Sports Tours International
Welcome to the first of a six month series of articles supporting you in your training and preparation for L’Etape du Tour 2016. 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 body and bike mechanics, through to psychology and nutrition.
The 2016 L’Etape du Tour
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 route for the 2016 edition of the Etape du Tour covers 146km, with 4 climbs. You’ll set off from the resort of Megeve, passing through Flumet and climbing the Col des Aravis. After a short descent into le Grand-Bornard, you’ll then climb the Col de la Colombiere. The third climb officially starts in Mieussy, but in reality you will be gradually heading uphill for about 15km before you reach this point. The following 14km until the summit of the Col de la Ramaz are much steeper, with an average gradient of more than 7%, before the descent down into Taninges and the only real flat section, taking you just over 10km to Samoens. The final climb is the most testing, at an average gradient of 8.5% spread across 11.6km, before you begin the long descent into the town of Morzine.
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 January, the event is still a long way off but we need to begin to focus. Your goals this month are:
1) Find a training routine that will work around your family, job, and social life.
2) Ensure your body is in good working order.
3) Ensure your bike is in good working order.
4) Start planning the next six months.
1)Finding a training routine
Over the next six months you are going to spend many hours in the saddle to prepare fully. This time will be taking you away from your family, work and any social life. If you have a coach, you want to discuss with them how to structure your training for your own specific goals. If you don’t already have a coach it is certainly something worth considering. The benefits of using a coach are that your training plan will be designed specifically for you and can maximise your training time by eliminating the planning and preparation to write your program. They can be a critical friend to help you make objective decisions about your training, and a coach will deliver a holistic approach by getting you to work on your weaknesses as well as technical and psychological aspects to your training. Lastly a coach can act as a motivator through the feedback process.
A coach is not essential to do well; many riders are self-coached, so if you are going down this route think about how you are going to structure your training week. 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 strength and conditioning either at home or at a gym. At the end of this article is an example training plan for January.
With it being January the chances of poor weather conditions in the UK are high, therefore investing in either some rollers or a turbo trainer would be a sensible option. It is far better to stay indoors if/when the snow and ice hit and to do a shorter turbo than to go out, fall off, and miss six weeks with a broken arm/leg. If in doubt, don’t go out.
Remember it is only January, so don’t get ahead of yourself and try and smash some big millage yet. People can get carried away, peak their fitness in April but be knackered 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).
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 Trainingpeaks.com (free version 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.
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!
2) Ensure your body is in good working order
Your body is going to take a lot of punishment over the forthcoming months, and any current niggling injuries are not going to magically disappear. Your legs are going to make hundreds of thousands of revolutions on a regular basis, so any imbalances, instabilities, postural or movement dysfunctions are eventually going to lead to an injury. It would be a great shame to get to 3 weeks out from the event and have an injury that will prevent you from riding, or be hounded by a nagging pain that limits your training in the build up resulting in a ride on the broom wagon. Therefore, book yourself in with a physio who has knowledge and experience of cyclists and cycling injuries who can check you over and prescribe you specific supplementary training to keep you fit and injury free. As part of this series we will be giving you examples of strength and conditioning work you can do, but this can never replace the benefit of a one-to-one assessment. The cost of one physio session now could save you the cost of six later on.
Accompanying this month’s article is a PDF with some example stretches for the quads and hip flexors, areas that are notoriously tight in cyclists. Start getting in a routine of stretching these areas after each ride, and before bed after hard training sessions. Prevention is better than cure, and preventing these areas getting too tight will save you from many potential injuries.
3) Ensure your bike is in good working order
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.
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 if you don’t already have one, while you don’t have to fit one now it might be worth switching now and getting used to the gearing nice and early.
4) Start planning the next six months.
Looking further ahead it is useful to have some build up events where you can practice your nutrition and pacing strategies. Have a look on the Sports Tours International website for a list of sportives 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 January or February to escape the British winter, or one of the many other training destinations such as Majorca or the south of Spain. If you are chasing a specific time or finish position, then getting out in May or June and riding the Etape route also helps you understand the challenge ahead and modify your training accordingly.
Example January Training plan
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.
Ride the Etape du Tour. Click here for more information.
Click here for the: Exercise descriptions
Phase 1 Jan
Recovery rides- easy 30-60mins SCR
Core/ Gym/ Mobility
WU – 5mins easy
MS (x2 through)
(start with 2mins in each, add 1min each week. )
CD – 5mins easy
Core/ gym / pilates / mobility
Threshold 10min warm up, 20min hard (80%), 5min recovery,
2hrs SCR only
long 2-3hrs negative split, SCR first half (70%), LCR second half (80%).
Be sure to check out our latest news at the start of every month for our month by month Etape du Tour training guide. We wish you the very best of luck!
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@rbr1979 Thanks Rich, we're glad you enjoyed it, there's some fantastic climbs in there