Segment Hunting? Try These Must-Do Workouts


, by Nikalas Cook

Photography by: Christopher Stricklen

Is there a certain Strava segment that you’re targeting, eyeing up the KOM/QOM or wanting to rise above your buddy on the Leaderboard but reckon you’re maybe a few watts short of what would be necessary?

By focusing on interval sessions that mimic the duration of your target segment, you’ll be able to boost your wattage specifically and, by doing reps, know you’ll be able to pace your table-topping effort perfectly with a tank emptying finish in your back pocket.

How often should you do these workouts?

I’d be looking to do the workout twice a week for 3-4 weeks building up to your segment assault. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “If X2 is good, X3 or X4 must be better” - These are tough sessions, quality trumps quantity and, to ensure you get the biggest gains from them, you have to be fresh and recovered.

RELATED: How to Use Strava to Optimize Your Training

Should you ride indoors or out?

The advantage of using an indoor trainer is that you can guarantee the intensity, consistency, and quality of the efforts. The disadvantage is that not all segments are set in the virtual world and, no matter how good your indoor set-up is, it’s never the same as outdoors on the road or trail. If you have a power meter and can find a suitable section of road/trail - maybe even the segment, I’d opt for IRL.

You can train for segments both indoors and outdoors.

Test your FTP

You need a power meter and you need to know your current FTP to get the most out of these sessions. If you don’t know your FTP, find out how to test for it in one of my previous articles.

Don’t forget to warm-up

For these sessions - and for your segment attempt, you’ll need to be warmed up. Whether this is a decent ride out to the section of road/trail you’re using or a more structured affair on the turbo, it should be at least 20 minutes, build up the intensity progressively to a couple of minutes at FTP, including some 5-10 second sprints and finish with five minutes of easy spinning.

RELATED: Power Meter Guide: The Watts, Whys and Hows of Functional Threshold Power (FTP)

Workout 1: Hour of Power

An absolute brute of a workout but, if you’re well-rested, motivated and your FTP is accurate, definitely doable. After a progressive 10-minute warm-up, you’ll hold Sweet-Spot (90% FTP) for 60 minutes with a 10-second surge (110%) every 2 minutes – yep, that’s 30 surges! Enjoy!

  • Segment length: 30-60 minutes

Workout 2: 2X20 minutes at FTP

A classic session but definitely one that has stood the test of time.

After your warm-up, you’ll ride 2 X 20 minutes at 100% FTP with 5 minutes of easy spinning in between for recovery.

  • Segment length: 15-40 minutes

Workout 3: 5X5 minutes at VO2

The first three minutes of these intervals feel “okay” but as you’re holding above FTP, the lactic acid simply builds and builds, and the final minute of each interval it can feel as though time has stood still.

Warm up and then ride 5x5 minutes at 110% FTP with five minutes of easy spinning recovery between each effort.

  • Segment length: 3-10 minutes

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Workout 4: Minute on / Minute off

These aren’t all-out minute sprints as, if you’ve ever ridden a no-holds-barred kilo on the track, you’ll know how much recovery that requires to repeat! You’ll still be going hard though and, by the fifteenth rep, be feeling as though you are going full-bore.

Warm up and then simply ride for 30 minutes alternating a minute at 120% FTP with a minute of easy spinning.

  • Segment length: 1-3 minutes

Make sure you do a test-run before tackling the segment.

The big day

Have at least 24 hours of recovery beforehand, check the wind direction, and do your normal warm-up.

Depending on the length of the segment - probably if less than five minutes - you should ride it first at an easy pace. This is particularly important if you’re targeting an MTB or gravel segment as trail conditions may have changed from the last time you rode it.

When you attack the segment, pace it using the intensity you’ve been practicing in your intervals for at least the first 75% of the segment based on time. Then, if you’re feeling strong, ramp it up and empty the tank.

RELATED: How to Use Strava’s Fitness & Freshness Tool

Not targeting a segment?

If you haven’t found the segment that you’re looking for yet, these workouts are still great for building all-round cycling fitness.

Try this rolling training plan using the workouts for midweek sessions and then doing your usual endurance ride at the weekends:

Week 1

  • Workout 1: Hour of Power

  • Workout 2: 2X20 minutes at FTP

Week 2

  • Workout 1: 2X20 minutes at FTP

  • Workout 2: 5X5 minutes at VO2

Week 3

  • Workout 1: 5X5 minutes at VO2

  • Workout 2: Minute on / Minute off

Week 4

  • Workout 1: Recovery spin

  • Workout 2: FTP Test

In my next blog, I challenge cycling tribalism and tell you why all road cyclists would be better on the road if they rode mountain bikes, and why all mountain bikers would be better on the trails if they donned some lycra (only kidding!) and rode on the road.

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