As it is a new year – let’s start at the beginning!


We are preparing for a challenging event – 92 miles of cycling and 3500 metres of climbing!

And it is raining outside! Where do we start?


From where we are! In between those storms rushing in from the Atlantic there are relatively calm half days – or even whole days – when cycling is once more a pleasure! Coupled with sufficient clothing of the right type (warm and waterproof!) cycling becomes enjoyable again! A peasant coffee shop will give you a target and a chance to warm up!


The Plan

Over the next few months we will go from being relatively unfit to being fit enough to complete the Etape – or even excel on the day! The secret will be to gradually increase the length of your rides, the amount of climbing and the speed!


Maybe you are currently riding 20 or 30 miles on fairly flat routes at 10 mph. Maybe you are regularly riding 80 miles at 18mph over hills? It does not matter! Start from where you are!


Whatever your current fitness level it is worth choosing interesting routes for weekend rides, maybe with a hill or two. You will find your fitness level increasing from week to week, and you will be taking on ever more adventurous territory



Find a couple of circuits near you for speed training. Initially these might be quite sort – maybe 5 miles or 10 miles, preferably without traffic lights etc. You will be able to measure your average speed round the circuit, and see your improvement, especially as the days get longer, and you have the odd hour or so free.



It is worth locating a cycle club if you don’t already belong to one. If you are a relative beginner, or want to build up from a relatively low level, the CTC probably have a club near you. If you are in the 16mph -20mph range for long periods – search out a local racing club.


Most clubs also have rides at a range of speeds.




You will find a good range of training events for this year on this web site – click on 2014 Training Events


The UK training events start with training in the Chilterns and progress to more challenging rides in the mountains, with our ever popular Snowdonia trip.


Outside the UK you will be able to escape the British climate April with a trip to Lanzarote led by former British cycling champion Maurice Burton.  


There are also numerous chances to try Hautacam and Tourmalet themselves, as Allant are leading a series of training events there led by qualified cycling coach Steve Hall, who has finished in the first 100 in the Etape du Tour. I have had very good reports of the Allant trips from those who have been on them.


Lastly, my favourite tour company, Marmot Tours is offering a training week in the Pyrenees taking in numerous mountain passes, but with a choice of how challenging a route you choose.




HIT Training

High Intensity Training (HIT), which may be considered to be an extreme form of interval training, is widely promoted as a way of getting fit in only a few minutes each week.

Details vary, but it basically consists of training at maximum intensity for a few seconds, slowing down for a few seconds then repeating this several times for a few minutes. This does indeed seem to result in a measurably better level of fitness for many people. It may not train you for the extended endurance efforts required to climb mountains, though it may equip you with an increased fitness level to tackle them.

It should be pursued with a bit of caution, though, to minimise health risks. It may be better to build up to the high intensity levels by stages over several sessions rather than to going straight to maximum level from scratch. It is also probably safest to warm up at a moderate level before the extremely intense sessions.


Simulating Mountains

Hautacam and Tourmalet are both long climbs. To tackle them at speed you will need to produce a good mechanical power output for long periods. A turbo trainer or exercise bike in the gym is a good way of building up your climbing power, maybe starting at 150 Watts for a quarter or half an hour, then increasing your power level and duration from week to week – heading for 200W, then something over 200W…..


Enjoy Your Training!