March is a training milestone - the fine weather is here at last!

I have been very impressed by emails from etappers who have been riding through snow storms in sub zero temperatures, to cover 45 or even 70 miles, while I’ve been indoors writing my training hints!

Before looking at suitable training targets for March, it is interesting to consider a few other topics.



I sometimes receive emails from etappers who want to loose weight before the Etape. I was very impressed to meet Jon on a training ride, who had done just that after health problems due to being overweight. After three years of fairly extreme exercise he is down to 12 stone – and is the fastest sprinter I’ve ever seen!

It seems that the key to loosing weight by exercising is to cycle at a modest rate for long periods, as most fat is burnt that way. As muscle is heavier than fat, the ideal BMI for a racing cyclist is around is around 22.7 – surprisingly this is in the heavy half of the “healthy” weight portion of the charts in medical reference books!


Just started training?

If you have only just started training, you may suffer from a few initial aches and pains. The body, like a new car, benefits from a “running in” period – when cycling at a pace that feels good rather than painful, until everything is operating smoothly.


Fitting in the training

Fitting in training in with the important things in life is sometimes difficult. It is a good idea to tailor your rides according to the time you have available.  If you have less than an hour available, a short ride at 16 to 18 mph is very useful.

If you have half a day available a longer ride, even at a slower pace, is very useful training.



It is useful to record your average speed for trips of different lengths, to monitor your progress. You will then be encouraged by your improvements, and be able to plan your training more precisely.


Frequency of training Sessions

The frequency of your training sessions will depend on many factors. However it is useful to monitor your tiredness level afterwards, as your maximum number of sessions per week will depend on the time it takes to recover from feeling exhausted to feeling fighting fit again! Too many sessions may be counterproductive.

You will have noticed how your heart rate remains high for some time after an exercise session.  A friend who regularly takes part in the Iron Man finals in Hawaii told me that if your heart rate is still high the next day – take a day off from training!


Training targets 

The improving weather is a good opportunity to improve in several areas, though the dark evenings (for those in the UK) are still a problem. (Hallo John Kempler – what’s it like in Australia?)



The Etape du Tour is over 100 miles long this year. It is therefore a good idea to extend the lengths of your rides, setting a target of completing a 100 mile ride in, say, April or May. If you have done a 30 mile ride, set 50 miles as your target for March. If you have already done a 50 miler, aim for a 75 miler. If you have already done a 100 miler this year – well done! Sportives, Audaxes and charity rides are ideal for this as you will have others to pace you and keep you company, though some prefer to set their own pace and ride alone. Don’t forget a few pleasant food stops!



During the Etape you may be doing in excess of 18 mph, drawn along by one of the world’s largest pelotons! At this time of year, this speed may seem a little ambitious to many riders, particularly if you are riding alone. However even very short training rides at 14 to 18 mph are extremely beneficial, as you extend their length from week to week.  



You will have noticed that we are setting out to achieve a climb of 1500 metres. How do you train for that?

Any hill climbing is good training – and if you live in East Anglia – cycling into the wind is good training! (Remember TDF winner Bjorn Rees from Denmark – more noted for its wind speeds than its mountains!)

Ideally as the Etape draws nearer, try to get a chance to cycle up a few mountains, be it in Scotland, Wales, or somewhere warmer! The technique with long climbs tends to be steady, carefully paced progress rather than a sprint (though a few Tour de France riders would prove me wrong there!) A good choice of sufficiently low gears helps of course!


You will see from my events page that there is now a chance to train with Eros Poli – Mr Ventoux himself – and even ride up Ventoux with him! He became famous in 1994 after coming first on the Ventoux stage of the Tour de France.


Enjoy your training!