Maybe your rides are 10 miles long at an average of 7mph. Or maybe you are sustaining 25mph for long periods. My guess is that you are somewhere between these levels!

Whether you are used to cycling at 10mph, or if you sustain high speeds for long periods, and you have the Etape in sight – so let’s get training!

Winter is not a good time to give up everything else for cycling – but when the weather is reasonable, it is great to get outdoors. This year, in between rain showers, there has been excellent cycling weather.

Winter is not a time to expect dramatic performance improvements, but it is a good time to gradually build up general cycling fitness. The old tradition of long, slow rides in winter is probably a good one. A ride leading to a good café is ideal for gradually building fitness and endurance!

Interval training is a good way of exercising your anaerobic fitness – on a slowish ride, sprinting for a few seconds or so then dropping back to your previous speed, and repeating this a few times when you are ready. This will sometimes result in big speed improvements, even over longer distances.

Frequency of rides

It is generally during the resting phase that the body adapts to a higher level of fitness after exercise. It is also thought that three to four training rides a week is fairly optimal. A good scheme would therefore be to ride and rest on alternate days, gradually increasing your effort level from session to session. This is, of course not possible for most people – life may get in the way of cycling, but don’t let cycling get in the way of life! The general principle of resting between training sessions to increase fitness is a good one though.

Group Riding

There are obvious advantages in riding with others, either with friends or with a cycling club. It is generally more pleasant, it gives you practice for riding with others in the Etape.

It also gives you the chance to discover new routes.

 Last but not least, it gives you practice in slipstreaming, particularly when heading into the wind! This is a very useful skill during the Etape!

 If you are not a member of a cycling club, it is a good to join one. It is important to find a club which rides at your level. Some of the larger CTC group have rides for people at a range of levels, ranging from beginners up to the athletic. Cycle racing clubs are generally faster, with rides ranging from average speeds of maybe 16mph up to 22mph average over long distances. Less fit riders tend to slipstream the peloton. There is often a choice of rides at different speeds.

Indoor Training

If the weather is dreadful, as sometimes happens in winter (!) indoor training is a good possibility. If you possess a turbo trainer, that is ideal. Otherwise a visit to the gym is equally good.

An upmarket model of turbo trainer will allow you to simulate routes, and will increase resistance to simulate hills


If you are not easily bored, a model which simply measures watts is sufficient.


At this stage, there is plenty of time to increase your fitness. Try pedalling at a moderate power, say 100W, for half an hour. On the next session, increase the power to 125W or 150W, and so on. A good target to aim for is 200 watts continuous. It is worth monitoring your heart rate, and recording your power at particular heart rates. This data will be useful for monitoring your improvements later on.


 You will probably find that your heart rate increases in expectation of exercise when you simply sit on the machine, even without pedalling!


Enjoy your training – pleasant cycling!