As I head towards the Giant of Provence and the Haute Route Ventoux amateur cycling race, I wanted to write down my top tips for training for a Haute Route event, especially if you don't have much time.
Just in case anyone is thinking about making Haute Route their 2022 or 2023 cycling challenge.
I’m not trying to suggest I’ve gone from 0-60 in 4 weeks, I ride my bike a lot. But I usually ride 'for fun' without a real goal in mind; a mixture of crit racing (very short, very hard 30-60 minute efforts) or cafe rides with mates, as well as some gravel/MTB too.
What is Haute Route?
That can sound a bit serious to some, but actually it's just a really well organised 3 or 7 day stage race. Each rider gets an accumulative time at the end of each day and a position in the general classification (GC).
1. Get a training plan
This gives you structure, a planned work out and plenty of feedback on how your training is going.
You also don’t need to have all the training gear like a power metre etc. You can train on heart rate or feel (perceived rate of exertion).
2. Ride up some hills
Events usually take on some of the most famous, bucket list mountain passes in the world. I myself am about to take on Mont Ventoux 3 times in one weekend, so you can be sure the other events are also tough but once in a lifetime challenges.
Living in Northern Europe and cycling in London and Brussels respectively, it’s not so easy to find those long climbs to replicate a mountain pass. But it is possible to be smart about it, and work with what you do have.
- Ride the hills near you. Find hilly routes in the lumpiest areas near you
- Run to the hills! It’s really easy to take the train to a hilly area and ride up as many long climbs as you can. From London you can get to the Peak District, South Downs, West Country or Wales for a day's training. Take a route from our database and off you go! I have travelled the Ardennes a few times to train, the hilly area of Belgium made famous by Liege Bastogne Liege et al. There is nothing to replicate the 21km of Ventoux, but it’s a start.
- Hill reps. Find the hardest hill near you and go up and down it as many times as you can. Don’t discount these short/sharp sessions (perfect for before or after work) as they can make all the difference. Find a group to ride them with and these sessions can almost become enjoyable.
- Go away for the weekend. International travel may be tough, but a UK cycling weekend in somewhere like the Lake District will do wonders. Back to back training days will help get your body ready for the stage race you’re about to take on. If travel is possible, then a weekend or week in somewhere like Mallorca is great prep. Just make sure to give yourself a bit of rest before the event.
- And if you live somewhere really flat (hi, Cambridge cyclists) then it is possible to train for mountains on totally flat ground. Read this from Col Collective or watch the GCN video below:
3. Use all the tools and resources available
Especially if you use a platform like Rouvy or Zwift, where you can replicate a long climb or effort. On Rouvy you can actually ride up the ‘real’ Ventoux, or via zwift you can do your efforts on the Alpe du Zwift or Ventop.
I have been cycling for a really long time and have done many different events, but I still felt the need to ask for advice from those who have ridden an Haute Route.
4. Get your bike checked over
Yes, there are mechanics on site as part of the Haute Route service, but what if you get to the event and they say you really need a certain part that they don’t have?
Get your bike serviced a good amount of time before the event. You will train better on a properly functioning bike, and if anything goes wrong post service you’ve still got time to get it looked at.
The Haute Route mechanics can then just give you a quick tune up before the race starts.
Check out Willy’s Wheels mobile bike servicing if you’re in London (great discounts for members) or Coureur Cycles or Hors Catégorie if you’re in Brussels.
However your legs feel before the event, having a fully serviced and super smooth running bike gives you huge confidence and peace of mind.
And if you’ve been eyeing that upgrade or new part waiting for the moment to pull the trigger - now's the time. New bits always give you a lift, which is a training aid in itself.
Just make sure you’ve got time to train with it so you know how it will perform at the event.
5. Study the details
Your legs are where they are, nothing you can do about that in the week before the event (except resting, more training won’t help now), but a good knowledge of the route, specifically the climbs and feed stops, can make all the difference.
Knowing where the climbs are, how long they are, and where the feed stations fall, is some of the most important info you can have.
It will be the difference between a really enjoyable ride, and a hellish one where you don’t know when the climb will end or where the next feed stop is.
There is also a briefing before each day and I imagine a top tube sticker containing route/climb info. These are all important training aids, and will help you tons during the ride.
There’s a really silly idea in road cycling that it’s not ok to ask questions. It’s nonsense - most people are lovely and only too willing to help. Don’t be shy - forewarned is forearmed remember!
If you're taking on a cycling event next year then I hope these tips help you out.
As I said, the more time you can give yourself the better, and the above tips still apply in the run up to an event like Haute route whether you’ve got 4 weeks to train or 4 months.
As I sit here, train hurtling torwards Ventoux, I’m not feeling totally confident in my legs with 3 big days ahead of me. But I know that I’ve prepared everything else as best as I can.