2010 Etape du Tour. Training. Distance vs Height vs Fitness = Is there a formula?

by gandberg   October 19, 2009  

Here is a question. Training for the Etape is never going to be a doddle. And over here we dont get the same kind of mountains that one would encounter during an Etape, so my question is this:

What is the equivalent distance to build up to riding next years Etape route?

I mean, I know the total distance is about 108 miles, but this includes three significant mounds, with about 3500m of climbing. So what I'm getting at, in a muddled rambling way, is that is it possible to just train for, say, 150 miles in a day and would that be an acceptable level of fitness to take one up the three hills? I'm sure some of you can render this into sense and give me science based answers. Everyone like quantites and figures, these prove things with reason and enable us to sleep better. Without science we'd all still be going to Church, praying the sky won't fall in, things like that. Wouldn't we?

Anyway, I look forward to your answers.

27 user comments

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I'd say you need both. Do some 100m+ rides and do some shorter more intense hill sessions. I found a 500' hill and did laps of it. It's no preparation for spending an hour and a half climbing, but it's a quick way of getting 4000' or more of climbing in. And when you're doing your regular rides, look for the hills. That's as sciencey as I'm getting Smile

posted by stever [51 posts]
19th October 2009 - 12:10

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You're in Worcestershire so you should be able to get to some pretty decent hills without much trouble, no? can't be that far to the gospel pass, that's a ten-mile climb from the South and nearly 400m to the top. not steep, but nice and long, and if you want steep you can go back over it the other way. then do it again. and again. and again and again and again and again and again. et voila, 3,600m of climbing Big Grin Big Grin Big Grin

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7227 posts]
19th October 2009 - 12:30

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Talking of the etape. I am / will be (hopefully) a first timer there...how do I enter, when etc?!

not all carbon is the same.

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posted by Jon Burrage [1080 posts]
19th October 2009 - 12:33

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If you can cover a century at a reasonable pace you should be okay.

The mountains don't have to make too much difference, if you get your pacing right. They will mean you take longer to cover the distance, but if you keep at a nice steady pace, down below your lactate threshold (an ambiguous term I know, I mean the threshold at which you start to accumulate lactate, so zone 2 really), you will get up and over them without too much drama.

I have found that the best training for long continental climbs, that you can do in the UK is to do long flatish TT type efforts. Maybe aim at 1 to 1 1/2 hours pushing fairly hard, around tempo. This is much more like the effort you will put in on a long climb, than going up and down a short UK climb.

You want to be training to be able to maintain a high work rate for an hour and a half. It makes no difference if this is done up a mountain or on the flat, if the work rate is the same. The only thing that is worth adding is that mentally it can be quite daunting if it is your first major mountain climb, as you will not be prepared for the relentless nature of it, so it may be worth getting over to France to do at least one climb before the day, just so that you exorcise the fear of the big cols.

Complicating matters since 1965

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posted by DaSy [648 posts]
19th October 2009 - 12:47

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worth bearing in mind too that the first climb, the marie blanque, is really steep. *really* steep. the top 3km is something like 10.5% followed by 13% followed by 12%, it's properly hard. make sure you've got the gears to get you over the top without killing yourself, if you spend too much time in the red early on then you'll pay later on the long climbs.

DaSy's right about TTing: the main thing you need to make sure is that you can put in the effort for the required amount of time. it doesn't matter too much physically if you're burning along on the flat or puffing up a hill if the load on your system is the same.

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7227 posts]
19th October 2009 - 12:59

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you never know…

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4130 posts]
20th October 2009 - 10:30

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Well, started the effort already. Along with usual weekend on or offroad riding, rejoined the local council gym, to while away the dark weekday evenings watching pretty pop tarts on mtv but whilst listening to Anthrax or Minor Threat. The scales there showed me as 135kgs, compared to my own bathroom where they say 139. Hmm.

I'm quite determined to beat this Etape, time to get fitter than I've ever been.

It would be good to have a road.cc type party over there too, post ride, take over a small corner of a campsite, start singing 'we are the champions' or even, 'ooooh, Champs Elysees, bab bab bab baaab'!

The Man In Black.

posted by gandberg [215 posts]
20th October 2009 - 12:50

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Think about how long its going to take you to ride rather then think about distance. Those climbs are going to take most riders way over an hour each to ride so look for building up that engine to the level that you can use fat as your main fuel. There are quite a lot of smaller steep english style hills before the first mountain which is very steep near the top! The Soulour is not so steep & has some places to rest. The Tourmalet starts easy & then just gets harder & harder. Im using a Tacx fortius to train for it, but they have the wrong side of the Tourmalet.

posted by Richard70 [2 posts]
26th October 2009 - 14:05

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I've just bought a house, and will have room for a turbo trainer. Not room in the budget for a mighty Fortius though Sad Missus thinks central heating systems come first...

The Man In Black.

posted by gandberg [215 posts]
26th October 2009 - 22:57

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gandberg wrote:
I've just bought a house, and will have room for a turbo trainer. Not room in the budget for a mighty Fortius though Sad Missus thinks central heating systems come first...

Just read on the Tacx forum that they just filmed the Etape route, http://www.ergovideo.com/Etape2010/ Big Grin

no idea if they will have the ride ready for me to suffer on yet though. I would look for a cheap 2nd hand i-magic trainer, I have a few friends that have those & they work also with their software Not sure about Elite they maybe worth a look also.

posted by Richard70 [2 posts]
27th October 2009 - 9:33

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I found that doing some off road riding was a great help too, as the climbing is very sustained at anaerobic threshold levels- This is the level you need to be able to sustain, especially on the steeper climbs.

I would also say after last year, that some warm weather conditioning would really help.-It may end up raining on the Tourmalet, but if it doesn't you'll really benefit from riding in heat beforehand (and you'll have a tan...)

posted by johnny [3 posts]
4th November 2009 - 13:19

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yeah, a bit of MTBing is a good call. get over to Afan, it's not too far from you and you can spend hours climbing there... Devil Devil Devil

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posted by Barry Fry-up [187 posts]
4th November 2009 - 13:53

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Everytime I think about the task ahead I lose weight and do exercise. Mainly sprinting to the toilet to drop some brown bombs...

Still, weight is down to 135kgs (!) and in relation to the other thread, my thighs are 72cm. I think. I know because I wanted to go to 'go ape' but my thighs are too big. Grrr.

The Man In Black.

posted by gandberg [215 posts]
5th November 2009 - 22:25

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135kg eh? well speaking from experience (not of the etape but other big rides) the best thing you can concentrate on for now is losing some weight. Forgetting everything else, losing 20kg of that mass will transform your climbing. Okay you'll still be a big lad and you'll never be a mountain goat (and neither will i, sadly), but I've found that losing a couple of stone has done more for my riding than any number of dull turbo sessions ever has.

I don't doubt that I could get round the etape route but i'd never beat the broom wagon round unless i lost at least another stone. No matter what else you do, if you're carrying extra weight then it'll cost you on the climbs

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posted by Barry Fry-up [187 posts]
5th November 2009 - 22:41

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I know. To complete the Etape is going to require major effort. I've never going to be thin, and I'm not even that fat really. Losing 20kgs is a goal though.

IMG_0727.JPG

The Man In Black.

posted by gandberg [215 posts]
5th November 2009 - 23:09

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20kg between now and July - good luck Wink

I dropped 12kg to complete the 2008 Etape and it was hard work - up at 5am every other morning for a 15 mile ride before work, small bowl of bran flakes for breakfast, soup (no bread) and yogurt for lunch and the "small plate" dinner. A lot of evenings and rainy mornings on a turbo trainer doing interval training and 100 mile sportives nearly every Sunday.

Basically you've got to prepare your body and mind to 8.5hrs or more of cycling fast and up crippling cols.

Keep a training log and set yourself goals for each month. If you reach your targets then reward yourself by buying the kit you'll ultimately need.

I'm doing the Marmotte next year, so I'm happy to swap training/diet notes with you over the next 9 months. Nerd

posted by Old Cranky [276 posts]
6th November 2009 - 10:02

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'Mental note to self' - do not argue with Gandberg!

Complicating matters since 1965

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posted by DaSy [648 posts]
6th November 2009 - 10:38

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A few pointers from my experience in 2008:
* get a triple chainset and 12-27 cassette
* buy a Garmin or similar with heart rate, av speed and cadence
* keep your fingers crossed that you get a low start number - you're further ahead of the broom wagon and 1,000's of other riders. Narrow roads often leads to bottlenecks and cyclist grid-lock.
* go on a strict diet - you will climb faster
* analyse the route, in particular the ascents. Be aware that you will need to travel at an average speed of over 12.5mph to avoid being swept up. Tourmalet is 32km of climbing, so you may need to average 18+mph on the flats. Don't count on being able to descend fast as the weather could be bad
* join a cycling club and learn to ride in a group and practice wheelsucking.
* alternate your training rides to get the miles, the speed and hill repetitions (find a nearby hill, ideally long and between 7 and 10% and go up and down it repeatedly - find out what gear per %incline is best for you while maintaining a high cadence and reasonable speed).
* find energy bars, gels and isotonic powders that suit you
* register for as many sportives/ride it events as you can. You'll learn not to go off too fast, pace yourself on your heart rate, eat and drink frequently, ride and work with a group and find out what works well for you.
* make sure you can fix a puncture quickly - carry new inner tubes, park tool patches, good tyre levers, a CO2 pump and spare cannisters and an emergency pump.

posted by Old Cranky [276 posts]
10th November 2009 - 21:29

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DaSy wrote:
'Mental note to self' - do not argue with Gandberg!

...or challenge him to a downhill race Wink

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posted by cactuscat [301 posts]
10th November 2009 - 23:25

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Instead of losing weight, how about training with an additional 20kgs in panniers or some such get up? Come July 18th, I'll feel light as a feather. Maybe.

The Man In Black.

posted by gandberg [215 posts]
11th November 2009 - 19:24

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Old Crankys post seems the most interesting. It almost makes me want to do the Etape

If I was doing it I would look at it this way. The total amount of climbing as distance is 70km. Then there is a 100km of descents and flatter stuff. The ascents will be at 20kph average and the flat /down stuff at 35kph
So that's a total time of just over 6 and a half hours. So aim 1) is to be able to ride for 6 and a half hours at pace

Aim two is to be able to ride at max power output for all of the climbs. The longest one seems to be 30km and as such I guess it will take 90 minutes. A normal time trial distance for 90 minutes is approx 35 miles

For aim 1) I'd do tempo rides at 80% for increasing durations
For aim 2) I'd do time trials of increasing distance aiming to do the 35 miles within a good time

Also I'd aim to loose weight, as much as possible. A realistic weight loss plan (for me) is a Kg a month starting at xmas

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posted by vorsprung [285 posts]
12th November 2009 - 14:43

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good luck keeping up your 20km/h on the marie-blanque Devil

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7227 posts]
12th November 2009 - 16:57

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This brings up the most crucial question of ALL, folks, and I can't seem to find an answer anywhere. At what pace do we need to go in order to avoid the broom wagons on the Etape. I'm going too, and while I'm hopeful of being able to complete the distance and the climbs, I'm not sure about the speed. To be frank, I'm a 50 year old guy who has no aspirations to have a great time. I just want to avoid utter humiliation. Does anyone have info on that?
Confused

posted by Dude [5 posts]
20th November 2009 - 23:26

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you're right Dude, it's not obvious at all, mostly becuase the etape don't necessarily release the data. historically you need to be able to complete in 10-11 hours, which generally works out at around 17km/h average, but that includes all the faffing at the start so budget for a bit quicker. However, the broom wagon often moves more quickly on the opening sections, as the warm-up to the climbs is normally flat(ish) - it is this year. this year's etape is on the short side (~160km i think) but it packs some pretty serious ascending in, about 4,500m

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7227 posts]
20th November 2009 - 23:59

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Thanks, Dave. That's already helpful. And obviously, it raises even more questions. Like, 'Old Cranky' and you are right to point out that you have to do really well on the flats. he's suggsting a lot of wheel sucking/paceline skills, which are fine when you're coming with a group of friends. In your experience was there a lot of 'on the fly'organization of pace groups for that purpose when you did this? And Holy Cow! To learn you can't necessarily make up the speed on the downhills because of bottlenecks really stinks.

posted by Dude [5 posts]
21st November 2009 - 13:31

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After reading your reply i did some basic math. looking at the profile of the Etape, I essentially calculated things as follows:

1. working back from (what I hope are super conservative paces on the climbs), to figure out how much time is left, i estmated 1hr for climb one (10K at 10kph), +/- 1 hour for climb two (13 km, but +/-15 kph), and 2.5 hours for the Col du Tourmalet (24km at 10kph). That adds up to 4.5 hours of climbing.

2. To avoid broom, I estimate one needs to come in under 10 hrs or so (Per your advice). if that's the cale, it leaves 5.5 hours for descents and flat stages. These add up to roughly 128 k. Which means one has to go at a minimum pace on those stages at 24 KPH.

What am I getting wrong, based on your experience? Thanks!

posted by Dude [5 posts]
21st November 2009 - 15:04

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24 km..thats 14 mph in old money, ive not done it but say you go some on the downhills and can chaingang it a bit on the flats then you can rest easy(!?!) on the ups..

ive not done it myself so all based on hearsay, but nonetheless with some good training under your belt most reasonably fit people should be okay.

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posted by Fringe [1081 posts]
21st November 2009 - 15:30

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