Training

FasCat’s Tour de France training plan

If you want to get a taste of what it's like to ride the Tour de France, follow FasCat's Tour training plan. For three weeks in July, you can follow the race and do your own workouts.

It’s that time of the year again — the 2016 Tour De France is getting ready to roll out. Virtually all of us won’t be taking the start in Mont Saint-Michel, France, but that does not mean that 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 2016 Tour through intervals of varying intensities and durations.

TDF training plan

This year’s Tour starts off with a 188km road race, so it’s one of the few years a sprinter can pull on the yellow jersey at the end of the day. But before you get to that final sprint, you will have many looking to get into a break or take the early KOMs to get the polka-dot jersey before the big mountains. The first few days are filled with sprinter stages and short, punchy climbs. You will test your endurance, sprinting, and anaerobic capacity.

The Pyrenees come early, and you will get your first big effort on stage 7. This day, riders go up the Col d’Aspin. The race does not finish at the top, however, but 5km downhill after the summit. So you will get a nice 12-minute threshold effort before some high-cadence work to mimic descending. From here, you will have two more big climbing days with varying efforts of tempo, sweet spot, and threshold, followed up by your first rest day.

The Tour organizers don’t let you ease back into things after the rest, so neither does our plan! The Tour starts stage 10 with a Cat. 1 climb before a predominantly downhill/flat run to the finish, except for a little surprise Cat. 3 KOM, 7km before the finish. So you have some tempo and then finish off the day with an anaerobic effort. Following a more familiar transition day, the Tour greets the iconic Mont Ventoux on Bastille Day — a long sweet spot climbing effort. The following day, things don’t get easier as it is the Tour’s first individual time trial.

After the TT, you will have a punchy mountain stage sandwiched in between two flat stages prior to the second and final rest day.

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After the second rest day, the Tour will begin four days in the Alps. These four days include two mountaintop finishes, and the Tour’s first mountain TT since 2004. Just as in the Pyrenees, you will get a mix of tempo, sweet spot, and threshold efforts. Of course, rides will be shorter for us non-pro cyclists.

Even though every stage in the Tour is important, and you have prepared for everything, there are few key stages on the calendar you should circle.

– Stage 2: With the chaotic early stages and a chance to take the second yellow jersey, you will want to be well-positioned and ready for the climb the Cote de la Glacerie, which is only 4km from the finish and offers pitches between 8-14 percent. You may not win the Tour on this stage, but you could put yourself into a hole.
– Stage 5: Though there is no big mountain, there are two Cat. 3 and two Cat. 2 climbs in the final 50km.
– Stages 7, 8, and 9: These stages are the Pyrenees mountains, GC days. Each day gets harder than the last. If you think things couldn’t get more difficult than four climbs on Stage 8, Stage 9 offers five!
– Stage 12: The “Giant of Provence,” Mont Ventoux, is one of the most difficult climbs of the Tour due to its duration, steepness, and weather.
– Stages 13 and 18: Stage 13 is the Tour’s first individual time trial. Not an easy one with the varying terrain. Stage 18 is the Tour’s first mountain time trial since 2004.
– Stages 17, 18,19, and 20: These are the days in the Alps — two mountaintop finishes and one mountain time trial. This is the third week of the Tour where some will rise and some will fall.

Calendar codes of stages:
HM: High mountain stage
M: Medium mountain stage
H: Hilly stage
F: Flat stage
ITT: Individual 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!

Video: How to ride in the sweet spot >>

Following this year’s Tour take a rest week and complete a field test. See your gains from over the past 3 weeks of hard work! More about conducting a field test.

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, 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!

FasCat’s Tour de France training plan >>