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L’Etape du Tour Month by Month Training April

Posted on November 7th, 2011

The message this month is short and sweet – It is time to train!

It is April, the days are getting longer, the building blocks are and should be now done, we have three and a half months to put everything together in preparation for the Etape du Tour 2011.

I can’t say it often enough – if March it was time to ride, in April it is time to train.

Hopefully you are getting at least respectful, more likely scared of the fact that the Etape is now looming, these longer days really do bring home the fact that cycling is higher on the agenda.

March was the final month of basic base-building training, your last chance to build easy base miles. The key message was bums on the seat, for those of you doing the Etape de Tour to Alpe d’Huez, we were talking about a 60 mile ride that we wanted completed and completed comfortably. Those of you that are doing the Issiore stage, we were looking at a 70 mile ride that we also wanted to build to comfortably.

So, that’s done, we’re happy and now it’s a bit more intense – it’s time to actually start thinking about how we get quick enough to make sure we finish within the allotted time and combine it with the fitness.

We’re talking about maintaining and building on that base mileage fitness and intensifying it a little with the speed required to avoid the Sag Wagon.

Be warned though the body ain’t going to like it, so this month is going to be pretty tough….


Just a reminder really. We started working on this last month. Hopefully the basic framework of your nutrition is strategy all sorted at this stage, believe me at this time of the year as you start building this mileage you will need it.

Try to take energy drinks with you at all times now as it will help you to maintain a consistent heart rate throughout the ride, equally ensure that you stay well hydrated, and as the miles and intensity increases, keep adapting and trying to get to grips with an energy drinking system that will work for you. Equally, make sure you are refining your eating strategy all the time and that the eating strategy is appropriate as the rides get longer and temperatures get hotter.

April Weekend Rides and Sportives.

The Sportive season is upon us, the nights are longer and somehow and I know how hard this is for the busy amongst us, we have got to find a way within our lifestyle to get the mileage done and to find an increase in intensity.

If you are not planning to do any Sportifs this month, what we want to do now is split our weekends into two different ‘types’.

We are going to have two weekends, the first weekend we will call ‘Weekend A’, occurring for example on the first and the middle weekends of the month. This will incorporate, one long ride (preferably on the Saturday) in keeping with your required distance zones, followed by an easy hour or rest day the following day. This weekend is completely for distance and building bigger base now.

These long rides within ‘Weekend A’ are as follows;

Those riders doing the Alpe d’Huez stage can stick at about 60 miles but what we can do is add some hills and some intensity into these hills. If you have been doing 60 miles on a long ride, now try to get some real relentless hill climbing into this, this in itself will increase the duration of the ride. There is no need to increase the distance, you are already doing race distance but increase the amount of hills and this will in turn increase the amount of time spent on the bike.

Equally, if you are already doing hills then increase the intensity of these hills, try and go 1 tooth further down the cogs going up the hill, if your are not maintaining your cadence as the road tilts up, work hard on intensifying pace so you do, alternatively if you are happy that your techniques are good try and add some 20 minute slightly harder sets into the ride. So for example, add 2 × 20 minute sets going up the biggest hills of the ride of increased exercise effort. It doesn’t have to be crazy, just crank it up a notch on what is your normal or comfortable pace.

If you are doing the Issoire stage we will want to building towards at least one, preferably two 100 mile rides this month over rolling terrain, is time to crack that first century ride.

‘Weekend B’

The second weekend of the month, ‘Weekend B’, let’s cut it down and do 2 × 2-3 hour rides over the weekend but with an increase in intensity. So on the Saturday for example, go out and do three hours but at a pace noticeably more difficult than your stock long ride pace. It is not a long interval, it can include 2 × 20 minute intervals but really just upping the intensity a notch, a perceivable notch and again going out on the Sunday and doing another two hour ride but at that same intensity. This is a particularly relevant weekend for the Issoire riders so work hard here. Alpe D’Huez riders can use it as a recovery type weekend if tired from the hills the week before but increasing the intensity more cadence-wise on this weekend just to give those legs a little more ‘zap’!

So in essence we are using two weekends to build a tolerance to the mileage and two weekends to build a tolerance to intensity so that later on in the training piece we can put these together.

If you are planning on adding some Sportives, maybe do one a month at this stage, they can be your century ride that can also be used to increase your intensity. So if you are doing a Sportive, add that as your ‘Weekend A’ or your long ride weekend but generally the Sportive will utilise an increase in distance and intensity so maybe have a fairly easy weekend the weekend after this to recover and your option after that.

It is great to utilise the Sportives in this capacity as the combination of well stocked feed stations, the atmosphere of other cyclists and the fact that in doing these you will feel well on the way to achieving or at least understanding your objective really helps the miles fly by and aid in trying to sustain this increase intensity.

What we would like to do in an ideal situation is get at least one of these under your belt in April as it is in May that the really tough Sportives within the UK start to come through thick and fast and equally, hopefully you are building towards your training camp or recce in May and June, so using your rides this month to get to the point where you can utilise these Sportives or these training camps to their full potential.

Mid Week Rides

In March and prior to this month we had been aiming for 1 – 2 rides per week, now it is time to get up to 3-4.

Because your weekend rides require increased work on the bike which in turn requires an increased familiarity with the bike, we are equally going to build week day rides.

The extra evening time should allow you to increase these, hopefully with pleasure.

At the moment you have one ‘normal’ short to moderate distance ride per week, we have talked about aiming for 1-2 hours with this.

This stock ride can still be done at an easy pace because you will still be recovering from the weekend, for example on the Tuesday, but continue the theme of volume increase. Thus if this ride was previously 1 hr, now aim for 1.5 hrs. If it was 1.5 hrs, aim for 2 hours. So looking if you can at an easy 90 minute to 2 hour ride at some point during the week.

Having said this, the other aspect to this month’s theme is to start to increase speed and intensity. Ideally then in this regard we could add in a Thursday ride of 1 hour duration on the turbo trainer. Often the turbo trainer rides of short duration are a good option to improve speed so you could look at 1 hour on the turbo trainer but including some short efforts. For example you could try some 5-3-1’s.

These consist of 10 min warm up, 5 minutes hard at an increased intensity to your stock ride pace, 3 minutes really hard or 10 mile time trial pace and 1 minute flat out. Have 10 minutes easy recovery and repeat that, for example 2-3 times.

Equally, if you would prefer to do this on the road on the road, do 2 sets of 7 minutes, 5 minutes, 3 minutes at the same intensity zones.

Either of these will improve your tolerance to speed in a short duration ride out of sight!! Try to wedge these in to your (I know, I know) already busy week now if you can!


In essence, April is near enough the hardest month of training because you are still building on your base and still building on your ability to cope with distance, at the same time adding the increase into the speed work. May and June will build on this but you will be more used to it.

So work hard during April, this is the month where you can set yourself right up for the more fun events that make training more interesting through May and June, building towards enjoying that Etape in July.

As you work hard, and April will be a hard month, stay true to all your building blocks such as cadence, nutrition, bike maintenance, warm clothing and logistical concerns but as that Etape looms on the horizon April is the month to be scared and fear is the trigger to commence training now in earnest.

In May we will talk more about Sportives, more about sharpening up and just how you start preparing through those final months looking forward to completing this year’s Etape du Tour.

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