Galibier – the far side!



The winter weather is beginning to go at last, with temperatures now above zero and no snow and ice, in the South at least. Conditions on the roads by daylight hours at least are becoming safer.


It is time to start moving towards summer training! Those following the training hints will have done 30, 40 or even 50 mile rides by now – March is a good time to move towards 60 or 70 mile rides. On those shorter rides, try pushing the speeds away from the 10 to 12mph level up towards 15, 16, 17mph – heading towards the 20 mph level!


While the initial training for both Etapes is similar, the emphasis of your training will depend on which Etape you are doing. To be successful in the Alpine stage you will need to work at high power levels for periods of two hours or more – maybe 200 watts or so.


The Auvergne stage is about twice as long at around 130 miles. It is not without its climbs, but they are a bit shorter, so the emphasis of your training will be on distance at a rather lower intensity. 


The Alpine Stage

You will need strong legs for this stage, and be able to climb at a good intensity for over an hour. Ths will be partly a matter of pacing – but that will come later. At this stage increasing leg strength, respiratory function and endurance is the key to success.


So  how do you train for the hills if you live in a flat area? Cycling at a good speed requires a similar power output to climbing, so a good target is to gradually improve your speed over a fixed distance. A 5 or 10 mile ride at a high speed is a good start, working towards high speed rides of around the hour mark. It is encouraging to record the average speed for particular routes to see your improvement. Ideally, when the evenings get lighter, it would be useful to have a 5 mile, 10 mile and 20 mile training route near you to train on.


If you enjoy time trialling, this is probably good training for the Alpine Etape, adding hill climbing later in the season.


Descending technique is also important. For me, a key feature is bike stability.


It is of course difficult to beat real hills! Hill repeats are quite useful, particularly if the hills are long. Sessions in mountainous areas such as Mallorca or Northern Spain are particularly valuable. If you are not able to find time for a holiday in such places, why not join us on the Snowdonia trip on the early May bank Holiday? See the Events page of this web site for more details.


Auvergne Stage

 Cycling 130 miles is an achievement – strangely is coincides fairly well with the length of a 200 km Audax!


Apart from Audaxes, a ride distance to aim for in, say , mid March would be around 75 miles, moving on to break the 100 mile barrier in April. Long hills with a fairly low gradient are also good training for this type of route. As there are also some severe climbs along the route, training on something steeper is also important.



When the evenings get lighter, you may be able to increase your ride frequency by including evening rides, maybe increasing their frequency as the year goes on.


Group riding

Practicing safe group riding is also important – club rides Audaxes and sportives serve this purpose well. For the Auvergne ride, practicing slipstreaming is particularly valuable. On the Alpine stage, slipstreaming will mainly be of use only when descending!


The bike

Everyone has their favourite type of bike, and I certainly would not want to contradict them. However the properties whch I look for are a light weight rigid frame such as oversize carbon (or aluminium). Oversize headsets seem to improve stability during descents. As for gear ratios, the wider the better within the limits of reliable performance. Good brakes are obviously essential for fast descending. Perhaps the feaures which has most effect on the speed of a bike, especially on the flat, are the rolling resistance of the tyres, and the riding position. Riding position is always a compromise between safety, good body and lung efficiency and aerodynamics. Tyre design is a compromise between rolling resistance and good grip in the conditions likely to be encountered. Modern materials help in this respect.



There is plenty of literature by nutrition experts and sports drink promoters on recovery food and drink.


What is rarely mentioned is the best way to recover after a strenuous ride, particularly in winter – a nice hot bath!


Enjoy your training!