Week 3 – 1Zambia Training Series

Right, hopefully we’ve established a bit of a routine over the past two weeks. Now that your body and mind have had a chance to adapt to the frequency of riding, we’re going to try and lift the intensity and duration of the rides. From now until the end of March we’ll be in Base phase, in which we will work on building your strength and endurance.

In this week’s tip, I’ll answer a few questions that I’ve received over the first two weeks of the Training Series.

What does low/mid/high tempo mean?

Tempo is just a term that we use to describe how hard you’re working. Low tempo being quite easy, high tempo being very hard. It comes from the Italian word for ‘time,’ and is often used in cycling to describe how rapidly you attempt to cover a particular distance. If you did a 10km time trial, for instance, you would ride at a Very High Tempo, keeping only enough in reserve to make it to the end of 10km. On the other hand, if you did a 120km ride alone, you’d ride a low tempo, conserving your energy to ensure that you make it all the way to the finish. Here is how I like to think of various tempos:

– Recovery – very easy, riding along chatting with friends
– Low tempo – max speed you can sustain for 4 hours
– Medium tempo – max speed you can sustain for 1-2 hours
– High tempo – max speed you can sustain for 30 min
– Sprint – All out, nothing kept in reserve

Which is my biggest and which is my smallest gear?

This is a natural source of confusion in cycling, given that bigger sprockets make for a smaller gear ratio. In this series, the bigger the gear, the faster your wheel is turning. So if you’re on the smallest cog at the back, you’re in a big gear.

Week 3 Program

I’m writing this program on the assumption that my readers are pressed for time, but still want to prepare properly for the 1Zambia. As a result, I’m keeping the duration of the mid week exercises the same, but adding one more workout on Wednesday, and lengthening Saturday’s ride a bit.

Monday 5th Feb:



30 minutes gentle spinning (on the indoor trainer if necessary). RPE: 3


30 minute ride, gradually increasing tempo:

  • 5 minutes light spinning to warm up
  • 5 minutes low tempo
  • 5 minutes medium tempo
  • 5 minutes high tempo
  • 20 second all out sprint!
  • 5 minutes low tempo
  • 5 minutes recovery spin
  • 30-minute ride: High/Low Cadence Repeats


    • 10 minutes light spinning to warm up. RPE: 3
    • 2 minutes in your biggest gear. Don’t ride full gas. Rather, let your pedalling slow down to about 50rpm (5 revolutions every 6 seconds, if you’re counting manually). Stay seated, and focus on matching the downward push with the upward pull on the pedals. RPE 7
    • 2 minutes in your smallest gear. Really spin your legs as fast as they can go, but without going into an all out sprint. The resistance should be so low that you barely feel it. Again, stay in the saddle, and focus on being smooth and controlled. RPE 5
    • Repeat these two steps 3 times, for a total of 12 minutes.
    • 10 minutes light spinning. RPE 3



2h 30min MTB ride. Incorporate 2-4 climbs of 4-10 minutes each into the ride. Ride the climbs at medium to high tempo, as though you’re trying to maintain your position in the bunch. If you live near the 1Zambia route, climbs to consider might be:

– Mine Track
– Profanity Hill
– False Topings
– Hangover Hill
– Wake Up Call


Optional cross training. If yesterday didn’t tire you out, do something other than riding today. Running is a natural alternative, but swimming or Pilates will help you build the core and upper body strength that will get you down those rocky descents.

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