Torino Nice Rally Part 5 - Preparation & Training


I was recently asked "How did you train for the TNR".  It's a good question, especially when people in the video say, "you can't train for this!".  

My reply emphasised that preparation was as important to me as training, so I'll cover both of those here.  

However, I stress - this is just the way I chose to approach the event.  Others might just rock-up-and-go.

When I and others said “you can’t train for this”, what I think we really meant was - "no training rides could be like this”.  

Clearly you can, and should, train for it.  Compare it to someone’s first marathon - one wouldn’t run 26 miles in training, so the ‘event’ is utterly different to the training.  

In the past I have hired a coach for specific events and considered doing that before the TNR.  It’s a good option because, if you over-train, (as I tend to do) you can mess up badly.  But let’s assume you’re going to do it yourself.

Early morning Day 3, Strada Assietta

Firstly, I had a sports doctor look at a recurring knee issue, then had his physiotherapist check me all over, for body imbalances and weaknesses.  She gave me exercises to work on that are specific to my 64 years of accumulated wear and tear.  I did those exercises regularly.

Secondly, I went to see the UKs top bike fitter Phil Burt (he literally wrote the book) who is also a physiotherapist.  Because of my knee issue, Phil advised shorter cranks - dropping from 172.5 to 165.

Simon & Phil Burt in Manchester

Thirdly, while my local bike shop was working on fitting the cranks, I asked them to find and fit the largest cassette that worked with the derailleur, and drop the chain ring (it’s a 1x bike) from 40 to 34.  I had read ‘you can’t gear low enough for the TNR because you’re either grinding up hill or freewheeling down’.  It’s good advice.  All of this takes time.


Finally, I’ll get around to answering the question about training, but remember, it’s just my view.  You might learn more listening to the interview I did with the TNR founder James Olsen.

For me, distance and elevation are not the challenge with the TNR - it’s saddle time - spending day after day pedalling the bike.  You don’t have to ride far or fast - just take longer to complete the route.  You don’t have to climb hard - just get lower gears.  

 But you do have to keep going, day after day.  

I designed my training working backwards from what I felt would be my ideal final training week, two weeks before the start (to allow travel and recovery time).    That last training week would ideally have six days of riding, two short, two medium and two long rides.  

Then I simply worked up towards that duration of cycling, dividing the rides into short (under 2 hours), medium (under 4 hours) and long (over 6 hours). As events transpired, I never did stick to that plan but it acted as a guide.

A couple of months before the TNR I started experimenting with the kit I would use, trying to decide between Bivi bag or tent (for example).  These two-day rides fulfilled four functions; they allowed me to test the kit; to check I wasn’t carrying too much; to see how the bike handled; gave me more interesting longer training rides.  I played with the bivi bag here and made a video of a two-day ride I’d been wanting to try for ages.  That ride also made me think about the kit and make this video.

Drying my tent over a TV in a hotel room

I felt a lot happier about the TNR when I felt I understood the route.  That came when I copied the GPS into Komoot, set my ability level low, and tried to equalise the duration I’d spend on the bike between each day.  I realise most people go a long way on Day 1.  That could start me on a downward spiral, with shorter days to follow.  Instead I opted for a shorter first day with a good hotel and food, hopefully to start an upward spiral where I'd improve as the ride progressed.