Matt Moran

I’m excited about riding the Etape. I’m also nervous.

Posted by Matt Moran on Feb 13, 2012

Col du Solour Summit

Summit of Col du Soulor

We're always on the look out for insiprational stories from Wattbike owners across the world and this is no exception, a tale of a comeback to the bike and nerves and excitement ahead of a first foray into the challenges of some iconic Tour de France climbs.

Jonathan is taking on the Etape du Tour - Acte II, it's the Queen stage of this year's race and features the likes of the Col d'Aubisque and Col du Tourmalet, each a challenge in their own right, but Jonathan aims to take them all on in a single day.  His training time is limited due to a busy professional lifestyle so the Wattbike has been perfect to enable him to get the most of each and every training session.   Here's Jonathan story in his own words...

I used to road race in my teens and twenties.  An accident during a training session on the track left me with a broken leg and thirteen weeks in plaster to contemplate just how much of my time cycle racing took up. 

I struggled to get back into the sport and eventually drifted away.  I tried mountain biking but didn’t take to it.  I ended up running to keep fit.  I ran the New York marathon in 2006 in a time of 3hours 41 minutes.  I carried on with the running but started to have problems with my calf muscles.  I went to see a number of different specialists but none of them was able to tell me what the problem was or how to resolve it.  After a few sessions with a physiotherapist, he told me that he didn’t know what the problem was and thought the only solution was for me to stop running.

I decided to get back into cycling.  I rebuilt one of my road bikes and started to get out again.  I cursed myself for having given up the sport years before - I loved getting out on the bike and exploring the countryside where I live (Stratford Upon Avon).  Running was something I’d done to keep fit.  Cycling was something I loved to do - the fact it helped me to keep fit was a bonus.  In a rush of enthusiasm I purchased a new carbon framed bike and a Wattbike.

I’d resolved not to join a cycling club - I didn’t want to get sucked into competitive cycling again.  So I ended up going out for short rides when I could fit them in around my work.  I’d go out for an hour to two hours - push myself quite hard - and return home satisfied.  I had no plan - I didn’t have a particular objective other than a vague “keep fit”. The Wattbike sat gathering dust - sometimes doubling as a rather expensive clothes horse.  I contemplated selling the Wattbike on ebaY and wondered how I’d wrap it and what the postage would cost.

Col du Solour

Col du Soulor

Towards the end of last year I decided that I should do something special in 2012 to mark the fact that I’d be turning fifty.  I’ve always wanted to ride some of the climbs that my Tour heroes - Merckx, Hinault, Fignon, Roche - had ridden.  So I decided I should enter the Etape.

If I was going to ride one hundred and ninety seven kilometres over some of the toughest mountain passes in the Pyrenees then I knew I’d need to train properly.  I decided to have a fitness test to see how unfit I was and to give me a starting point for a training plan.  I booked an appointment with Garry Palmer at Sportstest.

Road between Soulor and Aubisque 

Road between Col d'Aubisque and Col du Soulor

The results of the fitness test showed that I needed to drastically improve my “low-end” fitness - improving my body’s ability to burn fat.  Garry put together a training plan for me. 

The training plan covered the period up to mid-February (I’m due for another test soon) and involved a lot of “Endurance” training at a low intensity, as well as some “Threshold” and “Unstructured fun” sessions.  The Endurance and Threshold sessions require working within specific heart rate zones. 

I have quite a demanding job.  I’m a lawyer working for a US multinational corporation.  I regularly have late night telephone meetings and do a fair bit of business related travel.  My training time is therefore somewhat limited and I have to remain flexible as to when I can fit training sessions into my schedule.  Making sure I’m training as efficiently as possible is therefore essential.  And that’s why I’m glad I didn’t put my Wattbike up for sale on ebaY!

It’s the perfect training tool - especially for the endurance sessions.  I’m able to maintain my heart rate in the right zone far more easily than I’m able to on the road - where factors such as gradient, weather, junctions, traffic etc. all impact one’s ability to maintain heart rate at a particular level.  In a three hour ride on the road the time spent in the target heart rate zone might be only an hour or less.  On the Wattbike - apart from the time spent warming up and warming down - almost all of the training time will be in the right heart rate zone. 

With my iPad propped on the Wattbike handlebars I can quite easily rack up two hours on the Wattbike.  For the endurance rides I tend to watch tv programmes - I’ve got through season one and season two of The Killing (the original Danish version not the US version).  For the threshold sessions I use the brilliant videos from The Sufferfest.

The training is going well - but at the time of writing I’ve had to take a few days off to get over a cold.  I’m looking forward to seeing the results of my next fitness test.

I’m excited about riding the Etape.  I’m also nervous.  It’s longer than I’ve ever ridden before.  Even if the route was as flat as a pancake it would be daunting - but the thought of climbing the Col d’Aubisque, Col du Soulor, Col du Tourmalet, Col de Peyresourde during those one hundred and ninety seven kilometers is both terrifying and exhilarating .  But I have a clear objective, a well thought out training plan, and my Wattbike.  The rest is down to me.

We're looking forward to catching up with Jonathan before his trip over to France, best of luck with your training!

Further Reading:

How to ride a sportive 40 minutes faster than last year!


cycling, sportive