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Bike Interval Workout

By Dara Marks Marino

bikeThis two-minute interval will develop your on-bike strength more than any other interval that I have had the pleasure of doing. Doug Loveday, who coached me during my most successful year of professional mountain bike racing, taught it to me. His name lives in infamy since I call it “Doug’s Specials” when I assign it to my athletes. His name for them is Muscle Tension Intervals, which emphasizes the 360-degree seated pedal stroke focus. I have my athletes do Doug’s Specials once per week at six weeks, five weeks, four weeks, and three weeks prior to their A priority race. It is perfect for both on-road and off-road triathletes of any distance, and anyone who wants to improve their strength at threshold (and who doesn’t want that?).

One challenge with this interval is finding the right hill to do it on. You need a hill, or top of a hill, that is very safe from cars, because you may get a bit blurry-eyed from this effort. It needs to be long enough that you can get in two minutes, but flat enough at the top that you can easily recover while pedaling for at least a short distance before riding back down the hill to do it again. Be sure you use the same beginning and ending points so you can gauge if the quality or time of your effort is beginning to fade (see below for guidelines).

Once you have found your hill, be sure you are thoroughly warmed up, including a couple of harder efforts. From your starting point, use the following times as a guideline:

0-60 seconds: Ramp your effort up to near threshold (your heart rate won’t have time to get all the way to threshold, but bring your RPE to 8 on a 1-10 scale).

60-90 seconds: Shift in to a very hard gear. Remain seated, and push hard on the pedals, using your whole body to generate the power.

90 seconds-1 minute, 50 seconds: Shift one or two gears easier, remain seated, and accelerate hard and fast. Increase both your leg speed and your actual speed.

1 minute, 50 seconds-2 minutes: Stand and sprint for everything you are worth! Depending on your hill and whether or not it is a steady grade or gets steeper or less steep, you may need to shift one or two gears harder for this final push to make it an all-out effort.

Recovery time between each of these intervals is seven to nine minutes. Why so long? Because you want to put everything you’ve got in to each interval. Each interval should feel extremely taxing. You should aim to do at least three intervals, but if you have done five and feel like you could do more, then you weren’t going hard enough! Especially during the last minute and 30 seconds, your effort should be through the roof.

I generally ask my athletes to do three to five of these, stopping when the quality of their effort fades, or when the same distance covered takes 10-12 seconds longer than previous efforts that day.

Dara Marks Marino coaches cyclists and triathletes at, where she takes a holistic approach to coaching athletes’ minds, bodies and spirits.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.