The event format
A little about how the event is structured on the road. Each group is headed by a Lead Car and a Ride Captain, with the main body of the peloton supported middle and rear by an additional three Ride Captains, a mechanics van, and for G5 also a SAG wagon (aka the Fun Bus!).
This convey is flanked by Motorbike outriders, who control traffic at the junctions and prevent cars from infringing in our ‘safe zone’. In the UK we obey the usual rules of the road, but in France, the moto’s have authority over the traffic and we flow continually, only stopping at pre-designated points for a comfort break and to top up with water. For this to work well it is therefore essential that we ride together in a tight-knit group, and this is why we ask you to sign up to a specific speed group.
Hotchillee groups are designated Race / Ride / Conquer. In G5, we are at most definitely at the conquer end of the scale. Our first aim is to get to the start of the event, fit, healthy, well prepared and uninjured. Sounds easy eh? But believe me, there are a heck of a lot of considerations to reach this level before we even put rubber to tarmac on July 25th. Our fundamental purpose is to keep pedalling, again and again and again. For most of G5, it is only at lunch on Stage 3, with Paris just 40Km away, that we even allow ourselves to start thinking about the ‘end game’.
So, what should you be thinking of now?
Long rides – build the distance
- Do not underestimate the physical undertaking; riding 100+ miles a day for 3 consecutive days is hard – you cannot wing it! It’s akin to running a Marathon every day for 3 days. It will be tough, you will need to put the training hours in. It doesn’t have to be pretty and the Ride Captains will assist you in every way we can, but our tacit contract with you is that you have committed to the training. You will need to build from 100K rides to 100 miles. You should cover this distance at least once (you have to submit a 100M ride time to be seeded in the event). Completing your first ever Century ride is a wonderful achievement and will boost your confidence for the event itself.
Get your equipment right
- You want to achieve the most comfortable position you can on the bike. I wholeheartedly recommend getting a bike fit – Sigma Sports offer a comprehensive service. This is money well spent, as is investment in shoes, gloves and shorts. There are three points of contact between rider and bike, hands, feet and bum, pay attention to each of these. We see many riders with sore necks, shoulders, hands, and backsides by day 3, so much so that it distressingly detracts from the finishing euphoria. More worryingly repetitive knee strain from incorrectly set up saddle position, shoes and or cleats can end someone’s participation on the event. Excellent sports massage and physio treatment from the Roadside Therapy team will keep you on the road as long as possible, but not everyone makes it – don’t let this be you.
Consecutive rides – build your resilience
- You should also build into your training that you ride on consecutive days. It’s tough to get back in the saddle after a big ride the day before but this is exactly what you will have to do on the event. Practise mitigates the shock to the system. It’s amazing how quickly your body will adapt as you train it to expect some more punishment. After a long ride, schedule in a supplementary ride the next day, even if it is only for 30 minutes. The Easter break is often a good time to do this. If you commute daily, you will be used to this feeling, but if you don’t, try and simulate the same physiological stress by riding every day for 5 days in a row, even if only for 20-30 minutes. Experience how it feels.
Fuelling and Nutrition
- This topic is worthy of an article by itself but in this medium it is worth mentioning a few key points. We often say you should ‘eat today to ride tomorrow’ and the best interpretation of this is to eat often – it doesn’t have to be ‘little and often’ even, just get used to grazing on the go. Get used to drinking on the go. During a ride on your own or with mates there are times when you can stop, pick up your bottle from the cage, unwrap a bar, even have the luxury of a café stop. On The LONDON-PARIS by Tour de France we keep moving, we have rolling road closures, we effect mechanical repairs on the move. This means you must become adept at fuelling while still pedalling. Not confident of accessing rear pockets, many G5 riders will buy a ‘bento box’ that sits on the top tube. They cut their favourite bars into bite-sized chunks, partially unwrapped and store in the box. All you have to do is reach down and pop it in your mouth. Make it easy to eat & drink, you will need to be on top of this.
- Experiment with bars, gels and energy drinks. Get a mix of textures, tastes, both sweet and savoury. In G5 we often spend 7.5 to 8 hours completing the stage. Aside from breakfast and lunch, as a rough rule of thumb you will need to address a deficit of an additional 3000 calories with sports nutrition. Find something you like and are going to want to eat.
Train to your weaknesses
- It never ceases to amaze me how many riders think that the route to Paris is flat. I’ll let you into a secret, IT’S NOT! If you hate hills, learn to love them. This will make your experience so much more pleasurable. Carrying a little extra timber is a nuisance on the hills, so if this applies to you, try to shed a few kgs before the start. Hill reps may be painful but the rewards from this type of training are enormous.
- If you can ride for ever but are shy of our target speed of 24-25 kph, spend your time working on your top end. Do 3 to 5 minute hard effort repeats and then, once your speed and power has increased, build to a 20-minute threshold test. You will naturally see an improvement in fitness and output translating over the whole of your power curve, meaning that you’ll get faster over your longer rides too.
- If you have speed but lack staying power, build your threshold from 20 minutes to 60 minutes. Once you reach your ‘hour of power’ optimum, ease back by 15% and start to build the duration of your long ride.
- We roll as a group, riding two by two, side by side. Although it is not essential to acquire group riding skills before the event, again, work in this area will prove exceedingly beneficial. Either come along to one of our HotChillee Monthly Ride series or join a local club ride. Practise riding in a group formation, learn how to hold a wheel, to close a gap, to point out obstacles and to trust other riders. Taking shelter in the peloton can offer as much as a 40% reduction in effort. This is a material saving and over 3 days will have a marked impact. The Ride Captains will help you with your positioning on the road.
The Ride Captains will lend a helping hand all the way along your journey to Paris but if you lack fitness and cannot hold the required speed there is not much we can do. Unbelievably, the smallest of speed difference can rapidly lead to a large split in the group; consider that a differential in pace with the front of the group travelling at 25 kph and the back struggling at 22 kph, would mean that it would only take 3K for us to be strung out over 1K. This would be unsafe and before this happens you will be asked to close the gaps. If you are unable to do this, you will have to take a ride in the SAG wagon. I know the banter is good in the “fun bus” but I’m sure none of you want to sit out the ride within the first couple of hours of the first day!
If you put the effort and the training in now, you’ll reap the rewards come July.
In the meantime, if you have any questions or specific concerns, you’ll find me on the HotChillee App as Ride Captain Juliette.