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L’Etape du Tour Month by Month Training May

Posted on November 7th, 2011

I am sure May seemed like a long way off early in January, in the cold, dark winter days as you were first starting your training. If you have followed the series of articles diligently, you will know that the hardest month is now behind you.

The weather is warmer and the days are longer providing much more time and motivation for training and hopefully what you have managed to do is break the back of your overall training volume by conquering April.

April was particularly hard because we needed to get up that fitness to avoid the dreaded Sag wagon.

So hopefully over the last 4 weeks you managed:

– to enter a couple of Sportives to get some competitive riding under your belt or you may have even started it already.
– to split your weekends into Week A and Week B to aid your prepration.
– to increase your overall rides during the week from 2-3 to 3-4.
– to look at your nutrition strategy.
Yep, no doubt about it, it was a tough old month was April.

But if you’re still reading this(!), that bit’s over and we’re starting to see the Etape around the corner.

May: consolidation and diligence

May is about consolidating April. We gave you loads and loads to do in April and when you look back at the April article it is actually quite a tough read because all of a sudden you have got structured interval sets, you have got speed rides, volume rides, we are asking you to increase hills, we are asking you to increase intensity and for all but the most disciplined of Etapist or those without jobs, we will have only got part of it done.
So in May the plan is to look at everything we’ve done so far and bring it up to speed.

We need to make sure the foundations we laid in January, February and March are done. Really be honest with yourself and check and double check all the basic structures of the framework we’ve been putting into place and make sure that every box has been ticked.

Are there any elements here, such as cadence that we need to readdress during this month?

While you’re doing all of this, I’d suggest writing down any areas of weakness so that you can really work on them in May – again you really must be honest with yourself here. It’s a bit like revision.

Next take a deep breath and have a look at the April article and make sure you’ve completed everything I talked about there. If you haven’t, that’s what May’s for.

Consolidate or build that base distance, consolidate or build that volume and if you haven’t managed to add those extra rides in or that extra little bit of intensity or complete the sets of 7, 5, 3 or 5, 3, 1, that you aim to have a proper go through this month.

So, May is kind of like a house-keeping month, a chance to assess where you’re at and make any amends or alterations to your personal programmes to guarantee you’re all ready to go in June and July.

Sportives/Club Cycling

Ideally you will get a chance to ride in a couple of Sportives, which are the best single pieces of preparation for the Etape. Mainly because they’re a fun way to increase intensity and get that long mileage done in a varied and more social setting. Plus you’ll get to meet other Etapists, share experiences and get motivated.

Equally with this increased intensity and often distance or terrain difficulty it provides an opportunity to test and refine your nutritional race strategy, analysing how you body will react at race pace with the addition of organised feed stations.
An extremely important by product of competing in these sportives is that it gets you used to group riding. Group riding has already been mentioned previously in the articles. It’s vital to get involved at close quarters with other groups of cyclists, practising your descending at speed within this group, critical for both of the Etape stages and getting you used to controlling your speed, pacing, excitement and bike handling within a larger group of cyclists.

Whilst there is no need for Alp D’Huez Etapists to go out on your own and ride 100 miles, please feel free to enter 100 mile Sportives at this stage because the speed done over 100 miles on an English rolling Sportif will equate to the amount of time it will take to do the large mountain climbs and overall volume of the shorter Etape stage.

Those of you doing the Issoire stage should build towards entering at least 2 × 100 mile-ers of the more ‘tasty’ Sportifs throughout the month. We still need to build on mileage and time duration for those doing the Issoire stage because it is quite a nasty, hilly ride over a longer duration than most English Sportives.

Equally, between Sportives try and find a local club, go out with a club run with some of the cyclists involved. Club runs can be an easy 50-60 mile spin for those of you doing the recovery weeks between Sportives. The cruise along at a spinning pace will help you be around other cyclists presenting an opportunity to copy their gears and cadence and spin along quite comfortably in a group of other cyclists at close quarters. Club cyclists will generally ride a lot closer than those in a Sportif and in a more structured way.

It will also enable you to understand the communication that exists between cyclists as they ride along in a group. Don’t be afraid of turning up to a club run, in all the club runs I have ever turned up to the club members have been very, very supportive and encouraging for those of you on your first ride. They will generally ask if it is your first ride and help you integrate into the group from there. Generally the local club can be found on the internet and most of these sites list their club runs and meeting points.

Check out the course

Aside from the kick off of the Sportive season, when we look back to the early articles we spoke about a course recce weekend in May or some of the Etape training camps. Hopefully you have got some of these to look forward to this month. If you aren’t doing a recce, spend some time this month getting hold of some course descriptions and / or a DVD of the course to start to get your head familiar with what you are undertaking, start visualising what you are doing, this will help with the motivation.


Unfortunately the end of May and early June are the peak months for injury, so again re read the injury prevention articles and make sure you increase your stretching at proportionally to your increase in mileage. I know this adds extra constraints on your time but please don’t be one of those victims that gets four or five months into their training regime only to break a month before the Etape. This month might be a good month to book in some sports massage to help those limbs calm down a fraction from all the work that you are doing.

For the efficient ones amongst you, you may want to get your bikes booked in for a service ten days before you are due to leave. There will be a big rush of people looking for bike servicing in the week before the Etape so make sure this is all booked in early.

Order your tyres and tubes for the ride or start making enquiries as to which ones might be best for you or your favourites to make sure that nothing gets out of stock. There is probably no need to order the nutritional products quite yet because these will continue to be refined as you ride more in the heat and as you ride more at race pace, you will still be learning about the strategies involved.

And last but not least, check and recheck your travel arrangements, work out how you are going to package up your bike and/or get it there. Make sure you have ticked all the boxes and everything is good for the Etape, nothing is left to chance. Sports Tours International will be in touch shortly to give you a full run down of what to expect.

By the end of May you should be at optimal fitness, so through June you can start to sharpen up speed, and sharpen up precision of that fitness. Your last Sportif is likely to be three weeks before the Etape so towards the end of June and after that you will be doing a two to three week taper.

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