So far, we have been concentrating on building basic fitness. If you have been following the training program so far, you will already have covered distances of 30, 50 or even 70 miles in a day.  Your speed may still be modest, but if you possess a light weight racing bike you will probably be able to average around 12 - 14mph over a reasonable distance – maybe 15mph or even 17mph. It is early days yet!

            You will probably be starting to learn to pace yourself, and noticing how your average speed drops with distance. It is rather early in the year to look at out final target, but more appropriate to set intermediate targets.  If you have not yet tackled a 50 mile day ride yet, it is worth attempting in March.  At this time of year, this will depend on the weather. Lunch, coffee and tea stops are not a bad idea!



            During the etape, you will not be climbing at your maximum strength for the whole of Aubisque, or even for the whole of Marie Blanque! However, strong legs are obviously very useful!

            Training in the gym is a very useful way to improve your leg strength. I’ve found that it improves my climbing ability considerably. As with all training, you will be pushing yourself to a higher level than usual, then allow the body to adapt to the challenge over the next day or so.

            A good plan is to start using the machine with the resistance set to a relatively low value, then increase it to a level that you are just able to maintain continuously, while keeping your cadence to a reasonable level (say 65 -80). Then continue to exercise at a slightly lower level for several minutes. If the machine is programmable, you may want to set it for a hill climbing session, while experimenting with the resistance level. To simulate mountain climbing, riding with 150W power output is reasonable, though if this is near your maximum heart rate, you will need to reduce the power. At this stage in the season this may be the case for many people. I would be interested to hear what you find! I have some more severe exercises for the very fit –email me if you are interested!

            While in the gym, don’t forget to calibrate your fitness – see fitness test



            Training alone has advantages in terms of going at your own pace, and pacing yourself. However, riding in a group provides added stimulus. It is also good practice for the etape. Slip streaming another rider will save you 25% of your energy. Slip streaming a large bunch will save you 40% of your energy. In an endurance event such as the Etape, this is extremely valuable. Most years the Etape is won by riders who know how to work in a team. If you watch Armstrong’s team you will get the idea. While many TDF teams seem to have an “every man for himself” attitude, Armstrong’s team tactics are carefully orchestrated. A good team will swap the lead at regular intervals, ensuring that the man at the front is fresh.

            While not many of us have cycling companions with well matched abilities to train with, in the etape you will need to take advantage of riding behind a bunch. You may even become part of a spontaneously formed “chain gang” of 2 to 8 riders, each taking a turn at the front. It is therefore worth seeking out other riders for a bit of group riding practice. Try your local CTC group, an Audax, or if you are at a high fitness level already, your local Cycle Racing Club, who will undoubtedly do day rides. Don’t be put off at this stage if they are far fitter than you – set out to reach their standard by June!


You will find a good selection of opportunities for group riding on my events program


            Riding close behind someone will save you energy. Riding too close behind someone may get you into casualty department! When riding in a bunch there are a few things to bear in mind:

-          Ride at a consistent speed. Sudden braking is not wise (as an Italian who was following me once found!)

-          Follow riders who are going at a consistent speed

-          Be aware that even consistent riders sometimes brake suddenly (I once had a black eye to prove this!)

-          Signal to other riders any hazards such as dropped bidon or a pot hole. Yelling something out is a fairly international language in the etape!

-          Don’t ride too close – consider that you need a thinking distance as well as a stopping distance!

-          If possible allow an escape route by riding slightly to one side – then if the rider in front suddenly stops you won’t hit him

-          Look ahead for hazards – things which might cause sudden braking such as incidents, roundabouts etc.

-          Discover what makes riders change speed – riders appear to lurch backwards when they stand on the pedals on a hill!

Having said all that, the standard of riding in the Etape itself is very high, and accidents are rarer than in the Vrai Tour de France!



            Do avoid riding when there is ice on the road – broken bones are no fun! Remember that it is better to be to hot than suffer from exposure or frost bite – even at the expense of dressing less elegantly for you training run! Long sleeves and leg covering are a good idea at this time of year. On a recent ride, those with two layers of clothing on top were very cold, those with three layers were cold, and those with four layers were warm!

            If you want to escape the cold weather – we are running a series of cycling weeks in Spain! If you or your club want to join one – let me know when you would like to try one, and I’ll let you know what is going on!


So - Enjoy your training – do let me know how you are getting on!