When people enquire about our Italian Cycling Tours, one of the most frequent questions asked behind ‘how cycle fit do I need to be’ is ‘how much time do I need to prepare for a tour’? This is often asked in the early months of the year when people are setting goals and making travel plans for the new year, and this year is no different. So if you are wondering whether you have time to prepare and train for an Italy bike tour with us in 2020, we hope the 5 considerations help answer your questions, and allay any fears you may have.
1. What is your starting point?
If you have been riding for years, then you will most likely have some base fitness and muscle memory in your legs from the k’s you’ve ridden in the past (even if you haven’t ridden much lately), and so this is always a great start. However even if you are new to cycling, we believe that 10 weeks is enough of a lead time for you to prepare physically and mentally, and 16 weeks or 4 months, is ideal. If you are riding just once or twice a week at the moment, it will still be possible to be ready to join a 9 day Italian cycling tour in 2020. You just need to ensure that you have the time and energy to dedicate to training & preparation.
We have had guests join our tours who have only been riding for four months pre-tour, seeing the focused effort required as an upside to their participation. In one case, Katusha rode the 3 Peaks ride in March, making it her intermediate goal before her tour started in Puglia in May. She had only ridden a bike for the first time, 20 weeks out from the tour. Quite an inspiration.
Olivia, who is a commuter but really came from a standing start in terms of road riding, was still unsure if she was going to be able to make her tour in Puglia in May, until early April. With some diligent training in the final month, she enjoyed over 80% of the riding on tour, while also choosing to sit out some sections, but overall having an amazing tour experience.
Then for our more difficult tours such as the Giro, where a lot more experience and preparation is required, albeit still achievable in a 4 month period, we have had guests book in to the tour late, and from a place of only having kept up their regular weekly rides, stepped up their climbing training 3-4 months out, and go on to enjoy every km on tour.
2. Do you like climbing?
There are riders that don’t like the hills and there are others that will go out of their way to track down and chase every bit of elevation. Where do you fit on this graph?
This is an important question because not only is Italy’s landscape hilly and mountainous (and we can’t do anything about the topography!), but because it will be an indicator of which tour and region you will likely enjoy the most.
As an example, if you don’t like hills and mountains, then we would suggest that you avoid a tour that follows the Giro d’Italia and suggest our Tour of Puglia in Italy’s heel, which is one of the flatter parts of the country, and was designed by us to be a tour that can accommodate non-climbers.
We also suggest to look at the distance and elevation numbers, so you know what to expect each day and what would be an achievable goal to set for yourself.
Tour of Puglia
Day 1 – 41k & 290m
Day 2 – 65k & 895m
Day 3 – 93k & 1062m
Day 4 – 90k & 1007m
Day 5 – 117.4k & 485m
Day 6 – 115.5k & 1105m
Day 7 – 65k & 327m
Day 8 – 75k & 400m
Total 662k & 5571m
Giro d’Italia Tour
Day 1 – 37k & 620m
Day 2 – 70k & 1500m
Day 3 – 103k & 1800m
Day 4 – 85k & 2180m
Day 5 – 70k & 1550m
Day 6 – 59k & 2180m
Day 7 – 46k & 1590m
Day 8 – 60k & 1800m
Total 530k & 13220m
These two tours both immerse you into the Italian culture and way of life but as you can see, offer vastly different experiences on the bike. They are at completely different ends of the spectrum on our ride difficulty ratings.
3. Are you prepared to train?
To set your goal for your selected tour, we suggest that our guests pick two or three of the days on tour, the longest day and then the day with the most elevation and least km’s and find a couple of loops in their local area that mirror the same characteristics. Once they are regularly riding these, they’ll notice that it is not only good for the legs and fitness, but also for the mind; knowing that they can actually ride the hardest day on tour.
The goal should be to complete these loops as part of your weekly riding from at least 8 weeks out from the tour. Starting with once or twice a week and then doing it back to back.
Further to this, most of us don’t generally get the opportunity to ride 8 days in a row and we have found that some guests who don’t do extra training pre tour, and just rely on their usual weekday rides, perform well for the first few days, but come day 5,6,7 and 8, they are tired and slow down due to the cumulative effect of fatigue. So, another of our recommendations before you depart is to ride multiple days in a row, so that your body becomes accustomed to the multiple days of riding and feeling of fatigue, and is able to deal with it better. We say that the goal should be to ride 3 days in a row, and then have a rest day. Then repeat.
4. Are you concerned about holding up the group?
One thing we do hear quite a lot and from a very diverse mix of personalities, is the desire to not “hold up” the group. So a question around this that pops up often is about speed per hour, and wanting to understand what the average speed is on tour
This is a very difficult question to answer as there are so many different factors at play when it comes to the riding speed on tour.
Most people have in their heads the speed they do on their regular daily or weekly ride. As an example, if I was to ride a local Melbourne ride (Beach Road), it would be easy to hold an average speed of 30 odd kph. There is no way that I can, could or will hold 30 kph average, riding in Tuscany. I love the hills of Tuscany and there are many of them, and I also stop regularly for coffee or lunch, depending on how far I am going. I am also constantly stopping for photos as there are so many glimpses of beauty that I just have to try and capture them, so I will remember to share them later. All these factors contribute to an average speed that is completely different from home, even in the hills at home, because ultimately it is a totally different way to ride. Yes it’s a ride, but it’s also much more than a ride.
So, how do we answer the questions and fears about speed and holding up the group?
The answer is that this is where our riding culture, guides and support van come into the mix. Each guest needs to think of others, but most importantly think of themselves. What we mean by this is that each rider needs to ride at a tempo that is best for them, and not 1km/ph faster as this will be enough for them to eventually blow up. It may not happen on that day’s ride but if you’ve put yourself in the red zone for too long, tomorrow’s ride is likely to be affected.
It also goes the other way. If a rider can and wants to push it a few k’s faster, then we either have a guide go with them off the front, or they are very welcome to use our pre-loaded GPS’s, so that they also don’t feel restrained.
So, we always split the group when needed, so that everyone is supported and having the best experience for their current level, on any given day….and each day is different.
5. Are you OK if things don’t go to plan?
Lastly, the attitude that you bring on tour is super important. One of a “steady as she goes” approach and being open to all of the experiences, will be the difference in providing you the best and deepest experience of our Italy bike tours.
It is also an attitude that will best enable you to adapt, if you don’t get to experience what you preconceived pre tour.
Of course our goal when we embark on a cycling tour is to ride all the days’ km’s and elevation, and this is a great goal to have and work towards. As Damian mentioned in his recent bike bucket list blog, there is something rewarding in planning and training for, and also in the anticipation of, a unique challenge. However, things can happen pre tour and on tour that may impact your achievement of your riding goal, so we believe it is really important to also prepare yourself mentally in the lead up to the tour with other goals you wish to achieve. Afterall, if things don’t go according to plan on the bike, this is also all part of the experience.
We’ve heard guests come on tour with only one goal in mind and when this hasn’t been achieved, say and feel that they have failed, and we work really hard to help them see and feel differently by the end of the tour. Of course it’s disappointing because so much may have gone into the plan, however the main thing to remember in your mental preparation for the tour, is that there is so much on offer when travelling, most important of which are the lessons that are there to be learned.
What we offer on our Italian cycling tours is much more than the ride. Having a day off the bike because you’re not feeling great or because something has happened to your bike, is all part of the lesson to ‘go with the flow’ and enjoy what each day brings, regardless of the shape and form you thought the day was going to be in the lead up. Often the experience you end up having, whether it be a rest and some time out on your own or joining our non riding partner program and the activities they engage in each day, we are positive that if you approach it all with the right mindset and don’t make the riding your only goal, you’ll be relaxed and enjoy what is a truly immersive travel experience.
If you have any questions, or would like some help building a training schedule to get you ready and up to speed to join us, reach out at any time on 0410 651 573 or click here to send us an email.