The most critical period of training for the Etape is the specific work you do in the 8-12 weeks immediately prior to the event. However, in order to make the most of that crucial final window, it is essential to have a comprehensive build up that prepares you to complete the hardest sessions and highest training load in those last weeks. This plan serves that purpose, by increasing the amount of training load you can handle and starting to lift your fitness in the areas that are crucial to Etape success. This must be done in such a way that you leave a little extra in the tank for the final build - it is important not to peak too soon so this plan offers a steady, progressive increase that will offer a solid and long lasting platform upon which to add your race specific fitness. If you're looking for a plan for the final 8-12 then check out our Etape du Tour training plans.
The aims of this plan are to:
1) Build your long ride endurance ready to complete an event as long as the Etape.
2) Increase work capacity and sustainable climbing power by including extended riding in zone 3
3) Include some high intensity training to prepare for event specific training following this build
It is expected that this plan will typically be preceded by 2-8 weeks of base endurance training, or more experienced riders can drop straight into this after a short break following their previous target event.
The plan is based around 3 training blocks, each with a slightly different aim. The time commitment is no greater than 8 hours per week, typically with a longer ride on the weekend and 2 or 3 shorter midweek rides. There is also an optional ride included where appropriate, so that you can tailor the routine if you have more/less time available than expected. This optional session is scheduled for a Saturday but can be completed on any day, provided the extra fatigue does not detract from the other sessions.
The plan contains instruction for using power, heart rate and/or feel to guide the training. Using a power meter will undoubtedly give you an edge when completing the plan but if this is not an option then heart rate and feel (rating of perceived exertion or RPE) are perfectly adequate. Many of the workouts also benefit from use of a home trainer but all can be done on the road if necessary.