use2wheels cycling coach Steve Hall in Etape du Tour

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use2wheels' Top Tips for l'Etape du Tour 2014

2014 will be my sixth Etape, so I have put together a few pointers to help anyone that is new to these events.

At the Etape start village: Collecting number and transponder from the start village Ė I normally do this two daysEtape du Tour 2008 beforehand so I can relax the day before the event. At the start village there are just a few things that have to be done: Check that the transponder is in your name and has your number. Check what the gold and silver times are for your age category. 

Donít be tempted to buy new shorts or shoes here to wear on the day. I always wear broken-in, but not worn-out kit, regardless of whether itís last yearís colours.


The day before the Etape: Pack your bag and lay out your clothes the night before. Use a check list so you know that you have everything.  I normally work from head to toe: helmet, shades, suncream, vest, cycling top, HRM & strap, skin arms, shorts, socks, transponder, shoes. Then I have the bits for my pockets: energy bars, tubes x 2, air cylinders x 2, tyre levers and multitool.

Prepare drinks: because the Etape is an early start, I make up my drinks the day before and keep them in the fridge. I have used Allsports products for the past 8 or 9 years and have never had a problem. I find they give the required energy without the hideous taste that you get with other products. My best advice to someone new to these products is to try a few until you find something that you are happy with. The same can be said for energy bars. I normally ride the Etape route without stopping and just use the bars and drink I start with, only on a really hot day will I make a stop to top-up fluids.

Steve riding Etape du Tour 2008I mix up 4 or 5 bottles for the day of the Etape: 2 for the ride (Allsports-enduro load), one for beforehand, as a protein/carb drink (Allsports-kick start), and 1 or 2 bottles of recovery drink (Allsports-amino load).  Regardless of which energy drinks you are using, make sure your body is familiar with them. I use the same products all summer whilst training.

Fix your number to your cycling top making sure that you can still access your pockets (this can be really fiddly, so not a job for the start line!). 

I check, clean and lubricate my bike, especially ensuring that tyres and brake blocks are okay.


The morning of l'Etape du Tour:  I usually travel to the start by car, almost ready. When I arrive at the drop off point, itís just a matter of: putting on my HRM strap, cycling jersey, transponder, shoes, helmet and shades. I load up my pockets with energy bars, my puncture kit and phone. I put my bottles and computer on the bike.

At the start, all the riders are divided up into pens dependant on their number: Itís just a matter of following the signs.  There are loads of officials around to make sure you donít get lost or go into the wrong pen (accidentally or not).

I normally try to get to the pen 30 to 45 minutes before the pen closes. So there is a lot of hanging around. Normally I donít bother with a huge warm-up, just a ride from the drop-off to the start. Once in the starting pen, I use the time to finish my pre-ride drink and do a few stretches. Wearing the right clothing at the start is a tricky one, you donít want to be cold but the last thing you want is to carry round extra kit. I have seen some people wearing bin bags that can be chucked in the last few minutes in the pen. Also tubigrip support bandages are pretty cheap and make great disposable arm/leg warmers.


During the Etape du Tour: The initial pace is fast and furious, with a lot of people trying to move up the bunch ofSteve riding Etape du Tour 2009 nearly 10 thousand riders!!!

Be careful at the start, as riders are full of nerves and there is a wide range of bike handling ability. I was brought down in the first 10km a few years back. 

If you are starting near the back, in the last pen, it will take a good 20-30 minutes before you get riding. Remember that the broom wagon normally gets rolling 45-60 minutes after the start. You may only be just in front of it, so donít hang around. 

During the ride ensure that you keep hydration levels up and, if required, stop at the feed stations. Make sure you know where the feed and water stations are en-route. 

When climbing a big mountain, I ride just a few beats below my anabolic threshold and then use the descent to recover. Take care as you crest the top of the mountain and start to descend, youíre tired and going fast, this is a combination that often leads to accidents.  During the flat sections of the course, try and sit-in, behind other riders to conserve energy.

Just as much time can be lost when descending as when climbing. Knowledge of the mountains to be ridden during the day is essential. I will normally have ridden the course at least once before the day.  The knowledge gained during a recce will enable me to descend with confidence as Iím aware of any tricky bends or poor road conditions. 

Whether you are going for a top position or just wanting to get round, do try and enjoy the day.


Allant Holidays: cycling in the PyreneesTake a look at Allant Holiday's Etape du Tour 2014 recce and training package to get you ready for the event


I wish everybody taking part in the 2014 Etape du Tour the very best of luck... 



use2wheels  -  00 33 (0)5 62 39 27 34  -  use2wheels@wanadoo.fr -  2 rue du Padouen, 65330, Galan, France