Win Tickets For L’Étape du Tour de France and Start Training

By Jiri Kaloc

Become one of our 10 lucky winners and try your skills at L’Étape du Tour! L’Étape du Tour offers an opportunity to ride the 20th stage of the Tour de France, between Nice and the Col de la Couillole under similar conditions to the professionals. But be ware, the race’s difficulty cannot be understated.

It’s a 138 km long route that climbs over the Col de Braus, Col de Turini, Col de la Colmiane and Col de la Couillole to accumulate 4591 meters of ascent. It takes many good amateur cyclists up to 10 hours to complete the course. Following a proper training plan is a must to stand a chance at finishing.

Even as the 2024 L’Étape edition is hopelessly sold out, we have a solution for 10 lucky riders among you. Visit our Instagram, join our contest and start training!

The French Cycling Federation’s National Technical Management put together a 14-week plan that will get you ready to conquer this iconic race. Let’s take a look at where to find it and how to get the most out of it.

Start 3 months before L’Étape

The training plan is built to take you from 3 months away from the race, which is about the beginning of April, all the way to race day. It’s split into three training cycles, each focusing on a different type of fitness to get you ready all the demands of L’Étape. Here is the logic behind each of the training cycles.

  • Speed – This training cycle aims to improve your reaction speed and coordination. It will help you to ride more efficiently and save your muscles to reduce your effort. For this phase, focus on consistency rather than pushing too hard too soon.
  • Strength – This cycle focuses on building up your muscle strength. This will prove crucial on the steepest sections of the race. Try to incorporate hill repeats if you can. For those living in flatter areas, using a trainer to simulate hill climbs can be beneficial.
  • Power – This cycle combines elements of speed and strength to improve your overall power output. Interval training becomes more intense, with shorter, more explosive efforts. It’s also a time to practice race-specific scenarios, such as long climbs followed by quick descents.

You can find the training plan overview as well as individual sessions described week by week here. There are two things you should also include as a part of your training that the official guide doesn’t include: nutrition and mental preparation. We summarized the most important points for you here.

Fuelling strategy

Getting your nutrition dialled in before L’Etape du Tour will make a big difference to your overall experience and enjoyment of the day. A varied diet high in minimally processed food is essential, but that should be your goal all-year round. What you should practice during your training is your fuelling strategy on the bike.

The goal is to get at least 60 grams of carbs per hour while riding. It may sound easy enough to get a few gels in per hour. The issue is that if your digestion is not used to this high amount of carbs, you are likely to experience issues such as gas, bloating, and even vomiting or diarrhoea.

Start conservative at around 30 g per hour and gradually increase how much you take in every week. If you start early, you can test several different types of gels, bars, rice cakes, or sandwiches to see which ones you tolerate best. This is important because you definitely don’t want to try anything new on race day, only foods you’re used to.

And the same goes for drinking. You want to get your stomach ready for drinking a lot of fluids. L’Étape is often hot so you will sweat a lot and have to replace all of those electrolytes and water. One 750 ml bottle per hour is a good rule of thumb. But if you can, try to find out your sweat rate and ideally, how much salt you lose through sweat. That will help you define your hydration strategy more precisely.

Mental preparation

The training you do will give you confidence and build resilience. But this race is likely to push you way past your physical comfort zone and that’s where your mind comes into play. There are a few things you can do ahead of time to be ready for the mental side of racing.

Study the course and visualize yourself riding it. Get to know as much detail as you can about the course. Check out Google maps street view of the climbs, study the distances, understand where you need to push and where you can take it easy.

Break the race up into smaller segments. Those 135 km and 4600 m of elevation are big numbers to think of, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Each climb and feed station creates a natural segment you can focus on to keep things manageable.

Plan your own pace. After completing the training plan, you’ll have a good idea about what kind of pace you can maintain and how it should feel. It’s easy to get carried away on race day, so write down your expected times, watts, heart rate, or whatever will help you stick to the plan.

Come up with a mantra. You’re going to go through bad moments, that’s inevitable. You’ll feel overwhelmed and want to quit. Your mantra is there to keep your mind off of bad thoughts and affirm the reason why you’re riding and why you want to finish. Every crisis will pass, so find something that will help you keep pedalling and you will finish.