Back in the day when I had great aspirations of being a top pro rider I had always wondered how much the pros actually do during the year. I searched the net for hours but I couldn’t find a satisfactory answer. Not only that but I also wanted to know how intense their training was. It has only been in recent years since pros have started putting all their training on Strava that I discovered the answers.
I really love Strava as it is a great tool to make your training fun in the form of feedback from others and going for KOM challenges. Not only that, it allows you to see how many hours you have trained for the year as well as the distance and meters climbed. Since all pro riders are training with power meters these days you can see exactly what their data is so you know how hard or easy they are going throughout the year.
So here is what pros typically do for the year. I use hours instead of distance as distance can vary too much depending on the terrain ridden throughout the year. Hours are always a constant and can be used for any endurance sport.
pros ride 800 to 1000 hours per year
This corresponds to about 15.4 to 19.2 hours of riding per week. This may not sound like that much for a pro but the overall intensity is high, therefore resulting in far more calories being burned. A pro could be burning up to double the calories that an average Joe burns for the same amount of time in the saddle. For those of you that want to know the numbers in terms of distance it’s between 25 000 Km and 30 000 Km per year. Bear in mind that the average climbing is also about 12 meters per kilometer so for a 30 000 Km year that is 360 000 meters of climbing for the year.
70 to 100 days per year are racing days
Since pro riders are racing so much it almost eliminates the need to do specific interval training unless there is a race they want to peak for. The preparation for this would already start several months prior to the target race. After a hard one day race a few days of easy riding follows to recover and get ready for the next battle!
Most riding is done in zone 2
Zone 2 is considered easy riding that requires a small amount of concentration to maintain. The reason pros spend most time in zone 2 as opposed to zone 1 is because zone 2 still causes adaptations in your body such as increased mitochondrial density but at the same time it is not taxing on the body and allows you to work on your aerobic foundation or base for the whole year.
The biggest weeks for pro riders rarely exceed 35 to 40 hours
This makes sense as the biggest weeks of a grand tour are about 30 hours in duration so there’s no point training like an ultra cyclist if you want to be fast. This amount of time in the saddle is also only done for 1 or 2 weeks of the year. Pro riders also don’t tend to train more than 5 hours for a session. This is to maximise the effectiveness of workouts. More is not better, smart is.
1 month off to be reborn again
Another trend I see is pro riders taking off one month of the year and for good, sound reason. The life of a pro rider is extreme in the sense that is taxing mentally and physically, more so than any other sport on the planet. You have to survive brutal days on the bike come rain or snow and even more importantly stay on your bike in the first place. A serious crash can put a rider out of competition for 2 to 3 months. You also need to endure regular travel across the globe. Taking a break for a month restores your will to fight on for another season.
Base training to keep the engine going
At the end of the European racing season pro riders will do base training for 2 to 3 months to keep the training load up without taxing the body and mind before the upcoming season. Base weeks are between 20 and 30 hours and keeps the training load about the same as in the racing season but with significantly less physical demand.
Thanks to guys like Robert Gesink, Joe Dombrowski, Paul Martens, Wilco Kelderman, Greg van Avermaet and many other pro riders for putting their data on Strava. It is great to be able to get many new insights into what it takes to be a pro rider.