Be Realistic: Ask the Impossible! On the Road to the 2011 Etape with a Sportive Virgin

by Gregoire500   December 6, 2010  

Alpe d'Huez

Hello! 

I started writing a personal blog just over a week ago now (here) to detail my preparations for the coming year's foray into sportive riding-culminating in the Mondane-Alpe d'Huez leg of the Etape du Tour on July the 11th, and now also including the Etape Caledonia in Pitlochry on the 15th May for Macmillan Cancer Support as well as the Skye Mor sportive on the 28th May by way of preparation...

As a self-confessed sportive virgin it was really just intended to be a kind of personal journal charting progress for my own gratification, but I've since been asked by the lovely folk at road.cc if I'd do a weekly submission for the site to give an insight into the trials and tribulations that as a relative newcomer to the cycling I will be facing along the way.  This will inevitably cover everything that noobs like me as well as more experienced riders encounter in the quest to improve their performance regardless of ambitions, be it training, nutrition, equipment, or just summoning the motivation to drag weary bones out of bed on a cold winter morning!

So, by way of introduction I'd like to tell you a bit about myself and what I'm hoping to do and achieve in the coming months.  I'm 27, originally from Scotland, and have been a casual cyclist for the last couple of years, becoming more and more interested in the sport to the point where I'll happily annoy my girlfriend by spending hours watching the Tour de France, talking about riding, or spending too much time and money tinkering with my bike. 

I cycled as a kid but not road/competitive cycling, and hadn't touched a bike for about 10 years until in a rather tumultuous period of my life I picked up an old beater, and spent hours stripping, cleaning and re-assembling every part, in the process finding a sense of calm and purpose that was much needed at the time and has been cultivated ever since.  I've moved around a lot over the last few years taking me to France and Spain in search of gainful employment, and in the last few months of constant job searching back home in the UK it has been a massive challenge mentally to stay positive and focused when spending hour after hour glued to a computer screen searching and applying for job after job with no returns.  In particular the lack of daily routine/structure and a feeling of purposelessness has been a huge problem, to the extent that even getting myself out on the bike for a casual pootle was tough.   I'd like to challenge myself a bit more and tackle more serious rides than my normal 60 milers over the surrounding hills, and in signing up for the Etape I am hoping that the experience will spur me on and give me the drive, focus and purpose I need to hopefully unstick the areas of my life that are currently feel as if they are in standby mode, as well as getting fitter, healthier and taking my level of riding from that of the bandy-legged, granny cogging occasional rider to one capable of taking on 100 mile courses in the big ring and finishing at the better end of the field (though being naturally over-ambitious I will probably end up aiming for a top 10...).

I know a fair few people who are cyclists of varying degrees of seriousness, two of whom tackled the Etape this year for the first time which allowed me to follow their evolution in the run up to the big event, and give me an idea of what is required and the commitment and preparation it involves.  From here I'll be doing my own research and trying to build up an effective training routine, diet and setting regular targets for improvement leading up to the Etape, and since I'll be writing the blog here I'm hoping that at the same time as serving as an inspiration or encouragement to other riders who are perhaps interested in upping their performance or taking on bigger rides, I'll also be able to benefit from the wisdom and enthusiasm of the more experienced road.cc'ers as well!

With Christmas on the way, several feet of snow on the ground, a few hours spent sweating it out on the turbo (and a few more hours in the pub undoing the any of the benefits) I'm already seeing that it will be anything but a walkover!  So, the 8 months ahead are pretty daunting and will certainly require a huge amount of hard work and commitment, both in terms of physical and mental preparation, but it's also an incredibly exciting prospect and a challenge I'm hoping will be as enjoyable as it is beneficial.

Wish me luck and I hope you'll enjoy these weekly updates on road.cc as well as the more sporadic updates over on my blog as well.

7 user comments

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Best of luck Gregoire - I hope the snow hasn't put too much of a brake on your training. I did a LEJOG ride this summer and got very frustrated during the winter when I couldn't get out enough - but regular turbo sessions work wonders and there's still bags of time!

Martin Thomas's picture

posted by Martin Thomas [567 posts]
9th December 2010 - 13:26

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Dear Greg

I did the last two years Etape and even gave up alcohol completely for the three months run up to this year' event. I did worse than the year before!

Three golden rules:

- Make sure you're comfortable on the bike and have a high sportive position

If you get a crick in your neck and aching shoulders now, imagine what it will be like on the etape.

- Try to lose as much excess weight as possible - gradually - starting now.

Most people I've seen dropping out are over weight by at least 8lbs + and if it isn't helping you climb - it's being carried.

- Practice as much long seated steady climbing in the heat as you can.

Obviously this last point is a little tricky at present. I found the sudden heat wave in june this year (remember that? ) was a blessing for training as the heat is the main problem you might have to face. Try and throw 6 miles of climbing into each of your long training runs if you can: even it if means the same hill three times. It will not equate to facing the Tourmalet after 90 miles of other climbs but it will do nothing but good all the same.

I'm sure you'll do fine if you take the training seriously.

With the mantra of drinking and eating properly as any riders base all the people I've seen drop out over the past two years have either had mechanicals or were obviously not fit enough. The formers bad luck - the latter's bad judgement.

My final voodoo tip is tonic water. Yes, normal tonic water. The quinine is supposed to inhibit cramping according to a couple of medical reports. I've used it on sportives for two years now and haven't cramped - even on the Pendle. It could be totally in my head but who cares if it works. 1 half tonic water one half PS22 and water. Yum!

Silly me. You're probably right....

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posted by MercuryOne [1031 posts]
10th December 2010 - 14:44

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MercuryOne,

thanks for the encouragement and the tips-very helpful!

I quite like tonic water so will definitely give that a try, if it works great and if not its got to taste better than the High5 tabs I've been experimenting with so far... bleurgh!

Typical me to begin a weight loss regime before Crimbo but its going ok so far... I'm going for a happy compromise where I'll excuse limited drinking in exchange for disciplined food intake.

This week has been all about measuring heart rates and trying to make the turbo as time as valuable as possible-I'm 160lbs now and looking to drop to a max. weight of 143lbs by July, but I'm really hoping to make it to the right side of 140 which would put me back to my running days at 20... with some judicious interval training and good diet I don't think that's too ambitious as long as its gradual and I'm not sacrificing nutrition.

I'm working on finding the right bike but with limited budget I don't know how picky I can be-I like the look of the Bianchi Cento Strada for sportive riding but not sure I'll even stretch to that second hand so also got an eye on the Boardman Carbon's on evilBay as I've heard good things about them.

But yes, heat and mountains are ultimately what I really need to be getting time on! Go away snow...

...  Soyez Realiste-Demandez L'impossible ...

posted by Gregoire500 [138 posts]
10th December 2010 - 22:09

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Best of luck! I love watching the Tour and am full of admiration for anyone that even considers taking on the Etape. I shall follow your blog with interest.

posted by RuthF28 [89 posts]
11th December 2010 - 9:51

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Good luck. I'm signed up and look forward to following your progress. Done a few triathlons but this uphill thing is a bit daunting! If it wasnt scary it wouldn't be worth doing.

Ironbloke

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posted by ironbloke [61 posts]
17th December 2010 - 23:28

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I'd love to have a go at the etape, whether I've got the dedication and ability to make the time for training is perhaps another question! Good luck, I look forward to reading the updates.

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posted by OllyC [35 posts]
22nd December 2010 - 22:12

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I would like to tell u that i did not know about this location before , what a view it is...

Curt
air jordan

posted by nomo210 [1 posts]
23rd December 2010 - 14:09

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