The weather is improving slightly – the days are getting a bit longer – but the Etape is getting nearer! Don’t worry – it is still five months away – but if you haven’t started training yet – it’s time to start!



The photo shows the training weekend to Ivinghoe and back a couple of years ago. If you are quick, there may still be time to join the Ivinghoe event this year!



Some riders are already putting in the miles – I’ve heard rumours of people doing 100 km or even 100 mile rides already! I suspect most of us are just crawling out of hibernation though.


So what would be a good training target for February? The weather is not exactly warm (unless you live in Singapore like two of the Etape entrants!) but it is a good idea to build up the length of your rides . Last month I suggested that if you are just starting to train, a good target would be a 40 mile ride, or if you are starting completely from scratch, a 25 mile ride. If you are already comfortably exceeding that, why not add another 20 miles to this year's longest ride? (Unless you are already doing 100 mile rides!)


For most of us, this month a good target would be a ride of between 40 and 60 miles, when the weather conditions are reasonable.



At this time of year, if you are building up your ride length up, high intensity riding is not really necessary. Typically, if you are extending your distance, you might want to ride at about half your maximum power or less. If you have a heart rate monitor, this will probably equate to around 80% of your maximum heart rate. You may be surprised at how easy it is to cover longer distances at this intensity. Don’t be afraid to stop at a few tea shops or pubs along the way! When you repeat that distance, try increasing your intensity by including a few hills or increasing your speed.

There is probably no harm in challenging a few exciting hills now and then though – we do have some rather large ones to contend with later in the year! This is best done when the air temperature is not too near zero, to avoid risks from chilling your body core temperature.

Do keep a record of your rides, as it will give you an idea of how you are getting on.



Two or three training sessions a week is probably ideal, but how do you acheive that at this time of year? The evenings are dark and not very conducive to cycle training. If there is not a cycle track like the one at Palmer Park in Reading near you, training in the gym is a very good option.

Gym sessions give you a chance to add power and strength training to your on the road endurance training. Climbing simulated mountains on the exercise bike is good early season preparation for those real mountain climbs! Interval training is another useful exercise and helps increase your aerobic capacity.

Though it is sometimes difficult to balance the competing interests in life, a mid week gym session and a ride at the weekend provides effective training without demanding too much time.

If you are doing a session in the gym, you may want to measure your fitness at some point in the month – see Fitness calculator



This is not the time of year to aim at excelling in fashion – it is more a question of keeping warm! As there is a normally a large heat loss through your head, a warm layer under your cycling helmet is useful. Yes, I did get a balaclava for Christmas – and yes it does work! In extremely low temperatures, if covering the mouth, it warms the air that you breathe in. Heavy gauge cycling tights, several layers of clothing on top of your cycling jersey, padded gloves and overshoes to stop the feet freezing complete the picture!



Most of these aspects are probably best tackled seriously later in the year. Now is the time to get some miles in, and to build up a good level of fitness ready to tackle the more exciting aspects riding later.

It is worth starting to study Pacing at this stage though. If you are riding at 80% of maximum heart rate, it is worth noting the amount of effort this takes, and the distance you are able to cover before you start tiring noticeably, as this may help you to pace yourself later. You will probably find that the distance you do before fatigue sets in increases as the months of training go by!



Enjoy the winter sunshine, those long and winding roads and those beautiful hills and valleys, in the knowledge that you are getting fitter for the Etape!