Wiggle Etape Cymru 2014: rugby legend Gareth Thomas shares his training plan

12-week riding programme for former Wales and Lions star

The Horseshoe Pass in North Wales does not have a reputation for being brutal without good cause.

Long, sweeping hairpins rise out of the valley and head skyward into the Clwydians with some gruelling gradients, each bend opening out to another long, punishing incline.

In total it is a little more than six kilometres of punishing ramps – some reaching gradients of 20 per cent – set against the stunning, picturesque backdrop of the North Wales countryside.

The vast, sweeping hairpins of the Etape Cymru make for a gruelling ascent

The pass will host a ‘King of the Mountain’ stage when the Wiggle Etape Cymru, promoted by Human Race, rolls out of Bangor-on-Dee on September 14.

And that is just for starters – ‘The Shelf’ and ‘World’s End’ also feature en route, their names both redolent of challenge.

The 88-mile route is as brutal as they come, and the sportive is not renowned as being among Britain’s toughest closed-road events for no reason.

When you retire you don’t lose your competitive nature. For me, there’s always been this underlying thing of wanting to challenge myself. I think cycling is a sport which is ageless – Gareth Thomas

For a sportive veteran it is a tough event so for a sportive first-timer it is certainly a baptism of fire – as Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas is soon to find out.

‘Alfie’, who earned 100 international caps in his illustrious career, is no stranger to a big sporting challenge but after doing his first recce of the famous pass admitted the lower ramps had been a shock to the system.

Speaking to RCUK beforehand, it was obvious Thomas has lost none of the competitive edge which also saw him captain the Lions in 2005, however – an edge many cyclists will relate to.

“When you retire you don’t lose your competitive nature,” he said. “The fact I’ve been able to have something to aim for, something to train towards – the challenge is in the blood.

“For me, there’s always been this underlying thing of wanting to challenge myself. I think this is a sport which is ageless.

Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas will be among the riders tackling the closed-road sportive this year

“I wanted to do it because I want to stay fit. I find going to the gym now very mundane, very boring because I’ve done it for so long, plus it’s hard work on the body.

“Cycling seems like a pretty perfect excuse and a good reason to get out of the house, and a good reason to see some beautiful sights and be part of a good group and not have the impact on my body that rugby has.”

Thomas, who will ride for Macmillan Cancer Support, is being supported in the event by Welsh Cycling head coach Darren Tudor – who shared his top sportive tips with RCUK – and personal trainer Giuseppe, from Fit.As.

He has shared his training plan for anybody else hoping to ride the sportive, or similar events, which can be found below.

Both the training and the event are not for the faint-hearted, but the reward for completing the sportive on some of Britain’s most picturesque roads is plentiful.

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Gareth Thomas’ Etape Cymru training plan

Week one: Kilometres to cycle: 100; Minutes of interval training: 60; Intensity: Easy
Week two: Kms: 120; Minutes of interval training: 20; Intensity: Easy
Week three: Kms: 150; Minutes of interval training: 70; Intensity: Hard
Week four: Kms: 130; Minutes of interval training: 30; Intensity: Easy
Week five: Kms: 140; Minutes of interval training: 80; Intensity: Easy
Week six: Kms: 190; Minutes of interval training: 40; Intensity: Hard
Week seven: Kms: 235; Minutes of interval training: 90; Intensity: Hard
Week eight: Kms: 338; Minutes of interval training: 50; Intensity: Easy
Week nine: Kms: 314; Minutes of interval training: 60; Intensity: Hard
Week ten: Kms: 234; Minutes of interval training: 132; Intensity: Hard
Week eleven: Kms: 193; Minutes of interval training: 142; Intensity: Hard
Week twelve: Kms: 132; Minutes of interval training: 0; Intensity: Taper


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