Training for Tour of Northland

I have asserted before that riding an ebike regularly keeps you fit. It’s true, I am quite fit. But am I fit enough for a 4-day cycle race? That’s an interesting question…

My Challenge

I have entered BDO Tour of Northland, a 4-day stage race over 360km going Whangarei-Russell-Paihia-Opononi-Dargaville-Whangarei. Apparently it’s fun, but my bike won’t have a motor. Eeek! It starts in a week from now (21 March 2019).

In 2018 I rode my ebike more-or-less every day to work, a 53km round-trip. On the weekend, I’d go for a MTB ride with my mates. I was living my best life.

The first ride on the road bike was hard, in fact brutal would be the best description. I tried to commute once a week, anything more felt like hell. Sometimes, I’d even turn the power a bit down on the ebike to get me ready. December came and my ebike had an electrical issue. Given how hard it still felt on the roadie, I just caught the bus. Even on weekends, I rode eMTBs such is my duty to you readers. It really wasn’t getting much better for me.

Then came Christmas holidays away, and by the time I got back and changed the batteries in my scale, I was 9kg over my ‘fighting weight’ of 79kg. I was going to need to work harder.

The Programme

I signed on to and created a 10-week plan. It’s quite a cool system that targets your specific race. I had done it before and imagined then it was smarter than it really was, so this time I knew. It creates a plan for you around your time constraints, and it’s up to you to do the work. It rates your efforts (based on heart rate zones and duration) so you can compare your effort vs the plan. The visualisations are good so you also learn a lot about your own performance and how you are responding.

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The red line marks the start of the race – max fitness, minimum fatigue

I also signed up for a Strava Summit pack which also provided further analysis, and I installed the Elevate plugin. This plugin gives the best fitness/fatigue chart I’ve seen across all of them. The basics of training are that you have a CTL – cumulative training load (ie fitness) and increase this through efforts, your ATL – acute training load. ATL leads to fatigue, and hence you can’t go from Fitness Level 1 to 10 all in a rush. You need to layer on the ATL to increase your CTL without exceeding a Fatigue level which is called ‘overtraining’. It’s quite well understood and very well visualised through Elevate, while Todays Plan and Strava also have versions of if. The Todays Plan programme is designed to get you to your race with a high CTL and low fatigue.

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Trying to keep the efforts up without crossing the ‘Overload’ line too much

The programme has a variety of workouts designed to get all your muscular and cardio systems up to spec.

The Truth

The truth hurts. I was however starting to find my ‘acoustic’ rides easier. I did W2K on my MTB, West Coast Wilderness trail, and was commuting 2-3 times a week by the end of January. I joined a few bunch rides, and that took me down a few pegs… My legs simply don’t have the power to match the better riders up climbs. I figure I have the base cardio system from the ebiking, but having power-assist has spoiled my legs. Other rides with MAMIL-mates and a 103km race have reinforced this view. I get spat out on the hills.


In a week, I line up at the start. My expectations are tempered and so will be my pace. I’m going for a good time, and chances are it will be a long time too! But I am confident I’ll survive, and I know I have worked hard during my 10-week plan. Strava says I’m the fittest I have ever been. I have dropped 6kg in two months so I’m still a little over ‘fighting weight’ but I feel good.

Wish me luck!

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