In search of training advice for Mountain etappe - Need stronger legs!



bardiebar

New Member
Jan 31, 2011
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Hi Everybody,

I'm a complete novice at cycling, but have agreed to participate in the Etappe du Tour this summer which will be a 109km tour covering the Col de telegraph, Col de Galibier and will be finishing at the summit of Alpe d'Huez all averaging somewhere between a 7-10% incline.

I do have a decent physical condition, mainly built up through running and I can definitely last on a bike for 4-6 hours or 100-175km on a flat surface, but I realize that my leg strength is by far not what it should be to get over those mountains and I need to get much stronger in my legs and get to a much higher watts/kg ratio than where I am right now (2.99).

Any advice is welcome!
 

fergie

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Apr 10, 2004
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It's not strength that you need but to build the capacity to hold power around your threshold (anaerobic, lactate, functional, 60MP etc) for longer and to build this so you can sustain the effort.

With those climbs in mind I would also investigate a bike with appropriate gearing to maintain a decent cadence on the climbs of at least 75rpm especially in the steeper sections. This will reduce energy sapping sections where you shoot past threshold levels and risk early fatigue.
 

swampy1970

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Feb 3, 2008
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So you're climbing the Galibier from the Telegraph side... I wouldn't worry too much about Alpe Dhuez then because if you can make it up those two climbs then the Alpe really isn't all that bad. The Alpe has the infamy because it's a finishing climb and that's where the big moves are often made but the Galibier is far tougher. Distance - about 20miles including the small descent off the Telegraph, worse road surface, altitude, weather conditions and being exposed (no trees or surrounding shelter) on a majority of the climb unlike the Alpe. If the weather turns bad - it gets bad... very bad, very quickly. Jump on youtube and search for Pantani Galibier and you'll see what I mean.

There's only a couple of nasty bits on the Alpe, it's not really a difficult climb with moderate fitness and reasonably low weight.

Because of the severity of the climbs you'll want to try to lose as much weight as saftely possible and increase sustainable power on the climbs.

How much riding have you done before and if you don't mind me asking, how much do you weigh? That'd somewhat dictate what you need to do over the next 6 months or so. You'll need plenty of seat time, preferably in the hills with plenty of 8% to 10% gradients although shorter hills upto 12% would work. I'm being relative here - I'm not talking about piddly things that are 1/2 mile in length, unless that's all that you have available. Most of the climbs are at 6 to 8% but there are key points in that ride that are sustained 8 to 10% for more than a kilometer above 7,000ft You'll also want to get some very long rides in - 6 to 8 hours.

Get your position on the bike sorted months in advance if you're having issues.

Gearing. If you've never ridden in the high mountains before it's somewhat of a crapshoot. Some (a few) can get away with the gearing they use on regular hills and ride all day with no worries but you'll probably want to make sure that you have something pretty low. Not just a sprocket with two more teeth on. If you're ready for hitting those 10% sections near the top of the Galibier in driving freezing cold rain with 30mph winds when you're starting to crack/bonk because you've been climbing for 30+km then you'll have the right gearing. Chances are it won't be like that and your bottom gear will be used once - but if the event is outside the "window of nice weather" ie about 8 weeks starting in July then the weather can change from blue skies to a freezing hell on wheels in about 15 minutes. A wrong choice of gearing could make your ride a very grim affair.

Arnie Baker does a good book on riding The Death Ride - which is a similar event in the hills of Northern California's Sierra Nevadas. There's a bit more climbing and the distance is longer but all in all it's pretty much the same deal - 7+ hours in the saddle and 100+miles many of which are at high altitude. It's available in .pdf format and a quick search on google should get you to the webpage for that. It covers training, position, climbing/descending techniques, altitude and all the funstuff that goes with it and gearing....

You'll want to be fairly handy at descending as well. Not necessarily fast but comfortable in your ability to read the road ahead and relax and not use your brakes so much.

One thing you may appreciate when descending the Lautaret (you descend from the top of the Galibier to the junction at the top of the Lautaret) to the bottom of Alpe DHuez is a strong pair of wheels. The tunnels on the main road have (or had, it's been more than a few years since I was overthere) some very dubious sections of road surface and the tunnels are pretty long and dark. From what I remember I wouldn't descend down there at 40+ mph on a lightweight pair of carbon clinchers.

When you make that right turn to descend the Lautaret to Boirg dOsains be thankful that you are turning right and the organizers aint making you turn left so you can descend the other way and finish on the Col du Grannon. If that was the case I'd post this instead of the above post:



Have fun. Enjoy the ride. The Galibier, from Valoire, is one of the tougher hills in that region but if you get pretty light, train fairly well and choose sensible gears and pace yourself well on the climb then it could well be a very spectacular day. The views you'll get from the top of the Galibier will be something that you won't forget. Just don't spend too much time trying to take in the views as you descend :p
 

alfeng

Well-Known Member
Jul 23, 2005
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FWIW. I think that once you exceed 5000 feet in elevation ([COLOR= #808080]lower, for some people[/COLOR]), then hill climbing probably becomes more of an aerobic event than a matter of leg strength.
 

bardiebar

New Member
Jan 31, 2011
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Thanks Swampie1970 for the lengthy advice!

My current weight is 75kg (around 150lbs I guess) have been on a bike in total for max. 300km so far I guess, but I have invested in a fairly descent bike with Shimano Ultegra 6700 all over, 3 blades at the front, easton circuit rims..

The difficult thing is that I live in The Netherlands, where mountains, or even hills are pretty much non-existent, so I have some plans to drive down to Belgium, Germany and maybe France whenever I can make it, but for the rest I have to train as hard as I can in order to prepare me for those mountains..

My current weekly training schedule now kinda looks like this, but not sure if it's sufficient, or the correct setup for the goal I have:

Tuesday: 1hr spinning ZF1-2 + 3 times 5min ZF3
Wednesday: 1/2 hr spinning ZF1-2 + 2 times 5min ZF3 + Leg press + squats + leg extensions
Thursday: 1hr spinning ZF1-2 + 3 times 5min ZF3 + calf extensions + back extensions
Saturday: 1hr run ZF1-2
Sunday: 3hr outdoor cycling ZF1-2 + intervals at ZF3

Thanks for pointing out the Pantani video by the way.. I'm hoping for sunshine :)
 

swampy1970

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Feb 3, 2008
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So you have a triple chainset with 30/42/52 chainrings? If so, that'll work out fine. With a 11-28 cassette in the back you should be fairly well equiped, especially with your 150lbs bodyweight. If you can knock off a few more pounds that'll help quite a bit - but weight wise, if you're of average height, then you're OK - but every bit does help.

Personally, I'd drop the weights and spend more time on the bike - unless you have another reason why you want to do weights for something other than riding. A good combination of 20 minute intervals near theshold (Coggan Level4 - 2x20 or 3x20) and lots of L3 will do you well. If you don't have a powermeter then those 20 minute efforts are done as hard as you can - just keep the effort the same all the way through. The longer Level 3 rides aren't quite as physically taxing - but get 2 hours or so in of them and you'll certainly know about it. Add in some longer, easier paced rides too. You really don't need more than 5 hours - even the guys and gals who race the Race Across America rarely train for more than 6 hours...

I'd rearrange your midweek to something like this:

Tuesday - 10 minutes easy, 20 minutes very hard, 10 minutes easy, 20 minutes very hard.
Wednesday - 30 to 60 minutes, starting fairly easy and maybe increasing the pace but nothing too hard.
Thursday - repeat Tuesday.
Friday - if you want to ride - as Wednesday
Saturday and Sunday - 2 hours (increasing to 3) at a fairly hard pace

The midweek rides can be done indoors on a trainer or outdoors. You can do the weekend rides indoors too, if the weather is really bad, but mentally outdoors in driving rain might be a bit easier to tollerate.

The lack of hills. I wouldn't worry about it that much if you have no hills to ride on. I know from experience you have plenty of windy days thanks to the North Sea, so riding on the flat lands and getting some big rides in a fairly big gear (around 80 to 85rpm pedal rate) will simulate a little bit the effects of a day going up hill.
 

alfeng

Well-Known Member
Jul 23, 2005
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Originally Posted by swampy1970 .

So you have a triple chainset with 30/42/52 chainrings? If so, that'll work out fine. With a 11-28 cassette in the back you should be fairly well equiped,
FWIW. I would be inclined to EITHER changing the chainrings to a 52/39/[COLOR= #ff0000]28[/COLOR] combination OR making the largest cog a 30t-or-32t instead of a 28t ...

A 28t granny will create a really low bailout gear -- perhaps, too low (?!?) OR perhaps one cannot have too low a bailout gear!?!
 

Juan Fuentes

New Member
Jan 19, 2011
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Hi Mate, One thing i will assure you is you will enjoy the ride and scenery even if it's a hard day for you...weather co
conditions matter but also the emotion of the ride will give you that extra push that you will need. Check out my facebook page- Pcc-pro cycling coach....I have been a professional rider in Italian teams Saeco and Lampre till the end of 2005. Or if you have any questions please email me [email protected]