Let’s have a chat with Stefan van Klink (cycling coach)

You may be an avid cyclist, but how do you prepare for that extra step towards riding 900 km in three days? We talked about this with Stefan van Klink, founder of Better Cycling, which helps riders with custom made training schedules. Stefan also has a background as a cyclist, and manages his own cycling team as well.

What are some training goals you often see with cyclists?
This varies greatly. You do notice that, in both competitive and recreational cycling, the training goals have shifted somewhat in 2020. They used to be event-driven, but last year they were more process-driven. In a normal year, where the agenda is full of events, you’ll see that riders want to work towards them. That’s often also the most effective way of training, because it makes it easier to periodize your efforts.

Stefan van Klink (right)

What are misconceptions you encounter when it comes to training for events?
Recreational cyclists in particular prefer to train as hard as possible at all times. The goal of each session then becomes to feel completely drained at the end of it, because it gives you the most satisfaction. That’s not the most effective way of training though, because it’s applying variety between calmer and more intense training sessions that yields the best results. It’s also important to have a clear goal in mind when you’re training, because that helps you achieve and measure what you’re getting out of your training efforts.

Regularly going on long rides isn’t the same as doing 300 km for 3 days straight. How do you prepare for that?
A 300 kilometer ride is a big blow the body, and something that’s hard to prepare for. Doing regularly 300k rides during your preparation is, after all, insanity.

The most important thing is that you give yourself plenty of time to prepare. These aren’t rides that you get ready for in a manner of weeks, and having a solid base foundation when it comes to your physical condition is a big plus. You can prepare well for a challenge like this with 150 kilometer rides, because those will also impact your body quite a bit. The rule is to “not train until you can do it, but train until it can’t go wrong”. A 150 kilometer ride should start feeling relatively easy. That 300k ride will then still be a challenge, but you’ll make it to the finish line.

Of course none of that compares to “the real thing”. If you’ve completed a similar challenge before, then it’s always easier the second time you do it.

If an experienced marathon cyclist wants to improve, then what should he/she look for?
Marathon cycling is a very specific part of the sport. It’s important to realize that it takes more time to get good at it as well. The age where a marathon cyclist peaks is a lot higher than the peak age for a sprinter in road races. Experience helps, because your body needs to absorb those intense assaults on your endurance level several times to really take it all in and make it part of your system.

The impact of rides like these is quite large. Because of that, you don’t want to have challenges like this too many times in a year, since your body will need time to recover. That will take longer than it does after a regular training sessions, so in a way you can compare it to running. Sprinters compete many times a year, but long-distance runners only participate in a few marathons.

I wouldn’t worry too much about improving your speed. Of course, it helps to train in blocks, but the most important thing is that your body gets used to the exhaustion you’re experience. The better that’s integrated into your system, the easier it’ll be. When that happens, you’ll automatically start riding faster as well.

What are other factors that affect your performance in these endurance events?
More so than in other cycling events, care and maintenance is crucial. Proper food intake is a clear number one, because when you ride for 300 kilometers you’ll burn an insane amount of calories. Because of that, you’ll have to eat well during the ride, but definitely also before the start of it.

Sleep and rest are also big factors, because as soon as you get off the bike you’ll want to start recovering. It’s important that you don’t try and manage too many things yourself here, because after riding for 300 kilometers you shouldn’t want to get in the kitchen and prepare your own dinner. Letting others take good care of you can be a deciding factor during a multi-day event like this one.