Make a plan and/or keep a training diary…
Making a plan and sticking to it is much easier if you’re realistic about what’s possible. Between January and March, focus on fitness and gradual build-up and then in the spring, switch your focus towards the long rides rather than your speed or power.
The best plan is the one you can stick to, so have a look at our examples below and adapt if necessary to suit you.
A training diary will also help you stay on track so whether it’s Strava or a notebook, try to keep a record of your sessions week by week.
Nothing can replace the sheer volume of miles ridden for building up endurance. If you have a heavier winter bike, ride that as much as possible: when you get back onto your lighter bike, you will fly! Do interval sessions occasionally to vary your training and if you’re riding the same roads regularly, remember you can vary the gears you use to build up leg speed (low gears), or to build up strength (larger gears – careful not to damage knees though, by pushing too hard).
Below are a couple of adaptable training plans which can be used as they are or amended if you already have favourite training sessions, a particular weakness/strength or if you know that something better works for you as an alternative to one or two of these sessions.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to training (especially with such a wide range of Loops and cyclists) but we want to provide a helpful start point…
The Long Rides
Everyone’s starting point is different and we love the fact that cyclists of all abilities come on Le Loop so it’s really difficult to give specific advice. However, the single best thing you can do training-wise in order to enjoy your Loop, is to build up the long rides and complete a few back-to-back rides in the spring.
Below you will find a list of monthly goals corresponding to the Loop you have signed up for. Although they are a rough guideline, if you manage the rides below (at almost any speed), you can be confident that you’ll have no problems at all in France.
Grand Loop and 7-10 day Loops – at least one long ride in January, then one back-to-back ride each month:
|100km + 100km
|150km + 150km with climbs (2000m over both rides)
|200km + 150km with climbs (3000m over both rides)
|200km + 200km with climbs (3500m over both rides
4-7 day/ medium difficulty Loops – at least one long ride in January, then one back-to-back ride each month:
|100km + 80km
|150km + 100km with climbs (1000m over both rides)
|180km + 150km with climbs (1500m over both rides)
|200km + 120km with climbs (3000m over both rides
Easier, flatter, 2/3 day Loops – from January until March, one long ride per month, then at least 2 or 3 back to back weekends:
|200km over 2 days
|250km over 2 days
Look after you & your bike
We’ll be covering these subjects in more detail in our monthly motivation blogs but as a rule of thumb, the key areas to think about are stretching, nutrition and kit (including your bike).
You need good quality padded cycling shorts (our Le Loop ones get rave reviews) and we expect everyone to be riding with clip-in pedals. You don’t have to, but we would really recommend it.
Dress warmly for winter rides, especially covering knees well. The drier you can stay, the better. Don’t worry about what you look like! The first step to successful endurance riding is being comfy on your bike all day long.
It’s essential to warm up before rides and stretch properly afterwards. Start making this a part of your routine. We can’t stress enough how big a difference this will make to your comfort and avoiding injury.
Youtube has masses of advice on stretching for cyclists (google ‘yoga for cyclists’ and check out the GCN Youtube channel). If you’ve got niggles, visit a physio or sports massage therapist for advice sooner rather than later. Never ignore niggles!
You don’t want to bonk on a ride and you want to recover well afterwards. There’s a chance you’re also hoping to shed a pound or 2 over the next few months.
There’s tonnes of advice out there on the internet including the GCN channel, where you’ll find enough bedtime reading about nutrition for a week or more.
On tour we’ll feed you with real food, at 4 varied and nutritious feed stops throughout the day (see our Pre Tour information page for more info) so get used to carrying real food (not just gels or energy bars) with you on long rides (and/or enjoy the cafe stops!).
Get your bike serviced now to see it through the next 6 months of training rides, and make sure you service it again just before you come on tour. Check regularly for wear: tyres, brake pads, cables and wipe the bike down properly (and lubricate it) after wet rides.
Does your bike set up need any improvements? Make them now (so you have time to tweak if they’re not right) BUT “if it works, don’t change it”. Saddle, pedals, handlebars, cleats, shoes… sometimes the tiniest changes can slowly lead to injury, so be careful.
Cobbles & climbs
To help you decide what Loop to choose – and to remind you that this is a very inclusive event, here’s some extra information on cobbles and climbing…
COBBLES (these don’t feature every year)
People are fond of playing up the difficulty (and potential disaster) of riding on cobbles, but in reality it can be a rewarding – and enjoyably challenging – experience. Cycling over uneven cobbles requires you to focus your mind as well as your legs and we’ll help you manage it. You’ll also gain the kudos of having participated in one of continental cycling’s proudest traditions.
The trick to riding on cobbles is to relax. We know that’s easier said than done, but keeping your body loose will mean that it functions as a natural shock absorber, so that you get less vibration, especially through your arms. The bike will also be easier to control if you don’t grip the bars too tightly, and if you maintain a smooth, high cadence, it will help you float over the uneven surface.
If this is a ‘cobbles year’ we’ll provide much more advice and guidance nearer to the Tour, including ‘how to’ videos.
Trust us when we say that cobbles really can be fun … and they’re definitely always memorable!
CLIMBING (more than 3500m in a day)
It’s not as hard as you think to climb 3,500m or more in a single day – the key is pacing. You’ll need to make sure that you’re able to ascend at a sustainable speed for several hours but the 20-30km ascents of the Alps and Pyrenees are nothing like the short sharp ups and downs you’ll find in the UK.
Fortunately, this makes things relatively easy – it isn’t about going into the red; it’s about keeping going slowly and steadily, and hopefully staying relatively comfortable as you do so. You’ll want to be fit, yes, but far more important than that is being able to stay in the saddle while you climb, and having low enough gears that you can spin, rather than grind up the fearsome gradients of climbs like Alpe d’Huez.
If you’ve never cycled in the mountains before, we’ll make sure you have the advice and encouragement to take this on. A lack of experience shouldn’t hold you back if you think you can make the time to train for long, steady cycling days.
Whatsapp Training Groups
In the New Year, we will invite you to regional whatsapp groups. This is so that you can arrange to meet up with fellow Loopers for training rides, mutual support and encouragement.
It’s up to you how much you want to join in with your whatsapp group. There’s certainly no pressure to get involved, but for those who do, it can provide a fantastic sense of camaraderie even before we reach the roads of France!