Wintery weather seems to be arriving! As I write, night time temperatures are around zero, and the forecasters are debating whether daytime temperatures will soon be nearer zero.

But the training goes on! Care is needed to avoid dangerous icy conditions, but at least the evenings will soon be lighter – sunset will be after 5 pm after the first week of February, and after 5:30 pm by the end of February, so evening training will soon become a possibility. For those who have the time available, afternoon rides on sunny days when the day has warmed up will become safer and more pleasant.

Training Objectives

So what are suitable training objectives for February?



Some of us will be regularly be doing long rides, but if you are building up your distance, a good target for the beginning of February is a 45 mile ride, rising to a 60 miler by the end of February. A coffee stop at a cafι is allowed of course – you may need to warm up – and there will be feed stops on the Etape du Tour!



This year’s Etapes include a huge amount of steady climbing, so although you may choose a fairly flat route the first time you ride a particular distance, it is good to include more hills as you go on. Hills do have the advantage of warming you up on a cold day – provided you are climbing at a steady rate. Climbing at a high rate requires a lot of oxygen, meaning a lot of cold air – so take care not to chill your core body temperature, which makes you more susceptible to winter ailments.

In adverse weather conditions, indoor training for climbing is probably the best approach. Hill repeats are a good idea on a hill near you when you have an hour or so to spare, increasing the number of repeats as time goes by – assuming there is no dangerous ice!


Riding Intensity

As your fitness level increases, your speed will naturally increase. But how do you pace yourself? The best way of doing this is probably by means of a watt meter, though these are expensive, so a sensible alternative is a heart rate monitor. Heart Rate Monitors are of course available from most good cycle shops, and also from high street pharmacies


Heart rate

But at what heart rate should you train? There is plenty of confusing literature on the subject, but to give you a flying start I’ve added a heart rate calculator to the web site. It gives two levels – an initial level suitable for your first weeks of training, and for winter training, and a more advanced level for those wanting to ride at around Etape speed. The initial level represents around 60% of maximum of your maximum power output, and the advanced level represents around 75% of your maximum power output. These are tried and tested levels suitable for riding long distances. They assume a fit and healthy adult. Individual optimum training levels vary of course- these levels are only suggestions!


Indoor Training

In adverse weather conditions, indoor training may be a better idea.

If you have a turbo trainer or use a bike in the local gym fitted with a watt meter, a good exercise which simulates ascending a mountain is to ride at a specific power level.

The starting level for January was 100W. Individuals vary, but a good target for February is 150 Watts. Initially a quarter of an hour at this level may be plenty, but if you achieve 40 minutes, you have effectively climbed 500 metres! Pedalling at 200W (which requires a good fitness level) for half an hour is also equivalent to climbing 500 metres. Training for half an hour at 200W is rather strenuous this early in the season however.


Power in Watts


Equivalent climb


30 minutes

250 metres


30 minutes

375 metres


40 minutes

500 metres


30 minutes

500 metres


These figures are reasonable working approximations.


If you do not have access to watt measurements, you could ride at the heart rate levels suggested on the Heart rate web page. These are suggested levels rather than rules, of course.


Plotting your Progress

It is well worth plotting your progress – recording the length of your rides in a training diary. The fitness estimator page will also let you see how your power output at a given heart rate is improving – this is worth recording.



My favourite recovery technique, particularly in winter, is a hot drink and a hot bath! If you need a snooze after a training ride – you are working at a good level!




Riding at the correct pace – photo taken at the start of the climb to Col de Marie Blanque!

Enjoy your training!