Riding 100 miles is a daunting challenge. Even on flat terrain, over 5 hours of constant riding is enough to stress even the fittest of endurance cyclists. With most UK sportives now offering an 100 mile option, more and more recreational cyclists are taking on longer miles this summer. If you’re doing an event like the London-Paris, chances are you’re going to encounter a long day (80-95 Miles) consecutively. So, how do we prepare?

Long Term Plan (4-6 months)

Get the base in – Riding long miles in the winter (regardless of pace) is generally accepted to boost your cardiovascular endurance (140-150bpm for an average cyclist) over long periods. Most clubs will run a Sunday route, usually of around 50-60 miles. In the winter months, this is perfect training for both bike handling and cardiovascular endurance.
Dial your setup – Is your back hurting after 15 miles? How is it going to feel after 85? Get yourself down to your local bike shop and ask them about ergonomic positioning for all day comfort. Forget about a race position – only the most flexible riders will be able to keep a low profile all day without serious back and neck pain.
Test your kit – Get all of your kit ridden in way before the day. It’s important to try out the chamois on longer days before setting out on an all day ride. Get your maintenance routine correct and try and calculate how much food to bring etc.
Assess your training – Sure, you want to ride 100 miles – but is there a specific time you want to do it in? Chances are, you’ll have a faint goal time on the course or sportive that you want to hit. Assess your fitness and training and see if you can do it with your current fitness levels. Not sure? Check out our Short Term Plan below.

– Riding long sportives can be challenging. For a century, you’ll need to prepare specifically.

Short Term Plan (1-2 months)

Start building up the miles – If you’re riding 50 miles this weekend, do 55 next weekend. Increase your average milage on the longer rides by about 5-10% each time until you’ve reached around 75-80% of your target distance (I.e. for an 100 mile ride you want to be hitting 75-80 miles). Bear in mind that the parcours of your ride may be different and will often include more climbing, so factor this into your training.
Change up the routine – If you’re going for a goal time, you’ll need to experiment with some different training. Racing to an average speed or pace can be challenging and requires some practice. On hills and fast sections you will be going towards zone 3-4 which can be quite tough to withstand on longer days. On a shorter 1-2 hour ride, try holding a pace which is just manageable for 10 minutes, then take a 5 minute rest and repeat 4 times. This session will boost your lactate threshold and is perfect for pacing and winding in the final miles in an 100 miler.
Don’t forget the shorter rides – a lot of us are short of time for riding and training, and your evening rides are still good training. If you can only fit in an hour after work, try and make this ride of a tough nature – practice some fast sessions on a course you know or do some hill intervals so you can worry less about climbing on the day.
Finalise your eating plan – Know what you’re going to take with you and make sure you have supplies for the big day. I tend to eat a bar every half an hour for the first 2 hours and then alternate between Gels. If you’re riding for a long time such as an 100 mile ride, experiment with real food to keep you going and boost morale – Mars Bars and Haribo are perfect on bike snacks to keep you happy.
Get your water levels sussed – On a century ride, I will aim to have about a bottle an hour. Bear in mind you can usually only carry 2 bottles practically, so think about where you can refill. If your century ride is on a particularly hot day, think about adding an electrolyte solution to keep you hydrated. If you struggle to take in Carbohydrates on the bike, look to add a sports solution which contains soluble Carbohydrates for an extra energy boost whilst riding. Your body can deal with about 60g of Carbohydrates per hour, so with one bar and a bottle of sports drink you will reach this requirement.
Example week plan

Monday – Rest Day/Stretching
Tuesday – 1 hour with Hill Reps or Fast Course
Wednesday – Recovery/Rest Day
Thursday – 1 hour with Intervals – 10 minutes hard then 5 minutes easy x 4
Friday – Recovery
Saturday – 3-4 hour ride (Up to 75-80% Target distance to peak 2 weeks before).
Sunday – 3-4 hour ride (interchangeable with Saturday. Rest if too tired).
This is a rough guide and of course should be tapered to your overall fitness abilities. This example has a total of 6 hours a week with 1 weekend ride or 10 hours with 2 weekend rides. Whichever one you can fit in will work for you regardless.

Day of the century

Wake up to a good breakfast. Get all of your mechanical mishaps out of the way and ensure you’ve got spare tubes and tyres.
Take enough food with you and always bring a packable jacket.
Ensure you have a safety route back (A quicker route if you have to cut short or someone you can call to help). In the past I have been lucky enough to do assisted 100’s which gave peace of mind to fuelling etc.
Don’t go out too hard. No matter how good your pacing, if you go out too hard you’ll pay for it at the end. It’s better to ramp up the pace towards the end and finish strong than to blow up 50 miles in.
Take care – ensure you eat and drink enough to avoid the “bonk”. This is integral to good cycling performance and definitely important to avoid complete failure on the day.
With these tips in mind, you should be well on your way to your first successful 100! Remember, if you can ride 70 miles, you can do a century.