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Welcome to the first of a five month series of articles supporting you in your training and preparation for L’Etape du Tour 2018. Over the forthcoming months we will guide you through your training, whether this is your first time and you are just looking to complete with a smile, or you are chasing a finish time. We will cover everything from training, bike mechanics, through to psychology and nutrition.
If you are reading this you have either entered or are thinking of entering one of the greatest rides of your life. While the rewards will be huge, be under no illusion, the work required to get there will be just as big. So this first article is to lay some groundwork as to what is required and ensure you and your bike are ready for the challenges ahead.
The 2018 Etape du Tour will start in the stunning lakeside location of Annecy and the finish comes 169km and 4100m of climbing later at the ski resort of Le Grand Bornand.
Featuring no less than 4 categorised climbs, this year is looking even tougher than the last. We take a quick look at the 2 toughest.
After the long (and fast) decent from Col de la Croix Fry, this climb although short, to 1390m will be quite challenging as the road narrows and quality of the surface reduces. It’s steep with stats suggests, 6km at 11.2% average which definitely sounds more Vuelta than TDF. So it’s will be worth thinking about hitting some steep climbs – the UK has plenty and many feature in the 100 climb series here.
Made famous during stage 17 on the 2009 where Contador went against team orders and dropped Lance Armstrong to help him win the yellow jersey that year. It’s great viewing and can be watched here. At 8.8km and with an average gradient of 8.9 percent this will be the most challenging part of the Etape du Tour route (think Col de Joux Plane that featured in the 2016 edition). It’s wooded for a significant period, so there isn’t much to distract you and it’s quite narrow too with a cliff edge early on. It eventually widens as you approach the village of Romme. This again is steep but for 50% more distance than the Montee du plateau des Gileres, so it’s time to ride steep local hills many times to recreate the conditions you’ll experience this summer.
While the individual distances may not seem overly daunting, combine the duration of relentless climbing with the overall distance, heat and the amount of climbing and you have an epic day on your hands.
So where do we start?
It’s February, the event is still a long way off but we need to begin to focus. Your goals this month are:
Over the coming months you are going to spend many hours in the saddle to prepare fully.
You will need to get at least one long ride in per week, usually on the weekend, as well as a number of shorter sessions during the week, supplemented by some strength and conditioning either at home or at a gym. At the end of this article is an example training plan for February.
With it being February (we had snow in Manchester yesterday!) the chances of poor weather conditions in the UK are high, therefore investing in either some rollers or a turbo trainer (Zwift is becoming very popular judging by who we follow on Strava) would be a sensible option. It is far better to stay indoors if/when the snow and ice hit and do a shorter turbo session than to go out, fall off, and miss six weeks with a broken arm/leg. If in doubt, don’t go out. With plenty of options for providing structure and entertainment to indoor sessions, for example Zwift or The Sufferfest videos, a session on the indoor trainer can fly by. If you’d like to know more about turbo trainers and rollers, and which would be best for you, read this great article: https://cyclingtips.com/2016/10/rollers-vs-trainer-2/
For a beginner to cycling, we’d suggest a turbo trainer is a better choice as they are quicker and easier to get used to and to start training on, whereas rollers can require a little more skill and technique.
Remember it is only February, so don’t get ahead of yourself and try and smash some big mileage yet. People can get carried away, peak their fitness in April, and then be jaded and worn out by July. If this is your first event just look to be getting a long ride of 30-40 miles on a weekend and find some structure to your week.
At this stage you also don’t need to stress about heart-rates or power meters (unless you are well accustomed to using them, but even in that case it’s a good exercise to leave the toys at home once in a while). We will explain what these are and why they can be so useful a little further into the training plan. The saying ‘what gets measured gets managed’ is also very applicable here. So I want you to look at a training diary of some description. This can be a paper diary, excel spreadsheet, or online program such as Strava or Training Peaks (free versions of both are available). By being able to look back at what you have done you can ensure you are not running the risk of over-training (under-recovering) or doing insufficient training to build your fitness.
In order to effectively capture the data from your rides to inform your training diary, it is best to invest in a bike computer – these are available to suit a wide range of budgets, from £30 to £300. This article gives you an overview of what’s available though bare in mind it is now one year old and there are new products on the market: http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/group-tests/cycling-gps-units-buyers-guide-181254
Part of the appeal, and challenge, of the Etape is the opportunity to ride with thousands of other cyclists. Therefore, if you are not used to riding in a group, look at joining a local cycling club and learning the skills of riding in a bunch. The support of other riders will also help motivate you to get out when the weather is inclement and support you when you’re changing that puncture when it’s cold and raining! The British Cycling website is a good resource for UK riders looking to find their nearest club.
You are going to be spending a lot of time on your bike over the coming months, so checking now that it isn’t going to either break you (cause an injury) or break itself (when you’re miles from home) is time and money well spent. The most important thing you could do now is to ensure the bike is set up correctly for you and the event. This requires going to see a reputable bike fitter, either at your local bike shop, or at a specialist studio. You may wonder why a bike fit is so important, but it really is vital – here’s some good information as to why: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/knowledge/article/20161103-Do-I-need-a-professional-bike-fit–0
Once you know the bike is set up correctly for you, the next thing is to get it serviced. If you can do it yourself, great, but if not then see your local bike shop. Think about the tyres you are running over the winter, mudguards, lights, cables, chain and cassette. You may also want to consider a compact chain set (i.e, one with 50/34 teeth on the two chainrings) if you don’t already have one. It might also be worth thinking about extra gears on your cassette, because of the nature of the climbs this year. If you have 11-25, consider going to 11-28. If you have 11-28, consider going to 11-32. This will ensure you have enough gears to climb comfortably at a reasonable cadence. Whilst you may not need these ‘climbing gears’ now it might be worth switching now and getting used to the gearing nice and early. You will be pleased with that extra gear if you are struggling.
Looking further ahead it is useful to have some build up events where you can practice your nutrition and pacing strategies. Have a look at the Sports Tours International website for a list of Cyclosportives you can enter as preparation for the main event.
If you can, going on a training camp to get a week of quality riding in will set you up brilliantly. Your options are the ever popular Club La Santa in Lanzarote in either February or March to escape the British winter, or one of the many other training destinations such as Tenerife or the Costa Blanca.
Below, Albir Gardens, Costa Blanca
WU – warm up
CD – Cool down
Rpm – revolutions per minute
% – use heart rate zones, functional threshold power, or simply rate of perceived exertion.
Easy ride – easy 30-60mins
Cadence training – works well on a trainer or static bike.
WU – 5 mins easy
The hard work – run through twice.
(start with 2mins in each, add 1min each week. )
CD – 5mins easy
Gym / cross-training / stretching
Threshold day 10min warm up, 20min hard (80%), 5min recovery, 20min hard (80%), 5min cool down
(Optional) Easy- 2hrs
long 2-3hrs negative split, first half (70% effort), second half (80% effort). Warm up/ Cool down 10-15mins.
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