JUNE TRAINING HINTS
June training is the time to hone and develop a good level of fitness and endurance, which you will need for either of the Etape routes. However, first, let's look at each act in turn.
Act 1 The Alps
We have before us three 1000 metre climbs, and a down hill stretch 29 miles long!
We will probably be spending three or four hours climbing (maybe more!) and over an hour descending.
Because of the time spent climbing, a good climbing speed is more important than a fast descent though everything will help!
Practicing the climbs
The most hills in the UK are generally short it is easy to sprint up them! Even Cavendish would have trouble sprinting up Galibier though!
Maintaining a steady sustainable climbing speed is therefore important, and is a useful part of your training apart from the fitness gained, it will help you to pace yourself on the long climbs. There are, in fact, a number of hills in the UK which are suitable for practicing Alpine climbs, being over 200m high, and having a reasonable and consistent gradient. Scotland and Wales have plenty more (including some steeper than the Alps!)
Cheddar Gorge Somerset
Kirkstone Pass the Lake District
Winchcombe Hill and Snow Hill the Cotswolds
The New toll road Porlock on Devon
Leith Hill and Box Hill Surrey
Beaufort Mountain - South Wales
Im sure there are many more do let me know if you have a favourite 200m or more high with a steady gradient.
The human body is capable of high power outputs for short periods around a horse power (745W) for a few seconds is not unusual whereas 150W or 200W are sustainable levels. This does not mean that training at high levels which are impossible to sustain for long are not worth while! A cyclist who has spent months riding at low power levels will discover that even short periods riding near maximum levels will improve his fitness considerably. Occasionally pushing yourself to nearer your maximum effort level is therefore worth while. This is the basis of interval training.
Act 2 The Auvergne
If you are riding the Act 2 event, the training requirements are quite different, though with some similarities.
With a 130 mile ride ahead of you, the emphasis is on distance. It is still worth practicing climbing, as there are many climbs along the way, even if they are smaller. Some of them are quite steep.
If you have not yet done a 130 mile ride, it is worth doing a couple of them before the Etape. This distance equates fairly accurately with a 200km Audax, and there are also several Sportives of a similar distance. Not only will Audaxes and Sportives give you the encouragement of riding with others, but it will also give you some peleton practice.
On a long route such as Act 2, with many flat or nearly flat sections, it is well worth having good group riding technique.
Slipstreaming another rider will save you around 25% of your energy very beneficial on a long ride. Following a large group will save you as much as 40% of your energy for a given speed.
Trying to keep up with a group which is too fast may not be a good idea, and it is generally pointless following a slow group. However in the Etape there will be groups cycling at a variety of speeds, so you will generally be able to find one going at the right speed for you, even if it may mean a short sprint to catch them!!
Be warned if you join a small group you may be expected to take your turn at the front!
Competitors in Act 2 have the advantage that they should be able to find plenty of hills similar to the Auvergne in the UK, so local rides are of great value.
Obviously, after a hard training session, you are likely to feel tired, and may hurt in various places! Depending on the severity of the session, this will persist for a time afterwards.
In general, the body is over stressed during the training session, and compensates while you are resting, resulting in a higher fitness level. For this reason, rest and good nutrition are important in between training sessions not just energy bars, but a good diet which builds up the body.
Ideally, it is good to recover from one session before the next, though this is not always possible of course. Some studies have shown that around 3 or 4 training sessions a week is about the optimum, though even one strenuous session will maintain fitness. However, you are the best person to decide! You know your body!
Most of us have plenty of demands on our time! However, the light evenings and (usually) better weather of June are a great help. The odd half an hour of training time is useful if the intensity is medium or high, and an hour or more is extremely useful.
If you want to simulate long rides, but only have the evenings to train, two 30 or 40 mile rides on successive days is good preparation for rides of Etape length. As you approach your peak fitness, this approach begins to be a possibility.
When you have the possibility of longer rides, it is useful to make them progressively faster or hillier.
Tracking your fitness level
If you enjoy keeping a track of your fitness levels, various types of graph are useful. The average speed over the same course is useful if you have a particular training route you use, or if you are increasing your ride length, a graph of ride length vs. days and weeks is of use.
However my preference is for a plot of average speed vs. ride length most people are faster on shorter routes, all other things being equal. It is encouraging to see your speed over a particular distance increasing.
Let's make good use of this final months training before the Etape
However you train enjoy your training and dont forget the caf้ stops!!