Tour de France stage winner Dan Martin: How to extend your ride

Cannondale-Garmin pro cyclist Dan Martin was always a good sprinter but new the key to success was to build endurance - here’s how the Irishman did it, and how you can too

Q. What do you think is the key to building cycling endurance?

A. In my case, a lot of it is natural year on year progression. Spending as much time as I can in the saddle doing long endurance rides over short, intensive sessions as well as lots of gym work has definitely helped too.

Q. How do you structure your nutrition in order to stay in the saddle for longer?

A. In a race I’ll eat so many energy bars and rice cakes that when I’m on less intense endurance rides, I take the opportunity to eat sandwiches or cake. I’ll get crucified for saying this but when you’re in a bad way and feeling super low on sugar, a Coke and a Snickers feel like the best thing to have! Obviously the aim is to never get into that state but it happens to all of us. When you’re on a more intense ride, however, it’s more convenient to fuel using energy bars. The ones my team use (Cannondale-Garmin) have a high percentage of fat and carbs to keep up energy stores.

Q. How about isotonic sports drink - do you chug litres of that an hour?

A. Well, it depends on the heat but between 0.5 up to 2-2.5 litres per hour in really hot conditions.

Q. Tour de France winner Chris Froome says that recovery is as important as training in building your endurance, do you have any recovery secret weapons?

A. I hit the foam roller. A lot – it’s a good way of simulating a sports massage without spending loads of money. Only 10-15 minutes a day can loosen up muscular knots and tightness so you’re ready to ride again the next day.

Q. What training sessions do you think have most contributed to your endurance?

A. Learning to gradually ride at a higher pace for longer is what builds endurance. And the more you ride, the more this happens. I can now ride at a pace for four or five hours that five years ago I could only hold for two. Racing also makes you strong. Once you get a grand tour in your legs you really notice a difference in what you can do on a bike. You get so used to riding fatigued and then going hard the next day that your body learns to recover and conserve energy more efficiently as you’re riding.

Q. You say you’ve hit the gym to increase your saddle staying power too, so what kind of workouts do you do?

A. I do a lot of isolation and compound moves – low weight, super high, super fast reps to build the strength endurance you need for cycling. So, 30 reps in 40 seconds to simulate the ideal race pedal stroke of 80-90 RPM (revolutions per minute).

Q. What about using turbo trainers when the weather does against you?

A. For racers winter is the time when you need to get the miles in, so if you don’t want to take your chances in cold, dangerous conditions, turbos represent a really efficient way of training. Quality sessions are short and painful but they massively increase fitness, and are a lot safer than riding around icy country lanes in the dark.

Q. How would a cycle commuter graduate to full-day sportive cycling event?

A. Build up to the mileage in manageable increments. So if you’ve only done a 40-minute ride, go to 1.5 hours and keep building in those kind of chunks until you’re close to the length of the event. You don’t need to exactly match the race length because when you do compete, adrenaline will let you push yourself harder and further.

Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your GP before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time