UNLESS YOU JUST BIKED the Tour de France, few cycling experiences inflate an ego like watching a bike's odometer hit triple digits on the same day it registered zero. And cycling into shape for those 100 miles takes less time than you think. Try two months. Lynda Wallenfels, a cycling coach at Ultrafit Associates, an online coaching service, devised a plan (see chart, far right) that assumes an easy baseline of fitness: 30 miles a week for at least two months before starting the regimen. That breaks down to slightly less than 20 minutes a day. Once you begin, a little math will make your workouts sharper: On Tuesdays, concentrate on maintaining a high cadence for 30 minutes; calculate yours by multiplying by four the number of times one foot goes around in 15 seconds. "Aim for 80 rpm or higher," says Wallenfels. When you can, increase ride time to an hour. With Thursday's ride, you're going to build leg strength on climbs that take at least five minutes to complete. No steep hills? Then find inclines too long to sprint all the way up and sprint up them as far as you can. If you're feeling strong, go for 90 minutes. On Saturdays, stick to a pace that will guarantee you finish the ride.
Saturday of week eight is century day: Carry enough food and liquid to last for three hours and cruise through the first 50 miles without stopping. "That way, your century will probably take around seven hours instead of ten," says Wallenfels.
AMTRAK CENTURY Blessed by tailwinds, the course starts in Irvine, California, and follows the Pacific coast down to San Diego, where you'll board an Amtrak "party train" back to Irvine. (September 6, 2003; www.ocw.org)
THE TRI-STATE SEACOAST CENTURY See three statesMassachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maineand all their fall colors. (September 20, 2003; www.granitestatewheelmen.org)
RIDE FOR THE ROSES Be like Lance and bike 100 miles in and around Austin, Texas. You may even be able to momentarily draft off the man himself. (October 26, 2003; www.laf.org)