Question (Jente Verherstraeten): How should I train this winter so my form is at its peak in May, when I’m climbing Mont Ventoux?
Arguably the hardest Tour de France climb at 1,909 meters, Mont Ventoux is a true beast of a climb. A nearly 9% average grade incline awaits near the summit. 90-kilometer-an-hour (56 mph) winds batter the mountaintop 240 days out of the year.
Make it to the top, though, and the glory’s all yours.
Since you live in Belgium, there’s a good chance there aren’t many alpine mountains on your doorstep. But contrary to what you might think, you don’t necessarily need to train climbs to do climbs.
Through a combination of real-life training and in-game riding on Zwift, you’ll be ready for the mountain come May.
Determine Your Base Fitness Level
An important factor here will be your starting fitness level this winter. Are you just coming out of your off-season? Can you dive right into the winter training block? Depending on where you’re at, we can ramp up volume and workload a little earlier.
Phase One: Keep It On The Low
Ease into the training plan with low-intensity rides. Start with workouts lasting between two and four hours. Then, over the course of winter, gradually work your way up to four-to-five hours.
This will help your body acclimate to the extended riding you’ll soon be putting in.
Phase Two: Kick It Up a Notch
Time to throw in some intensity. The goal here is to bump up your aerobic capacity, but be wary of going too hard too long. We want to avoid long VO2 max-style intervals.
“Try 30-second sets at 120–150% of FTP with 30 seconds of recovery,” says Coach Kevin Poulton. “These brief intervals aren’t too taxing, but they’re enough to increase your breathing rate. Perfect for expanding your base oxygen uptake.”
“Start with 2 sets of eight intervals at 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off,” Poulton continues. “Then work your way up to 3 sets of twenty 30/30’s. Do these on flats and rolling hills.”
Zwift is great for this as well. Workout mode makes it easy to hit precise wattage targets.
Phase Three: Let It Burn
Climbing Mont Ventoux means lots of high-torque sessions. Prep these muscle fibers early.
This involves intervals lasting between 5 and 10 minutes, in big gears with low cadences. Aim for somewhere between 50–70 rpm. Ultimately, it should feel more like a weight session, rather than cardio.
Doing hard sessions means your legs will burn. Simple tasks will ignite the DOMS in your lower body. But push through the pain and you’ll be that much closer to climbing Mont Ventoux.
Phase Four: Game On
Lastly, you can get on Zwift to replicate those long climbs. Riding in the game lets you track and tweak those fine details that make all the difference when you’re climbing something as considerable as Mont Ventoux.
Between the Epic KOM and Radio Tower, Lutscher and Alpe du Zwift, you’ll have plenty of options to train for the summit.
Ride hard, Jente. We’ll see you at the top.