Anyone setting out to do something new, and hard, will clutch at any straw they can find to help drag them on their way. The internet has put a thousand voices at our disposal, generally only a search query away.
This has told me a lot. The importance of "base miles" in the winter, great tales of people who started out with even less experience than me and completed the course, some rough milestones for the 8-month journey to the top of a mountain while hopefully avoiding the broom wagon. But while these help, they can't compare to speaking to someone who knows what they're talking about.
Fortunately, Pez and I both have gurus. Phil - Pez's guru - works in the same office as him and not only completed both stages of the Etape last year, but finished about 300th. He also did the tour of Wessex.
Tom is my guru. By day he's the most respected commentator on the pensions industry in the Britain (he's got awards and everything), by night he's a really rather good cyclist. He also completed the Etape in the top 25% and rode the tour of Wessex last year.
While I've only met Tom once, I have been of some small service to him in the past (including photoshopping an "I love pensions" T-shirt onto a picture of a cycling monkey to accompany his Twitter account) and he's been happy to offer up tips when I ask.
So what words of wisdom have they offered us? "Ride up hills. Lots of hills," seems to cover it.
Those were the exact words Tom gave to me, while Phil told Pez to "find the longest hill you can, then cycle up it 10 times, maybe more".
To be honest, the best coach I ever worked with had a simple philosopy. Spot an athelete's weakest point, tell them to work on it, monitor until it's fixed. Repeat.
Right now the biggest problem I have is that I'm not good at climbing and to get to the end of the race I'll need to ride up three catagorised climbs to reach a mountain-top finish. So, fair point lads. I'm off to Box Hill again as soon as I can.