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100-Mile Cycle Training Plan To Help You Get Ready For RideLondon-Essex 100

RideLondon 2019
Riders approach the finish line of RideLondon in 2019 (Image credit: RideLondon / London Marathon Events)

The century has become cycling’s equivalent of running a marathon. The three-figure distance has become a popular goal for regular Joes and Jos to tick off in recent years, thanks in part to the growth of sportives such as RideLondon

Since its launch in 2013, this annual challenge has done for cycling what the London Marathon did for running. Riders of all abilities now pit themselves against an imperial century of cycling to get fit and, in most cases, raise funds for charities.

And it’s no wonder it’s used to fundraise – riding 100 miles on a bike is no mean feat. Thankfully it’s not an impossible task, even if you’re a relatively new cyclist who has only managed a small chunk of that distance in one go to date. What you need is a training plan, and Rule 5 Cycling Coaching’s (opens in new tab) Ian Jenner has put together a 12-week guide for Coach that will get you over the line in one piece and (hopefully) still smiling.

The plan is aimed at those who are time-poor and can only squeeze in the odd hour of training here and there around other commitments in the week. They should also have a relatively good base of fitness and  be able to ride for three hours or so at an easy pace. If this isn’t you, it might be best to sign up for a shorter distance or give yourself a longer training window.

Each week features three rides: two shorter, drill-focused sessions on weekdays that provide real bang for their buck and a longer ride at the weekend, as well as an additional active recovery day where you’ll do some off-bike exercises. 

The plan also incorporates easier recovery weeks on weeks four and eight, and tapers on the week before the event so you arrive at the start line fresh. For the shorter sessions, you’ll need to know your cadence, and ideally your functional threshold power (FTP) and power zones too (don’t worry, we’ll explain below). 

While these sessions can be performed on the road, you’ll find that they’re a lot more structured and accurate when completed on a turbo trainer. Don’t own a turbo? Your local gym should have a Wattbike or another type of stationary bike that you can use instead, so we recommend joining one for the duration of your training plan. Or you can browse our recommendations for the best turbo trainers and the best exercise bikes and treat yourself to one. 

It’s worth remembering that putting in the miles is only half the battle, and it’s essential to perfect your nutrition strategy ahead of the event. Your training is a great opportunity to help you find the gels, energy bars and post-ride protein powders that work for you, and fuelling properly throughout your 12-week period will help with your on-bike energy and aid recovery too. Our guide to how to fuel for a 100-mile bike ride should help.

RideLondon 2019

Riders pass the Tower of London during RideLondon 2019 (Image credit: RideLondon / London Marathon Events)

Overview Of The 100-Mile Cycle Training Plan

MonThuFriSun
Week 1Strength sessionClimbing intervalsCore workoutEndurance ride
Week 2Cadence / pedalling drillsLong- climb strength sessionCore workoutEndurance ride
Week 3Max power effortsSweet spot with effortsCore workoutEndurance ride
Week 4Base fitness rideBase fitness rideCore workoutEndurance ride
Week 5HIIT SprintsSteady-state climbing repeatsBodyweight workoutEndurance ride
Week 6Strength sessionVO2 Max sessionBodyweight workoutEndurance ride
Week 7FTP workoutOver undersGym weights workoutPower climbing
Week 8Base fitness rideBase fitness rideCore workoutEndurance ride
Week 9Zone 3 EffortsExplosive effortsGym weights workoutHilly endurance ride
Week 10Long- climb strength sessionLactate threshold workoutBodyweight workoutBasic endurance ride with seated climbing
Week 11Climbing intervals20min sweet spot with burstsBodyweight workoutEndurance ride
Week 12Strength enduranceBase fitness rideTaperRace

Session Types Explained

Strength These big gear efforts help to build your overall cycling strength and endurance.

Climbing Although they don’t necessarily have to take place on a hill, these longer stints just under your threshold improve your legs’ ability to deal with the build-up of lactic acid you’ll experience during climbs.

Cadence If you’ve never checked on how many times your pedals rotate per minute, there’s a good chance it’s too low. Efficient cyclists sit around 90RPM, but working above and beyond this builds muscle memory for harder efforts.

Max power Improving your top end drags everything up with it, so don’t shy away from these gruelling sessions.

Sweet spot This refers to a level of intensity that sits between zone 3 (tempo) and zone 4 (threshold), or roughly between 85-95% of your FTP. Efforts are hard but can be held for a long time and repeated without causing too much fatigue – hence why it’s known as the sweet spot.

VO2 max Intervals just above your threshold help to bring up your overall aerobic fitness, meaning that you’ll use less energy for the same efforts.

Over unders Working just above and below your threshold in intervals gets your body attuned to flushing lactic acid from your legs without coming to a standstill.

Lactate threshold The limit of what your body can sustain aerobically – any harder and it’ll tip into an anaerobic effort, causing a build-up of lactic acid. A rough guide to your lactate threshold is your average heartbeat during a 10-mile sustained effort.

RideLondon 2019

Cyclists taking part in RideLondon 2019 pass the Ritz (Image credit: RideLondon / London Marathon Events)

What Are FTP And Power Zones?

FTP

Functional threshold power (FTP) is the average wattage that you are able to sustain over an hour. No surprises, it’s worked out by riding as hard as you can for an hour (or less time and doing some maths). Most smart turbo trainers and training platforms such as Zwift offer FTP tests and will guide you through it.

Power Zones

While your FTP is a useful metric in its own right, its main purpose is to work out your power zones. Each zone’s limits are based on a percentage of your FTP, and it’s possible to work out the watts you should be targeting for each interval of a session.

You’ll need a power meter and bike computer to record and display your watts live, but if you don’t have one of those then it’s possible to simply rely on the rating of perceived exertion (RPE) scale, where you rank your intensity depending on how hard it feels.

ZoneNameName % of FTPRPE
Zone 1Recovery0-59%1
Zone 2Endurance60-79%2-3
Zone 3Tempo80-90%4-6
Zone 4ThresholdThreshold 91-104%7-8
Zone 5VO2 max105-120%9
Zone 6Anaerobic121%+10

Week 1

Week 1 Monday: Strength Session (1hr 5min)

  1. 10min warm-up
  2. 50min intervals: Cycle for five minutes in your fourth hardest gear (the big chainring on the front, just over halfway across on your rear wheel’s cassette) at a hard pace, finishing with a five-second seated sprint. All efforts should feel uncomfortable and as the efforts go on each should feel harder. Recover in power zone 1 for five minutes. Repeat five times in total.
  3. 10min warm-down

Week 1 Thursday:  Climbing Intervals (1hr 15min)

This is a hard session that replicates the work of riding up a hill

  • 10min warm-up
  • 20min threshold (80-90% of your maximum effort)
  • 5min power zone 1
  • 20min threshold (80-90% of your maximum effort)
  • 10min power zone 1
  • Sets 3 Time 1min Effort All-out Rest 1min power zone 1
  • 10min warm-down

Week 1 Friday: Core Workout (30min)

Perform these simple and effective core exercises to work on your general core strength. Follow the links for form guides. Warm up and warm down for 10 minutes either side.

  1. Plank
  2. Side plank (both sides) 
  3. Sumo squat

Week 1 Sunday: Endurance Ride (3hr 30min)

  1. 20min warm-up
  2. 2hr 50min at power zone 2
  3. 20min warm-down

Week 2

Week 2 Monday: Cadence/Pedalling Drills (1hr 4min)

These cadence drills will get you used to pedalling at RPMs that are above and beyond what you’d usually undertake on the bike and increase your pedalling efficiency in the process.

  1. 20min warm-up
  2. 12min alternating between pedalling at 90RPM and 120PM every minute
  3. 10min power zone 1
  4. 12min alternating between pedalling at 100RPM and 120RPM every minute
  5. 20min warm-down

Cycling on turbo trainer

(Image credit: Getty Images / halbergman)

Week 2 Thursday: Long-Climb Strength Session (1hr 5min)

This is a hard session working on your level of effort on a sustained climb.

  1. 10min warm-up
  2. 10min power zone 3 at 60RPM
  3. 5min power zone 2 at 90-100RPM
  4. 10min power zone 3 at 55RPM
  5. 5min power zone 2 at 90-100RPM
  6. 10min power zone 3 at 50RPM
  7. 10min warm-down

Week 2 Friday: Core Workout (30min)

Repeat the session from week 1.

Week 2 Sunday: Endurance Ride (3hr 30min)

  1. 20min warm-up
  2. 2hr 50min at zone 2
  3. 20min warm-down

Week 3

Week 3 Monday: Max Power Efforts (1hr 12min)

This is a hard session, so fuel well beforehand and accept that your legs are going to hurt the next day!

  1. 15min progressive warm-up, using easy gears and a high RPM
  2. 5min threshold effort
  3. 5min power zone 1
  4. Sets 3 Time 15sec Effort Sprint in highest gear from almost standstill Rest 3min power zone 1
  5. 10min power zone 2 in small gears
  6. 1min in fourth hardest gear, flat out
  7. 3min power zone 1
  8. 1min in fourth hardest gear, flat out
  9. 3min power zone 1
  10. 1min in fourth hardest gear, flat out
  11. 10min warm-down

Week 3 Thursday: Sweet Spot With Efforts (1hr 6min)

Like threshold training, sweet spot training is especially useful for time trialists, especially when targeting longer distances, and is also ideal for riders planning to tackle long alpine climbs.

  1. 10min warm-up
  2. 20min at sweet spot with a 5-10sec burst every four minutes
  3. 10min power zone 1
  4. 20min at sweet spot with a 5-10sec burst every four minutes
  5. 10min warm-down

Week 3 Friday: Core Workout (30min)

Repeat the session from week 1.

Week 3 Sunday: Endurance Ride (3hr 30min)

  1. 20min warm-up
  2. 2hr 50min at power zone 2
  3. 20min warm-down

Week 4

Week 4 Monday: Base Fitness Ride (1hr)

Ride for one hour in power zone 2.

Cycling on turbo trainer

(Image credit: Getty Images / Ergin Yalcin)

Week 4 Thursday: Base Fitness Ride (1hr)

Ride for one hour in power zone 2.

Week 4 Friday: Core Workout (30min)

Repeat the session from week 1.

Week 4 Sunday: Endurance Ride (3hr 30min)

  1. 20min warm-up
  2. 2hr 50min at power zone 2
  3. 20min warm-down

Week 5

Week 5 Monday: HIIT Sprints (43min)

These Tabata efforts train your body to recruit maximum muscle fibres and fire them faster, as well as raising your lactate threshold.

  1. 15min warm-up
  2. Sets 8 Time 20sec Effort Sprint as hard as possible Rest 10sec
  3. 10min power zone 1
  4. Sets 8 Time 20sec Effort Sprint as hard as possible Rest 10sec
  5. 10min warm-down

Week 5 Thursday: Steady-State Climbing Repeats (1hr 10min)

  1. 10min warm-up
  2. Sets 4 Time 3min Effort Power zone 4 Recovery 3min
  3. 4min power zone 1
  4. Sets 4 Time 4min Effort Power zone 3 Recovery 3min
  5. 8min warm-down

Week 5 Friday: Bodyweight Workout (55min)

Warm up for 10 minutes with light cardio, on the bike or with a light jog, then perform five rounds of the following exercises. Work for 45 seconds then rest for 15 seconds. Rest for three minutes between sets.

  1. Mountain climber
  2. Alternating squat and lunge
  3. Crunch with bent raised legs
  4. Alternating 5 reps jumping jacks and 5 reps plank jacks
  5. Squat jump
  6. Straight-arm plank

Week 5 Sunday: Endurance Ride (3hr 30min)

  1. 20min warm-up
  2. 2hr 50min at power zone 2
  3. 20min warm-down

Week 6

Week 6 Monday: Strength Session (1hr 5min)

A repeat of week 1’s session. 

  1. 10min warm-up
  2. 50min intervals: Cycle for five minutes in your fourth hardest gear (the big chainring on the front, just over halfway across on your rear wheel’s cassette) at a hard pace, finishing with a five-second seated sprint. All efforts should feel uncomfortable and as the efforts go on each should feel harder. Recover in power zone 1 for five minutes. Repeat five times in total.
  3. 10min warm-down

Week 6 Thursday: VO2 Max Session (1hr 10min)

While the temptation might be to avoid this type of effort because of how hard and painful they are, remind yourself that it’s this type of effort that wins races. Use it and see your fitness improve!

  1. 10min warm-up
  2. Sets 5 Time 3min Effort Power zone 5 Recovery 7min
  3. 10min warm-down

Week 6 Friday: Bodyweight Workout (55min)

Repeat the session from week 5.

Week 6 Sunday: Endurance Ride (4hr)

  1. 20min warm-up
  2. 3hr 20 at power zone 2
  3. 20min warm-down

Week 7

Week 7 Monday: FTP Workout (1hr 26min)

  1. 15min warm-up
  2. Sets 3 Time 15min Effort FTP Recovery 8min
  3. 15min warm-down

Week 7 Thursday: Over Unders (1hr)

This is a popular workout to help your body begin to deal with the stress of accumulating higher levels of blood lactate and flushing out the by-products of hard exercise without stopping completely.

  1. 10min warm-up
  2. 16min alternating between 95% FTP and 105% FTP every 2min
  3. 8min power zone 1
  4. 16min alternating between 95% FTP and 105% FTP every 2min
  5. 10min warm-down

Week 7 Friday: Gym Weights Workout (1hr)

  1. Warm-up 10min
  2. Bench press: Sets 5 Reps 8 Suggested weight 10kg barbell
  3. Biceps curl: Sets 3 Reps 20 Suggested weight 4.5kg dumbbells
  4. Single-arm dumbbell row: Sets 3 Reps 20 each side Suggested weight 4.5kg dumbbell
  5. Dumbbell overhead press: Sets 3 Reps 8 Suggested weight 2.3kg dumbbells
  6. Lateral raise: Sets 3 Reps 8 Suggested weight 2.3kg dumbbells
  7. Sit-up: Sets 2 Reps 50
  8. Plank: Sets 2 Time 60sec
  9. Side plank: Time 20sec each side
  10. Press-up: Sets 3 Reps 10
  11. Triceps dip: Sets 3 Reps 10
  12. Leg extension: Sets 3-5 Reps 20 Suggested weight 12.5kg
  13. Leg curl: Sets 3-5 Reps 10 Suggested weight 12.5kg
  14. Gym ball squat: Sets 2 Reps 50
  15. Walking lunge: Reps 25 each side Suggested weight 4.5kg dumbbells
  16. Barbell squat: Sets 3 Reps 10 Suggested weight 70-80% 1RM

Week 7 Sunday: Power Climbing (4hr)

  1. 20min warm-up
  2. 3hr 20min at power zone 2. Pick a route with short, sharp hills. Hit the bottom hard and stay out of the saddle until you get over the top. Don’t freewheel down the other side – keep turning your legs over to keep them fresh.
  3. 20min warm-down

Week 8

Week 8 Monday: Base Fitness Ride (1hr)

Ride for one hour in power zone 2.

Week 8 Thursday: Base Fitness Ride (1hr)

Ride for one hour in power zone 2.

Week 8 Friday: Core Workout

Repeat the session from week 1.

Week 8 Sunday: Endurance Ride (4hr)

  1. 20min warm-up
  2. 3hr 20 at power zone 2
  3. 20min warm-down

Week 9

Week 9 Monday: Tempo Efforts (1hr 10min)

The goal of this session is to develop sustainable power or race pace.

  1. 10min warm-up
  2. 20min power zone 3
  3. 10min power zone 1
  4. 20min power zone 3
  5. 10min warm-down

Week 9 Thursday: Explosive Efforts (52min)

  1. 10min warm-up
  2. Sets 8 Time 60sec Effort Maximum Recovery 3min
  3. 10min warm-down

Week 9 Friday: Gym Weights Workout (1hr)

  1. Warm-up 10min
  2. Bench press: Sets 5 Reps 8 Suggested weight 10kg barbell
  3. Biceps curl: Sets 3 Reps 20 Suggested weight 4.5kg dumbbells
  4. Single-arm dumbbell row: Sets 3 Reps 20 each side Suggested weight 4.5kg dumbbell
  5. Dumbbell overhead press: Sets 3 Reps 8 Suggested weight 2.3kg dumbbells
  6. Lateral raise: Sets 3 Reps 8 Suggested weight 2.3kg dumbbells
  7. Sit-up: Sets 2 Reps 50
  8. Plank: Sets 2 Time 60sec
  9. Side plank: Time 20sec each side
  10. Press-up: Sets 3 Reps 10
  11. Triceps dip: Sets 3 Reps 10
  12. Leg extension: Sets 3-5 Reps 20 Suggested weight 12.5kg
  13. Leg curl: Sets 3-5 Reps 10 Suggested weight 12.5kg
  14. Gym ball squat: Sets 2 Reps 50
  15. Walking lunge: Reps 25 each side Suggested weight 4.5kg dumbbells
  16. Barbell squat: Sets 3 Reps 10 Suggested weight 70-80% 1RM

Week 9 Sunday: Hilly Endurance Ride (4hr 30min)

Cycle training up a hill

(Image credit: Getty Images / Justin Paget)
  1. 30min warm-up
  2. 3hr 50min at power zone 2. Attempt 30sec all-out efforts to the summit on three climbs.
  3. 10min warm-down

Week 10

Week 10 Monday: Long-Climb Strength Session (1hr 5min)

A repeat of week 2’s Thursday session.

  1. 10min warm-up
  2. 10min power zone 3 at 60RPM
  3. 5min power zone 2 at 90-100RPM
  4. 10min power zone 3 at 55RPM
  5. 5min power zone 2 at 90-100RPM
  6. 10min power zone 3 at 50RPM
  7. 10min warm-down

Week 10 Thursday: Lactate Threshold Workout (1hr 15min)

  1. 15min warm-up
  2. 20min at 92-95% lactate threshold 90RPM+
  3. 10min power zone 1
  4. 20min at 92-95% lactate threshold 90RPM+
  5. 5min warm-down

Week 10 Friday: Bodyweight Workout (55min)

Repeat the session from week 5.

Week 10 Sunday: Endurance Ride With Seated Climbing (4hr 30min)

  1. 20min warm-up
  2. 3hr 50min at power zone 2. Choose a route that includes long climbs of 5-8km. Stay seated throughout, and concentrate on cadence and gear selection.
  3. 20min warm-down

Week 11

Week 11 Monday: Climbing Intervals (1hr 15min)

A repeat of week 1’s Thursday session. 

  1. 10min warm-up
  2. 20min threshold (80-90% of your maximum effort)
  3. 5min power zone 1
  4. 20min threshold (80-90% of your maximum effort)
  5. 10min power zone 1
  6. Sets 3 Time 1min Effort All-out Rest 1min power zone 1
  7. 10min warm-down

Week 11 Thursday: 20min Sweet Spot With Bursts (1hr 6min)

This is a hard session working on your level of effort on a long sustained climb.

  1. 40min progressive warm-up
  2. Sets 4 Time 5min Effort Sweet spot, 10sec power zone 6 burst at the end of each set
  3. 6min warm-down

Week 11 Friday: Bodyweight Workout (55min)

Repeat the session from week 5.

Week 11 Sunday: Endurance Ride (5hr 30min)

  1. 20min warm-up
  2. 4hr 50min power zone 2
  3. 20min warm-down

Week 12

Week 12 Monday: Strength Endurance (1hr 10min)

This workout focuses on developing strength and endurance, and also helps to build your base fitness.

  1. 20min warm-up
  2. Sets 5 Time 6min Effort Power zone 3 Recovery 3min
  3. 5min warm-down

Week 12 Thursday: Base Fitness Ride (1hr)

Ride for an hour in power zone 2.

Week 12 Friday: Taper (1hr)

  1. 10min warm-up
  2. 10min power zone 1
  3. 10min power zone 2
  4. 10min power zone 4
  5. 10min power zone 1
  6. 10min warm-down

Charlie Allenby is a journalist with a passion for pedalling. He contributes features and buying advice about cycling, and is participating in RideLondon in 2022 as well as covering it for Coach. 


As Charlie is also training for a triathlon, he has become Coach’s chief whey and casein protein powder tester, trying as many brands as possible.


Charlie’s first book, Bike London (opens in new tab), is out now. He has written for The Guardian (opens in new tab), The Independent (opens in new tab), BikeRadar (opens in new tab) and others.