Hitting the sweetspot
Hitting the sweetspot
In order to increase your climbing speed it’s important to train at the intensity you will be climbing at during the Etape.
Paced well, the climbs in this year’s Etape should be ridden at a little below your time trial pace, allowing you to get to the finish with enough in the tank for a final push to the line. While we don’t have the length of climbs that you will encounter in the Etape in the UK, short and intense turbo training sessions are a good alternative. Training at ‘sweetspot’ pace, that is at the upper end of zone three and the lower end of zone four is you know your training zones (and if you don’t you can find out how to set them here), allows you to ride for long periods of time at your sustainable climbing pace without inducing too much fatigue.
An example training session to work on your climbing might be a 90-minute turbo session with a warm-up followed by three 20-minute ‘sweetspot’ efforts with five to ten minute recovery periods in between. If you don’t have a power meter try riding at 75-85% of your maximum heart rate, starting at the lower end of this range (or a perceived exertion of ‘somewhat hard’, where you can say a few words at a time but a full conversation is difficult) as heart rate will rise a little over the course of the session.
For even more specificity, prop up your front wheel and sit up with your hands on the tops of the bars to simulate your climbing position while pushing a slightly bigger gear than might feel natural at 75-85rpm. The main climbs of the Etape vary in gradient from 4-10% so practice getting out of the saddle and increasing your gearing occasionally to mimic the steepening gradients you will encounter on the hairpin bends before returning to the saddle.
For the ultimate in specific training, this time of year is perfect to head to a warm weather training camp in southern Spain or the Canary Islands, where you can find similar climbs to those of the Alps. As well as allowing you to get in a solid block of endurance training in the sun without your normal daily commitments, mountainous areas give you access to climbs like those you will encounter in the Etape. This type of terrain will typically provide a large dose of sweetspot intensity climbing as well as giving you the chance practice descending and pacing yourself over a long day in the hills. Another benefit of a training camp is to test out your equipment, giving you a chance to see whether you have appropriate gearing for the mountains.
Over the next few months we’ll go into more detail about the training sessions and techniques you need to master in order to perform at your best in a mountainous sportive. In addition, we’ll cover how to make the most of a warm weather training camp, how to taper your training to ride at your best, and offer advice on pacing and nutrition to make sure the day itself run smoothly.