Geraint Thomas, Becky James, Elinor Barker and now para cyclist Rachael James – Wales is proving to be a hot bed of cycling talent.

And behind it all is Darren Tudor, head coach at Welsh Cycling, who is using the experience garnered from working for British Cycling to harness the talents of the next generation of first-class riders from the principality.

Welsh Cycling head coach Darren Tudor ensures rugby legend Gareth Thomas is wired up ahead of his Etape Cymru training ride

Darren Tudor, Welsh Cycling, Gareth Thomas, Alfie, Etape Cymru, Training Ride, 2014, pic: Colin Henrys/Factory Media

One of Tudor’s latest protégées however is already a Welsh icon – rugby union legend Gareth Thomas, veteran of more than 100 caps for Wales and the Lions.

‘Alfie’ is set to tackle the Etape Cymru sportive, 88 miles of brutal, undulating roads in North Wales and Tudor is lending a hand with coaching advice.

And we caught up with Tudor to find out his top tips for tackling some of Britain’s top sportives.

Read Darren's advice for tackling a demanding sportive over the following pages, and add your own tips in the RCUK Forum.

[part title="Get the miles in"]

I think looking at this particular route, it’s 88 miles and they’re hard roads – you’ve got the mountains on top of that as well. The types of roads are heavy going as well. It’s a hard 88 miles, there’s not going to be a lot of places to hide. I guess it’s making sure you are in good enough shape to ride six, seven, eight hours.

Darren rallies the troop ahead of the Etape Cymru training ride - ensuring you have the legs is vital for preparing for sportives

Darren Tudor, Welsh Cycling, Gareth Thomas, Alfie, Etape Cymru, Training Ride, 2014, pic: Colin Henrys/Factory Media

You need to make sure you get out at the weekends and if you can’t get out in the evenings you need to be on the turbo trainers. That’s ideal for the workload you’re going to have on the climbs.

[part title="Pay attention to fuelling and hydration"]

I think one of the biggest areas for people will be making sure they fuel properly during the event though. Hydration is one of the key areas. There are plenty of nutrition companies out there to get advice from. Hydration is crucial, and they should be aiming to drink maybe 500ml to 750ml every hour. That’s the traditional guideline.

Dehydration is thought to contribute to the onset of cramp (Pic: Sirotti)

2013, Tour Down Under, tappa 03 Unley - Stirling, Sky 2013, Geraint Thomas, Stirling

Right from the off, people need to make sure they are eating. Early on in the ride it’s about getting anything solid in – energy bars, anything sweet they might want to eat and make up themselves. A professional cycling will typically make maybe wraps, with a bit of Nutella in or brioche. Fuelling right from the off will be the biggest challenge though.

[part title="Be disciplined"]

Riders doing this type of challenge will have done enough bike riding to set themselves up for this sort of ride. It’s about knowing your own boundaries though. When you get onto climbs like the Horseshoe Pass it’s about riding it for yourself – not getting into the chasing or anything like that.

The Wiggle Etape Cymru includes the Horseshoe Pass

Horseshoe Pass, Etape Cymru, Training Ride, 2014, pic: Colin Henrys/Factory Media

It’s about remembering the other climbs coming up, pacing yourselves for them and eating and drinking properly too. You need to be thinking about three hours’ time not how you feel at that moment in time. It’s about being disciplined.

[part title="Replicate the climbs"]

For most riders, on average, climbs like the Horsehoe Pass will be a good 25-30 minute climb. Some people travelling to the event will not have access to that sort of climb beforehand so it will be important to get on the turbo trainers and replicate that type of effort. Your turbo session might include slightly bigger gears, over the distances people’s cadence is going to drop maybe 50-60 rbm and it’s about how to replicate that type of effort.

The humble turbo trainer can be used to replicate climbing efforts (pic: Mike Cotty)

Turbo training, Mike Cotty, pic submitted by Mike Cotty

If you have got the climbs, it’s crucial to be training on them, using the gears correctly, judging your pace. Going back to fuelling, as soon as you’re at the top of the climb and it’s safe to do so start eating and drinking straight away to replace what you’ve used.

[part title="Stay fit – even off the bike"]

From a coaches point of view, some of our athletes do use the gym a lot, mainly because it’s very track oriented and the gym work is important to get them off the line. I think generally, if you can ride a bike that’s obviously better.

Put the effort in off the bike to reap the rewards on it

Jo McRae. strength training two, bodyweight squad, position one, pic: ©Mike Mansfield, ©Factory Media

But if the gym replaces doing nothing at all then that’s very important. Other sessions like getting in a spin session, those type of things – any work you can get in is a better compromise than not doing anything at all.

Discuss in the forum