Where do you start?

            Maybe you are making a creaky recovery from the Christmas break, and 20 miles is enough, or maybe you are often on your bike doing vast distances? It does not matter!

            Let’s make it more of a pleasure than a pressure! Plan some beautiful rides!

We have six months to build up distances and climbing strength. You may be able to visit scenic locations in the UK, such as Wales and Exmoor, and even try out some real mountains abroad. Perhaps you will have an opportunity to do some cycle touring in mountainous areas, or take part in weekend club rides ad Sportives.

How do you continue?

            The best way to proceed is probably by stages, gradually building up your distances and climbs from week to week. Maybe at the beginning of January, with low temperatures and short daylight hours, 20 miles is enough. If you increased the distance by 5 miles each week, by the end of April you will be doing 100 mile rides!

I would not suggest following this exactly, but it is useful to have your own plan.

Winter riding

            Winter rides have two main hazards – low temperatures and icy roads. In addition the daylight hours are short. Afternoon rides have the advantage that temperatures tend to rise during the day, and it also gives more time for ice to melt, though daylight hours are limited.

The Bike

            At this time of year it may be best to use an old bike, though it may be worth taking a look at bikes available at sale prices if you are after a new bike for the 2017 Etape du Tour.

            The important qualities for a good Etape du Tour bike are lightness, and a good range of gears. It is particularly important to have a good range of low gears, reducing the force on the pedals necessary on the long climbs in the Etape. Having seen people trying to winch themselves up Ventoux in too high a gear while I overtook them steadily turning the pedals convinced me of this!

            The choice of frame material is up to you. Aluminium Alloy is good, but steel is on the heavy side. Titanium is very pleasant to ride, and is much lighter than steel, bit is also more springy than steel, which sometimes causes problems. Carbon is a favourite with many people, with its light weight and solid feel.

            Adjustment is very important – if you are riding a bike for several hours it is preferable not to have aches and pains brought on by incorrect adjustments!  Small corrections sometimes make a big difference.

Bad Weather

            We have had many dry days with bright sunshine this winter – brilliant weather for cycling! As they say in Sweden, there is no such thing as weather that is too cold – only insufficient clothing! Given a sufficient number of layers, with a windproof top layer, you may find that you are too hot even when the temperature is only just above zero! It may be the time of year to sacrifice sartorial elegance for comfort though!

Indoor Training

            Using a turbo trainer or visiting the gym is a good alternative to road riding in the evenings, or when the weather is bad. Measuring your power output is a good way to quantify your effort level. If you have access to a machine which simulate routes on a computer screen, and adjusts resistance according to the gradient – even better!

Enjoy your training and take care! Don’t forget the body becomes stronger when you are resting after a ride!



Lac de Serre Poncon, part of the Etape Route in 2017,

used previously in the 2006 Etape du Tour