DECEMBER TRAINING HINTS
The training hints usually start in January, but as the weather is unusually mild this year, and both Etape routes are very demanding we start here!
Winter weather will probably set in sooner or later, but in the meantime, make the most of it before the roads become icy, and riding conditions become unpleasant!
Both courses are particularly challenging in 2012, and involve 5000 metres of climbing! In the case of the Pyrenees stage, the gradients are mainly fairly constant, but the gradient on the Alpine stage is more variable.
A Training Strategy
The classic training strategy in the winter is to do long slow rides. The logic behind this is to increase your general cycling fitness, so that you are ready to focus on the specific difficulties of the event later on next year. For most of us, time is at a premium, so maybe the rides will be a bit shorter and faster than the classic pattern!
Because of the extreme amount of climbing in the 2012 Etape, pacing will be very important next year. Training at a comfortable pace is therefore an appropriate strategy.
It will also be important to have gears low enough for those steep sections of the Etape route!
Building leg strength is obviously important.
One useful method for building leg strength is to train on climbs using a gear ratio a couple of gears higher than usual. There are limits to this the ratio should be high enough to exercise your muscles, but not so high that it strains your joints!
It is useful to include representative hills on your training routes. Gradients of 7% will be similar of much of the climbing you will be doing during the Etape. If the gradient of your training hills is lower than this, increasing your speed will achieve a similar training effect.
Limits to Winter Training
Although training outdoors is generally more fun, there is a balance between taking risks and avoiding problems. Climbing steep hills at speeds which make you breathe very rapidly, when the temperature is around zero will cool your core body temperature and risking hypothermia which may lead to the flu. Similarly riding to exhaustion in winter temperatures is unwise.
Risking falling off on ice is also unwise, as an injury may set your training back for a long time.
There is therefore a good case for going down the gym, or using your turbo trainer in poor weather. If your stationary steed is equipped with a power meter, around 150W is a reasonable level to train at during December. You may like to try the fitness calculator on this web site to plot your fitness improvements from week to week and month to month.
Anyway lets hope the fine weather continues I hope you have some inspiring rides in the winter sunshine!