The training season has begun!


Here we are, just getting over Christmas, contemplating riding 89 miles over the Alps – with rather a lot of climbing!


Fortunately there are over 6 months between now and the Etape!


The longest journey starts with the first step – no need to overdo it (yet!). Now the Christmas pudding has settled and the New Year haze has passed, a gentle bike ride is quite refreshing! Not too far – a pleasant 10 miles at a relaxing pace for a start!



Soon you will be in the swing of things – a 15 mile ride, a 20 mile ride, a 25 mile ride….. As the distance increases he coffee stop becomes compulsory, especially if temperatures are low…. Think of it as an Etape feed station!

Before long you will be including a few hills, then seeking out longer hills



Maybe you cycle down the pub with friends, or are part of a cycle club. That’s great!

It all helps.

If you don’t belong to a cycle club, you may like to seek one out in your area. They generally have a web page. Initially, choose a club who ride at speeds you are comfortable with. Later you may graduate to faster groups as you become fitter. The larger CTC groups often organise a range of rides, starting at 12mph beginners rides, to faster 16mph rides up to rides for competitive athletes. You will probably find your ride speed increasing dramatically after cycling with a faster group.


If you find yourself riding with friends, or a cycling group, who are slower than you, you will improve the amount of training by riding a slower bike, such as a hybrid or mountain bike, while they ride something faster.



You will probably be able to find a local route, fairly traffic free, maybe 5, 10 or 15 miles long. This is ideal for a short after work ride if you have the odd half an hour or so to spare. It is worth recording your average and maximum speed on the route in a training diary, and seeing it gradually increase.



At the moment there are a succession of Atlantic weather systems arriving punctuated by warm, even sunny periods. If you keep an eye on the forecasts, some really pleasant rides are possible. Though if last year’s Etape is anything to go by, bad weather training may be a good thing!



The obvious choice for training is a superfast racing cycle. However many people use an old steed for winter training, in order to keep their best bike in good condition. When road conditions are bad (loose gravel and grit, ice or snow) there is a lot to be said for a mountain bike or a hybrid with grippy, fairly puncture proof tyres.



It has puzzled me in the past as to why some cyclists get back aches and knee pain, and others don’t. I recently read a paper which may help. There were two points in particular of interest:


Saddles which are too low cause extra stress on the knees.

There are obvious limitations to raising the saddle – you need to be able to balance the bike with your feet on the ground !


Saddles which slope to far backwards tend to cause back ache.

The limitation here is that if the saddle slopes forward too far, you tend to slide off!



This year’s Etape involves a lot of climbing! Long climbs are rare in the UK, and it is very difficult to find a climb over 400 metres.

From a training point of view, if other commitments permit it, it is ideal to train in an area of high mountains. If a family holiday is planned, training in places such as Mallorca or the Italian Lakes is ideal, where as well as the mountains there are other things of interest for the family.


In the UK we are running the usual Snowdonia training trip – see the Events section of the web site for more details.


Enjoy your training!