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L’Etape du Tour Month by Month Training January

Posted on November 7th, 2011

Getting started for training

You need to respect and fear the Etape, because this is a really tough course and bodies litter the road. This is why we’re starting to train now, so that you’re not one of them. That said, don’t panic, we’ve got loads of time, so don’t just jump on the bike and bash out a bunch of miles!

6 months to go. It’s just after Christmas and the scales are probably dominating your thoughts as is the realisation of what you’ve signed up for!

Lets start by assessing your bike.

You are going to spend a lot of time on this bike over the coming months. First and foremost you need to avoid injury, go and get a bike set up. Get your bike set up properly for from a reputable bike fitter who can do a good job for you.

 Get it serviced;

  • Get some good winter tyres on it;
  • Make sure that the bike is in the right condition to work with you through the training plan;
  • Look at your gears, most people are going to need a compact chain set for at least Act 1, probably Act 2 as well, so this being the case, you may as well get this on early and get used to it. For a lot of the UK Sportives you will use as preparation you will end up going up various, very steep climbs. No-one ever fails to finish a Sportive or hill climb because they had gears that were too easy, plenty fail because they had a gear selection they couldn’t pedal. Have a compact chain set and an understanding of how this works and the gears relevant for you.

Injury Prevention

If you have a history of knee issues, book in with a physio to get a muscle balance assessment to see if there is any strengthening work that is required in the gym and start having a think about your training, stretching etc. Please follow this link for injury prevention advice as you progress through you training plan.


In terms of planning, start looking at your training week and how you are going to fit this amount of riding into 7 days.

This can be done with the help of your coach – should you have one, or it might be that you look at how you can incorporate it into your commute to work.

Just start trying to think how you are going to get some riding in over the course of the week and particularly the weekends. Remember you’ll need to put in at least one long ride a week.

Yes, now a vital part of the training will be some cooking and cleaning – to earn brownie points from the other half, when the training really gets moving!!

Look at the Sports Tours International Sportives and training and try and plan a number of intermediate sportives in the UK that lead you into the distance and vertical metre-age of the Etape that is most relevant to you.

Some people find that going to Club La Santa in January or February is a good way to kick off their season and many have already taken part in some of Sports Tours International’s specialist camps.

Others find that riding the Etape route in May or June is a good way to help them understand the challenge ahead as the heavy training starts and they can then modify what they are doing accordingly.

Think about how you are going to ride. Obviously with the Alpine Etape it is all about climbing, 4000 metres of climbing, you are either going up or going down. For you, training is going to consist largely of hills, start thinking about the hills you are going to ride, start preparing yourself for riding bigger and bigger hills over the course of the training programme.

If you are doing the Issoire stage, start thinking about your mileage. Try and get one long ride a week. If you are riding 30/40 miles quite comfortably through January then you are good shape, this is going to become around 60 miles in February / March, so start building towards that now.

Don’t get ahead of yourself. Don’t panic and do too much. This is about a gradual build up.

 I find that with a lot of people I have mentored they struggle to get enough mid-week rides, particularly in the Winter where the nights aren’t so good and also because of work.

Don’t worry, just start banging out one good long ride per week at the weekend, start by fitting that into your lifestyle. This ride as I say, 30/40 miles at the moment, it is going to build to 50/60 next month.

January is all about getting everything organised, plan your training routes, plan your training week, plan to see whether you need a coach, plan your build up races, get your bike and everything set up and just start riding.

Don’t worry about heart rate, power etc, just start riding your bike and enjoying it and most importantly get used trying to fit your bike riding into your normal working week. Your ability to juggle and find time will get better as you get used to everything and thus your mileage and ability to fit milage in will improve concurrently as you progress through the plan!


To conclude this month, I went round a few of the riders I have mentored in previous years and asked them what was the best advice they were given in preparation for the Etape.

Resoundingly the top three were:

  • Ride hills and lots of them.
  • Get one long ride a week in as often as you can, if you can’t get anything else in that week, don’t worry, just get that one long ride in.
  • Plan a recce trip of the route to understand just how big these mountains are, or an early season warm weather training camp at some point in the build up

Remember, you have got six months to train from here, missing a day or doing an easier ride on the turbo trainer will take you a lot further than squeezing a ride in the ice, coming off and being out for the next six weeks.

So be smart, be careful and start getting organised, we will see you next month for some more advice.

> Go back to month-by-month training breakdown

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