Fit-For essentials for riding the Etape - Road Cycling UK

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Fit-For essentials for riding the Etape

Want to hear something scary? We are a little over 4 months away from the Etape du Tour. That is some 17 weeks or 119 days. Not long is it? Especially when you think of the demands involved; 177km, major climbs, hair raising descents, thousands of people on the road…

Here at Fit-For we have been addressing these issues with some of our clients. One of them is Stephen Cotterill – who found Fit-For through RCUK. Stephen was keen to do the Etape as it represented a challenge, but he didn’t really know how to go about training for the event itself. This was where we came in.

Stephen say’s : Before I joined Fit-For my training was inconsistent. I would do maybe 2-3 days on the trot and then nothing for a week. I ate too much and drank too much wine and my weight loss was very slow. I would never have changed and that is what gave me the incentive to find a coach.

Fit-For say : We took a look at Stephen’s training and made instant changes. We made sure he trained regularly – mainly by setting up a 3 day on 1 day off, 2 day on 1 day off pattern for his training. Stephen was also not resting adequately so we made sure that days off became focused; he drank and ate well and got plenty of rest so the next days training were more productive.

Next we sat down and methodically looked at the Etape from every aspect

Endurance : The main goal for every Etape rider is to complete the distance. Therefore endurance is a key aspect. Stephen began with 3hr rides and has increased these to almost 5 hr rides. These are done at a steady pace – We don’t bring speed work into these sessions, they are simply hours spent in the saddle.

Climbing : Next up is the issue of two daunting Pyrenean climbs; the Col du Marie-Blanque and the Col D’Aubisque. We needed to make sure Stephen could climb these mountains comfortably so we initially focussed on hill cadence work. We have since added strength work to the programme and are now introducing threshold riding. Climbing mountains is a similar effort, in terms of intensity, to riding a time trial. Stephen’s aim is to develop the heart rate zone in which he will be riding when climbing – and he’ll need to be able to do this for around an hour.

Descending : This is an area people seem to ignore far too much. We don’t have proper switchback descents here in the UK and therefore come Etape day these are a shock. Dropping down a twisty mountain descent at 40mph requires technical ability and confidence (in yourself and your bike). We have trained for these by improving Stephen’s technique and concentrating on the descents that we do have here in the UK

Group Riding : In the Etape there are literally thousands of riders everywhere. This can be difficult when you are riding in your own rhythm on a climb or when you are flying downhill. The ability to feel relaxed in a large group of riders will be an important part of the Etape. Stephen rarely trained in a group and because of this his group riding skills were minimal. He addressed this by joining up with various groups and practicing riding close, descending and climbing as part of group.

Nutrition : We have it drummed into us all the time – drink this, eat that and so on and so forth. One thing I never hear though is advice on how and where to eat and drink when you’re in an event such as the Etape. You certainly won’t want to eat that super-dupa energy bar half way up the Col du Marie Blanque when you’re breathing hard and your arms are glued to the bars. Similarly when you’re plunging downhill you certainly don’t want to be unwrapping food… So we analysed what and when to feed during the event and put that into practice during the endurance rides.

After some 14 weeks of coaching, Stephen has definitely reaped the rewards of his hard training coupled with Fit-For coaching.

Stephen say’s : I have made significant improvements. My climbing is such that I feel I can climb any mountain and probably not even get out of saddle. My strength is great and I can do back to back rides of up to 4-5hrs without feeling too fatigued. I can ride comfortably at cadences of up to 112 rpm. In a nutshell I feel confident to go out with a good group of riders and not get blown out of the back.

I think the Fit-For coaching has changed me from an average rider into quite a competent one. It’s made me achieve my goal of being fit enough to complete the Etape and also to go on to do other events in the future. Even though the training has sometimes been hard, I’ve still kept my enthusiasm for the sport. I’ve lost a stone in weight and I am in great shape. All in all it’s been money well spent. I can’t rate John highly enough!!

  • FIT-FOR are a RCUK training advice partner. They supply advice on coaching and technique for our readers. If you have any questions for them, please send us an e-mail.


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