Start now and build a base

In the second in a series of weekly Wednesday articles, Matt Keenan shares some key training and riding tips, picked up from covering the world’s best cyclists, to help you prepare for the big event in December.

Start today because tomorrow never comes. It’s an old cliché that can be applied to anything in life, particularly training.

You can’t cram for L’Étape, or any ride/race, in the same way, you can for a uni exam or a work presentation. I’ve tried it. It doesn’t work.

Cramming, on the training front, normally leads to falling into a physical heap and getting sick. We need to build a base.


At the beginning of the training phase, the key focus is building the aerobic base. This is the foundation that your fitness will be built on.

Rides of two or more hours, at a steady pace, teach your body to be more efficient in its use oxygen and fat as fuel.

And when you build endurance, eventually you can get more out of higher ­intensity riding and a heavier training load.

Allow six to eight weeks for this phase.


Most rides in this phase will be at a heart rate of between 65 and 75 percent of your max. The occasional hard effort won’t hurt your base but don’t over do it.

Try to keep your pedalling cadence at around 95rpm.

When you’re riding hills try to stay seated. This will help build your strength.


Importantly, for building your base, consistency is crucial. Aim for at least four rides per week. You’ll get better fitness outcomes from doing 300km spread across four days per week than doing it in two rides.


As cycling is such a time intensive sport, ensure that each ride has a purpose so you don’t waste anytime.

Even if the purpose of the ride is a social catch up with friends always have a purpose. It will help keep you motivated and on track.

The overall purpose of this phase is to build a foundation that will let you get the best out of yourself when we start up the intensity.

A really easy way to build up your base is to ride to work, the long way, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and do at least one three to four-hour ride on the weekend.

It’s also vital that you have rest days.

To quote Mark Fenner, who coaches Australia’s leading domestic team, IsoWhey Sports – SwissWellness, “the road to fitness is a journey best not rushed”.


L’Étape Australia takes place on the first weekend of December on 160km of closed roads in the NSW Snowy Mountains.

You can register now. Because tomorrow never comes.

Being one of the most recognisable voices of cycling, Matthew Keenan regularly forms part of the international commentary team at the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, broadcast around the world from Europe, USA, Africa, New Zealand and on SBS in Australia.

Matt is one of the two official voices of L’Etape Australia by Le Tour de France.