So what training will gain you most in June? This is something for you to decide – but here are a few hints!


The beginning of June is a good time to look at your strengths and weaknesses, then to builds on your strengths and improve on your weaknesses.


You will have done a few rides over 50 miles by now, you will have climbed many hills, and may have ridden a few events such as cyclosportives and Audaxes, or ridden a few club rides. You will have an idea of how you compare with the task ahead.


The first part of June is a good time for improving in areas where you need more training. Towards the end of June you will be reaching your peak fitness, and it is good to concentrating on getting your pacing right. Finally, if you are travelling out to France a few days before the Etape it is worth tackling a few mountain gradients, before winding down and carbo-loading and gathering your strength in the last couple of days before the Etape itself.


Here are some areas to consider in June. Pacing is probably the most important!


1) Climbing


2) Distance


3) Intensity


4) Descending


5) Pacing


6) The bike


7) Clothing


1) Climbing

We will be tackling two major in the Etape. The first one, Tourmalet, is around 15 miles in length, and climbs 1700 metres. The second climb, Hautacam, nearly 10 miles long, rises just over 1000 metres.


Rapid climbs and steep gradients are useful training for building leg and respiratory strength, and should not be ignored, especially if you do not have any mountains available. However on the day you will be climbing at a slower steady rate for something nearer two hours rather than the 10 minute climb you are probably be used to!


The gradients are not particularly steep, averaging around 7%, but I know from experience that there are some 12% sections on Tourmalet. Whereas the gradient of Tourmalet is generally fairly constant, that of Hautacam is more variable, so expect a few steep sections there. The gradient relents somewhat in the last 3 km of Hautacam, with spectacular views I’m told.    


2) Distance

Rides over 100 miles are good training for the Etape. If you have not yet tackled a 100 miler, it is not too late. It will help build your endurance, and also gives you a useful insight into the speeds which are sustainable for long distances.


3) Intensity

High intensity training is not the prime requirement for an endurance event such as the Etape. It may give large fitness gains, but if excessive, the recovery time is long – so it is probably best not to attempt extremely intense rides in the week before the Etape!


4) Descending

Fast descending will gain you time – as long as it is safe! A good set of brakes is very important – and good bike control. Traditionally breaking as you approaching a bend and accelerating out of it is recommended – this works well! Do keep an eye open for the unexpected though, such as poor road surfaces (for example loose gravel), for other riders, and even for stray animals!


5) Pacing

It is extremely easy to get carried away on the Etape, surrounded by fit, keen riders from all over the world you may achieve speeds you have never achieved before – for the first few miles! When you hit the mountains you will discover how much energy it took!


A little bit of maths is therefore useful!


Obviously, riders vary, but to give you an idea:


On the flat, at 19mph, you will be producing a power output of 150W. This is not too difficult (though hard work!). Raise the speed by a mere 3mph and the power required rises to 225 watts – maybe the most you would want to do for long periods. At 25 mph you are using an exhausting 300W!


Slipstreaming helps – saving you 25% if you slipstream one rider and 40% if you slipstream a large bunch of riders.


Beware of the false flat. The first section has a gentle uphill gradient. On a 2.5% gradient at 19mph for example you will be using an exhausting 300W or thereabouts! Reducing your speed a little when the going feels tough on the slopes before Tourmalet is not a bad idea!


There is an easy way of estimating the amount of power you are using when climbing slowly – simply multiplying the speed by the gradient.  

Typically climbing at 7mph up a 7% gradient takes around 200 W. Increase the speed to 10 mph and your power is a more exhausting 285 W. Decrease it to 5 mph and you need only 140W. Choose your speed carefully!  


To be a bit more exact, power = [ speed (in mph) x % gradient x 4]

For example, 7mph up a 7% gradient is

[7 x 7 x 4] = 196 W.


This is for a bike + rider weighting 200lb – strictly you should scale it proportionally  to your weight.


Generally, speed x gradient = 50 is probably is suitable climbing power for the average rider. You will of course want to go faster or slower depending on your weight and fitness.  


6) The bike

A bike which has a light weight for climbing, and is rigid for descending is ideal.

Good brakes and good high pressure tyres are essential.


There currently a debate on the relative merits triple changers vs. compact front changers. The current fad for compacts means that the total range of gears is more limited.

As we are unlikely to encounter anything much above a 12% gradient this year (though I’m short of information on Hautacam) the more limited range of compact gearing should still be adequate, though a good case could be made for the wider range provided by a triple.

It is of course unwise to change too many things on your bike at the last minute. Remember to check it well before the Etape. If you do have last minute problems, the Mavic engineers at the Welcome Village are very helpful.


7) Clothing

Would you wear warm clothes and gloves in the South of France in July?

In the last Etape which scaled Tourmalet, the temperature dropped to 7 degrees C at the summit, then it rained on the descent! It is essential to carry a light weight waterproof at least. I favour a spare long sleeved layer and light weight gloves too – though don’t weigh yourself down too much! Descending Tourmalet last time people were amazed that their hands could still operate their brakes when they were numb from cold! Weather is quite unpredictable at altitude – it may be 44C or 2C – both extremes have been experienced (though in different Etapes!)

However the choice of clothing is yours!


So – make the most of the time you have available for training in June.


Enjoy your training – the Etape is not far away!