North Wales


Ventoux Here we come!

The challenge this year is an interesting one – to ride nearly 100 miles – then scale Mount Ventoux!  This involves a climb of over 1500 metres! It will be a steady climb, with a fairly constant gradient, averaging 7.6%, peaking at around 10%.


This year you will not need to concentrate on particularly steep climbs, but on climbing steadily at a reasonable, sustainable speed. A good level of endurance will be needed.



Mark has already tried the route, and has written a nice account of it. To read it click on “Recce” on the menu.  



June is the time to consider the challenge, and decide on which areas you need to improve, and then concentrate on them. Here are a few key areas to consider:



If you have not yet done a 100 mile plus ride – now is the time! If it is your first, a reasonably flat ride is good – though if you measure the overall altitude gained on even a “flat” route, it is usually quite surprisingly high!



During the Etape you will need to ride at a good steady speed for long periods of time economically, so your choice of speed will be important. Although the target speeds have not been announced yet, you will need to be able to average around 12mph overall to finish in time, though for most of us riding for prolonged periods at 30mph is not advisable! On the flat around 17 - 18mph is a fairly economical speed, whereas at 25mph your energy consumption will soar. Typically your mechanical power output will be 150watts at 19mph, doubling to 300watts at 25mph!


For a 200lb rider + bike, it takes 200W to climb at 7mph up a 7% gradient  - this sort of level is a reasonably attainable level progress for many fit riders, though some will be faster and some slower!  


An effective method of building up your speed is to record your time over the same course on a daily or weekly basis.



There is probably no real short cut to endurance training other than doing long rides! In early June you may wish to push the speed, riding near your anaerobic threshold, but as the Etape gets nearer, you will also want to discover a sustainable speed.

Endurance riding teaches your body to use its fat reserves in preference to its limited supply of stored glucose, which is useful as even a fairly thin person has vastly more energy stored as fat than as glycogen.  



Obviously, as you get nearer the Etape, practice on hills of similar gradients to Ventoux is an advantage, though steeper ones will build up your climbing strength. Long hills are ideal, but rare in most areas. Hill repeats are an effective way of making the most of the hills you do have available. In many areas it is possible to plan a ride which takes in a number of hills – for example Cheddar Gorge and Burrington Combe together amount to around 500 metres of climbing, or 10 typical hills in succession in the Chilterns amount to 1000 metres of climbing!   


Group riding

Following a large group of riders in will save you around 40% of your energy (depending on your speed) – a very worth while saving when there are 100 miles of mountainous terrain ahead!

Club rides (at the right level for you), Audaxes and Sportives are all excellent ways to improve your group riding technique, as well as learning from other riders.


The Weather

Ventoux may have some interesting weather in store for us! Whereas some past Etapes have been pleasantly mild, many of them have had temperatures in the 30s, meaning plenty of water is required! The top of Ventoux is exposed, and last time the Etape tackled it temperatures plunged to 2 degrees above zero, with fog and hail! It may be considered wise to carry a waterproof layer at least, just in case, plus some light weight emergency cold weather cover.    



In order to avoid last minute, untested changes to your bike it is worth sorting out problems and refining the technical details as early as possible! It is also worth experimenting with feeding and drinking routines early on. That extra glucose boost near the end of a long ride is sometimes very useful!


Enjoy your training – do find some exciting areas to train in!