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Train right series - Part 2: Periodization and phases

In Part 1, we discussed what periodization is and gave a brief overview of the phases involved, different cycles within a week, month and year and finally gave some evidence to support the use of periodization from a coaching perspective.

Ultimately our goal with periodization is the enhancement of an athletes FTP or functional threshold power, building fatigue resistance and optimizing performance so that form and fatigue are leveraged in a beneficial and productive way. With the Amashova and 94.7 coming up for the road racing cyclists, and Cape Pioneer Trek and Wines2Whales for the mountain bikers, hopefully this will shed more light on planning for the next couple of months.

Preparation phase:


The word conjures up riding around on your bike at an easy intensity and then bragging on Strava with some witty one liner “5 hour base before we race”. Things are changing though and with the advent of better ways of tracking intensity especially with the use of heart rate and power, riding around hoping that your muscles bulk up, with all the magical performance organelles that turn glucose and fat into energy and performance, can be tracked, described/prescribed and measured with far greater accuracy.

Base also has far more specificity than what it often gets credited for. Base 1, Base 2 and Base 3 (Friel, 1996) are how coaches like to see your base phase and will often be around 12 weeks in total (i.e. 4 weeks per phase). With transitions from 1 to 2 to 3 based on increasing levels intensity focused on endurance, force and speed-skills. Base 1 would be focused on volume with a lot of work between 65 to 85% of VO2 max or L2 training levels. Essentially we are riding to ride. Base 2 would see greater work considering tempo and sweet spot training zones or L3 and upper L3 (Coggan and Allen, 2010). Finally, Base 3 would move to lactate threshold work just below or at your functional threshold power (FTP).


This phase is characterised by specific preparation work that often will used to work on potential areas where the race can be won or lost for an athlete. Horses for courses. The emphasis is often above threshold work or functional reserve capacity (FRC). A good base phase will allow a greater power output to be developed on top of your threshold ability. Dr Andy Coggan describes this as a battery that can be increased in size. With some advanced metrics in WKO4+* being able to give the potential size in KJ. This phase lasts anywhere from 6 to 10 weeks in total and can be a potential problem as the physiological cost is often high and the athletes often do not include enough rest. A good coach will use specific metrics to monitor this fatigue. The Threshold uses TrainingPeaks* as one software engine that allows for this very approach with a metric called Training Stress Balance allows the coach to control this aspect.

Competitive Phase


This phase is all above a reduction in volume but maintaining intensity. Here the name of the game is to reduce training stress balance while keeping the athlete sharp with specific race intensity workouts. This phase usually only lasts 2-8 weeks, but can depend on the amount of fatigue an athlete is carrying.

Darrin Jordaan

MSc (Med) Biokinetics Wits (Hons) Sports Science UP

Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist Ironman Certified Coach


Allen, H. and Coggan, A. (2010). Training and Racing with a Power Meter. 2nd Edition. Boulder, Colorado: VeloPress.

Friel, J. (1996) Cyclists training Bible. Boulder, CO: VeloPress.

*TrainingPeaks and WKO4+ is a registered trademark of TrainingPeaks LLC.,

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