In this article I discuss some of the important things to consider before you start your training for the L’Étape Australia event and provide you with a free L’Étape Australia training program that you can download.
In 1993 a mountainous stage of the Tour de France was opened to amateur riders so that they could experience what it is like to ride under the same conditions as the professionals. It was called L’Étape du Tour (“a stage of the tour” in French). Since then the event has grown and now boasts a peloton size of 15,000 riders and has become the world’s benchmark for cyclosportive events. In addition to France, L’Étape events are now run in Whales, Brazil, London, Paraguay and now this “tour stage race” experience is happening in Australia.
About the event
L’Étape Australia offers two options: a 170km Race option and a 108km Ride option.
The shorter version of the Race, the Ride, is for those who wish to immerse themselves in the atmosphere and experience of L’Étape without the added pressure of the final Col de Kosciuszko climb. At 108km and a peak of 1,300m the Ride is still a significant challenge
The Race delivers a route that is as tough as a mountainous stage of the Tour de France, under full Tour de France Professional conditions and runs on fully closed roads.
Riders on both the Race and the Ride will start and finish in Jindabyne.
The Race will take riders from Jindabyne to Rocky Plains, Berridale, the King of the Mountain sections at Col de Beloka and Col de Kosciuszko, descending back to Jindabyne. The Race route is longer this year at 170km with a 3,000m height gain, with the new, long decent. The Race will have four Food Zones and two Energy Zones.
The Ride will follow the same route as the Race but will return to Jindabyne after Col de Beloka to finish at the L’Étape Australia Village, which this year returns to the banks of Lake Jindabyne. The Ride is 108km with a 1,600m height gain. The Ride will have two Food Zones and one Energy Zone.
The Finish for both the Race and the Ride in Jindabyne will bring the riders, supporters and the local community together in a festive atmosphere with Matt Keenan calling in the riders as they cross the line.
All the social, logistical and administrative activities will be concentrated in the L’Étape Australia Village at Banjo Patterson Park in Jindabyne, including overnight secure bike parking.
Check out this article to help you with your base training.
L’Étape Australia Couse Map
L’Étape Australia Course Profile
If you haven’t prepared properly for these events, you may find you spend time having to mentally drive yourself through to the end. While this may be “character building” it also means that you run a high risk of injuring yourself or opening yourself up to possible post ride illness. The better your preparation leading up to this L’Étape event and the fitter you are on the day and the more enjoyable the ride will be for you.
Both these L’Étape rides involve climbing some of the major alpine “Cols” in NSW so I would certainly recommend that you establish a reasonable amount of base and hill strength first.
Your preparation will greatly depend on how seasoned a rider you are.
For both rides, I recommend that you follow a structured training plan to ensure that come event day you are in good form. If you haven’t been riding for very long, then this becomes even more important, especially if you are considering the race event. There are unfortunately no shortcuts or crash courses that can speed up the process. Consistency and starting early is the key.
Regardless of your form, there is no need to build speed at this point. You don’t want to peak before the event. Spend time on your bike with most of your riding below 75% of your max heart rate to build a good aerobic base. This can be punctuated with three or four short five to ten-minute intervals at a higher intensity once or twice a week. Make sure that you include hilly rides on the weekends to help build your hill climbing strength.
As for skills, I recommend that you practice building confidence either riding in or getting used to riding with large bunches on the road. This is important as you will encounter quite a few on the day.
If you are planning on riding the L’Etape Australia Race event, I also recommend that you get involved in some local club racing in your area to practice some race craft and build up the necessary, efficient bunch skills
New to Cycling
If you have been riding for only a year and are contemplating either of these L’Étape events, I strongly urge you to start your training now and slowly build up your riding distance and vertical meters. Increase your weekly ride time by 10% every week for three weeks at a time then have a recovery week every fourth week where you reduce your volume of training by 25% and repeat.
If you have regularly been riding for two or more years, then a minimum of 8-12 weeks of structured training for the L’Étape Australia will be sufficient.
Getting enough time to train is something many of my clients find challenging. Before you start your training, it’s important to put together a training plan to work out the amount of training you need to do in your build up to the event.
Get your diary out and find out if you have any up and coming work events, social gatherings, meetings and family commitments that are going to conflict with your training plan. And… rather than blindly kicking off your training in the hope that you’ll sort out these scheduling conflicts when they arise, you address them before you start.
Once you have done this, work out who is going to be impacted by your training schedule then go to each of these “stakeholders” and get their buy-in well ahead of time.
By going through this stakeholder buy-in process, you’ll have a very clear idea how achievable you’ll be at committing to the training. You’ll quickly identify commitments at work and at home that you need to address.
Proper bike fit
You’re going to be spending some time on your bike once you embark on your training. To reduce the chance of injury and to ensure that you are as comfortable on the bike as possible it’s important to get your bike fit sorted before you commence your training block.
Many bike shops offer a bike fitting service. Many of these bike shops do a good job of setting you up on a bike. There are also professional specialist bike fitting services dotted around the country. The most important objective of a bike fit is to make you as comfortable on the bike as possible.
Once you get your bike fit sorted, and you are happy with it then stick with it. Try not to continue to tweak it to make it better. You’ll want to have it sorted and locked in so that it doesn’t change during your training.
Same goes for changing your bike during your training leading up to the event. If you do, then try to get the position transferred as accurately as possible to your new bike so that you keep it consistent.
Sound mechanical bike
Get your bike serviced before you start your training. You want to get stuck into your training rather than having to deal with interruptions from mechanical failures.
The main items to check are your chain and cassette are in good condition and that your tyres are relatively new. I prefer to train of robust tyres. If you do get a major cut in your tyre, then replace it as soon as you can. I usually have a few spares in the garage, for this reason. Nothing worse than being out on the road and getting a puncture in the rain.