intensity efforts on a home trainer. Also, it’s not the time for High-Intensity Training (HIT). There are plenty of HIT programs available since they became popular in the 2010s. This training method has been enthusiastically adopted by a culture of trainers that prescribes the whole “no pain no gain” training.
However, there has been much research done in recent years that determines that building a strong base doing low-intensity aerobic training and long interval training is more efficient at improving overall fitness. This was a popular method of training in the 1980s and is having a bit of a resurgence today.
Don’t get me wrong. There is no doubt that HIT training makes you fast, and there is a time and a place for it but it doesn’t build aerobic endurance. That’s why the first four weeks of your training is better focused on building a solid foundation of aerobic base while working on good hill-climbing technique because that’s what you’ll be drawing upon in the latter half of the ride for the Peaks Challenge Falls Creek.
Where I see a lot of cyclists go wrong is introducing speed work too early into their training for the Peaks Challenge Falls Creek. You’ll want to focus on building your endurance first so that you have enough fitness to actually finish the event. Then, once you have your endurance, you’ll want to start working on building your speed.
Another area where I see cyclists go wrong is focusing on improving their Functional Threshold Power (FTP). They think that the bigger their FTP then better their Peaks Challenge Falls Creek ride will be. Now, don’t get me wrong, FTP is important but not as important as you think for your Peaks Challenge Falls Creek training.
While FTP is part of the picture remember that FTP is based on your average power for sixty minutes. And the thing is that it’s going to take you a lot longer than sixty minutes to complete the Peaks Challenge Falls Creek event. Most cyclists that fail to complete the event do so, not because they didn’t have a high enough FTP, but because they didn’t build enough endurance to maintain enough power for the whole ride. So what I’m trying to say here is that there’s a big difference between your sixty-minute power (your FTP) and what you can sustain for 8+ hours on a ride that includes over 4,000 vertical meters of climbing.
Let’s put this into perspective.
I finished my first Peaks Challenge Falls Creek event in just under 11 hours with an average ride power output for the whole ride of 112 watts! Now, 112 watts was well under my FTP at the time.
So, once you have your endurance sorted then you’ll want to focus on improving your average power output for three, four, five and six hour hilly rides.
The basic building blocks of the Peaks Challenge Falls Creek Training
So here are the basics of the Peaks Challenge Falls Creek Training:
- The basic building blocks of the training are built around an indoor training session on a Tuesday and a Thursday with recovery rides on a Wednesday and Friday and a rest day on a Monday. As most of us have the weekend available for longer rides that’s where we get out and build the bulk of our aerobic base.
- The recovery rides are done at low intensity (able to hold a conversation) and a higher cadence rpm.
- The specific long interval low cadence indoor training is done preferably on a home trainer with longer intervals done at a medium intensity (breathing hard but not breathless) at lower cadences with the biggest focus on developing a good efficient hill climbing pedalling technique and developing a stable core.
- The weekend rides consist of getting out and riding the hills while putting together the hill-climbing technique you have developed during the week.
- Finally, it’s important to do body maintenance and off the bike functional strength training. Yoga is a great way of doing this or cycling-specific functional strength and mobilizer exercises.
- If you have additional time to train then I would recommend that you do a light one hour ride on either Monday’s and Wednesday’s or Wednesday’s and Friday’s. Remember that it’s the progressive build and consistency in your training that’s important. So do these rides at a low intensity to save yourself. That way you can do the Tuesday and Thursday rides while being fresh. If you don’t take it easy on these additional rides you’ll end up burning yourself out as you progress through your program.
Get your free training program
I have developed your Free Peaks Challenge Falls Creek training program to progressively overload your body and provide you with the stimulus to enhance your fitness in readiness for the Peaks Challenge Falls Creek. This program is based on training you up to complete the Peaks Challenge Falls Creek in 13 or 10 hours.
We always build strength before we start building speed. So it’s no surprise that the first four weeks of the program are set up to specifically to help you start building your “on-bike-strength” and your core strength as a foundation to building your climbing strength later on in the program. This is important as your overall finishing time for the Peaks Challenge Falls Creek is governed by how fit you are for long events and how well you are able to maintain a good speed on the major climbs.
What sort of hill-climbing should you do
I recommend that you start building your fitness by working towards riding up the longest and hardest climbs in your area. When I was living in Mansfield my Peaks Challenge Falls Creek training got kicking off by spending some time building strength on the local hills in the area, specifically “Old Tolmie” and Mt Buller. Both were critical Peaks Challenge Falls Creek training in the lead up to a sub-10-hour ride for the event.
The Start of Old Tolmie Hill Road – Straight into an 11% gradient. The climb goes for 5.5 km at an average gradient of 8% – Great for building climbing strength needed to meet the demands of the last climb up Falls Creek
Some of the components of our detailed training program
While we offer a free training program that I highly recommend that you download, I also recommend you consider purchasing our detailed Peaks Challenge Falls Creek training program packages.
In it, the first four weeks of focuses on getting you into a regular training schedule with a focus on building strength.
The four key components are:
- The 010 – Hill Climber Cadence Steps E3 indoor training workout – This is a specific indoor training session that you can also do out on the road to help you develop leg strength.
- The Matt Brindle Functional Strength Training – This is core and strength training done off the bike to help you develop the strength that will assist you later on in this program to improve your comfort, speed and sustained strength endurance on the bike.
- The 002 – E3 Strength Endurance Ergo – This is a specific indoor time trial training session that you can also be done out on the road. It will help you start the process of converting your muscle fibres from type IIb muscle to type IIa so that you can rider faster.
- The specific target hill-climbing distances and vertical meters for the weekend rides.
We offer two detailed training programs for the Peak Challenge Falls Creek event. One for a sub-13-hour ride and the other for the sub-10-hour ride. They are compatible with all training platforms including Zwift and TrainerRoad and can be loaded up into your Training Peaks account. They come with over nine hours of training videos and unlimited email support. Most cyclists that work through our training program see results within four weeks. Oh, and they will take the guesswork out of your training for the Peaks Challenge Falls Creek and help get to the start line in the form of your life with a minimal impact on your work and family commitments. And the reason for this is simple, we have been tuning and improving on them since 2014!
Click here to find out more about our exclusive and detailed Peaks Challenge Falls Creek training program packages.
Images and statistical analysis provided by Michael Bruce