Welcome to the second of our six-month series of articles supporting you in your training and preparation for the 2016 Etape du Tour.
Over the past few weeks you should hopefully have got your bike and your body checked out to ensure you are both up to the challenge ahead. This would be via an injury prevention screening, bike service and bike fit. If you have not yet done so then make these a priority now. You should now have an established training routine that works around your family and work life, and pencilled in 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 146km long the Etape involves 4 tough climbs; the Col des Aravis, Col de la Ramaz, Col de la Colombiere and Col de Joux Plane. 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. We will therefore start to think about your nutrition, your threshold power, and strength. All of which will help lay the foundations to improve your power-to-weight ratio come the big event and see you flying up those mountains!
It’s now February, after getting yourself in good order for the training ahead it’s now time to start getting serious. The weekend rides are still focused on building basic endurance, with the mid-week sessions keeping your neural pathways firing on the turbo and building strength so you can cope with the stresses to come when the weather warms up and the days get longer. The cadence drills are to work on your pedalling efficiency, and the fartlek session is to build your pace control. While the dark nights still prevent us from getting out on the roads after work, you can use your rest days to practice other useful skills such as ‘puncture practice’. Practice changing your inner tubes (or tubs) on the front and back wheels as quick as possible, record your PB’s (post them on our Facebook page and challenge your friends!). If you use CO2 then again practice with the canister at least once. It’s better to get it right now that waste 30mins on the day.
Your key goals this month are:
1) Clean up your diet.
2) Pace control and your FTP.
3) Strength training in the gym.
1) Clean up your diet
You need to be fuelling effectively for the training and the recovery. We will work to optimise your ‘race-weight’ closer to the time, for now you just need to start by analysing your current diet before trying to implement any significant changes if required. So keep a food diary for between 3 and 7 days, record everything you eat and drink, then look back at it for a true reflection of what your diet is like.
For an endurance events such as the Gran Fondo’s and Sportives, fat needs to be your main fuel source and you need to train your body to use fat preferentially over carbohydrates. There has been a lot of media attention recently regarding our sugar addiction and over the subsequent articles we will start to make further changes to your diet in order to maximise your performance, as well as your overall health. For those who always have a high carbohydrate/sugar based breakfast before your long rides try a higher fat and protein breakfast instead and see if you get the same fade towards the end of your rides. The baked omelette recipe at the end of the article is a good example of a different start to your day.
But for now I want to focus on 3 basic rules:
The basic rules
1) Eat enough. A lack of calories (calorie deficit) will result in your body having to break down tissues such as muscle in order to get the nutrients to supply the essential organs and functions (brain/ heart/ etc). This break down, known as catabolism, severely compromises your ability to repair tissue damage from the workouts and thus slows your recovery, or could lead to breakdown and injury. You do not need to obsessively count calories (the whole notion of a calorie as an accurate unit of measurement has been shown to be flawed anyway so don’t bother), instead you want to monitor your workout performance and body weight. When you are not eating enough the first indicator is a decline in your performance. In a prolonged catabolic state your body weight will decline while your body fat percentage remains the same, indicating you are losing muscle not fat. Think about where your protein is coming from and ensure each meal is built around a protein source, then add the carbohydrates from a vegetable base rather than purely quick acting carbs’ such as processed grains. On the bike start to experiment with different ways of fueling yourself. For some this will be the traditional gels and bars, for others it will be dried fruit, fig rolls, boiled potatoes, or even bacon butties! Use this time to try different foods and get in the habit of eating on your longer rides.
2) Don’t forget the fat. Fat is essential for healthy cell function, and some fats help regulate the inflammatory process. Therefore by including healthy fats in your diet you will prevent small injuries / inflammations (some of which is normal after a hard workout) from turning into a full blown injury. Include oils, nuts and seeds to get your good fats.
3) Hydrate adequately. Thirst is a well developed mechanism to tell you when you need to drink, listen to it. Always have a bottle of water with you so you can keep yourself topped up during the day. There are no fixed rules as to how much you should drink, forcing yourself to drink more than you require will in some people have disastrous consequences. On the bike get in good habits of regularly taking a drink, but quantity is based on thirst. For those who don’t like drinking plain water during the day, try flavouring it with lemon or lime wedges, mint leaves or another form of natural flavouring.
2) Pace Control and FTP
Learning about pace control is essential to prevent you going too hard early on and blowing up, or not achieving your potential by going too easy either! A good training session to learn pacing and changes of pace is the fartlek sessions. I’ve included both time and distance as the measure of work in the example training plan, you can use either to regulate the changes of pace, see which you prefer. It is important to understand the feel of different paces, but if you can also record your heart rate or power output to place some ceilings on different intensities.
To accurately gauge your different effort levels you need to understand about your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). FTP is defined as the maximum average power a cyclist can sustain for 1hour. By knowing what your FTP is you can ensure you don’t repeatedly go over this on the climbs and blow up before the end. In an ideal world you will have a power meter to measure this, but heart rate and even ‘rate of perceived exertion’ can be used to guide you. To find your FTP the pure test is to warm up, then ride as hard as you can for 1hour with the resulting average power being your FTP. However, a 1hour test is both mentally and physically tough to do, therefore a shorter 20min threshold effort, known as a critical power (CP) 20, is often a better way of testing yourself. Again warm up for 20mins then do 4x 1min hard efforts to get the legs working, take 3mins as an easy spin. Then ride hard for 20mins, build gradually over the first 5mins, hang on for the next 10 and finally bury yourself for the final 5mins. Your FTP is then 92-95% of this average power (or simply the average heartrate for the 20mins), as you are able to work harder for 20mins than you can for 60. The higher your FTP the harder you can push on the endurance rides and especially the climbs. So this month find out what your starting FTP is and we will re-test this before the main event to help guide your pacing on the day.
3) Strength training
In the previous article I talked about how joining a pilates class or gym would help reduce the risk of injuries. This month we will build on that concept and give you more pointers on sessions you can do to improve your cycling. By including strength training in your program you can reduce your risk of sports injuries by up to a 1/3 and overuse injuries by half (Lauersen et al. 2013). We’ll add over-gearing and hill reps on the bike in due course, but while the weather is against us it is a great time to hit the gym. While performance gains from weight training for endurance events such as the Gran Fondo’s and sportives are questionable, the reduction in injury risk is worth its inclusion to ensure you are able to keep putting the miles in the bank. Also, if you are an older athlete (over the age of 50) then strength training certainly needs to be part of your overall program to slow the natural loss of strength and power as part of the aging process. A personalised program from a strength and conditioning coach is ideal, but the following is a good all-round gym program.
Foam roller / tennis ball 30secs each area
Feet, Calves, Peroneals, Quads, Glutes, TFL/ITB, Groin/Adductors
Pecs, Lats, Posterior shoulder
Hip flexor stretch 2x30sec into Bridge 2×10 reps
Dead bug x8 (each leg)
Side lying rotational reach x8 each side
Half kneeling rotations x8 each side
Hip flexor stretch +/- band x8 mobs each side
Scapular wall slides x8
Wall ankle mobilisations (+/- band) x8 each leg
Hip opener lunge stretch x8 each leg
Body weight squat x8
Resistance day 1:
Exercise Tempo Reps Rest
1a) Goblet squat (DB/ kettlebell) 301
3-4x 10 60sec
1b) Inverted Row 311 3x 8 60sec
2a) split squat (90-90) 301 3×8 60sec
2b) Push ups 301 3×8 60 sec
3a) Single leg Deadlift 311 3×8 30 sec
3b) Gym ball ab’ roll outs 301 3×8 60 sec
Resistance day 2:
Exercise Tempo Reps Rest
1a) Deadlift 301 3-4x 10 60sec
1b) Pull ups/ lat pull downs 211 3×8 60sec
2a) Body weight step ups/downs 301 3-4×10 60sec
2b) Dumbbell bench press 301 3-4×10 60sec
3a) Hamstring curls on a gym ball 301 3x 12 30sec
3b) Front plank Static hold 3x 30-60sec 60sec
10min easy spin on the bike
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
FTP test set
20 mins (gradually build intensity)
4x 1min HARD, 1min easy
3mins easy recovery
20mins max effort (start steady for 5mins, build for 10mins then bury yourself for the final 5mins). Record average HR, distance, power.
5mins easy spin
Recovery rides- easy 30-60mins SCR
WU – 5mins easy
MS (x2 through)
(start with 2mins in each, add 1min each week. )
CD – 5mins easy
Core/ gym / pilates / mobility
Alternate time / distance
WU then Time 6 mins ez – 4 mins moderate – 2 mins hard = 12 mins x 6 then S/D
WU then Distance 6 miles ez – 4 miles moderate – 2 mile hard = 12 miles x 2 Then S/D
2hrs SCR only
long 3hrs negative split, SCR first half (70%), LCR second half (80%). Warm up/ Cool down 10-15mins.
Recipe of the month
Baked omlette – per person.
Handful of Ground almonds
1-2 tbsp Dessicated coconut / coconut flour
½ tsp bicarb
1 mashed banana
raisins / other dried fruit, honey, maple syrup, yoghurt, experiment!
Mix together then place on greaseproof paper in a baking tin and
bake for 15-20mins at 190degrees.
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