We know what it’s like for cycling fans in July. You watch the coverage live on your computer at work, watch the coverage on TV again every night, and maybe you even call in sick to watch the big stages live in the morning! You scour all the magazines and websites for information and the inside scoop. Now you can take your devotion to the Tour one step further and incorporate some Tour de France workouts into your own training program.
Throughout the Tour de France, I’m going to provide a series of daily workouts that feature intervals or activities that address the demands of that day’s stage. For instance, we’ll start with some Hillsprints because the finale of Stage 1 includes a sharp 2-kilometer climb to the finish. On big climbing days at the Tour, the program will include climbing intervals and other activities that will enhance your ability to climb quickly and efficiently. When the Tour takes a rest day, there will be a rest day in the program too.
The overall volume and intensity here is nothing close to the real Tour de France. Rather, the rides will typically be 90 minutes to two hours. You can’t replicate the Tour, and I’m not going to pretend to try. This program is designed to get you more involved in the race, and provide workouts you can use throughout the year to improve your aerobic engine, sustainable power, climbing power, climbing technique, and sprinting speed.
The workouts presented here are not meant to replace your current training if you’re already following a structured program, nor should this succession of workouts be used as a model for an effective long-term training program. My hope is that you’ll pick and choose workouts that are something different than what you’ve tried in the past, and perhaps find some new approaches to improving your own performance. The Tour de France has 21 days of racing, with only two rest days. It’s hard on Tour riders, and it would not be good for your overall training to perform structured workouts on 21 out of 23 days. Rather, I recommend taking at least one complete rest day and at least one active recovery day (easy recovery ride) each week.
CTS Field Test
In order for your training to be effective, it’s important to understand your current level of fitness and base your intensity levels for endurance rides and specific intervals on that information. There are several methods for establishing training intensity ranges, including lab testing and time trials of varying durations, but the one that I’ve had the most success with over the past 20 years is a field test. The CTS Field Test consists of two 8-minute time trials, separated by 10 minutes of easy spinning. It is best performed on either flat to gently rolling terrain or a sustained climb, somewhere you can maintain a steady effort for the full distance. You can also perform this test on an indoor trainer.
When performing the CTS Field Test, collect the following data:
- Time of each effort (mm:ss)
- Average heart rate for each effort
- Average power (if available) for each effort
- Average cadence for each effort
- Weather conditions (warm vs. cold, windy vs. calm, etc.)
- Course Conditions (indoors vs. outdoors, flat or hilly, point-to-point vs. out and back, etc.)
- Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)(how hard you felt you were working) for each effort.
Instructions for the CTS Field Test:
- Your total ride time for the day will likely be between 60-90 minutes. Ride at a moderate pace, with a few short (2-3 minute) efforts for warmup, for 30-45 minutes.
- Once you know your route, get ready to start the effort. Be sure you’re prepared to record the information listed above.
- Start the effort. Spend the first one to two minutes gradually getting up to your maximum sustainable speed. If you start too hard, you’ll hinder your performance in the latter half of the effort.
- Hold your speed and intensity through the whole effort. Your cadence should be about 85-100rpm.
- Record the information for your first Field Test effort and spin easily for 10 minutes.
- Repeat the Field Test effort
- Record the information for both of your time trials and ride at an easy or moderate pace for the rest of your ride. Good Job!
As you progress through the workouts in this program, I will frequently refer back to the power and heart rate numbers you generated during the CTS Field Test. I use these numbers to establish training intensity ranges for specific workouts. For instance, the intensity range for a ClimbingRepeat interval is 95-97% of the higher of your two average heart rates from the field test, or 95-100% of the higher of your two average power outputs from the test. If there is a specific training intensity range for a given workout in this program, I will provide the appropriate percentages with the workout instructions.