It’s that time of the year again; the 2015 Tour De France is getting ready to roll out. Nearly all of us won’t be rolling down the start ramp in Utrecht, Netherlands, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have our own challenge. Take part in this year’s FasCat Tour de France training plan that mimics the 21-day race.
This Tour de France training calendar matches the physiological demands and terrain of the 2015 Tour through intervals of varying intensities and durations.
This year’s Tour doesn’t quite start off with the traditional flat, fast finishes. Instead, it starts with a 13.5km time trial which is a great opportunity for your very own field test. It’s the one time during the plan when you will actually put in a similar effort as the racers, though many of us won’t be putting out more than six watts per kilo.
After that, the first few days are filled with wind, short, steep hills, and cobbles! You will put your VO2 and anaerobic systems to the test in the crosswinds of the Netherlands. After the first four stages, it will be time for the sprinters. This is when you will do endurance rides with finishing sprints. After another punchy uphill finish and leg-burning team time trial, the Tour hits its first rest day before taking on the high mountains.
During these stages, your intervals will represent each stage’s number of climbs. Those intervals’ intensity will depend on the tactical situation. Ride tempo and sweet spot on the big mountain climbs, but go as hard as you can up the final mountaintop finishes. On days with multiple categorized climbs, GC favorites will ride just below their threshold (tempo and sweet spot) and then go full gas in threshold (‘FG!!’ on the calendar means to go as hard as you can, just like the GC riders), on the mountaintop finishes, where the race is decided.
This year’s transition stages will be a bit tough as they have a few lower-category climbs ranging from 2-9km in length. This is the time the GC leaders and their teams will try to rest as much as possible. This could be the perfect opportunity to get in a break and go for a stage win. In the plan, there is a race-winning simulation workout where you’ll attack, ride hard, and finish with all you have left.
Even though every stage in the Tour is important, and you have be prepared for anything, there are a few key stages on the calendar you will want to circle.
– Stage 1: With the first race being a time trial, this is your first opportunity to prove to your team that you are a GC contender and to also separate yourself from the rest of the field.
– Stages 2, 3, and 4: These stages could cause chaos and end your Tour if you are not paying attention to the splits. You will need to make anaerobic efforts to keep your position at the front to not lose time in crosswinds, up the final climb of Mur de Huy, or over the cobbles.
– Stages 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, and 20: These are very crucial GC days. These stages include multiple mountain passes and mountaintop finishes. These days will test you mentally and physically, especially in third week, when your body is tired and fatigued from all the pervious days. Just one bad day could cost you the lead. Stay within yourself and give it your all, and you will be wearing the yellow jersey on the Champs-Élysées!
Calendar codes of stages
HM: High mountain stage
M: Medium mountain stage
H: Hilly stage
F: Flat stage
ITT: Individual time trial
TTT: Team time trial
The calendar shows the finishing city of each stage next to the date. On your training rides, try to mimic the stage as much as possible. Obviously, if you live in Florida or Texas, finding Alpine climbs is impossible. You can still obtain the physiological benefit of zone 4 training by power output, heart rate, or good old-fashioned feel and rate of perceived exertion. Watch the Tour live in the morning for inspiration, then head out after work for your own Tour stage workout. Don’t worry if you are short on time; follow the intervals’ structure for a condensed, real-world simulation. If you can ride long on the weekends, go for it!
How to ride in the sweet spot
Sweet spot is a training term and intensity you will frequently see in this training calendar because Tour de France riders will do a lot of it. To ride in your sweet spot, adjust your pace between medium and maximal, in a zone you’d call “medium hard.” By power or heart rate, sweet spot is between 83 and 97 percent of your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). To do the GC threshold workouts in Stages 10, 12, 17, and 20, simply go as hard as you can. If you have a power meter, you can use it to pace yourself between 91 and 105 percent of your FTP, or even more if your form is good.
Video: More on sweet spot training
Since stage 1 is a 13.5km time trial this is a perfect opportunity to perform a field test. You will do a 20-minute, all-out effort, much like the riders of the Tour will be doing that day. Then you will be able to set up an accurate FTP to set up your training zones to use during the plan.
With nearly 23 days in a row of intense riding, recovery will become really important. Make sure you have a recovery drink and food ready at the completion of each workout. Also, be sure to stay hydrated and fueled during your workouts. Not only will it help you that day, but it also keeps you from falling in a deficit, especially as the workload increases. Be sure that you are staying hydrated throughout the day, especially in the summer heat.
Overall, it’s a lot of riding. Work, family, and other commitments can make completing every workout a challenge. Even if you can only ride for one hour, perform the intervals and try to balance your time so that you can consistently ride each stage. It’s better to ride for one hour each day rather than three hours, one day a week. Set a personal goal for your own Tour because improving as a cyclist is all about setting goals and working toward them. Following this Tour de France training plan will give you a goal to accomplish for July and some insight into what it’s like to ride the Tour de France. After the Tour, you take a rest week and enjoy the fruits of your labor as your body builds up stronger than it was when you started. Complete a field test after your regeneration week and see how much you have improved from the one you completed four weeks earlier. Then, get ready for the late-season races and rides!