Tempo sandwich

Tempo-sandwichAim of Session

Pre-loading the system with zone 3 stress to change fuel supply in an endurance base ride

Session description

WARM UP: Build into a zone 3 intensity over the course of 10 to 15 mins

MAIN SET: Start the session with a specified period of zone 3; lower intensity to zone 2; finish with zone 3 again

COOL DOWN: Ensure 10 minutes of recovery spinning


Zone 3 and Zone 2 work differ in the fuels used to drive exercise intensity since they sit either side of the first lactate threshold. By working above LT first in the ride, the body starts metabolising carbohydrate, lowering bodily stores. Switching to zone 2 means the body is more reliant on fat utilisation – zone 2 work whilst predominantly using fat DOES require some carbohydrate input. But, since there is less around because of prior zone 3, it is suggested the body has to become more efficient at fat burning. Returning to zone 3 at the end of the ride will be challenging as fuel stores become low (depending on the length of each block).

Application for the Rider

This session is very effective in stressing the fuel supply systems in the body. The two segments of zone 3 will require high rates of carbohydrate delivery. A 3 hour ride using the 1h:1h zone 2:1h pattern will emulate a much longer ride in zone 2 alone – thus, this session is a time efficient way to build base and quality endurance. Lower carbohydrate availability in the zone 2 segment will improve efficiency of fat utilisation.

Practicalities and tips!               

  • Fuelling strategies for this ride depend on the aim of the session. Starting the ride in zone 3 and not taking on board exogenous sources of carbohydrate (drinks, gels, bars) will encourage the use of fat. As soon as you start taking carbohydrate in, the body will be primed to use its own stores of carbohydrate. Ideally, restrict carbohydrate well into the zone 2 segment, and up fuelling into the second block of zone 3 to ensure the maintenance of a solid zone 3 intensity.
  • Start the session with a nice high cadence. As the body’s glycogen stores reduce, the body will try to use other muscle fibres, which means you need to start at the higher range of contraction speed to give the body ‘somewhere to go’ with cadence. DO however try to resist the temptation to drop cadence in the second zone 3 block.

Evaluation of the session

  • What was the difference in power between the first and second zone 3 segments?
  • How did the powers compare to tempo block work you may have done?
  • How did you feel starting the second zone 3 section? Were you fresh or fatigued?If you felt on top of the ride, consider the progression from session to session – could you cope with a longer middle zone 2 block?
More in this category: « Tempo finale