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Transition with Luke McKenzie

Luke McKenzie

Gear Up For Race Day

A triathlete from an early age, Luke McKenzie currently divides his training time between Queensland’s Noosa Heads and the USA. He has raced in Busselton numerous times and placed third at Ironman Western Australia in 2008. Try Luke’s Big Gear Hill interval session – not for the faint hearted.

Luke’s  training session


20-30 minute warm up
3-4 x big gear hill reps (15 minutes per rep)
The best place to do these is on a gradual hill of 3-5 per cent gradient. Focus on low cadence 40-50rpm and power around the full pedal stroke. I usually alternate one on the TT bars with one on the brake hoods.
20-30 minute easy spin to finish
TOTAL RIDE: 1.5-2 hours


This is a session I do quite a bit in my Ironman build up. It’s a good way to get quality training in without spending a whole chunk of the day out on the road.
You can knock over your hill reps early in the morning, get another session done in the middle of the day and then set up the turbo in the evening and have your second ride done before dinner. All in all, you’ve effectively got 3.5-4 hours of riding done for the day!

Sean Foster_Bike

Coaching Analysis

By Sean foster


Why Should I do them?

Big Gear Hill intervals are an effective functional strength training set. The workout targets the muscular system more than the respiratory system. It develops muscular strength and activation through the full pedal circle. Performing the workout on a 3-5 per cent grade hill at moderate intensity is ideal. Slower cadence also makes it easier to maintain power and control on the pedal through the full stroke.

Activating muscle groups specific to the race position (aero) is also another clear benefit. Alternate between aero, standing and road positions to recruit more muscles into the power process.

The functional nature of the workout makes it ideal for just prior to a specific race phase around 25 weeks up to 15 weeks out from race day.


I wouldn’t recommend this style of big gear hill effort for less experienced cyclists with under developed fitness. Assuming your race cadence is 90rpm, start instead with hill repeats at 70-85rpm or flat intervals at race cadence building from say five minutes to 20 minutes over time.

I personally used the session below to great effect for our Hawaii Ironman team in 2011:

• 3-4 hour long hill ride
• Ride easily for 30km on rolling course
to hill circuit
• 3 x 15-20 minute hill reps on 5 per cent hill at 70-85rpm (moderate to solid aerobic)
with ride down recoveries

• Easy to moderate return ride