Pro winter bike sessions

Award-winning triathlon coach Joe Beer speaks to three of the sport’s strongest cyclists to discover their favourite off-season sessions…


Three of the world’s top triathletes share their favourite bike sessions. Over to Jodie Stimpson, Cat Morrison and Phil Graves…


Cat Morrison

Session aim: Time restricted before or after work? This session aims to maintain some VO2 max intensity during the winter months. Short, sharp and over quickly, but it will leave you satisfied that you worked hard!

Warm-up: 10-15mins easy spin, gradually increasing in effort to medium/steady pace for the last 5mins. Then 4 x 15secs max effort with 45secs easy recovery spin.

Main session: I like to crank up some bad dance music to keep me motivated in this session! 10 x 30secs maximum effort with 90secs easy spin recovery. Each week I try to increase the length of the intervals by 15-30secs.

The first goal is to get to 2min intervals (this is about the maximum length of time that I can sustain all-out effort). When I have achieved this, I start to add one more interval per session.

The maximum number of intervals that I have managed at this intensity is around eight! The rest interval is maintained at 90secs-2mins.

Cool-down: Easy spin until 60mins has elapsed, although sometimes I require an extra 5-10mins to fully recover.

Age-group lesson: Cat uses this as a way to work at a high oxygen use amidst a winter base training period.

The efforts are built up gradually over many weeks, so if you do this format be sure to be able to build over time, not just do one session and crash out.

The recovery may need to be extended if your fitness level means you struggle on just 90secs. It would be better to do 8 x 30secs on 3mins than fail at number four if you fail to recover. 

Phil Graves

Session aim: To replicate a race scenario and work on pacing strategies using the turbo trainer

Warm-up: As you would for a cycling TT race, very individual for everyone but I would do a 15min progressive ride with 3 x 30sec accelerations near the end with 5min spinning before the main set.

Main session: 1hr best paced TT effort. What we’re looking for is even pacing or even a negative split ride to ensure we get the best effort.

It’s obviously best using a power meter for this, but you can equally do it on heart rate or speed with a consistent resistance on the turbo. Do the first 30mins hard but controlled and then press on.

This is the best way to keep some race form and leg speed in winter when outside riding tends to be more heavy grinding and power based. As always with turbo sessions have a bucket handy in case you need to throw up.

Cool-down: 10mins easy spin or if you’re feeling brave and have a treadmill close to hand you could put the treadmill at what you see as an ambitious speed and see how long you last before falling off!

Age-group lesson: Phil uses a very long threshold effort to keep some race form, which is required by pros more readily when they race a longer season. 

This teaches pacing, but is probably best to top up high-level fitness rather than be seen as a weekly session. This must be seen as a race – hence Phil has his bucket on hand. Use sparingly.

Jodie Stimpson

Session aim: One of my favourite sessions is bike hill reps; it’s not about how fast you get up the hill, it’s a technical session as well as improving your strengths.

Warm-up: 25-30mins easy spin to hill.  

Main session: 4-6 x hill reps, which is overgearing work but trying to keep everything in line, which means keeping your knees in line and hips solid, arm relaxed, with the recovery just riding back to the start. The hill rep is usually around 10mins.

Cool-down: 25-30mins spin back home, followed by a 15min easy run – in which your legs feel terrible.

Age-group lesson: Note how Jodie takes plenty of time to warm up. Again she uses overgearing on a long climb, accumulating 40-60mins of seated ascending – she’s a pro, so dilute this to say 4-6 x 3-5mins. 

And again, plenty of time to cool down, so if you only have an hour: 20min warm-up, riding to a hill; 4 x 3mins with spin-down recovery; 20mins back home.



Photo: Bob Foy