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3 Essential 70.3 Bike Workouts

These three bike workouts for half-iron training place a unique focus on the skills and endurance needed to conquer the 70.3 bike leg.

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Long course triathlon events (70.3 and iron-distance) present a distinct set of challenges. They require an incredible amount of fitness, obviously. They also require strong race execution skills, so that you can take advantage of the fitness you’ve built in training while you are on the race course. And for the 70.3 distance specifically, performing well on race day requires a keen understanding of your tempo effort level – not short-course fast, not all-day endurance, but somewhere in the middle – as well as an understanding of how that effort level will play out on your particular race course.

Your fitness, execution skills, effort-level accuracy, and preparedness for the course is important across all disciplines in long-course triathlon, but potentially nowhere more so than on the bike. Falling short in any one of the core requirements for long-course bike performance jeopardizes your ability to run to your potential off the bike. And “swim-bike-walk” is not the goal.

RELATED: 10 Weeks to Your Best 70.3

The following three essential 70.3 bike workouts address each of these core requirements, maximizing your race-day readiness. They are designed to be executed as your weekly long rides and should be incorporated during the final two training builds, typically two to eight weeks before race day. Be sure to execute each at least once, starting with the first; there’s no harm in repeating any or all of them to further refine your skills and improve your preparedness.

Since these are your long bike workouts, it’s good practice to add transition runs immediately following many if not all of them. The runs can be anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes in duration and can match the long bike in terms of goals, pacing, and execution.

RELATED: Long Ride Checklist: What You Need Before You Roll Out

an athlete does a bike workout for 70.3 training
(Photo: Getty Images)

70.3 Bike Workout: Pacing and Fueling Execution

Total time: 2 hours

The goal of this workout is to develop your execution skills for both pacing and fueling. It takes discipline and practice to properly pace a workout, let alone a 70.3 bike leg, and it takes focus to stay on top of your fueling plan while concentrating on your pacing execution. This workout will provide the first round of practice; take what you learn here and repeat and/or refine your pacing skills and fueling plan and execution in all of your future long rides.

Pre-workout:

Write down your fueling and hydration plan: calories or grams of carbohydrates per hour, ounces/mL of water per hour, and mg of sodium per oz/mL of water. Prepare and organize your fueling, hydration, and electrolyte sources; plan refuel stops as needed. For more guidance on how to do this, check out A Half-Ironman (70.3) Nutrition Plan.

Warm-up:

30 minutes building from 50-65% FTP/ up to 85% of LTHR/Zone 1 to mid-Zone 2

Main set:

20 minutes at endurance effort level – 65% of FTP/84-86% of LTHR/mid-Zone 2
20 minutes at a slightly higher endurance effort level – 70% of FTP/85-87% of LTHR/upper Zone 2
20 minutes at the top-end of endurance effort level/bottom-end of tempo effort level – 75% of FTP/87-89% of LTHR/Zone 2/Zone 3 border
20 minutes at tempo effort level – 80% of FTP/90-92% of LTHR /mid-Zone 3

Cooldown

10 minutes easy – 50-60% of FTP/let HR drop toward/below 83% of LTRH/Zone 1

RELATED: How to Establish Triathlon Training Zones

70.3 Bike Workout: Over-Endurance and Race Specificity

Total time: 4 hours

The goal of this workout is two-fold: first, you’ll solidify your endurance base, and second, you’ll ensure that you’re prepared for the specific demands of your race course. Don’t be surprised if you are tired by the end of this ride – that’s the idea. If you repeat the ride, though, you’ll find that you feel stronger during the final thirty minutes than you did the first time.

Pre-workout:

Be intentional about choosing your route for this ride: research your 70.3 bike course and find a local route that mimics the terrain of your race course. If there are no local routes sufficiently similar to your race course, an indoor ride using a virtual cycling app such as Zwift, Rouvy, or FulGaz may be your best option.

Warm-up:

15 minutes building from 50-60% FTP/ up to 83% of LTHR/Zone 1 to low Zone 2

Skill set:

30 minutes at an easy to endurance effort level (55-70% of FT/up to 87% of LTRH/upper Zone 1 to Zone 2) practicing race-specific cycling skills; divide your time appropriately across as many of the following skill sets as are needed for your course:

  • Pedaling and effort-level consistency for flat courses like IM 70.3 Florida and IM 70.3 Eagleman
  • Shifting strategy on rolling hills for courses like IM 70.3 Chattanooga and IM 70.3 Wisconsin
  • Descending, including knowing and being comfortable in your descending bike position, for courses like IM 70.3 St. George and IM 70.3 Mont Tremblant
  • Cornering and u-turns for courses like IM 70.3 Arizona and IM 70.3 Boulder

Main set (for flat courses):

3 times through:

15 min at low cadence (65-75rpm) and endurance effort level – 65-75% of FTP/85-89% of LTHR/top half of Zone 2
15 min at high cadence and endurance effort level – 65-75% of FTP/85-89% of LTHR/top half of Zone 2
15 min at low cadence and a slightly higher effort level – 70-80% of FTP/86-92% of LTRH/upper Zone 2 to lower Zone 3
15 min at your natural cadence and a slightly easier effort level – 60-70% of FTP/83-87% of LTRH/mid-Zone 2

Main set (for rolling to hilly courses):

3 times through:

30 min holding steady endurance effort level both up and down hills – 65-75% of FTP/85-89% of LTHR/top half of Zone 2
30 min attacking hills with low cadence and slightly higher effort level/recovering on downhills – 70-80% of FTP/87-92% of LTRH/upper Zone 2 to lower Zone 3 uphill/60-70% of FTP/83-87% of LTRH / mid-Zone 2 downhill

Cooldown:

15 minutes easy – 50-60% of FTP/let HR drop toward/below 83% of LTRH/Zone 1

RELATED: Do’s And Don’ts Of Tackling Hills On The Bike

70.3 Bike Workout: Finding and Proving Race Pace

Total time: 3 hours

The goal of this workout is to identify and/or prove your race-day effort level. You’ll execute low-cadence intervals at endurance effort to create fatigue without intensity, and then follow them with intervals at your intended race effort. Follow the bike with a 30-45 minute negative split run, finishing at your intended 70.3 race pace.

The workout should feel challenging and tiring but not past your limit. If you have correctly identified and executed your race-day effort, the third interval on the bike and the final 10 minutes of the run will feel demanding but achievable.

Warm-up:

30 minutes building from 50-65% FTP/up to 85% of LTHR/Zone 1 to mid-Zone 2

Main set:

3 times through:

15 minutes at low cadence (65-75rpm) and endurance effort level, 65% of FTP/84-86% of LTRH/mid-Zone 2
30 min at natural cadence and race effort level, 75-85% of FTP/87-95% of HR/upper Zone 2 to upper Zone 3

Cooldown:

15 minutes easy – 50-60% of FTP/let HR drop toward/below 83% of LTRH/Zone 1

RELATED: Three Essential Half-Iron Swim Workouts

Alison Freeman is a co-founder of NYX Endurance, a female-owned coaching group based in Boulder, Colorado, and San Diego, California. She is also a USAT Level II-certified and Ironman University-certified coach as well as a multiple iron-distance finisher.