Bike the Tour Route

Be Like Lance     Photo: Beth Schneider

Go for It

Destination Cycling treats riders like pros on its four-week Tour de France Challenge team, June 28–July 24, 2006. Lodging, meals, daily massage, and full mechanical and logistical support allow riders to focus on one thing: finishing the ride. $30,000; 781-990-1486, www.destinationcycling.com

IN THE WORLD OF PRO CYCLING, finishing your first three-week stage race is a huge rite of passage. In the world of amateur cycling, riding a course like the Tour de France is one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences you can have. Circumnavigate France over approximately 2,100 miles and you'll get to take in some of the most spectacular scenery in the Alps and the Pyrenees. You won't be battling Ivan Basso or Alexandre Vinokourov, but by finishing you'll have achieved something that puts you in rare company—not to mention acquiring a newfound appreciation for what the pros endure.

Several days before the Tour's official start in July is the best time to begin your ride; many of the roads will be freshly paved for the race, and there will be other cyclists around to share the fun (and pain). Tour stages average 100 to 150 miles per day. The climbing stages are so difficult that even elite racers take up to seven hours to complete them. Fans camp out on all of the mountain passes a few days before the race gets there, and they'll cheer for you as you grind past. To experience the true wrath of the Tour, ride the route in 21 days, with two rest days; or do the route in 42 days and you'll have time to stop and smell the fields of sunflowers and admire the views in the high mountains.

SKILLS & TIPS: You need to be in good enough shape to bike ten hours a week before you start. Practice riding in pace lines on group rides, as the route will be teeming with other cyclists also doing the ride.

TRAINING: This 12-week program won't make you Lance, but it will give you a solid chance of finishing your personal Tour. THE LINGO: EnduranceMiles = moderate, conversational pace; RecoveryMiles = easy pace; Tempo = max effort you can sustain for an hour; SteadyState = max effort sustainable for 20 minutes.

Weeks 1–4
Total Time: Week 1, 17.5 hrs; Week 2, 19 hrs; Week 3, 20 hrs; Week 4, 8.5 hrs

Monday
Off

Tuesday
2.5–3 hrs EnduranceMiles with two 10-minute Tempo sessions

Wednesday
3–4 hrs EnduranceMiles

Thursday
3 hrs EnduranceMiles with two 15-minute Tempo sessions (skip on Week 4)

Friday
1 hr RecoveryMiles (skip on Week 4)

Saturday
3–4 hrs EnduranceMiles with four 4-minute uphill, high-gear intervals

Sunday
5 hrs EnduranceMiles with hill climbs (skip on Week 4)

Weeks 5–8
Total Time: Week 5, 19 hrs; Week 6, 20 hrs; Week 7, 22 hrs; Week 8, 11 hrs

Monday
Off

Monday
Off

Tuesday
3 hrs EnduranceMiles with four 8-minute SteadyState intervals (skip on Week 8)

Wednesday
3.5–4 hrs EnduranceMiles with four 10-minute SteadyState intervals

Thursday
3 hrs EnduranceMiles (skip on Week 8)

Friday
1 hr RecoveryMiles

Saturday
3.5–5 hrs EnduranceMiles with two 15-minute Tempo sessions on a hill climb

Sunday
5–6 hrs EnduranceMiles (only 3 hrs on Week 8)

Weeks 9–12
Total Time: Week 9, 18 hrs; Week 10, 19 hrs; Week 11, 21 hrs; Week 12, 14.5 hrs

Monday
Off

Monday
Off

Tuesday
2.5 hrs EnduranceMiles with four 8-minute speed or climbing intervals (skip on Week 12)

Wednesday
3–4 hrs EnduranceMiles

Wednesday
3–4 hrs EnduranceMiles

Thursday
2–3 hrs EnduranceMiles with three sets of three 4-minute max-effort intervals

Friday
1 hr RecoveryMiles

Friday
1 hr RecoveryMiles

Saturday
3.5–5 hrs EnduranceMiles with one 40-minute Tempo session

Sunday
5–6 hrs EnduranceMiles

—As told to Andrew Vontz

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