First things first – congratulations on making it this far, it’s now time to get excited about the race! You’re now on the home straight and the finish line is almost in sight.
In June all the long training has practically been done. You should now be fit enough to take on either (or both) the Etapes. What we need to do now is make sure you’re fast enough to finish within the cut off time; and give that fitness some form of precision.
With base training done and dusted, this month, we’ve got to consolidate and push the speed work in preparation for actually enjoying the 3 week taper. Read that again – yes it means just 3 more tough weeks of training before that magical taper phrase!
For those of you doing the Alpe d’Huez stage, we want to give you a nice easy three week taper to sharpen and hone your fitness so you can be at your peak potential for the race, thus your taper will start on around the 20th June.
For those of you doing the Issoire stage, you will start a week later on around the 27th of June.
So this is it – your ultimate goal is right there on the horizon, both sets of Etapist’s should be pushing hard through the final phase significantly increasing the intensity right through until the last few weeks of June.
Then the taper arrives, like the beginning of a holiday!
Fortunately with May being a review of all the technical aspects of your training, you should now be at a point that not only are you fit enough, but you are also a more economical and proficient cyclist overall.
You have completed your interval sets in preparation for this month so your 7, 5, 3’s on the road with your 5 3 1’s on the trainer may not necessarily be getting any easy, but they will certainly becoming more familiar.
You have had a bit of a go at group riding, hopefully you’ve got a couple of Sportives in, maybe you’ve even had the chance to get a couple of club runs in and you should, at this point, be starting to feel more familiar in a group. Hopefully those of you doing the Alpe d’Huez stage have got a 100 mile Sportive under your belt and are starting to feel more comfortable on the climbs themselves.
Those of you doing the Issoire stage should have done some really significant Sportives or some really long miles building towards the 130 mile marker in preparation for the distance of your event. The lucky ones amongst you will have got away on a training camp through May. Hopefully you’ll also have been over to France to recce the course itself, so that you can gain a better understanding of what is in store and how you will ‘manage’ the ride.
Of course if you didn’t get a chance to head to France, a good bit of Google work or a DVD should help you visualise and prepare. You may also have your race number by now and even know which pen you are starting in.
The more organised amongst you will have booked your bike in for a service during the taper phase and have looked at the various transport options for your bike i.e. boxes, bags etc.
A lot of you will have refined your nutritional plan and are at the point where you can now start ordering your nutritional products.
Don’t worry if you haven’t done all the above, you can use this final month to get all these little bits and pieces sorted out. But don’t leave it too late as you’ll be amazed how busy bike shops will be at this time and how difficult it can be to find that great nutritional product when everyone else is also putting in an order.
Right, race fitness. Whichever Etape you’re cycling, it’s ideal to get 2 Sportives completed at race pace. Ideally the final one of these is done the weekend prior to the taper, if only to herald the end of the tough training and the beginning of the new taper phase – did I mention taper again?!
Doing these at what you perceive to be your true race speed, provides one last test of your nutritional strategy, one last test of your fitness, gets your body used to riding the length of distance at race pace and most specifically as you approach full fitness, gives you an opportunity to calculate and refine what your true sustainable race pace actually is!!
These are your dress rehearsals.
Another big aspect of June is to incorporate some form of interval sets into your rides. So for example, your Tuesday ride, which we mentioned in April was to extend to around 1.5 hours at stock pace, now becomes a heavy interval set. You’ve only got 3 weeks of intervals to do, so you need to make them all good quality.
I like to do it this way:
A good warm up and then look at an 8 minute effort at moderate to heavy going, so around a good solid race pace.
Then have 2 minutes recovery.
Then repeat the 8 minute effort at the same level.
Then have 2 minutes recovery.
Then 2 minutes fairly hard, over and above race pace as if you are really struggling on a climb.
Following this have eight minutes recovery and try and repeat this 3 times , that makes for a very very hard Tuesday ride.
You will probably only do 3 rides/weeks of this nature so don’t fear after the first one but you will adapt to this quite quickly.
As far as your Thursday ride goes, this has up until now been on the turbo trainer utilising the 5, 3, 1 efforts, so 5 minutes hard, 3 minutes very hard, 1 minute full noise.
Now if you are finding that your legs are quite heavy and quite tough after the above Tuesday set then continue this along its present guise If however you are feeling okay, then some longer steadier work can be quite a good addition, we will revisit some some 5 3 1’s in July to really sharpen things up but for the rest of this month a good Thursday ride now might be:
4 minutes moderate to hard, straight into 4 minutes slightly harder, straight back into 4 minutes moderate to hard and back up to 4 minutes slightly harder again. So 4, 4, 4, and 4.
Another way of putting this might just be 4 minutes fairly hard, straight into 4 minutes a bit down, 4 minutes a bit up again and 4 minutes a bit down. Have a nice long active recovery following this and just repeat that 2 to 3 times depending on the ride length.
I find this interval set in particular really good for improving my steady state mountain climbing power, it would be a particularly good one for Alpe d’Huez if done in a largish gear, it is also quite tough so you will arrive at the weekend quite tired so make sure you have a decent rest day on the Friday.
As far as the weekend goes, we have talked about having two tough Sportives. If you are not doing a Sportive or for your weekend rides between Sportives, chop the duration down a little bit and look at a 3-5 hour ride but include 2 to 3 20minute hard efforts, so these are full noise 20 minute time trial efforts.
These efforts can be done on a hill if you are doing the Alpe d’Huez stage, for the Issoire stage this is probably just as well done on rolling terrain but in essence the ride should be 3-5 hours at a relevant course profile but with 2-3 20minute hard efforts.
Again, this will make for a very tough week, but the deal is you are probably only going to need to do 3 or 4 of these really good sharpened weeks to hone all that base mileage into some good quality race pace speed. You will have three weeks of fairly heavy legs with the Sportives, the interval sets, even the 20minute efforts on your long rides but you have got three weeks of bliss in terms of your taper to look forward to.
The only other thing to brush up on this month if you haven’t done already and/or are still uncomfortable with it is the group riding, again the Sportives will help. Try and make sure you are involved with cyclists at close quarters. Go looking for the biggest group starting off in the Sportives and try and get in and amongst them and feel comfortable with them.
The Etape is a crazy size bunch for those of you who have less experience in the pack so the more you can get the better and more you will enjoy the day.
This article largely covers the first three weeks of June specifically and I will help you out with the taper as move into it.
So at this point you are all set, you are on the home straight, it is time to get excited and channel that excitement into some of the intensity and speed of your training. This will be a very tough three weeks but you will be all over it because the Etape is just around the corner, you can see it on the horizon and you are starting to visualise the ride itself. The interval sets this month will bring a different aspect to your training, hopefully one which you will enjoy and certainly one which you won’t have to endure for too many weeks but the main aspect of this month is to attack those Sportives and feel comfortable in a sportive situation at race pace with nutrition strategy, distance etc.
The article coming out next is going to be a very long one. It is going to give you some information for your packing, advice for the course itself, a lot about what the Etape is going to feel like, what is going to go on, how it is going to unfold. We will look a little bit at the individual courses and most specifically how to enjoy your taper particularly leading into the last few days in preparation for the ride that you have put so much time and energy into.
I hope all this makes sense, sharpen up your speed work for three weeks, I will be in touch again in late June in preparation for your taper so we can refine the last three weeks ready for the Etape.