Welcome to the third of our six-month series of articles supporting you in your training and preparation for the 2017 Etape du Tour.
Over the past few weeks you should hopefully made some changes in your diet, worked at pace control, have an idea about your FTP and be now incorporating some strength training. Hopefully you have now entered some build up events and/or warm weather training. Sports Tours International also give you the opportunity to train with us at one of our European spring camps, or Club La Santa for some sunnier miles.
At 178km long the Etape involves two extremely tough climbs; the Col de Vars and Col D’Izoard. As with other continental rides, the climbs you will face are nothing like you will find in the UK so to ensure you are not caught out and end up in the broom wagon by missing the cut offs we need to make sure you are fully prepared. Our training needs to step up a notch now, with longer rides at the weekend and two important key sessions mid week that will challenge you.
The Etape contains mountains; hills that go on and on and on. So for that reason we are going to build sufficient strength that those hills are ‘easy’, and to be able to hold a solid intensity for up to an hour at a time. Last month we began to build strength with gym work and tested your functional threshold power. Now we start to use that on the bike.
1) Build strength on the bike
2) Nutrition on the bike
3) Protect the knees (spring knee)
1) Build strength on the bike
The long rides are still capped at 4hrs at the weekend and the evening nights are not yet quite long enough to get out mid-week for most people. For that reason we are building on the strength work we started in the gym last month and transferring that to the bike with two key midweek sessions, using the FTP test last month we now start to get a bit more specific with our intensities and train your threshold power.
The long rides are still predominantly easy going ‘just getting the miles banked’, but we’re using a couple of 30min efforts to start to simulate the efforts of climbing those longer hills you’ll encounter at the Etape. At a minimum you want to be getting at least 3 hours in the saddle as your long ride, but for those who can you can stretch that out to 4 hours. There is no need at this stage to be doing longer than that, as the goal is still a little way off.
The two key mid-week sessions are laying the foundations for the event specific work ahead. The first is a climbing specific one, either on a turbo or real hill. If you are using a turbo then you want to raise the front wheel a few inches to replicate the position of cycling up hill. There are various adjustable wheel blocks on the market, or you can use a couple of old phone books! The second is a threshold set to work on your tolerance for those efforts on the climbs. This month we’ll start with the classic of 2×20 min at 80-85%, with 3×20 on the 3rd week.
Continuing the ‘off the bike’ strength work, the gym program is adjusted to work on stability with off-set exercises and unstable surfaces such as a TRX or cable system. This is designed to make you a robust athlete who is less likely to sustain an injury on the bike and miss this crucial training time coming up.
2) Nutrition on the bike
Hopefully you have started experimenting with different nutritional options while riding, but again now we need to get a bit more serious. On your long rides (scheduled for Sunday for those who can fit the rides in the example order) you need to be focused on what you are taking on board, paying particular attention to how your stomach reacts to feeding during the harder 80% effort sections. If you can’t absorb and digest then either you are going too hard or it’s the wrong form of nutrition for you. Below is an example for some home-made energy bars if you want to try making your own.
You also need to pay close attention to your post ride recovery nutrition. There is an optimum window to refuel the body of 15mins. So as soon as you get home and have cleaned the bike get some protein and carbohydrate on board through some form of recovery drink. There are many products on the market, so again experiment to see what works best for you, but often a glass of milk and some fruit can do just as good as the more expensive recovery products. Then once you’ve had your shower eat a proper meal to again start the repair and refuel process in your muscles. If you skimp on your nutrition during this window you run the risk of illness and injury, plus you won’t get the maximum benefit from the training you have just endured.
3) Protect the knees
Cyclists often talk of ‘spring knee’ where the increase in mileage and hills often leads to pain in the knees. This is usually an overload of the tendons from the quads where they attach to the knee cap (quadriceps tendon) or the tendon going from the kneecap to your shin (patella tendon). The usual culprit is increasing the millage and intensity too quickly. If you have been following this plan from the beginning this should not happen, but to be safe we’re going to spend a bit of time on injury prevention for the knees this month so that when the weather improves and we push the training on you don’t end up missing valuable ride time due to injury.
Ideally you will do the following exercises every day, but I’ve scheduled them for Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday as a minimum. The focus is on good tissue quality so that you don’t develop excessive tension from the training load.
Tack and Floss:
Use an old inner tube, cut the valve off and slice it down the middle. This can then be very tightly wrapped around the knee to grip the skin while you perform repeated squats / lunges in order to release any superficial tension between the tendons and skin. You only want to have the band on for a maximum of 2-3minutes as you will reduce the blood flow! If you get pins and needles, the leg goes a funny colour or you get bad pain then take the band off!
Do this below the knee cap around the patella tendon, and above around the quad’s tendon.
Roll the quads, glutes, ITB, adductors for 1minute each area.
Stretch the quads and hip flexors regularly. Watch TV with your foot up on the back of the sofa to stretch the front of the thighs! Or kneeling with the back leg on a gym ball. Hold these stretches for 30 seconds x3 times each leg.
SCR – small chain ring only
LCR – large chain ring only
WU – warm up
CD – Cool down
Rpm – revolutions per minute
% – use heart rate zones, functional threshold power, or simply rate of perceived exertion.
FTP – Functional Threshold Power
Strength – Climbing, turbo with front wheel elevated or real hill.
WU 10min then:
6-8 x 8mins in hardest gear, 50-60RPM. 2mins recovery
Gym – resistance day 2 (below), Core, pilates and mobility
20min hard (80-85% of FTP) with 5min spin recovery
(Week 1&2 = x2 20mins, week 3 = x3, week 4 = only x1)
Rest day (nearly) – only stretch and mobility.
Easy- 2hrs SCR only
60min easy SCR, 30min moderate (70%), 30min hard effort LCR (80%) 10mins easy, 30mins effort LCR, 10mins easy, rest of ride moderate to finish.
Stretch and mobility
Resistance day 1 – Monday:
1 a) Front Squat | 3-4x 10 Reps | Recovery – 60 Secs
1b) TRX Row | 3 x 8 Reps | Recovery – 60 Secs
2a) Off-set split squat (90-90) | 3 x 10 Reps | Recovery – 60 Secs
2b) TRX Push ups | 3 x 8 | Recovery – 60 Secs
3a) Lunges | 3 x 12 | Recovery – 30 Secs
3b) Side Planks | 3×30 sec each side| Recovery – 30 Secs
Recover: 10min easy spin on the bike
Resistance day 2 – Wednesday:
1a) Deadlift 3 -4 x 10 | Recovery – 60 Secs
1b) Pull Ups/ Lat Pull Downs | 3 x 8 | Recovery – 60 Secs
2a) Off Set Step Ups/Downs| 3-4 x 10 | Recovery – 60 Sec
2b) Single Arm Dumbbell Bench Press | 3-4 x 10 | Recovery – 60 Sec
3a) Hamstring curls on a gym ball | 3 x 12 | Recovery – 30 Sec
3b) Front plank | 3 x 30-60 Sec | Recovery – 60 Sec
Recover: 10min easy spin on the bike
Fruit, Nut and Honey bars.
125g unsalted butter, cubed
100g light soft brown sugar
75ml fresh apple or orange juice
Finley grated zest of 1 orange
200g porridge oats
100g dried dated, chopped
100g dried apricots, chopped
50g chopped walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds
125g mixed seeds such as pumpkin, poppy or sunflower
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Put the butter, sugar, honey, fruit juice and orange zest into a large saucepan over a lower heat and stir from time to time until the butter has melted and the ingredients are blended together. Remove from the heat, add the oats, dried dates and apricots, nuts and 100g of the mixed seeds. Stir well.
Transfer the mixture into a 18x25cm shallow baking tin which is lightly greased and base lined with baking parchment. Level the surface with the back of the spoon and sprinkle the remaining seeds evenly over the top. Bake in the oven for 25-30mins until golden brown on top.
Leave the tin to cool before turning out and cutting into squares or fingers with a sharp knife. They will keep for 10 days stored in an airtight tin.
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