Head Coach, British Cycling
“I couldn't say I trained in a structured way but I did train quite effectively. I put my hand up for the Etape in May, about 10 weeks before the event and it took me a few weeks to think it would be possible. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks before the ride that I was confident I could do it.
“I haven’t ridden seriously for three or four years. I’ve done the odd ride at a training camp but all I’d been doing was running and rowing in the gym, so I had a fair bit to do. You can achieve a lot in eight weeks but it took all of those eight weeks to get any semblance of real fitness.
“To start with I didn’t really enjoy riding. It was like taking work out with me and with the lack of time I was only doing two-hour rides. I did one three-and-a-half-hour ride, so they were all quite short.
“But I like training hard so all my riding was at 70 to 75 per cent of my threshold. Two or three hours training at zone three is quite grippy. I was trying to simulate that niggle of climbing for an hour and a half and increase my resistance to riding for a long period. I wasn’t trying to rev, just ride at 80 to 85rpm.
“I am a pretty competitive person and the first major enjoyment factor was setting short-term goals. I didn’t set myself big targets. I love training hard, whether I’m running for 30 minutes at the gym or on the road and I make the same mistakes as everyone, even though I’m a coach. People laugh at me for going off too hard but I think, as a coach, it’s good to remember what it’s like to train hard.
“I would feel tired from a day’s work but the minute you get out on the bike your legs don’t hurt. Because I hadn’t trained properly on the bike for so long I was quite enthused. With three weeks to go I was getting out at 6am.
“I took my bike on holidays to northern Spain, much to my wife’s disdain, but again I did short rides. I didn’t want to be out all day disrupting the rest of the family so I’d go out early. I was just really enjoying the bike and I realised I don’t enjoy riding, I enjoy training. I was whizzing around, averaging 33kph on the flat rides and I would be checking my speeds to see if I could beat the last ride.
“All the riders I coach gave me a bit of ribbing and encouragement. I think they appreciate when anyone is working hard for their sport and for me as a coach it was a great thing to do because it will help me in my work to know what it takes to get out of bed and do the work. I will continue training in a structured way from now on.”
Gap-Alpe d’Huez: 8-18-42
Alpe d’Huez: 1-26-53
“I rode as Peter Keen couldn’t make it. We set off as a group with Shane doing the pacemaking. In the first hour we did 45km and we were passing group after group.
“I went up the Col d’Izoard at my own pace. I climbed pretty well and was quite happy with how I was going. We regrouped at the top and then rode to the Lautaret, where we regrouped again.
“The heat was atrocious and it meant we had to pay a lot of attention to food and drink. I was making sure I ate regularly — gels, bars, sachets of stuff.
“We all started Alpe d’Huez together and I put 15 minutes into Dave. Chris Hoy did the ride of the day though. He’s 94kg and he was pulling away from me. He said he didn’t want to draw attention to himself so he wore his world champion’s kit.
“I thought I would blow on the Alpe but I didn’t. I just got into a groove. I rode with a built-in self-protection. I told myself at the start, I am not going to hurt myself.
“I was pleased with how I rode and I am already looking forward to next year, which, rumour has it, will be Mont Ventoux. Not sure how true that is at this stage but I
hope it is.”
Performance Director, British Cycling (pictured above)
“We had a lot of fun and there was a real feeling of camaraderie in the team. The bravado got well out of hand, too. There were secret training sessions and we had a notice on the board in the office detailing the best times.
“Because of the constraints of time and because we work with cycling all the time I knew I’d have to be creative in getting enough time to train.
“We have some of those big running treadmills in the gym and they are big enough that you can get your bike on it and ride normally. So, I’d warm up, match the gradient to Alpe d’Huez, turn the speed up to 15, 16 kilometres per hour and ride for 50 minutes.
“That was the cornerstone of the training, riding on the treadmill. People will sneak in, jump on and do some secret training. It got quite competitive. It’s very different from riding on a turbo because you can get out of the saddle and ride just as you would on the road.
“My training started back in the winter, and when I was out in Australia for the Commonwealth Games I put in some base miles with Shane Sutton, getting out early every morning. But when I got back the difficulty of finding the time to train meant the treadmill came into its own. I could work at my threshold, do 30 to 40 minutes of climbing and that way I developed some power and threshold tolerance.
“I also sat down at the start and looked at the nutritional side of things with Nigel Mitchell [British Cycling nutritionist]. He took my body fat measurements and had a good old laugh. I was anything but athletic but I had a harsh look in the mirror and lost weight and body fat. I was just under 94kg but I got down to 84. Now I want to get down to under 80. Between that and the increased fitness I’ve been bouncing round at the velodrome. I’m always an energetic and positive person but I’ve got more energy and I feel fresh and alert now. When I get out on my bike I get time to clear my head and I’ve come up with some of my best ideas while out on the bike.
“I also had two great training partners. Shane Sutton hadn’t ridden his bike properly for 12 years but he got right back into it and he’s a great motivator. He’s so good at making you feel good about training hard. He’d say: ‘Think how lucky we are to be out on our bikes’ and it made you feel like making the most of the time.
“Simon Jones and I were a bit more competitive, but in terms of training he was a great source of support. I am sure the temptation to give me a bit of dud advice must have been overwhelming but he didn’t. He’s great at half-wheeling though. He got really strong towards the end.
“But it added another dimension to the work I do. You see the commitment the elite riders put in every day and you recognise how hard our sport
is when you have to show some of that commitment to training yourself.”
Gap-Alpe d’Huez: 8-33-13
Alpe d’Huez: 1-41-23
“Shane set off at a very lively pace and we nearly got to the front. We were bowling along and every time someone tried to get in the line Shane shouted: ‘This is a private party’.
“We regrouped at the top of the first two climbs but it was every man for himself on Alpe d’Huez. The heat got to me by the end. We took our feeding and hydration very seriously and at the top of the Lautaret I went into a little cafe and bought a load of apple pies. I cracked.
“My father lives in Briançon and one day I rode to Alpe d’Huez and back with some friends, and I rode up the Alpe in an hour and eight minutes. It took me 1-41 at the Etape. I was quite happy but the heat really got me later in the day.
“When you think about the Etape experience for the majority of Brits, it’s quite a stressful experience. They travel a couple of days before, they probably don’t sleep too well the first night, then they have to get up in the middle of the night for the Etape. They eat breakfast hours and hours before the start. It’s not ideal. We are very experienced travellers and we know how to minimise the stress but if I were to give any advice, I’d plan the three preceding days with military precision, otherwise you are compromising your condition for the event itself.”