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How much time do you need to spend cycling to win races? If taking part is not good enough for you and you want to compete for the podium, this article is for you. We will explore how many hours you need to dedicate to your goal and what kinds of cycling workouts you need.

In the previous articles of this series, we said that you need around 3 hours of cycling per week for cardiovascular health and 6 to 10 hours if you want to complete races. If you want to stand a chance at winning those same races, you’re going to have to go above the 10-hour limit, at least for a period of time.

More than 10 hours every week

The specific number of hours depends on the type of event you’re aiming to win and also on the phase of your preparation. For criteriums and sprints, you might get away with less than 10 hours but longer races will require 10 hours per week at the minimum for most cyclists. These 10 hours would only be your baseline. During a 2-month period leading up to your race, you would likely need to increase your time investment to 12-15 hours.

Women Cycling
Prudential RideLondon Classique © Laura De Meo / Profimedia

Plan out your racing season

Of course, it’s not just about the number of hours. The loftier goals you set, the more precise you have to be with planning how you spend those hours. You should have a good idea of what cycling workouts will be in your repertoire, how to arrange them into training weeks, and how those weeks fit into each phase of your racing season.

Taking it from the top down, here is how a bird’s eye view of your year might look like:

1. Base phase – Early in your preparation, you will want to build your baseline fitness. The focus should be on muscular endurance. This could last up to 6 months.
2. Build phase – As you get closer to racing, you should put more emphasis on your functional-threshold power. This phase could be 1-2 months long.
3. Peak phase – Even closer to your race, you should spend about 2-3 weeks working on your speed. This will require VO2max workouts.
4. Taper phase – In the last 1-3 weeks before the race you’re peaking for, you should take the foot off the gas pedal. Reducing training load to make your body fresh for the race day is the goal.
5. Recovery phase – If you plan on more than one race per season, you should always include 2-5 weeks of recovery for your body to bounce back and be ready for another cycle.

The Three Peaks cyclocross is held in the Yorkshire Dales on the last Sunday in September each year. © Profimedia, Alamy

Choose the right workouts for the job

To fill each training phase with the right workouts, you need a varied repertoire. For example, during the build phase, you will spend many hours on endurance. If you have several interesting endurance workouts handy, you will see that building endurance doesn’t need to be just boring long rides. Check out two examples in our previous article.

For your build phase, it’s really important to have well-defined lactate threshold workouts. These workouts are very often missing from amateur training because they are more intense than endurance but not as intense as sprints. Without a specific plan, you might struggle to hit the right intensity. Check out two examples from our previous article.

And the same goes for VO2max and recovery workouts. If you try to wing it, it’s likely you will go to failure with sprints and unnecessarily prolong the recovery needed. And you are just as likely to go too hard on recovery rides for them to be useful. You can get inspiration for both of these types of workouts in our previous articles.

And what’s the next step after you win your race of choice? Next time, we will take a look at how many hours pros train and what it takes to go from winning local races to going pro.

Next up in How Many Hours per Week Should You Ride? series