Before I get there there are some other issues. How do you go about training for the hardest race of your life when it's eight months away and keep motivated in the interim?
The solution our band of three riders found is sportives. There weren't many of these about a few years back, but on the back of the boom in cycling's popularity, more and more are sprining up all the time.
So far, the only one I've ever tried to do saw me barely get as far as the start line (an easy six-mile ride), before realising that the cold I had wouldn't let me do it. I grabbed a free energy bar and pack of electrolyte tablets, begged a lift back to the station, and went home.
But that hasn't put me off, so we've gone through every calandar we can and mapped out our plan to ride the Etape in sportives. Here it is:
- December 2: Dorking RideIt. A choice of 30/50/70 mile courses. "some small climbs, some medium climbs and some iconic climbs". We're planning for the 50-miler, but that might be optimistic. Report here
- Feb 10: Gatwick RideIt: 30/50/70 mile routes. Hopefully we'll be in a position to cruise the 50-mile course. Possibly we won't.
Feb 24: Hell of Ashdown - 64 miles.[Warm weather training instead]
- March 10: VO2 sportive - 75 mile ride in Kent.
- April 7: Woking RideIt - by this stage we should be on the 70-mile routes
- April 28: Ups and Downs Sportive - 95 mile route
May 12: Etape Caledonia - closed roads, 81 miles long, timing chips and 2 kilometers of climbing. Almost perfect training (albeit with a third less climbing and no cut-off time)[wedding interrupted]
- May 18 & 19: London Revolution - 185 miles circling London over two days, about 2k of climbing. Hopefully both days
- May 25-27: Tour of Wessex - "the biggest Multi stage cyclosportive in the World". 335-miles over 3 days or you can enter individual days. The big option has a ludicrous 7772m fo climbing. With a cut-off speed of 20kph. Single stages are c112 miles. This might be a tad over-optimistic...
- And on June 2 a final test - the King of the Downs. 115 miles of the hardest grade of Sportive going in the UK.
All this fitted around general training, obviously. Hey, leave off, it's the only plan we've got.