JUNE TRAINING HINTS
The evenings are light, and the days are long. The weather is fine (usually!) Ideal for cycle training! On weekends, or days off, other commitments permitting, it is possible to get in a really long ride, or to drive to a hilly or mountainous area, and try out some real hills! In the evenings there is time to fit in a reasonably long ride.
Like all Etapes, this year’s Etape is a challenge. It is not the longest, but there are around 4500 metres of climbing. The good news is that the majority of the climbs are around 7%. Only on a few occasions is there a km with an average gradient of 10%, and only one stretch of 11%.
A good training strategy is therefore to seek out plenty of long, average gradient hills, and not worry about the steep ones! Training rather than straining!
To complete this Etape, endurance will be key thing.
Long climbs of reasonable gradient are particularly useful. There are plenty of suitable climbs in both North Wales and South Wales. The Gwynant Pass leading to Pen-y-Pass, and Llangynidr Mountain are my favourites, in the Snowdonia and the Brecon areas respectively. The book “Greatest Cycle Climbs” is a useful guide, especially of you choose the long climbs rather than the steep ones! You will be able to find 250 to 400 metre climbs in many areas.
Even low gradient hills are useful, particularly if they are near where you live! It is possible to adjust your training speed to simulate steeper climbs. For example, in still air conditions, cycling up a 3% hill at 12mph is equivalent to climbing a 6% hill at 6mph. Power is proportional to the product of the speed and the gradient.
Although this is only an approximation, it is a useful one. At speeds above around 12mph, wind resistance becomes important.
Riding on the flat at speed requires similar power levels to those required for climbing in the Etape. So a long, fast ride is good training for long climbs in terms of the power and endurance, although the leg dynamics are different. Riding at 7mph up a 7% incline will require something like 150W to 200 W, though it depends on the weight of the bike and rider.
If you have the luxury of training abroad, there are plenty of places with mountains to choose from.
The big advantage is that it enables you to try Etape length climbs of 1000 metres or more.
One Etapper recently rode one of the previous Etape routes! Not a bad idea!
In your choice of training areas, don’t forget that temperatures are rising in June!
Training by heart Rate
Many riders use a heart rate monitor for training. This is useful because power is proportional to heart rate, between your resting heart rate and approaching your maximum heart rate
Training in the gym has the advantage that you are able to pedal at a chosen power for as long as you like, simulating a climb. Having determined a sustainable heart rate and power, you have the choice of riding at that power level on the road by riding at the same heart rate.
As you get fitter, your power at a given heart rate steadily increases over the weeks, so it is worth recalibrating yourself from time to time!
The long evenings provide a good opportunity for long evening rides – maybe increasing from the 10-15 mile rides to 25 or 30 mile rides or more. As the Etape gets nearer evening rides may get longer!
Weekend day rides will probably creep up from the 30 mile region towards the 60 or 100 mile region.
Cyclosportives and Audax events are very useful for this.
How frequently you need train will depend on many factors, such as the intensity of the sessions. If you train less than once a week you will lose fitness, and on the other hand a week without a rest day it probably too much! Some experts recommend a maximum of 4 sessions a week.
If you have a bike which you only use for the Etape, it may be a mistake to leave checking out until the week before the Etape! There is nothing quite like the panic of trying to source components in a few days, or wrestling with difficult adjustments at the last minute!
It is probably better to give it a test run on good road surfaces early, and maybe use it for a training ride or two, so that any problems are easily resolved.
Some athletes like to bathe in icy water after exercise, to speed recovery. Recent research compared the recovery effects of bathing in icy water, bathing in warm water and not bathing at all.
Surprisingly it was found that bathing in icy water or warm water both improved recovery considerably over not bathing at all. Icy water had a marginal advantage, but not very significantly.
I know which I prefer! There is nothing like a warm bath after a training ride!
Enjoy your training!