How’s your training going?

Did you manage that first 100 mile ride of the year?

I must admit I haven’t so far, though we did get to ride 78 miles over mountainous terrain on the Snowdonia trip, after a 50 mile ride including a climb to 650 metres on the previous day!


May training

No doubt you’ve done a few long rides by now!

Now is the time to extend your distances further, and to increase the pace. It is also good time to build some real riding strength by riding near the Anaerobic Threshold – the point at which you feel a slight burning sensation in your muscles. This is pushing the limits! Your body should react by increasing your riding power as the days go by.


It’s also good time to increase your climbing power. Nearer the Etape you will need to discover the correct pacing for long climbs, but at this stage building strength is key. Climbing hills at speed is good at this time of year.


You may also be able to increase the frequency of your training - life permitting! Some people train every day, though the optimum frequency will depend on the length and intensity of your rides. Most reliable sources suggest that around 3 or 4 sessions a week is optimum, though some of us find that important things in life get in the way, and we are very lucky to get two!


Training should be progressive in terms of distance, terrain and intensity.

If you have done 50 mile rides, go for 70 milers. If you are doing 80 mile rides, go for a 100 miler. When you have reached high mileages, move onto more rugged terrain and faster speeds.


Even in the British Isles, it is possible to find a range of different climbs. The Chilterns have many climbs of 100 metres, Cheddar has 250 metre climbs, there are 300 metre climbs in South Wales and the Cotswolds, and Exmoor and North Wales have climbs of up to 400 metres if you know where to look!


Power vs heart rate

Heart rate has long been used as a measure of fitness. However Power is a more reliable thing to measure, as heart rate depends on many other factors apart from fitness, such as level of relaxation, stress, temperature etc. Output power propels you along the road after all!

Power may be measured on a suitable turbo trainer, or calculated from your speed on the flat, or speed and gradient if climbing. Knowing your power output at a given heart rate is obviously useful, particularly at around the power levels you will be using to ride the Etape.



Gains in fitness are not generally made during riding, but while recovering. Some measurements I made after the Snowdonia training trip, which was a big step up from my usual rides, illustrates this nicely. My usual riding target is 200W, as 150 to 220w represents a sustainable power level for me. In the days following the Snowdonia trip I jumped on my turbo trainer and cycled as hard each evening for around a minute. The effects of recovery were startling!


Monday evening          186W           

Tuesday evening         260W

Wednesday evening  370W

Thursday evening      430W


The additional training effect of the weekday rides was negligible. I was pleased with the 370W and 430W figures! Such measurements could be useful ingredients in refining training programs.


Loosing weight

According to most reliable sources, loosing weight is not best achieved by means of fast riding, but by long, slow rides. Riding at around 70% of your maximum heart rate is effective, because at that speed stored fat rather than sugars is the main fuel. The current wisdom is that this should be complimented by reducing the fat level in the diet, particularly saturated and hydrogenated fats.

Food high in Omega 3 fats (such as oily fish) are recommended, and to a lesser extent Omega 6 found in nuts and seeds.

Weight loss need not be excessive however – remember muscle weighs more than fat!


New bike?

Now is the time to try out your Etape bike and make any major changes, such as gear ratios, so that you have plenty of time to get it right! I say that after wrestling with my new Shimano/SRAM combination on the day before leaving for the Etape last year – and having to make a desperate last minute visit to the bike shop to get it sorted out!


Group riding

As always, there is nothing like a bit of friendly competition to spur you on, so do try out a few Audaxes and Sportives before the Etape!


Snowdonia again….

Richard who ably led the Snowdonia trip is happy to arrange more rides in that area. If you would like to contact him about that, you may email him at or phone 07974235840.


Enjoy your training!