APRIL TRAINING HINTS
Unfortunately the weather has not been ideal for Etape training recently – though views in the Lake District and Wales have been terrific!
At last the near zero temperatures are improving. After cycling in near zero conditions, even 7 or 8 degrees seems warm!
Some riders have trained exclusively indoors, such has been the weather.
However, given sufficiently warm clothing, reasonably long rides have been possible, the scenery enhanced by dramatic layers of snow.
Now the clocks have sprung forward, evening training becomes a possibility. With the sun now setting after 7:30 pm, there may be time for a quick half an hour ride after work, or a reasonable cycle commute.
By the end of April the sun will not be setting until 8:20 pm
As we now have three months before the Etape, it is worth considering structuring your training.
You have probably ridden 40 miles over undulating roads by now. Depending on the length of your training sessions, you may want to increase the speed of your rides or their length.
If you are simulating mountain riding in the gym or on the turbo trainer, you may want to increase the ride duration or increase the wattage you ride at. As the weather improves, you will be able to increase the length of your rides. Targets of 80 miles would be ideal in April if the weather allows.
Personally, with the weather we have experienced so far this year, I’m thinking of investing in a good turbo trainer!
On a lengthy event like the Etape, energy efficiency is the name of the game.
You will have seen certain Tour de France riders completing climbs by turning the pedals at a very high rate, while those on the flat will be riding with a slower cadence. This is not just a matter of the gears selected. Fast cadences (maybe around 100 rotations/minute or more) result in the highest power output. However slower cadences (nearer 60 rpm) result in maximum efficiency in terms of endurance. While you may want to train by spinning at various rates, for endurance a fairly low cadence should be the most efficient. The optimum cadence will depend on the physiology of the rider.
Organised chain gangs are fairly rare in the Etape. However, with the huge number of competitors, there will be plenty of people riding at the right speed for you to slipstream! Obviously you may wish to (or be forced to!) take your turn at the front of a group on occasions, though as many bunches will consist of 10 or more riders, this should not be too often! On occasions it may be difficult to find a bunch going at the right speed for you, but generally there will be plenty of them!
Slipstreaming one rider will save you around 25% of your energy – following larger groups may save you 40%! Carefully choreographed team tactics are always evident in the winning teams of the Tour de France, when the key rider (Bradley Wiggins last year) is protected from the headwind by a succession of his team mates. In the Etape du Tour it is seldom so well orchestrated – but the effect is the same!
Unless you live in parts of Eastern England, most people have hills within 10 miles of where they live. This will probably mean that you will find it possible to cycle to a range of hills to practice climbing. Careful study of the maps, or chatting to fellow cyclists, will help you to discover new more challenging training routes.
The English hills are fine for training for the first half of this year’s Etape, which is undulating. If you live in Wales or Scotland even better!
Training on the mountains
Although hills are good training as they simulate the first half of this year’s Etape, the second half has of two climbs of around 1000 metres this year (fortunately with a flat section between them to allow recovery!). The technique on long mountain climbs differs from hill climbing in that sprinting up mountains is somewhat difficult! Steady, sustained effort is generally called for – except maybe when attacking the final summit! If areas such as Scotland, Wales, Exmoor, Lake District or similar areas are within range, mountain practice is a possibility. You may wish to consider the Early May Bank Holiday training trip to Snowdonia for example.
If you get a chance to travel to areas such as Mallorca where the 1000 metre climbs are unlikely to be under a layer of snow, even better! This year – do check for snow first!
As described in last month’s training hints, the gym or turbo trainer are valuable for training for the mountains – without worrying about the weather! Sustained sessions of half an hour or an hour at 150W or 200W (or even more if you are training to be a champion!) are quite a good simulation of those mountain climbs. If you have the cash, a virtual reality trainer will make turbo training more enjoyable and perhaps more realistic – avoiding the main problem – boredom! A cheaper alternative is simply to watch television or a DVD as you train!
A further alternative is to train on a flood lit cycle track, such as the one in Palmer Park Reading, if there is one near you. They are often open for public use with road bikes on one or two evenings a week.
Enjoy your training! This is where we are heading for ---