So you are planning to do the Etape du Tour? That’s 112 miles over the mountains, with 2500 metres of climb… to a time limit?


            You will also need to avoid being eliminated at the half way point!


            For many people this will be the hardest ride they have ever attempted …  where do you start?


            Like most problems, it pays to divide it into separate chunks. The first 30 miles of the route is almost flat. A preliminary analysis shows that you will need to average over 15 mph or more on this section. This is a good basis for  the first target in the May training plan:  


(1)     Find a quiet 30 mile stretch of flatish road near you. An approximately circular route will be the most convenient. Practice riding this route with an average speed of over 15mph.


The next problem to tackle is training for the climbs. Marie Blanque and Ichere are both 6 miles long. Aubisque is over 10 miles long. You will therefore need to be able to apply a consistent power for a long time.


(2)     If you have access to mountains, this is ideal. If not, a good alternative is to practice producing 150W to 200W in the gym on an exercise bike for increasing periods. It is not worth overdoing it at very high power levels, as you may risk set backs. You may find spending hours in the gym on a sunny day boring, so a good Alternative is to practice riding at 17 to 22 mph on the flat for about an hour, as that simulates the power required for climbing reasonably well. A high gear is the most representative, as it reduces cadence (pedalling rate). If these speeds and powers are above your level at the moment – don’t worry – there is plenty of time to get fitter!


The third problem is gradient. Fortunately there are not extended stretches of 18% this year – the steepest sections will probably have a gradient of no more than 13%.


(3)     If possible it is worth finding a hill near you with a gradient of around 13% to practice on. If you are able to find one 1km long, that is ideal, though this may be a tall order!


Endurance is the fourth aspect worth considering. After the first 30 miles, you may have just used up your glycogen energy stores! The accepted theory is that stored glycogen will tend to last for around an hour and three quarters – taking you to the point when you climb the first mountain! To some extent, topping up your glucose supply before the mountains should help. However training for endurance helps your body adapt to burning more fat from the outset rather than simply using up all your glycogen reserves. This has the added advantage of reducing your body fat level, which will mean that you have less fat to carry up those hills!


(4)     If possible set time aside for a really long ride in the 100 mile range. As this will be time consuming the number of these that you have time for may be limited, but even one or two should be beneficial, and will give you confidence that you are able to go the distance.


That probably covers the physical aspects of training.


Some of the fun parts of training are to hone your down hill riding skills and to practice group riding.


 Down hill skills improve with practice (as long as you don’t fall off!)


Most people find that riding in a large bunch in the Etape is easier than they expect. It is worth remembering, though, that riding behind a few riders saves you 25% of your energy, riding behind a large bunch of riders saves you 40% of your energy, and riding too close behind the rider in front may save you from completing the etape!

However, as you will be using between 600 and 900 calories an hour on a ride like this, any energy saved is well worth while!


As you will see, we have quite a challenge ahead of us – there is still over 2 months to train in – and training at this stage is increasingly valuable! It is a good time to visit some interesting cycling areas, join in with your local cycle club rides and maybe try an Audax or two!


Take care! Enjoy your training!