The magical taper time, this is the tricky balance of reducing the training stress so that you hit the big day fresh as a daisy, but not loosing any fitness or getting heavy legged. Each person is different as to how they respond, some may need only a 7-10 day taper, others will need longer. If this is your first event then I would recommend a 2 week taper, but those with more experience and knowledge of how your body responds may want to try a shorter taper period. Remember that any training session will take 3 weeks to have an impact on your fitness, therefore any sessions you do within this 3 week window before your event are not going to make you any better on the day (so don’t bury yourself in the hope of further improvements), we just want to maintain the fitness you’ve built up.
Keep up with your stretching and definitely consider a pre-race massage, especially if you have any lingering soreness. You can now book a pre race (or post race) massage through our partner Massage Me. They will be present at our Expo tent throughout the registration days pre-event. You must pre-book, more details here.
How to Taper
2 week taper – from your final big weekend you want to drop the volume to 50%, so the long ride is 2-3hours, do x4 reps of the speed endurance set and x2-3 6mile tempo’s. 1 week out this reduces to a 2hour long ride, x2-3 reps speed endurance and 2x 6miles tempo.
A few days before the event you will have the added stress of travel on your body, but we don’t want to get heavy legged so a couple of short sharp sessions are worth doing to keep the legs feeling good.
Friday – REST / TRAVEL
Saturday – 30-40min easy spin with x5 30 sec sprints to flush the legs
Sunday – Your Big Day!
Remember that when you arrive for your event the Sports Tours International team will be on hand to help you with registration, setting your bike up, and answering any questions you may have
A few points about this final phase.
It is normal to doubt your fitness and worry that you’ve not done enough, but don’t try and cram any extra sessions in as they won’t improve your fitness now but run the risk of leaving you too tired.
It is normal to suddenly feel massively tired and doubt your ability to even climb the stairs let alone a mountain on your bike, especially at the start of the taper phase, it will pass and you will come good.
It is normal to get loads of little aches and pains, your body is just enjoying the rest and dealing with all the built up stress, you are not falling apart.
It is normal to feel like you are coming down with a cold, you will have had a hard final build up and your immune system can be stressed. I often get a sore throat leading up to an event which is brought on by think about the event, which leads to some adrenaline, which makes me swallow much more often. I’m always convinced I’m getting ill, but actually it’s just a dry throat from nerves!
Do use the reduced training time to spend some quality time with your friends and family, payback for all the long hours you’ve been out on the bike, but don’t be having late nights down the pub!
Do not use this time to tackle all those DIY jobs that have been mounting up, digging in the garden or painting the spare room is not resting!
Do keep the hydration up, it can take a few days to fully recover from getting dehydrated so make sure you’ve always got a bottle of water available and drink, drink, drink!
Don’t go overboard with the nutrition, the volume of training is going down but the intensity is still there. You don’t need to be eating more, just keep it the same. Excessive ‘carbo-loading’ will simply make you feel bloated and can lead to gastro-intestinal distress (emergency dashes to the bushes when out on your bike!).
Do get as much sleep as possible, especially at the start of the final week as the travel and night before may disrupt your normal sleep pattern.
Don’t go changing anything now. Stick to what you have been practising and you know works for you. Froome’s attack on stage 19 in the Giro might have looked unbelievable, but it was the complete opposite. The team’s strategy that day was to do exactly what they do in training, therefore they already knew that he would be able to maintain the effort!
Final packing tips
If you’ve not ordered your nutrition do it now! Stick with what you have trained with.
Start thinking about your packing now. It always takes longer than anticipated, so the last thing you want to do is be up all night, the night before you travel trying to get your pride and enjoy in that bike case. Also it’s worth writing a checklist of all the items you want to take with you (full kit list for all weather conditions and equipment you need for the bike).
Final reminder: Don’t try to pack in training now. You’ll just end up turning up in France tried. If you feel you need another decent ride before the Etape, do it this weekend and rest more than you would afterwards to ensure that you recover from the effort.
Thank you for following this series of training articles, all that is left is to say; trust the training, enjoy yourself and make sure you look pro for the photographers!