As always, at this stage in the year, people will be at many different fitness levels, ranging from reluctant 10 mile rides to fast 80 mile rides! However, we all have the same target – to finish, or excel in the Etape du Tour in July! This should be achievable for all of us!

If you have been doing 15 mile rides, increase your ride length to maybe 20 miles. On the next ride, aim at 25 miles. Intermediate shorter rides in between will improve your recovery. By the end of February, rides of at least 30 miles, maybe 50 miles should be possible. Don’t forget the café stop to warm up! And choose a scenic route!

The distance you achieve will depend on conditions such as temperature, and the time you have available.

If you have not already done so it is worth supplementing your long slow rides with some speedier ones.


Let’s look at increasing your speed in a short training session - Interval training is useful when you only have half an hour to spare! It is a good way to improve your riding speed.

If you are just starting to increase your speed, progressive intervals is a good idea. The speeds you use will depend on your initial fitness level, but here is an example.

Supposing, for example, your normal speed on long rides is 12mph. On a flat road, accelerate to 15mph rapidly then relax back to 12mph. Repeat, but accelerating to 18mph, returning to 12mph again. Then accelerate to 20mph, returning to 12mph.

On the second session a couple of days later, accelerate to say 20mph say four times, returning to 12mph in between. This type of exercise only takes a few minutes, so it is easy to fit into a busy day.

On following sessions – you get the idea – take it from there! You may want to increase the target speeds progressively, or increase the number of accelerations gradually from session to session.

Whatever targets you decide on, you will be accustoming your body to higher speeds without totally exhausting training sessions, making for a fairly rapid recovery between sessions, and increasing the steady speed of your rides. After a few interval sessions, try increasing your steady speed on your training rides.


Already, some tandem riders in my area have crashed on ice on a local steep hill, resulting in broken bones.

Take special care on hills – water runs downhill – frost hollows occur in dips – and cyclists are therefore travelling fastest where it is iciest. Don’t wait until the bottom of a hill before correcting your speed – braking on icy surface could be bad news!

In icy weather, to minimise the risk of ice, it is best to cycle in the warmest part of the day when possible – generally later in the afternoon.


In January, rainy periods alternated with dry ones. Weather forecasts are usually national, and even the local ones are not precise enough for cycling. But there is an answer!

Take a look at http://www.wunderground.com/wundermap/ click on “radar” for accurate rain radar images showing where it is raining! These images show rain in various shades of yellow and green etc depending on rain intensity, and are updated frequently during the day, showing exactly where the rain is, to a high resolution!

See the footnote for more information.


During the Etape you will be riding with around 10,000 others. This is nowhere as bad as it sounds, as people ride considerately and there are plenty of people to slipstream! However group riding practice is obviously useful, either with friends or with a local cycling club. Choose a club whose speed you are happy with initially. If you are fairly new to cycling the CTC have local groups in most areas. If you prefer a faster group, there are racing cycling clubs in most areas, often with rides with a range of speeds and distances.

Audax rides and Sportives are ideal training for the Etape.

You will find a range of Etape training events in the UK on my web site if you click on 2014 Training Events


Although the training events on this web site climb increasingly high hills, there is nothing in the UK with climbs as long as Tourmalet and Hautacam.

It is therefore worth trying some real mountains, either on your holiday, or on a specialised training camp. I’ve listed several suitable ones in the Events section, run either by people I know and trust or from whom I have had extremely good feedback from their clients. Here is a summary:

Maurice Burton, one time British champion is running a training camp in Lanzarote in April. This should be a good chance to get away from the winter weather.

Steve Hall of Allant Etape training, qualified British Cycling Coach who finished in the first 100 in the Etape is running short training camps on a number of dates in May and June on Tourmalet and Hautacam themselves.

If you prefer a longer break, the excellent tour company, Marmot Tours, are organising trips in the Pyrenees. From my past experience, they should be very welcoming and well organised.


Training consists of progressively exercising at above your previous level.  The body responds by becoming stronger. It takes time to build this strength. Training improves the fitness of many body systems – the circulation, heart, lungs, the leg muscles as well as improving many metabolic processes. Immediately after a hard ride the body first recovers, then increases its fitness ready for the next similar challenge.

 Recovery from a demanding ride may be considered as having three stages. Firstly, immediately after the ride, your heart rate will be higher than usual. You may be exhausted. Secondly, the next day you may feel less fit than usual, and experience various aches and pains, but thirdly, probably two days after exercising you will feel fitter than ever!



Footnote on http://www.wunderground.com/wundermap/ :

 If you are on a long ride you may need to estimate whether the rain showers are stationary or moving. National forecasts give a clue to the movement of weather systems, which depend on high altitude air currents. You may find that some rain storms are fairly stationary, particularly rain storms occurring over hills.

One minor word of caution. Sometime there seem to be gaps in the data. Rainy areas with straight edges may indicate that the rainy areas are actually larger than displayed. A bit of interpolation or guess work is then needed!

If the rain data does not appear, try clicking the “current” button or zooming in and out.

Scope:  It is possible to zoom in and obtain information detailed enough for the most local ride, or zoom out for information on the longest possible ride!

It is not perfect, but it is extremely useful!