Training starts here….

It’s a new year! Training for the Etape starts here!


You may be regularly riding 90 miles a day over the mountains, or have only done 25 mile rides around the country lanes recently. You may be a racer, a time trailer, a triathlon rider ….. but we all have the same objectives .. to do well in the Etape du Tour!


Whatever your background you will have strengths and weaknesses. Between now and July you will need to build on your strengths, and improve in areas of weakness. Time trailers will be used to sustained effort, but maybe not to slipstreaming. Racers will need to learn to pace themselves over the long strenuous, mountainous courses. Cycle tourists may be used to long rides, but may need to work on speed.


I’m going to tackle all areas of training as the months go by – so hopefully there will be something for everybody!


Is it hard?.....

I’ve heard it said that this year’s Etape is easier than last year’s. True – last year’s Etape climbed half the height of Everest. However a race involving a 50 mile ride followed by a climb 25 miles long, rising over 5000 feet could not be described as easy, particularly when there is another tricky 3000 foot climb to follow!



We will need a range of skills (yes I include myself in this!)

On the first flattish 50 miles economy of effort will be important, saving energy by good pacing and slipstreaming.

On the ascent of Tourmalet you will need to produce a high level of sustained power for over two hours, rather than for a few minutes. This will involve training in hill climbing, endurance and pacing.

On the descent of Tourmalet you will need to be proficient in safe descending.

On the ascent of Hautacam, you will need energy and power for the steeper sections, so your pacing, endurance and hill climbing abilities will all be called upon.


Training …

So it won’t be a walk over – even if you have to walk up the last bit of Tourmalet! However month by month I plan to take you through the training you will need in easy stages. We will be building our fitness (yes me too!) to the level needed for this great challenge!


January training

At last – the promised training hints! Find some enjoyable rides on those sunny weekends. If you are able to get a ride a few hours long, thaw out with a cup of tea in a café! Don’t forget those layers to keep you from freezing and those overshoes to keep your feet from frostbite. Watch out for ice on freezing days – breaking bones is all too easy. Build the length of your rides up - if you are currently doing 25 mile rides build up to 35 miles or 50 miles. If you are already doing 80 mile rides – congratulations!


Seek out a few Audaxes and Cyclosportives for later in the year, or contact me to join the Snowdonia trip or the Alpine trip.


If you only have half an hour or an hour of daylight free, try a higher intensity ride. Keep a diary of your achievements, recording average speeds and distances. This will come in useful later. In warmer weather, try a few local hills.


Dark Evenings

Dark evenings are a problem. There may be a floodlit cycle track near you which allows road bikes access on some evenings. This is ideal, because it allows excellent practice at slip streaming, and will give you a measure of your fitness level compared with others. It is good fun too! Palmer Park in Reading has such a track – let me know if you know any others!  


The other favourite is the exercise bike down the gym, or a turbo trainer if you have one. This may be used for power training by cycling at 150 watts continuously, or 200 watts continuously. You will doubtless find that there is a power level where you get increasingly out of breath – but this is not the object of the exercise!


Fitness testing

If you are of a scientific turn of mind you might like to try a fitness test on a monthly basis. It won’t give you an absolute fitness level, but hopefully it will chart your improvement. The method is given on this web site (scroll down the index to “training” – you will see the fitness test method and calculator.


Have fun!