Mountain training


Training in the mountains is good preparation for the Etape du Tour.

I once flew over the winding mountain roads of Andalusia in Spain, and thought how great it would be to cycle there. I’ve recently returned from a cycle training trip there. It was beautiful cycling territory, some roads having about two cars an hour! We climbed 1600m in one day – around the amount of climbing in the Etape, as well riding easier routes. Julio Y Sanchez is planning Etape training there. He is a very fit rider. As well as the local roads, he is offering the option of an ascent to 2500m in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. If you are interested, email him at Julio Y Sanchez . He has some good accommodation available in his renovated farm house.


The mountains of Snowdonia are also good for Etape training. Some of us are planning to cycle there on the late May bank holiday – 27th to 29th May. There is the option of taking part in the Ffestiniog 360 sportive on the Sunday if you book yourself in – you will find the details at

I have a few beds of budget accommodation available that weekend if you are interested – email

Endurance Training

As the weather improves, and the evenings are brighter, longer rides are more pleasant.

Endurance training improves lung function, oxygen uptake and circulation. It makes an important contribution to Etape training. The object is to ride at a level which is sustainable for several hours, but not in a way that causes any setbacks. The problem is judging a suitable speed on varied terrain. One useful method is to use a heart rate monitor.

Heart rate above your resting heart rate is proportional to power. Using a heart rate monitor allows you to ride at a constant, sustainable power level.

 If you subtract your resting heart rate from your maximum heart rate, this will give you your working range. Riding at around 75% of this range is usually ideal for long rides.

So how do you find your maximum heart rate? The usual formula is 220 minus your age (but see footnote). Most people will have maximum heart rates within 20 beats per minute of this.

For a healthy adult:

For a 60 year old we get:

Max heart rate = 220 – 60 = 160

If resting heart rate = 60, heart rate range = 160 – 60 = 100

At 75% power, heart rate = 60 + (0.75 x 100) = 135


For a 30 year old we get:

Max heart rate = 220 – 30 = 190

If resting heart rate = 60, heart rate range = 190 – 60 = 130

At 75% power, heart rate = 60 + (0.75 x 130) = 157.5

Obviously, people vary, so you need to take how you feel riding at that level into account, and adjust your speed accordingly.

If you find this level too much, it may be wise to adjust to say 60% power for a while..

If you need a nap after your ride, this is a sign of good ride! If you are still tired the next day – ease off!

Don’t overdo it!”

Training Frequency

How often you are able to train in a week will depend on your other commitments, but some sources recommend 3 to 4 sessions a week. Training charts are sometimes published showing six sessions a week, though you do need at least one day off a week!

 It is reckoned that one hard training session a week will enable you to retain your fitness, if all else fails!

Ride Lengths

A useful routine endurance session start at 20 to 25 miles, building to 30 to 35 miles with a longer ride each week, with occasional rides approaching the Etape distance..


Footnote – maximum heart rate

Researchers have proposed the following formulae for maximum heart rate:

HRmax = 220 – Age           

HRmax = 206.3 - (0.711 ื Age)

HRmax = 217 - (0.85 x Age)

HRmax = 206.9 - (0.67 x age)

Compare with the simple 220 – Age formula, these formulae give lower figures for younger riders and higher figures for older ones.

If you would like more details, and a calculator, see: