Starting Training for the Etape du Tour

Posted on March 3rd, 2010 by Tim Bell in Getting Started, The Road to Tourmalet

There’s a sinking feeling you get on realising you have committed, both financially and emotionally, to something unwise. Looking at the profile of the Etape du Tour 2010 didn’t really give me that feeling, it’s just a yellow picture with a few steep-looking slopes, but they look quite small in a picture.

Etape du Tour 2010 Profile

Etape du Tour 2010 Profile

Knowing that this was the toughest stage the pros would be taking on that year didn’t do it either; this is only one of twenty one, I can handle 4.76% of what they can. Even hearing that Octave Lapize, the first man over the Tourmalet in the Tour de France, hissed “Assassins” at the organisers as he approached the summit didn’t ruffle my feathers; his bike weighed twice what mine would, and the road was full of potholes in 1910.

No, more prosaic than that. The penny farthing finally keeled over while riding up a few hundred metres of vertical wall with my brother; he informed me of the approximate gradient and I realised I would be going up something similar for kilometres – make that dozens of kilometres – at a time. Aerobically I was fairly fit, but my legs had gone into spasm so that I had to get off the bike, and couldn’t straighten them or they would lock out rigid. Work to be done.

I had never ridden, run, or done any kind of exercise for more than an ninety minutes plus injury time (which was to take on new meaning). I had done various bits and pieces quite regularly, and never got really out of shape, but endurance was a new concept to my body. I knew I was going to have to build up endurance, that was obvious, but I hadn’t realised how much leg strength I was going to need to keep turning pedals up a mountain. You can’t just take a breather going uphill on a bike – it goes backwards.

The weather in January 2010 was not pleasant in and around London, but I got in a few sessions riding around Regent’s Park, and visited my brother for some laps of Richmond Park (with a secret extra section out of the park for those ‘vertical metres’), and was up to three hours with plenty lungbusting pushes. I was looking for a picture of cycling in Richmond Park to share with you, because it is probably one of the most spectacular backdrops an urban cyclist can find, but some serendipity rustled this image up which I think is infinitely better.

Attack of 50 Fixed Women - Cycling Regent's Park

Attack of 50 Fixed Women

For the sake of completeness, here is a map of the cycle routes you are allowed to ride around Richmond Park, which should be ignored at all costs.

Richmond Park Cycling Map with Official Cycle Paths

Richmond Park Cycling Map

So far, so good. I had six months’ preparation time, most of which needed to be uphill, so planned to take the advice of several friends and head for the cycle routes of the Surrey Hills. But the weather wasn’t getting any better and it was dark before and after work, so it was time to invest in my first turbo trainer.

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3 Comments on “Starting Training for the Etape du Tour”

  1. Alec

    Hi there

    Good luck with your training for the Etape. It will help to get some hill training ofcourse.


  2. Tim Bell

    Thanks Alec, I’m heading down to Nice this weekend to get some hills under my belt. I’ll write it up next week…

  3. bmx tricks

    Easy to understand,I like it!

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