Cycling On Form: Workouts for puncheurs

Workouts designed specifically for the rider who thrives on rides with rolling or shark-tooth profiles but can hold their own on flat, high-speed routes as well.

Photo: James Startt

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You may have an idea of your strengths and weaknesses as a cyclist, which kind of terrain suits you, and the on-the-bike skills and riding style you use to go farther, faster. But many riders find themselves chasing wheels they shouldn’t chase, or not sticking to who they are on the bike. You can improve your fitness, better execute your plan, and win your ride if you stick to your strengths.

The Rider Type quiz will help you dig into your cycling DNA and point you to the kinds of workouts best-suited for your type.

Once you identify your type, perform the PTZ Test (below) to find the power zones you’ll be training with.

Find Your PowerTrain Zones

This field test will give you the baseline power zones that will be used in your rider-type-specific workouts. Try to evenly distribute the power throughout the duration of the 12-minute effort. Don’t worry about finding the perfect road for this test; a few slight downhills or corners are just fine. If the road is representative of what you’ll ordinarily be training on, then it is great for your PTZ test.

Graphic detailing how to find powertrain zones

Performing singular intervals is helpful for developing fitness, but putting the effort into context, such as a race, will give you practice for the real thing. So I’ve developed 3 workouts that put you into race scenarios. Find suitable terrain for these workouts, get your game face on, and go for the win!


  • Power Floor: You should always stay within a prescribed zone, but where “power floor” is noted, it’s crucial to not fall below that PTZ.
  • PTZ: PowerTrain Zone
  • Standing body position: out of the saddle, standing on pedals, hands on the hoods
  • Seated body position: remain seated, in the saddle

Workouts for Puncheurs: Climbing

Today’s focus is building the strength to climb with better technique. We will use lower cadence for you to focus on your three points of power and execute proper body position technique. We will first focus on seated climbing body position technique and then standing climbing body position technique.

Total time: 1.5 hours | 15 min. easy warm-up

Power Control Warm-Up

1 x 8 min., alternate between:

  • 30 sec. seated, PTZ 5 at 50–70 rpm
  • 30 sec. seated, PTZ 2 at 50–70 rpm
  • 5 min. recovery after the full interval

Seated Climbs

  • 3 x 5 min. in a seated climb, PTZ 5 at 50–70 rpm
  • 3 min. recovery between each effort

Seated Power Climbs

  • 3 x 30 sec. in a seated climb, PTZ 10 at 50–70 rpm
  • 1 min. recovery between each effort

Standing Power Climbs

  • 3 x 3 min. standing climb, PTZ 5 at 50–70 rpm
  • 3 min. recovery between each 3 minute interval

Standing Power Climbs

  • 3 x 30 sec. standing climbs, PTZ 10 at 50–70 rpm
  • 1 minute recovery between each effort

Workouts for Puncheurs: Race Simulation on a Climb to the Finish Line

Today we are going to simulate the competitive scenario of when you try to drop someone or someone is trying to drop you. In this simulation you will be using the PowerTrain Zones, cadences, body positions, and key timing to simulate a high-level battle you would find at the end of a race. As a puncheur, this simulation will come on a final climb at or near the finish. Just like in a real race, there are hard efforts before the one that counts. So we will simulate coming into the climb, starting up it at a hard pace, then settling down before the attacks happen.

The key here is that there will be multiple accelerations. Normally, most people try one or two attacks and go too hard on them. This often results in their efforts being neutralized as they cannot continue at a hard enough pace to stay away. Here we are practicing staying in your PTZ s while making longer attacks, and more of them.

Total time 1.5 hours | 15 min. easy warm-up

Transition Control

1 x 12 min., alternate between:

  • 3 min. power floor of PTZ 2 at 80 rpm
  • 1 min. power floor of PTZ 4 at 100 rpm
  • 5 min. recovery

Race Final Simulation Set (repeat 2x with 10 min. rest in-between)

You are heading into the decisive climb to the finish. You are battling for position going into the climb.

1 x 5 min.:

  • 2 min. seated, power floor of PTZ 4 at 100 rpm on a flat road, before the climb
  • 1 min. standing acceleration climb, power floor of PTZ 8 at 80 rpm first part of the climb
  • 2 min. seated power climb, power floor of PTZ 5 at 90 rpm settling in on the climb
  • 3 min. recovery

You make the key selection on the climb of 10 riders and are positioned third wheel from the front. The pace lulls as the climb becomes easier. You see ahead there is 1.5 k of 3% grade, then it kicks up to 12% for the final 1 k to the finish. You are feeling good and are going to go on the offense with multiple attacks as you think there will be three riders who can stay with you in the group.

1 x 3 min., alternate between:

  • 30 sec. standing acceleration climb, PTZ 10 at 80+ rpm
  • 1 min. seated power climb, PTZ 5 at 80 rpm
  • 3 min. recovery

You see the finish line! It’s just you and three others, and as a puncheur you know that now is time to throw the long bomb to the finish!

1 x 3 min.:

  • 1.5 min. seated power climb, PTZ 5 at 85 rpm
  • 30 sec. Standing Acceleration Climb, PTZ 10 at 80+ rpm
  • 1 min. Standing Acceleration Climb, PTZ 8 at 80 rpm

Workouts for Puncheurs: Race Tactics

Let’s do a race simulation to work on tactics. This execution and outcome is how you could successfully use your Puncheur Rider Type to turn what looked like a sprint finish into a solo breakaway victory.

Total time: 1.5 hours | 15 min. easy warm-up

  • 1 x 12 min. PTZ 3 at 90 rpm
  • 4 min. recovery

Part 1: Rolling terrain

You are nearing the end of a race. It is 15k to go and you are currently in the peloton on a fast downhill on a straight road. There is a strong tailwind at your back and the group is strung out behind you. Ahead you see the road turns to the right and will stay this direction all the way to the finish. The terrain is rolling all the way to the finish line.

1 x 9 min., alternate between:

  • 100 sec. seated, PTZ 4 at 90 rpm, on the flats
  • 1 min. standing climb, PTZ 5 at 70 rpm for the short climbs
  • 20 sec. seated acceleration on climb, PTZ 8 at 100 rpm, over the top and into the downhill to get maximum speed in the first part of the downhill
  • 5 min. recovery after the 9-min. effort

Part 2: After the road changes direction to the tail/crosswind, you follow an attack from another rider at the bottom of one of the rollers.

  • 1 x 1 min. standing acceleration on a climb, power floor of PTZ 8 at 80 rpm

Part 3: You quickly recover and then counter the move at the top of the roller, moving all the way to the side of the road to gutter the group.

1 x 1 min.:

  • 30 sec. seated power climb PTZ 5 power floor 80 rpm (recover and clear)
  • 30 second seated acceleration flats PTZ 10 power floor 100 rpm (counter attack)

Part 4: Solo to the Finish!

  • 1 x 5 min. PTZ 5–PTZ 7 to the finish line

Adapted from Cycling On Form: A Pro Method of Riding Faster and Stronger by Tom Danielson with permission of VeloPress.

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