Cycling On Form: Workouts for Classics time trialists

Workouts designed specifically for the rider who can hold a high, steady pace to drop rivals or nail a PR.

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You may have an idea of your strengths and weaknesses as a cyclist, which kind of terrain suits you, and the on-the-bike skills and riding style you use to go farther, faster. But many riders find themselves chasing wheels they shouldn’t chase, or not sticking to who they are on the bike. You can improve your fitness, better execute your plan, and win your ride if you stick to your strengths.

The Rider Type quiz will help you dig into your cycling DNA and point you to the kinds of workouts best-suited for your type.

Once you identify your type, perform the PTZ Test (below) to find the power zones you’ll be training with.

Find Your PowerTrain Zones

This field test will give you the baseline power zones that will be used in your rider-type-specific workouts. Try to evenly distribute the power throughout the duration of the 12-minute effort. Don’t worry about finding the perfect road for this test; a few slight downhills or corners are just fine. If the road is representative of what you’ll ordinarily be training on, then it is great for your PTZ test.

Graphic detailing how to find powertrain zones

Performing singular intervals is helpful for developing fitness, but putting the effort into context, such as a race, will give you practice for the real thing. So I’ve developed 4 workouts that put you into race scenarios. Find suitable terrain for these workouts, get your game face on, and go for the win!


  • MES: Maximum Effort Strength, an all-out effort like a final sprint, whether seated or standing
  • Power Floor: You should always stay within a prescribed zone, but where “power floor” is noted, it’s crucial to not fall below that PTZ.
  • PTZ: PowerTrain Zone
  • Standing body position: out of the saddle, standing on pedals, hands on the hoods
  • Seated body position: remain seated, in the saddle

Workouts for Classics Time Trialists: Accelerations

In today’s workout we are focused on developing your ability to transition between PTZs, cadences, and body positions to create an effective acceleration. This is a very important skill and strength a Classics TT rider must develop. The key here is to be able to show good control of and a sharp contrast in the transitions between PTZs (see the Acceleration Transition interval) that will leave your competition in the dust.

Total time 1.5 hours | 15 min. easy warm-up

  • 1 x 10 min. PTZ 3 at 90 rpm
  • 5 min. recovery

Acceleration Transition on Flat Terrain

4 x 5 min.:

  • 3 min. seated, PTZ 5 at 50–70 rpm
  • 1 min. seated, PTZ 9 at 100 rpm
  • 1 min. seated, PTZ 7 at 90 rpm
  • 5 min. recovery between each 5-min. effort

MES Snap on Flat Terrain

3 x 30 sec.:

  • 5 sec. MES standing acceleration at high cadence
  • 25 sec. seated acceleration, PTZ 10
  • 5-min. recovery after each 30-sec. effort

Workouts for Classics Time Trialists: Flat Terrain

Today’s focus is building the strength for you as a Classics TT rider to ride the flats with better technique. We will use lower cadence for you to focus on your three points of power: hands, core, and feet.

Total time: 1.5 hours | 15 min. easy

1 x 8 min., alternate between:

  • 30 sec. seated, PTZ 5 at 50–70 rpm
  • 30 sec. seated, PTZ 2 at 50–70 rpm
  • 5 min. recovery after the 8-min. interval

Seated Technique

  • 2 x 8 min. seated, PTZ 5 at 50–70 rpm
  • 5 min. recovery between each 8 minute interval

Standing Strength

  • 1 x 1 min. standing, PTZ 9 at 50–70 rpm
  • 3 min. recovery

Standing Technique

  • 4 x 2 min. standing PTZ 5 at 50–70 rpm
  • 2 min. recovery between each 2-min. interval

Standing Strength 

  • 1 x 1 min. standing, PTZ 9 at 50–70 rpm

Workouts for Classics Time Trialists: Finale Simulation

Today we are going to simulate the competitive scenario of when you try to drop someone or someone is trying to drop you. In this simulation you will be using PowerTrain Zones, cadences, body positions, and key timing to simulate a battle you would find at the end of a race. As a Classics TT Rider, this simulation will come on a final climb at or near the finish. Just like in a real race, there are hard efforts before the one that counts. So we will simulate coming into the climb, starting up it at a hard pace, then settling down before the attacks happen.

The key here is that there will be multiple accelerations, but you must launch your attack before the climbers and puncheurs launch their moves. You will look for a lull in pace before a flatter section of the climb to launch your move. Finally, after you get the gap, you must TT up the climb all the way into the finish to hold off the climbers and puncheurs!

Total time: 1.5 hours | 15 min. easy

Transition Control

1 x 12 min., alternate between:

  • 3 min. PTZ 2 at 80 rpm
  • 1 min. PTZ 4 at 100 rpm
  • 5 min. recovery

Race Finale Simulation (repeat the full simulation 2x with 10 min. rest between)

You are heading into the decisive climb to the finish, battling for position.

1 x 5 min.:

  • 2 min. seated, power floor of PTZ 4 at 100 rpm (before the climb)
  • 1 min. standing acceleration on the climb, power floor of PTZ 8 at 80 rpm (first part of the climb)
  • 2 min. seated climb, PTZ 5 at 90 rpm (settling in on the climb)
  • 3 min. recovery

You make the key selection on the climb of 10 riders and are positioned third wheel from the front. The pace lulls as the climb becomes easier. You see ahead there is 1.5 k of 3% grade, then it kicks up to 12% for the final 1 k to the finish. You are feeling good and are going to go on the offense with one big attack as you see the climbers and puncheurs watching each other.

1 x 2 min.:

  • 1 min. seated acceleration on the climb, power floor of PTZ 9 at 90+ rpm
  • 1 min. seated climb, power floor of PTZ 5 at 80 rpm to clear lactate
  • 3 min. recovery

You have a gap! You see the finish line. You must use your threshold PTZ 6 as a power floor to hold your speed to maintain your gap to the finish.

  • 1 x 4 min. seated and standing climbs, PTZ 6 at 80–90 rpm

Workouts for Classics Time Trialists: Race Tactics

Let’s do a race simulation to work on tactics. This execution and outcome is how you could successfully use your Classics TT Rider Type to turn what looked like a sprint finish into a solo breakaway victory.

Total time: 1.5 hours | 15 min. easy

  • 1 x 12 min. PTZ 3 at 90 rpm
  • 4 min. recovery

Part 1: Rolling terrain

You are nearing the end of a race. It is 15k to go and you are currently in the peloton on a fast downhill on a straight road. There is a strong tailwind, and you notice the group is really strung out behind. Ahead you see the road changes direction to the right and will stay this direction all the way to the finish. The terrain is rolling all the way to the finish line.

1 x 9 min., alternate between:

  • 1 min. 40 sec. seated, PTZ 4 at 90 rpm (for the flats)
  • 1 min. standing climb, PTZ 5 at 70 rpm (for the short climbs)
  • 20 sec. seated acceleration climb, PTZ 8 at 100 rpm (over the top and into the downhill to get maximum)
  • 5 min. recovery after the 9 min. interval

Part 2: Tail/Crosswind

After the road changes direction to the tail/crosswind, you follow two attacks from another rider at the bottom and over the top of the rollers.

1 x 1.5 min.:

  • 30 sec. standing acceleration climb, power floor of PTZ 10 at 80 rpm
  • 30 sec. seated power climb, PTZ 5 at 80 rpm
  • 30 sec. standing acceleration climb, PTZ 10 at 80 rpm

Part 3: Downhill

You quickly recover on the downhill and see the peloton is lulling. But there is crosswind! You launch a long attack moving all the way to the side of the road to gutter the group!

1 x 2.5 min.:

  • 30 sec. seated, PTZ 3 at 80 rpm (recover and clear)
  • 1 min. seated acceleration, power floor of PTZ 9 at 100 rpm (attack!)
  • 1 min. seated, power floor of PTZ 3 at 80 rpm (clear lactate and keep the pace high to create a gap)

Part 4: Solo to the Finish!

  • 1 x 4 min. PTZs 5–7 all the way to the finish line

Adapted from Cycling On Form: A Pro Method of Riding Faster and Stronger by Tom Danielson with permission of VeloPress.