JULY TRAINING HINTS
In recent days we have had a chance to acclimatise to Etape weather as the warm kind in England! This would not have been useful last year –though hot Etapes are far more common than cold ones!
It is wise when setting out for France to take a variety of cycling clothing to cover all possible weather conditions. The weather has been known to change from 41 degrees C to near zero, or the reverse, in the course of one or two days in the mountainous areas of France, even in July, so keep an eye on the forecasts. Hot weather is more usual however.
If you have a chance to train in the recent near 30C temperatures in the UK, it is instructive to weigh yourself before and after the ride. It is not uncommon to lose around a kg or so in even a 20 mile ride in high temperatures if you drink nothing. This underlines the importance of drinking plenty when you are exercising in hot weather. If the temperature exceeds 37 degrees, sweating is the only heat loss mechanism the body has left, so adequate hydration is even more important, especially before a climb.
At the other temperature extreme, which sometimes occurs during an Etape, to have gloves, waterproofs and possibly a warm layer handy is obviously important.
Completing your training
Unless you have access to the mountains, the last two or three weeks before the Etape are probably not the best for extreme training, but a time for building on the training you have already achieved. It is a good period for fairly long rides at a pace you intend to use during the Etape, to continue to build endurance, and refine your riding pace for long distances. The need for recovery between rides should be balanced against time spent riding. If you have an office job, this gives you an opportunity to rest your leg muscles during the day, after evening training.
Training in France
For most of us, our arrival in France is one of the rare times that we actually see real mountains! While riding to exhaustion is probably not a good idea, this is an excellent opportunity to try some real mountain roads – for enjoyment and inspiration as well as for training! Slopes in the 7% region are good training for this (and indeed most) Etapes.
Conventional wisdom advocates tapering down your training before a big event. For most of us, resting in the last couple of days before the Etape is probably sufficient.
Checking your Bike
If you reserve your best bike for the Etape, it is worth giving it a good run a couple of weeks before the Etape to give you time to fix any lurking problems with things such as tyres, gears, cleats etc. In the last resort, the staff in the Mavic tent at the Etape Village are very good at rapidly fixing last minute problems – but why leave it until then?
The rest is up to you!
Have a good journey – and enjoy your Etape!