MARCH TRAINING HINTS
By now you are probably starting to get into your training. Most people are a quite a long way from the peak fitness they are planning to attain later in the year, but the benefits will be starting to appear.
If you have been following the training program, you will have done a ride or two over 50 miles long. If you have taken this at a modest pace, you may well be finding 50 mile rides almost routine. You may also have found the point where you feel reluctant to go any further!
If you are used to cycling in the UK, you will be used to short, sharp hills. You will be less accustomed to hills that continue for about 20 miles! The climbing technique required is somewhat different! If you are climbing a hill say 30 metres high, you will be used to judging it so that you start getting out of breath just as you reach the top, and catch up on the way down! This is known in technical circles as going onto oxygen debt on the climb. On an ascent of 100 metres or more vertically your breathing rate is likely to reach a high level at the top!
Mountains are climbed are steadier speed –except for the sprint finishes! It is worth practicing long climbs if possible. If you have no steep hills near you, a reasonable substitute for a long 7% climb taken at 7mph is a longer 3.5% climb taken nearly at twice the speed. Of course if you have a chance to try out a few real mountains that is even better! Areas such as Snowdonia present such an opportunity in the UK.
The recommendation in February was to do at least one ride in the 50 to 70 mile range. Unless you are already doing 120 mile rides, it is a good strategy to continue to increase your mileage, ready for a challenge on the 100 mile barrier, perhaps in April. This would mean a ride over 60 miles in March – maybe 80 miles. If there is not time for a ride of this length, and you are repeating a shorter ride, a good training strategy is to increase the speed away from casual touring speeds towards racing speeds. Recording average speeds in your training diary is a good motivator.
There will probably be three refreshment stops in the Etape du Tour – one at Lourdes, one near the top of Tourmalet at La Mongie and possibly a water stop at the foot of Hautacam. It is therefore highly reasonable to stop along the way on your long rides at a couple of cafes, as well as making the day more pleasant!
Training alone has the advantage that it allows you to set your own pace, but that pace will probably increase if you train with a friend or cycle club, and take part in events such as Audaxes or Cyclosportives. There are now numerous cyclosportives springing up in the UK – a huge improvement in a few years ago when it was necessary to travel to Spain, France or Italy to take part in such an event. Now is a good time to book yourself into a few events! If you are interested in joining our Snowdonia training trip, let me know!
By now you are probably becoming aware of your strengths and weaknesses – speed on the flat, climbing ability, group riding expertise, descending, endurance, pacing … and you will be realising in which areas you need to improve the most. Considering the target we are planning to reach, climbing and endurance will be high on most people’s lists. So decide which areas you need to concentrate on.
In the interesting video on Cyclosportive training given away recently free with Cycling Plus magazine, the SIS team were interviewed as they climbed Tourmalet. Almost without exception they were in bottom gear, and some were wishing they had a lower bottom gear! Certainly my experience on climbs such as Tourmalet has always been the lower the gear the better (within reason!) – maybe there is a lesson to be learned here!
Anyway – enjoy your training – the hard climbs, the thrilling descents and the views from the top!