Having secured my place on the Tour de Force in early November, within seconds of the booking lines opening up, my thoughts turned to the training regime I would put in place to prepare for this. Now, I am not very good at applying the numerous “10 steps to prepare for the perfect ride” type of advice found in various cycling publications because I just cannot fit them into my schedule, but I took the point that something needed to be done. So while I similarly do not expect this section to contain stunning revelations for others looking for the ideal training plan, some have expressed an interest in how I have prepared so here goes.
Historically my approach to training has typically been to just get out and do what I can get out and do and let the rest take care of itself. Not very scientific. If I was a professional or a more ambitious amateur, it would be disastrous. However, my interest lies in enjoying the whole cycling experience – I do like to challenge myself, but I’m happy to switch into tourist mode too. I did think, though, that I should probably introduce some kind of structure this time round and beef up the riding as this was going to be a big endeavour.
My training plan therefore was that, from December, I decided that each week I would try and achieve at least one out of three targets, and ideally all three. These were (1) to ride a total of at least 150 miles; (2) one of those rides should be at least 70 miles; and (3) total climbing should be at least 10,000 feet. All this is easy to monitor on Strava, although I do like a notebook too! I also factored in a number of 100+ mile rides, whether they were local sportive events, club rides to Brighton and back or solo rides to anywhere and back. After some of these I would try and get out again the next day for a shorter ride (2 or 3 hours) if I could. No overseas warm-weather foreign training trips. No turbo. No gym.
By and large I achieved these targets and I always found the cycling to be a joy, not a chore – how could you not when you get the chance to enjoy the beautiful countryside? A big part of meeting my goals was by adding a loop through the “Chislehurst Cols” onto my daily commute to work and before the Saturday morning club ride (and sometimes afterwards too, if I had not reached my targets). All in all, I increased my average distance covered each month by nearly 40% compared with previous years just by getting up a little earlier than usual and giving myself a little extra push from time to time. I never stressed if I missed a target – one poor week is not going to scupper my ability to complete my mission in France – though the fact that I had these aims in mind did help to galvanise me into making that little extra effort when I might otherwise have not bothered. Between January and May this year I rode 4,000 miles, completed 20 rides of 70 miles or more (including 9 centuries) and climbed around 240,000 feet. That’s Everest x 9. An unintended side effect was that I also lost a few pounds. That should help in the mountains.
The dinner table in St Petersburg, and a view from it.
Rest and recovery forms an important part of training, and I had a week off the bike at the end of May to go on a very definitely non-cycling holiday with my wife (visiting the palaces of Saint Petersburg and living like Tsars off vodka and caviar, but not so much as to do too much damage!). We’d been looking forward to this trip for a while which Babs certainly deserves, not least for putting up with all the hours I spend on the bike.
After our return from Russia and for the rest of June I went into maintenance mode, with targets abandoned. The daily commuting distance reduced as I reverted to the direct route and I restricted myself to club rides with no extras. That said, after a week off the bike and over the following three Saturdays I found that I ended up with new Personal Bests on Toys, Berry’s, Titsey, Bug and Sundridge Hills and only narrowly missed out on Star, Ide and Fox too. The North Downs are not the Pyrenees I know, but this all serves as a significant confidence booster and a sign that I must be doing something right. I think it’s fair to say that I am in the best shape now than I’ve ever been as far as cycling is concerned and if I have made my riding buddies suffer over the last few weeks in particular then I am truly sorry, but rest assured that you have really helped me get to where I am now. So all the hard work has been completed and I just need to stay fit and to get myself to France in one piece.