Training advice for 2 minute KOM event

Hey all,

I’ll looking for some training advice for an event. It’s a 2 minute 10% climb in the middle of a 5 hour MTB race, in August. I’ve been at it for the past 2 years, taking 3rd and then 2nd. Maybe this year I’ll manage to win.

What I’m already doing:

  • been using Systm consistently for 3 years now, the gains I see are smaller and smaller
  • losing weight to as low as I feel comfortable
  • using a light gravel bike
  • easy pedaling up to that point (I’m not interested in the overall result, just this KOM)

What can I do training-wise to get in the best shape? After a winter of more endurance and less anaerobic workouts, I was thinking about doing the 3 month time trial plan, but with some low cadence and some AC workouts sprinkled in. Then I was thinking to move to the 3 month criterium plan, with less endurance and more AC, leading up to the event.


I have no advice for a training plan but if you haven’t done it, there’s a vid from the A Week With series from Phil Gaimon where there’s a 3 min and a 2 minute effort. You could use it to train for the segment and/or to assess your progress


How fast do you have to be to win the KOM?

If you are training the same stimulus over and over again, you would expect to see smaller and smaller gains.

1 Like

Yeah, that’s a nice workout, I do it every few months as a benchmark and also to work on pacing.


Over the past few years, the winning times were in the 1:59-2:13 range. Last year I was 2:10, 5 seconds slower than the winner that time. So I just need a few more tens of watts and I should be good :face_with_spiral_eyes:

1 Like

It might be more leg strength/gym work you need

1 Like

To me, it appears you need to improve two or three abilities since you are looking for marginal gains:

  1. You need to have a highly efficient anaerobic glycogen production system
  2. You need to be able to spin effectively and efficiently
  3. Perhaps, you need a higher FTP, because you want to minimize the amount of use of the glycogen system up to the KOM start because even with easy pedaling, glycogen is used aerobically below FTP.

So what does this translate to in terms of action?

When was the last time you did a FF to make sure your NM, AC, and MAP numbers were correct? Since you are looking for marginal gains, you must be providing the proper stimulus even if you are doing the correct workouts?

Have you looked at the NM or AC progression workouts?

Elements of Style might help you pedaling efficiency. You might also think over your sitting vs standing strategy.

Does any of this make sense?

Last FF was about 5 months ago. After that I encountered some fatigue, wasn’t able to finish some workouts, dialed down the intensity over December-January, now ramping it back up, feeling good, doing FF this wekend. Not expecting much, as I feel the current numbers are spot on.

Yes, I’m inserting the AC progression workouts here and there. Also I think the low cadence progression will help. Started doing a little more NM, but this is my weak spot.

I’m thinking about doing more intensity over the following months, as August approaches, with more AC and some NM, less FTP or below. I’d like to have a proper leg gym day every now and then, but there’s no gym nearby open at 5-6 AM and that’s my only time slot for training at the moment.

1 Like

Even if it just confirms your current numbers, I would think a validating FF would be important.

The other thing to consider is that tens of watts one or another could come down to how good you are feeling that day because numbers can easily vary by tens of watts from day to day.

As for gym work, check out some of the SYSTM strength workouts. I have found they have improved my core which has helped me generate more power.

1 Like

I’m going over the strength workouts regularly. Yeah, the core ones have helped me a lot. Still, I think leg-wise nothing beats a good old leg press, nor the other machines that allow you to isolate muscles and push big weights.


Are you training with the bike set up for the incline you will be on? You may well be recruiting muscles differently for that section (in your climbing position) than all the flat road you are training on. Just a thought, and I could be off base… but I suggest you find a hill to train on.

Perhaps give this a look:

When the time comes, get in a good taper. Good Luck!


The other thing I would look at would be your feed hydration strategy for the race and specifically for the KOM e.g. some flat red bull - about 20 minutes before the climb might give you the wings you need.


This is the first time I hear about setting the bike up for an incline. Great idea, I’ll do that!

1 Like

Yes, I’ve also been thinking about this. Normally I would eat about 200 kcal per hour. This year I’ll try to eat 400, especially since I’ll be riding slow for the first 3 hours (up to the climb), so it will be easier to eat.

1 Like

I think you have gotten some very good advice here.

I think the bottom line is that since you are looking for a few tens of watts, any of these are possible chances for improvement. In fact, from race to race, what might push you over could change.

1 Like

Yes, I definitely got some good tips. I’ll do my best to train hard, but without overdoing it, so I’m in my best shape on race day. Also I hope the top guys will be too busy figthing for the overall win and not go all out on this climb - in a straight race, I wouldn’t stand a chance.


@aolariu I like your thinking - setting goals that are meaningful to you. It is a great way to define your training.


“Let me use a bucket o’ paint to simulate an incline. That’s a smart and easy solution”


You have an interesting ‘problem’ with an interesting set of solutions. I’m going to respectfully disagree with some of them. I will hopefully give you some ideas in order to develop a training plan.

The ‘problem’ is to win the KOM in the middle of a 5 hour mtb race. The KOM is a 10% climb. The KOM is roughly a 2 minutes effort for the winner.

The first thing that stands out is the KOM is being looked at as an anaerobic capacity (AC) effort. That is probably an incorrect view. Think of AC as a 1 minute max effort. Doubling that isn’t going to happen (think of doing the last effort in FF for 2 minutes…nope). Instead think of the KOM as a VO2 max (MAP) effort. That doesn’t mean exclude AC training, but that is not the focus.

Problem #2. The KOM comes 3 hours into the race. You said the overall placement in the race is not important and that ‘riding easy’ to the KOM fits with your goal. So let’s consider that as a 3 hour ride in Zone 2, below FTP and below where lactate will start to accumulate. But FTP and MAP are inter-related so raising your FTP will also help raise your MAP.

At 200g of carbohydrates per hour, you should be fine with fueling. Doubling to 400g per hour may lead to gastrointestinal issues and decreased performance. Someone mentioned a Red Bull prior to the climb… most of the studies on Red Bull show that the main ‘stimulant’ effects are from the 80mg of caffeine in it and that the sugar load + caffeine has a negative effect on hydration. Would a caffeine containing gel, 10 minutes before the climb give you better results?

Problem #3. It is a climb. Is your climbing style on that type of terrain sit and spin, sit and grind or stand and push? Does a light weight gravel bike give you the stability and gearing that matches the overall needs of the race? Sir Joe mentioned changing your position but will that change negatively affect you bio-mechanically in the 3 hour lead up to the climb?

Power to weight is somewhat important. You mentioned losing weight…but in doing so are you losing muscle mass? Are you able to measure your body composition (and how it changes)?

My suggestions:
Since you have roughly 5 months before the event there is plenty of time to train and see your body make adaptions. I would follow a 3 week build/1 week recover plan with a week of tapers/recovery before the event.

As far as a weekly schedule, ride 5 days a week with 2 recovery days (not back to back). A sample would be Monday-recovery, T/W/Th- ride, Friday-recovery and Sat/Sun ride. Out of those 5 days, almost 80% would be Zone 2 riding and 20% would be VO2 max and/or some AC work.

Monday= Recovery
Tuesday=1-2 hours Zone 2 ride
Wednesday= 1 hour MAP (VO2) workout (look as the variety of them in the SYSTM library). Try do it the intervals in level mode AND if possible at the 10% incline. Every third week (the week before the recovery week) change this to an AC workout in level mode.
Thursday= 1-2 hour Zone 2 ride
Friday= Recovery
Saturday= Long Zone 2 ride in the terrain you will race in. There may be some VO2 work but the majority of the ride is Zone 2.
Sunday= Easy Zone 2 ride for 1-2 hours.

Strength training…. Lifting heavy weights isn’t necessarily a benefit or detriment, but the energy system used is mostly NM when doing set of squats or leg presses. Dynamic training, such as kettlebell swings fire the hip flexors as well as the glutes and tend to build power.

Weight loss and nutrition. I use three tools for my nutrition. 1) a body composition scale that give me weight, body fat, muscle mass, lean mass and % of water, 2) an app (Lose It!) to track my nutrition including calories and macros (protein, carbohydrates, fats and fiber) and 3) a food scale to accurately measure my food portions.

It is a balancing act to lose weight, support training and NOT lose muscle mass. I’m using a plan to lose 1 pound (.5kg) a week through a calorie deficit BUT while eating a high protein diet to support muscle maintenance. On days such as Wed/Sat in the sample program I wrote up, I would not calorie cycle (it would need to be enough to support the training needs). On the lower intensity days, where most of the energy comes from stored fat, I can do a reduced caloric intake.

This probably give you some things to think about in regards to your training strategy for the race.


Hi Chris. Thanks for taking the time to write such an elaborate answer, I really appreciate it. I’ll go over it in sections.

I think I’m strongest on a bike on steeper climbs in the 5-15 minute range. That’s what I enjoy training for, at least. So historically my training was focused mostly on FTP and MAP workouts, with close to zero NM. Now, in terms of hard workouts (above zone 3), I think my time is split between FTP, MAP, AC and NM in a ratio of 30%-40%-20%-10% (compared to my previous 40-50-10-0).

I was talking about going from 200 kcal to 400 kcal, not grams. Dear lord no, I can’t do 400 grams per hour! I don’t do RedBulls, but I can try a caffeine gel beforehand.

In general on climbs, when I’m pushing, I normally go seated at normal to high cadence (90-100), ocasionally going out of the saddle at 60-70 cadence. This KOM though has some peculiarities. The first half is gentle, 5%. The second half is a wall, 15% percent. All of it doubletrack, dirt with grass. With the gravel bike, 700-40c Schwalbe G-One Allround tyres, I can’t get out of the saddle on the second half because I lose traction. With my gearing, I can grind it at a cadence of 60-70. So I’ve added workouts like the low cadence progression to train my low cadence seated power. I might also switch to 700-45c tyres and do a recon of the climb, to see if climbing out of saddle is possible.

Last summer I was at 72 kg, now I’m at 70. No loss in power. Also recently started measuring my percentage of body fat (using a caliper). I’m at around 8-9%. Targeting 68 kg in the summer, hopefully without losing any power :slight_smile:. So it’s not a significant weight loss, I’ll probably keep my current weight (I’m already pretty slim) up to June/July, then aim for a gentle loss (1 kg/month).

Thanks for this detailed schedule. I’m really curious to know what’s the best ratio for a time-crunched amateur cyclist. I see you’re proposing one hard workout per week, plus lots of Zone 2. Up to this winter I was following the Systm plans, which have up to 3 hard workouts per week. Meanwhile I’ve dialed it down to 2 hard workouts:

  • Monday - recovery
  • Tuesday - hard workout (usually MAP or AC) and a little more Z2, up to 1h15’
  • Wednesday - Z2 1h15’
  • Thursday - cadence drills and/or Z2 1h15’
  • Friday - recovery
  • Saturday - hard 2h workout (one of the Suff workouts or Proraces)
  • Sunday - Z2 2h

Unfortunately that’s all the time that I can afford. All of it in the basement, between 6-7/8 AM. Job + 2 small kids + living in the middle of a big city in a flat area…

I’m doing the above schedule for 3 weeks one, one off. So far I’m feeling good. I was considering going to just one hard workout per week… but it feels… very light. My mind is saying “push more!”. I understand pro cyclists do one one hard workout per week, plus lots of Z2, but they do 20+ hours a week of Z2, while I have 4-5.

My hope is this will help me on the second half of the climb, the seated grind. I feel that pedaling at 400 watts and a cadence of 60 is like being on the leg press.

Yes, I’m recoding body fat (using a caliper), tracking my food, macros, trying to eat healthy and balanced (so hard to stop eating chocolate…).

I understand your logic, yet my body is telling me the opposite. On rest days it’s so hard for me to stick to 2300 kcal, I feel constantly hungry. Meanwhile, on Saturday I usually have to eat 4000 kcal and I struggle to reach this number.

1 Like