Tour de France 2014: how to get bike fit to tackle the UK stages from Yorkshire to London

Posted: March 12, 2014 by kirisyko in Bike, Fitness and Training, Road cycling, SykOtic
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Too easy: Tour leader Phil Deeker makes it look all too easy as he leads another charity cyclist up a climb


Four years ago I took part in a now-annual charity ride, the Tour de Force, set up in memory of a friend of mine who was killed on his gap year. It follows the Tour de France route a week before the main race starts and is so impeccably organised, that all you have to think about is getting yourself to the saddle each morning. Or perhaps seeking solace from the tour-riding doctor on a latest ailment.

For me, severe lessons were learnt in 2010 on how to prepare for such a monstrous sporting event, one I am hoping to avoid on the ups and downs to London.

For some reason, I even briefly toyed with the idea of foolishly tackling the whole Tour this year. But after seeing the look on my wife’s face, I settled on the first three stages on British shores.


My semi-blasé approach to the Yorkshire to London stages was then firmly quelled when I read my colleague Tanya Aldred’s piece on Yorkshire readying itself for the Tour. Her summary on stage two was, indeed, “brutal”. Why, there’s not even an opening time trial to ease myself into the Tour.


Chris Froome, like myself and a friend in Malawi, has recovered from bilharzia, a horrible disease that was once voted as one of FHM’s top 20 things to definitely avoid. But that’s where the similarities end. He has, of course, gone on to great heights for British cycling. So, to avoid embarrassment this summer, I contacted Phil Deeker, the leader of the Tour de Force who has ridden the whole route countless times.

I met Deeker in 2010 when I joined the Midi-Pyrenees’ stages and, if I recall correctly, he had already done one of that day’s climbs two or three times to help out various riders in trouble. Some leader!

Suffering in the mountains during 2010

Deeker gave me an initial series of questions so he could conjure a training plan. “One that is intended to fit in with an active professional life-style and that is designed for you to be able to complete the UK stages without falling apart mid-stage,” he wrote. “How long you will take to do them is irrelevant!”

Working largely from home handed me an advantage over anyone with a 9-5 office job, also giving the impression that I was able to do as much as possible in this time. It worked in as much as Phil’s plan showed exactly what I needed to do – four long rides per week in May! – to make sure I don’t have to hang on to those handles up Jenkin Road, which usually help pedestrians on their way.

Deeker’s training regime for me made for eye-opening reading, which included a treble dose of running, alongside the training rides. To get to the start in Yorkshire in the best shape possible is simply going to be one tall order.

Month / Week  Bike Rides (km distance)  Run (minutes)  Stretching (5-10 mins) 
Feb / 1 50 / 50 10 Back & thighs
Feb / 2 50 / 60 15 Back & calves
Feb / 3 50 / 70 20 Shoulders & neck
Feb / 4 50 / 80 25 Back & hips

Deeker’s summary: work on one regular mid-week ride and a gradually-increasing length of your weekend ride. Get into the habit of creating these two spaces in your schedule. Working at home offers you a valuable option to work round the British weather, so there should be less excuse to put off rides! Try and get three runs in per week. Go gently to begin with, even if you feel like you could do more or go faster. Ease off totally if your legs feel shredded – they could do at first. Ten minutes may not seem worth it, but it is better to stay injury-free. Try and find a pleasant loop so that you can try and enjoy this daily work-out. If you can do this before breakfast, that is the best. Learn to get your breathing regular – really useful for long-distance cycling.


Month / Week Bike Rides (km distance) Run (minutes) Stretching (5-10 mins)
Mar / 1 50 / 80 / 30 20 Back & thighs
Mar / 2 50 / 90 / 30 25 Back & calves
Mar / 3 50 / 90 / 30 30 Shoulders & neck
Mar / 4 60 / 90 / 30 30 Back & hips

Add the third ride per week and keep it short. If you feel good, then go harder than usual on this one. For all your rides, avoid anything too hard at this stage: you are looking for time in the saddle and miles in the legs, not how many vertical metres or how good your average speed is.


Month / Week Bike Rides (km distance) Run (minutes) Stretching (5-10 mins)
Apr / 1 60 / 90 / 20 / 20 30 Back & thighs
Apr / 2 60 / 100 / 20 / 20 30 Back & calves
Apr / 3 60 / 90 / 20 / 20 30 Shoulders & neck
Apr / 4 70 / 100 / 20 / 20 30 Back & hips

Add another ride in week four, ideally a 20km on Sunday, or the day after you do your long ride. This is really important preparation to riding the three UK stages back-to-back. It may seem a lot to get four rides in, but two of them really do not need to be long. Try and vary your routes now and include some climbing in at least two of your rides.


Month / Week Bike Rides (km distance) Run (minutes) Stretching (5-10 mins)
May / 1 60 / 120 / 20 / 20 / 20 30 Back & thighs
May / 2 60 / 140 / 20 / 20 / 20 30 Back & calves
May / 3 60 / 160 / 20 / 20 / 20 30 Shoulders & neck
May / 4 70 / 180 / 20 / 20 / 20 30 Back & hips

This is the most important month. June is too close to your event to work hard and now is when you will sow the seeds for your reward six weeks later. It will take careful planning to make time for this schedule. But if you can do this, you will really start to feel confident. Maybe drop the running at this stage, to concentrate solely on the bike. June will see a decrease to three main rides per week, with a gentle one added if possible.

So, there you go. How to get bike fit in four months – that’s if you don’t work in an office all week – to tackle the Tour de France route.

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