Welcome to the first of our five month series of articles supporting you in your training and preparation for L’Etape du Tour 2019. Over the coming months we will guide you through your training; whether this is your first time and you are hoping to complete your ride with a smile, or you are chasing a decent time. We will cover everything from training, bike prep, through to psychology and nutrition.
We hope you are already looking forward to what is sure to be a fantastic experience this summer. While these trips are the best and you’ll remember it for years to come, it will require hard work to get there to achieve your goal . So this first article is to lay some groundwork as to what is required to ensure you and your bike are ready for the challenges ahead.
The 2019 Etape du Tour will start in Alberville and finish 135km and 4,563m of climbing later at the ski resort of Val Thorens. It will also be the highest finish ever for the Etape, as it tops out at 2365m! If you’ve ever ridden the Marmotte before you’ll be use to pedaling in thin air as you go over the Galiber at 2645m. If you haven’t been that high before, basically once you get over 2000m just turning the pedals becomes quite difficult. However, don’t worry we are here to help!
The main climbs
After only 20km just after Beaufort, this route starts to get serious. You have 21km to get to the top of the Cormet, although there is a short descent from Col du Meraillet (that is most welcome). I’ve only two memories of this first section, it starts gentle but then averages over 8% for prolonged sections and it’s almost all in the woods. This should at least provide some shade as the sun should still be low. Your early work is rewarded once you crest the Col du Meraillet because as soon as you pass the Restaurant on the right, the Lac de Roseland will be in full view. It’s always a fantastic sight, although please try to keep your eyes on the road as its narrow and there are a couple of bends (although they are lovely sweeping ones).
The 2nd part of the climb is in my top ten climbs. Ascend away from the Lake, round the corner through the notch in the rock and the fabulous high alpine meadow will reveal itself. Once past the refuge, I always feel that I’m miles from anywhere and really in the high mountains.
Strava Segement here: https://www.strava.com/segments/1569021
The descent is really good, with the hairpins near Les Chapieux (which is on the Tour du Mont Blanc walking route) and ten hairpins at La Croix being the highlights for me.
The Cormet has been the downfall for some great riders in the past. In 1996, the race leader Stéphane Heulot had to withdraw (with knee pain) on this climb and the overall race favorite Miguel Induráin going for a 6th tour victory cracked on the final climb to Les Arcs which came immediately after this one. He would have normally torn up the climb to Les Arcs with it’s low average gradient, however did the Cormet do the damage before he reached it?
This is big! Mainly because it’s one of the longest climbs in France. It’s 36km and averages around 5% depending of what you stats you find.
Strava segment here: https://www.strava.com/segments/2144925 – only 191 riders have tried it so far. After Etape and the Tour it will be over 15,000!
I haven’t ridden this climb (although our Head Rep Ed has) and actually never done a climb this long. The longest I’ve managed to date are around 25km (Grand Col Saint Bernard and Col de Cayolle). I hated Saint Bernard (which was in the middle of a very long ride) but loved Col de Cayolle (this was the first climb of the day), so I think it’s all about how you are feeling. Get to Moutiers with plenty left and you’ll enjoy it (perhaps even fly up it), however if you’ve burned all the matches beforehand it will feel never ending.
How to get started
It’s the end of January, so the event is still a long way off but we need to begin now. Good goals to give yourself this now 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 the weather being unpredictable (we had snow in Manchester today) the chances of poor weather conditions in the northern hemisphere are high, therefore investing in either some rollers or a turbo trainer would be a good option. It is far better to stay indoors 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 collarbone. If in doubt, don’t go out. With plenty of options for providing structure and entertainment to indoor sessions, for example Zwift (which is becoming very popular judging by who we follow on Strava) 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’s still early in the year, so don’t get ahead of yourself and try and smash big miles yet. Many 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, there’s no need to stress about heart-rates or power meters. We will explain, 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 keeping a training diary is very useful. An Online program is definitely the way to go, using technology makes everything easier than keeping 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 £110 to £500. This article gives you an good overview of what’s available: 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, consider joining a local cycling club and learn 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 freezing! The British Cycling website is a good resource for UK riders looking to find their nearest club – https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/
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 its well worth doing; 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, 50/34 (or 52/36 with good range on the cassette)) if you don’t already have one. It might also be worth thinking about extra gears at the back, although there isn’t anything that is very steep for very long 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 other Cyclosportives you can enter as preparation for the main event. Getting an early season Classic challenge ride booked in will really help. Also go back to British Cycling and search for some local sportive rides.
If you can, going on a training camp to get a week of quality riding in will set you up brilliantly. We have options at the ever popular Club La Santa in Lanzarote in either February, March or April to escape the British winter, or the training destinations of the Pros such on our Costa Blanca training week.
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 exercise bike.
WU – 5 mins easy
The hard work – run through twice.
(start with 2mins in each, add 1min each week. )
CD – 5mins easy
Gym session/ cross-training / stretching. Try some different cardio and strength training. This is great for getting ideas on training peaks.
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.
This should hopefully get you going and heading in the right direction. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch on twitter or on email firstname.lastname@example.org
About the author.
After getting addicted to Fell Running in the early noughties, I discovered the joys of hurting myself on a road bike about 8 years ago. I’ve trained for and completed many big sportives such as The Fred Whitton, Etape du Dales, Ronde Van Calderdale, Liege Bastonge Liege, Tour of Flanders, Roubaix Challenge (many times, this is definitely an addiction too!), the Marmotte and the Etape 2014 (it was freezing) and 2016 (it was boiling). When I’m not riding my bike or fell racing, I’m the Sports Marketing Manager at Sports Tours International.
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