The Col Collective

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Mike, Any tips for vegans looking to experience the fine riding and cuisine that France and Italy are known for? I would love to do a trip with a cycling tour group and I also love to eat. I wonder if the tour groups cater to those of us who are strictly plant based. I also thought about doing something self guided but I am intimidated by the prospect of overcoming the language barrier enough so to ask for a vegan bite to eat in some unknown alpine village. Any advice as to how I can overcome this hurdle? Tim

Hi Tim,

Thanks for contacting us, it’s a really good point you raise and something we always have to consider when we’re travelling.

When we film The Col Collective all three of us are vegan so where possible we tend to try and stay in apartments and cater ourselves making use of the local supermarkets to get supplies both for evening meals and food throughout the day, however this is not always practical.

As far as eating out in the restaurants go, almost everywhere we eat will cater for us in some way, more and more places especially in the tourist towns have vegetarian choices which you can have the cheese removed. In Italy we usually resort to cheese free pizzas and tomato pasta (if it’s made without egg) or roasted vegetable salads. France can be a little more tricky but in most cases they will happily prepare you a vegetable dish with potatoes, rice or pasta. If you can learn a couple of basic lines in French and Italian to help with the ordering it will go a little way to helping ensure they understand your needs.

For travelling with a tour operator, we can’t speak for everyone so we contacted our travel partners at La Fuga asking how they cater for a vegan diet, they offer tours all over Europe - here is the response from Wei-Ho the Operations Manager:

“We definitely cater for vegans and will accommodate any dietary requirements specified as far as possible. In fact one of our lead tour managers, Fabrizio, is a vegan. He is also Italian which boggles the mind as being Italian and vegan traditionally seems like two conflicting ideologies!

So if in Italy or France (Fabo speaks fluent french too - is a ski guide in winter) and vegan - travel with Fabrizio wink

Here’s a nice little write up from Paris-Roubaix from one of our customers who was vegetarian. She was pleasantly surprised to find Fabo being vegan.

Worth noting we don’t currently have any specific routes based on vegan restaurants - we normally base our trips around routes first then we can find the right accommodation / catering to fit.

However we’re open to any inquiry and can offer a fully bespoke trip if required. “

I really hope this helps with your trip!

Ride safe,


Topic: Nutrition, Travel

Great videos, very inspiring stuff. I'm heading to Italy in a few weeks and will definitely be taking on some of the iconic climbs you feature. You seem to be climbing out of the saddle in 90% of the shots, does that reflect your overall actual balance between standing and sitting? I think for most recreational / amateur riders the balance would tend to go the other way; generally being out of the saddle uses more energy than sitting and spinning doesn't it? Keep up the great work! Allan

Hi Allan,

Super happy to hear you’re enjoying the videos!

Great question and one that I’ve had come through quite a bit since we started putting the videos out. It’s funny, I didn’t realise how much I climb out of the saddle until I started editing the first vids. Everything that you see on screen is a true reflection of how I actually climb, I feel more comfortable out of the saddle (just what suits me). We film around 1 hour 15 minutes for each climb and edit to between 5-7 minutes so I definitely don’t stand up all the way. If I had to guess I’d say on longer, steeper, climbs I’m out of the saddle 65-70% of the time. In terms of efficiency I’ve found that the best way is to go with what feels natural to the individual. We’re all different, that’s what makes the world and bike riding so good. Hope that helps.

Stay well and ride safe,


Topic: Technique

I'm currently staying in Nice and was looking at doing and out and back from Nice to the Col de la Bonette while I was here. It's the start of May now, do you think this will be manageable with the temperature at the moment? If so, what clothing would you recommend as a minimum? Rob

Hi Rob,

Thanks for getting in touch.

It will be a good ride out of Nice towards the Bonette, one of my personal favourite climbs. It is very early season so first things first double check that the pass is now open, the local tourist office where you are should be able to tell you and there will be signs in St Etienne de Tinee, you may be able to ride part of the way up if the summit itself is still closed.

The weather changes hour by hour in the mountains and of course the temperature drops considerably at higher altitudes so before you leave check the weather in the morning, we use the and Michelin, check the forecast both in St Etienne de Tinee at the base of the climb and at the summit, just type in Col de la Bonnette and it will give you the weather at the top, this way you can best prepare your kit in advance also be mindful of wind speed and direction as this can add to the perceived temperature on the mountain.

Kit to take as a minimum:

- Good base layer

- Long sleeved jersey or short with arm warmers

- Leg/knee warmers (if you’re not wearing tights)

- Gilet or lightweight packable shell if conditions are good. Heavier weight waterproof jacket if weather is poor.

- Gloves, beanie or ear warmers under your helmet for descending or even as you approach the higher altitudes on the way up

- Shoe or toe covers

Keep warmth in mind rather than saving weight, more is more in this case.

I hope this helps, have a great ride, and thanks for your support.


Topic: Alps, Climbs, Travel

Love the website and the informative & inspirational videos - you make it look so easy! I signed up for Santini Granfondo Stelvio in a moment of madness ... Nonetheless as daunting as it looks am very excited at the challenge. I plan to spend 4 days at Lake Como (based in Cernobbio) and then head to Bormio 3 days ahead of the event. Can you recommend routes/rides leading up to the event? Want to explore as much as possible however not at expense of the main objective - to conquer Stelvio. I have previously done training camp weeks in Denia & Mallorca hence familiar with multi day riding. Wendy

Hi Wendy,

Thanks for getting in-touch and for your comments on the site and videos, I’m so pleased to hear you are enjoying them.

You’re in for a really special trip, Lake Como and Bormio are stunning locations to ride your bike, and there are no words for the Stelvio, it just needs to be experienced to feel the scale and spirit that climb has.

There is an abundance of riding options around Lake Como to start warming up for the event and more importantly to explore the area. I’ve attached a pdf (in Italian but easy enough to follow) with several routes with varying distances and elevation around where you are staying which should be a good guide to get you started, there are plenty of routes to keep you occupied for the 4 days, the famous climbs in the area are the Muro di Sormano and Ghisallo which are easiest to access out of Bellagio. There will also likely be cycling maps available at the local tourist office, but to be honest you cannot go far wrong with your location.

Whilst Bormio is the centre point for the Stelvio, most routes out of there take you over a climb, so the route choice would depend on how much riding you want to do before the event. Climbs other than the Stelvio and Mortirolo which you can save for the day are:

The Passo Gavia - If you have it in the legs it would be a crazy shame to miss climbing the Gavia during your stay, this climb for me is on my all time top 10

The Umbrailpass which finishes at the summit of the Stelvio but takes a different route up

The Passo del Forno

Foscagno Pass


If you visit you can see the routes in more detail, you will of course also find route information from the local tourist office.

I really hope this information helps, keep us informed as to how to get on during your trip and most importantly enjoy it, take your time and soak up all the mesmerising scenery wink

Ride safe!


How do you train for an alpine climb, was in the French Alps last year and faded by the end of the week. Alan

Hi Alan, sounds like endurance is what you need to focus on here. The most important thing to concentrate on is your base fitness, lower intensity longer rides that really lay the foundations of your endurance. A lot of riders overlook this and go straight to high intensity but it’s the base that’ll put you in really good stead on the climb itself and day after day as fatigue creeps in. Good luck!

Topic: Alps, Fitness

Hi Mike, doing Le Etape d'Tour 19/7/15, just back on bike after a bout of pneumonia, building back up slowly. Planning a training camp (Mallorca or Gran Caneria) what would be (time off authorised permitting) the optimal time before event to maximise benefits of a week training camp? - Dave

Hi Dave, sorry to hear about the pneumonia! First things first you need to make sure that you are back to 100% health before hitting the training hard. Hopefully the weather in the UK is on the rise and you can get a solid month of May in the legs. I’d be inclined to look at a possible training camp around mid June, this should give you enough time to find your legs and will also mean that when you return you have enough time to fully recover (prep the bike, make any adjustments to your kit and finalise your fuelling strategy). Depending on how you cope with the heat, Gran Canaria will likely be hotter (it’s also more hilly) at this time of the year so could be a consideration. Best of luck!

Hi Mike, loving your videos and you are an inspiration - I am keen to know....How do you find which foods fuel you best on your long rides. Is it a nutrient / calorie based scientific approach or do you mainly work on "what feels best" and just experiment. Thanks, Alex

Hi Alex, thanks so much for the support! The main thing I’ve found is through trial with certain foods and bars. For my training rides mid-week and weekends which can be from 2-7 hours I only use energy bars, I use Torq bars which work really well for me, they are more natural and fruit based they digest really well and don’t have a overly sweet taste. For the really long rides 30+ hours, I use a combination of real food (potatoes, dried fruit, cereal, rice cakes) and energy bars. I tend to look at the quality of the food before the calories, as it’s more important for me to use as natural and organic a food as possible with very little processing. Over the years I have come to understand what my body needs with regards to quantity on longer rides, if I’m well recovered I eat less, but after a long week and if I’m fatigued, I can eat almost twice as much on the bike. It is pretty much all on feel rather than a scientific approach, your body is a clever machine when it comes to demanding what it needs, so I highly recommend listening out when it’s calling for nutrition, I’ve found it’s always best to eat and drink way before you feel really hungry, I’ve had far less blow ups this way. Ride safe! Mike.

Topic: Nutrition

Hi there, I'm doing Haute Route Alps this August and have a couple of questions: I have done a lot of mountains up to 1500 or 1600m, will the summits in the Alps pose a massively different challenge in terms of oxygen debt? Also, what training do you recommend in the 1-2 weeks leading up to the start? Thanks! - Chris

Hi Chris. We supported a group of riders through Haute Route Alps last summer. It really is an amazing event and a great way to take your riding to the next level. In my experience of riding in the high mountains, some riders will be affected by the altitude more than others, and there seems to be no way of telling who will feel the effects more. Of all the many tours we’ve led through the mountains, I’ve never known riders to suffer as a direct result of being above, say, 2000m.The high climbs are, generally, longer, so a good idea to prepare for that by getting really used to longer efforts.To answer your second question, I reckon that your performance on a stage event such as the Haute Route really depends on the training you’re doing at this point in your season. Definitely keep the riding going in those last few weeks leading up to the event, but think about easing back on the distance. It’s a good idea to keep the intensity up, but with shorter sessions. Hope this helps. It’s a great ride!

Chris - Sorry, any chance I can ask one more? I’m trying to do around 250km at the moment on very flat roads. Does this sound like enough to you? I have 2 separate weeks booked in Apennines as well before the event.

La Fuga - Sounds like you’re getting the mileage in! Don’t worry too much about how that will transition to a hilly stage-event - the engine should be good. You can prepare for climbing by overgearing and riding intervals in a bigger gear than you normally would. The apennines are a great range of mountains - lots of the climbs there are shorter than in the Alps, so this is really a time to use a bigger gear for shorter efforts to build those climbing legs. Good luck for the rest of your training and we’ll see you in Geneva!

How do you advice to prepare for haute route Pyrenees? Eugeina

Hi Eugenia, when you’re riding for many hours and continual days back-to-back like at the Haute Route it’s super important to focus on your endurance. Going the distance (and enjoying the journey) should be the highest priorities. Start by looking at how much time you have available to ride each week after work and family commitments. Make a plan that slowly builds your weekly kilometres until you’re comfortable with what you are doing and you can still fit in life around it. Once you have that balance and you feel that your endurance is at a good level then you may be able to replace some of the kilometres with some higher intensity rides, but overall on these super cool longer events endurance is the key. Wattbike partners of the Haute Route have also put a training guide together at the following. You may be able to get some extra tips from there as well. Hope that helps. Good luck, the Pyrenees are such a beautiful mountain range I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time!

What's the best strategy for tackling a climb like Alpe D'huez & trying to set a PB, took me over 60mins on 3 occasions last year, would love to break the hour. Martin

Hi Martin, sounds like you’ve got some serious experience with the great Alpe! Improving your time comes down to three main factors (1) power to weight. Is there a way to skim a little weight from bike or body? (2) pacing. Are there any areas where you’re really struggling and going too deep into the red? Those first couple of kilometres can really take a lot out of you, if you can get through them at 80% you may have more in the tank to push it on by the top. (3) fuelling, making sure you are well fed and hydrated prior to the ascent and keeping your levels topped up during the climb could make the difference. Aside from this, where did you feel the time was getting away from you. Was it the length of the climb, the gradient, temperature conditions? By identifying this you’ll be able to work on overcoming it in your training. And finally, don’t forget one VERY important point. Believe in yourself, you CAN do it!

Topic: Alps, Fitness

Relating to Mallorca, please can you suggest routes there that would be good training for L'Étape? And also offer some guidance / tips on building confidence for reasonably (!) fast descents / cornering? - Justin.

Hi Justin, if you’re heading to Mallorca then you may want to camp out around Port de Pollenca so you’re in close proximity to the climbs. The map to get (see attached photo) is from the bike shop called SportBequi in Port d’Alcudia, they have done an awesome job of highlighting the cycling friendly roads and also plotted a load of routes of varying distances and elevation. Very useful indeed. If you’re training for Etape then the order of the day will be to ride some climbs. To be honest consistent back-to-back days in the saddle riding mountains will be a huge benefit but always listen to your body and don’t forget that recovery is the most important part of training.

When it comes to descending here are a few tips that we hope will help. As is the case with water naturally finding it’s way down the side of a mountain the same could be said about a good descender. Think of your body and bike as one, try to stay light on the pedals and allow your bike to lead as you give delicate inputs. Position your hands on the drops to lower your centre of gravity and bring more stability and control.

Look where you want to go. Now this may sound pretty obvious but the fact is where you look will generally dictate where you end up so it’s important to focus your attention a lot further down the road than the rear wheel or rider in front that you’re following at speed. Look beyond the bend at the path you wish to take. Having a broader view of the road ahead will allow you to quickly react to things as they happen, such as a rider switching lines for example, allowing time to adjust accordingly. Your peripheral vision will still be able to spot a pot hole or patch of gravel but by looking further ahead you’ll be one step ahead at all times.

Getting through the corners quickly and safely is a key skill to acquire when descending. Moderate your speed in advance of the bend as opposed to entering the corner too quickly and having to jam on the brakes at the last minute. This will give you more control and allow you to carry momentum throughout the turn. Keep your outside leg straight and focus the majority of your body weight downwards through the outside pedal to maintain rigidity as you hold your line. To maintain traction it’s important to lean your bike and not your body. Start slowly and practice until you have confidence in your descending ability in all conditions especially in the wet when traction is much less.

I put a video together many moons ago, the footage is pretty low res now but the info is still valid. Could be helpful you can watch it here

Stay well and ride safe.


With limited time to train around work/family etc, what sessions should I prioritise, and in what prioritised order? Endurance, SST, AT, above threshold. I understand that a mix of all of the above sessions should be included, but in a hectic week, which would make best use of my time? I am training towards a decent finish in La Marmotte. Brormand

Hi Brormand, I’d always start by trying to build an adequate base fitness with longer endurance type rides. This is really the foundation from which you’ll be able to then build upon further with higher intensity sessions. If you don’t have the base to work from then you may find that you can ride quickly for a shorter period of time but may not have the engine to go the distance comfortably. With a busy and hectic lifestyle it’s going to all be about trying to prioritise your time. As I say I’d try to work on your base fitness for as much as time would allow and then replace some of these hours with lower volume and higher intensity work. You’ll be spending several hours around threshold on the Croix de Fer, Telegraph, Galibier and Alpe d’Huez so sustained efforts around this level will help. Above all don’t forget that cycling should be fun, your work and family are important so keep perspective, do your best and enjoy the experience as best you can. Good luck!

Simple question, what do you recommend for hydration on a Col ride, water or something else? - Ronald

Hi Ronald,

For hydration, we would recommend a drink with all 5 electrolytes presents, because you’ll need both fluid and electrolytes to hydrate properly.

Remember that hydration is only part of the equation and much greater performance losses will result from running out of fuel, so make sure that your drink also contains carbohydrate!

Isotonic (usually around 6% carbs) provides a very good balance between fluid and carb delivery. If perspiration losses are very high, you could look at going ‘hypotonic’ to prioritise fluid delivery over carbs, but this would be an unusual set of circumstances.

TORQ energy is actually hypotonic at 6% carbs (and the carbs are 2:1 Maltodextrin:Fructose), so if necessary, you could consume up to 1.5 litres per hour of this and still not exceed your carb tolerance levels and take on board a lot of hydration.

Remember in cooler conditions when you’re not drinking so much, you MUST eat.

For further information, take a look here.

Matt Hart - Founder Torq Fitness

Topic: Nutrition

When descending after long climbs my hands feel numb and I struggle to brake. I have good gloves and bar tape, any tips? Victoria.

Hi Victoria, that’s something I have suffered with too so I’m obviously in good company! I’ve found the cause to be the vibrations from the road, you may notice an improvement by running your tyres slightly softer. Try 10psi less than normal and see how you feel. A carbon handlebar may also eliminate more of the road buzz (although it’s an expensive upgrade) so I’d start with the tyre pressure. Fingers crossed! (sorry that was a bad pun I know)

Hi Guys! Hope you are doing well and thanks in advance for your kind attention! It's appreciated I'm currently preparing the Etape du Tour this summer and some other famous climbs as Tourmalet, Galibier and Alpe d'Huez. Unfortunately I'm feeling something like a tendonitis pain on my right thigh. I'm confused because I'm shared between (1) a full training stop which is mainly recommended by most of my friends (but with associated loose of condition) or (2) continue training and perhaps use an infiltration treatment which was not recommended by my friends. What do you think about it? What should I do? Many thanks in advance.

Really sorry to hear about your injury. It’s such a power struggle when your body is saying one thing and your mind the other. The reality is, if you train with an injury then there is a good chance you will do more damage and therefore a short break now could end up being a large break later. If you can I would seek professional advice so that you can get a good understanding of what is going on. One thing that I’ve found absolutely invaluable is a regular stretching routine. You may find that it’s something as simple as your IT band being tight. Taper back on the training and rest if you need to. With big mountains and events coming up a little time now to get it right will have you smiling much more come the summer. I put my daily stretching routine online here, hope it helps!

Hi Mike! I would like to know, during the nights, what type of lights do you use? I'm looking for a model to ride all night, such as yours, which will last several hours and have good power. If you can help me, I'd be very appreciative. Thank you! Timothée

Hi Timothée,

Thanks for your message, regarding lighting, I use a range from Exposure Lights, and in particular….

Front: Six Pack MK5. This is a beast, massive power and burn time but to be honest could be more than you need. I used this and a Joystick MK9 on my helmet during the first night of The Road to Mont Blanc when the weather was shocking. The second night I used the Strada MK5 on the bike which is a light that Exposure specifically developed for road use so it has a high and dipped beam which is great for seeing further up the road and lighting up areas in your peripheral vision.

Rear: This year I used the new TraceR rear light (mainly as it saved me a few grams). If you want slightly longer burn times then you could check out the Blaze too. Both have been great for what I’ve needed them for.

I hope that helps!

Ride safe.


Topic: Accessories

I am spending three weeks in Italy this October, flying in and out of Venice. Hoping to head to the Dolomites, the lakes district, and something in between??? Looking at basing out of Arabba and Como. I am aiming at riding at least 65km's a day with hopefully some days in the 120km+ range. Any towns and areas you'd suggest to base out of. I love being in the mountains, to climb, and to reap the rewards of the descent as well.

Andrew, Italy is a wonderful place to ride as it offers so much variety in terrain and rich cycling history for endless inspiration.

October marks a seasonal change and riders head down from the mountains into the rolling lower regions like Tuscany and Prosecco. Events like the eclectic L’Eroica, Granfondo Prosecco or Cinque Terre are perfect rides for this time of the year.

In the summer, I would definitely recommend you head to the towns of Arabba, Merano, and Bormio; to climb the Stelvio, Gavia, Mortirolo, and climbs of the Maratona dles Dolomites. However, the change in seasons means the weather becomes much colder and unpredictable in the mountains, with rain and snow common on most peaks. We were on the Stelvio last September and the temperatures were -4C at the top with plenty of snow. Additionally, the most mountain towns will have closed for business by October, so even in Arabba, you may find your choices of hotels, restaurants and bike shops limited.

Instead of heading into the mountains and Dolomites, Venice puts you in the perfect position to explore the foothills and vineyard regions. Base yourself in Terviso or Conegliano as these are both vibrant towns, with good transport links but surrounded by brilliant riding through rolling hills with the mountains as a backdrop. The town of Valdobbiadene is worth a stay too and is the start town for the Granfondo Prosecco (4th October), a unique granfondo which serves prosecco at every feed station!
Being in the foothills there are options to venture into the edge of the Dolomites, the San Boldo climb is the gateway to the mountains and just short ride down the valley from Valdobibiadene.

Alternatively, a couple of hours transfer south from Venice, and you have access to the regions of Tuscany and Emilia Romagna. Temperatures can still reach 20C and the smell of the local wood fires is wonderful. In Tuscany, head to the towns of Lucca or Florence. both have so much character and huge cycling cultures. You won’t have trouble finding stunning routes here, as well as challenging climbs such as the San Baronto. Many pros use this area as their preferred training ground. The World Champs was held in Florence in 2013. Right on the coast, Cesenatico, in Emilia Romagna, was home to Marco Pantani and also the start of the Granfondo Nove Colli - the course should still be rideable and it’s ‘nine hills’ make for a really testing day in the saddle. Great if you are looking for more vertical challenges.

Finally, if you are heading to the Lakes, go in time of the Giro di Lombardia on the 4th October. Known as the ride of the falling leaves, this traditionally one of the last races of the professional racing calendar. It’s a fantastic race to watch and the climbs of the area are a pilgrimage for many a serious cyclist; quite literally as the Giro always goes past the iconic Madonna di Ghisallo - the chapel of the patron saint to cycling. Base yourself in Bellagio for the best access to the famous climbs of the Lakes: Muro di Sormano and Ghisallo. There are many, many for fantastic miles to be ridden around the Lakes so you can’t go wrong where ever you base yourself in the area. We take a trip to the Giro di Lombardia every year, so keep an eye on our website for details.

Get in touch with us if you want to discuss potential routes more.

Wei-Ho - Operations Manager, La Fuga Travel

Topic: Dolomites, Travel

Hi Mike, you make climbing look effortless. What kind of cadence do you try and keep when you are seated and when standing? Your videos are inspiring! Thanks, Leon

Hi Leon,

Thanks for the message. So happy to hear that you’re enjoying the videos.

When it comes to climbing I really work on feel. I’ve always been better turning a smaller gear at a higher cadence. The key for me is to have a low enough gear (e.g. 34 x 25 or 28) so that I can keep the legs spinning more. If I can keep a cadence of around 85rpm then that’s good for me.

We’re all different so it’s best to experiment and see what feels comfortable for you. Don’t be afraid to fit a lower gear if you need to. I swear by my compact gearing!

Stay well and ride safe.


Topic: Gearing, Technique

Hi Mike, Loving The Col Collective! Heard your interview with Rich Roll, very interesting and inspiring story you have, keep up the good work! I'm planning a trip to Italy in the summer to take in some of the Tyrol and Dolomites, but also Monte Grappa. Have you any thoughts on the best route? Thank, Ian

Hi Ian,

Great to hear about your plans! If you fly into Venice you could drive over to Bormio to ride things like the Stelvio and Gavia, then head due east via Bolzano to play in the Dolomites. Monte Grappa is about an hour from Venice so you could spend some time there at the end which would put you right back at the airport. As there are several ways up the Grappa here are a couple of suggestions (such a cool climb!)

Option 1: Cismon del Grappa - this is the name of the village from which you climb the Monte Grappa. It was originally a dirt track which was there solely for access for the fire department. It was tarmacked a couple of years back. It’s a really special road with almost no traffic.

Option 2: Start from Alano di Piave - follow signs for Monte Tomba. Climb the steep gradients. The road will plateau and come to a T junction - turn right - you’re on the Monte Grappa. Switch backs, tunnels, singletrack roads. Stunning roads to ride on. Climb all the way up to the refugio at the top for a cold coke and some incredible vistas

Super happy to hear you enjoyed the podcast. Stay tuned for more videos too!

All the best,


Topic: Climbs, Travel

Hi, I'm currently looking for 32 hole rims suitable for a dynamo hub. The discipline they'll be used for is for a light weight tour of the Raid Alpine. I weigh in at 88kg. Your advice is greatly appreciated. Many thanks, Stewart

Hi Stewart,

Sounds like you have a great trip lined up!

For this type of touring something like the Open Pro rim would build into a really durable wheel with your dynamo. You can see the range here.

Best of luck, stay well, ride safe and most of all enjoy!


Topic: Wheels

Hello Mike, I have planned a trip in the Alps. We will ride from Thonons-les-Bains to Nice. What would you suggest for recuperation? We will have only two days off in a 14 days trip. I know that a good night sleep and lifting legs, do you have others tricks? I love your video, I've seen them all. Keep up the good work, Robert.

Hi Robert,

You are in for a treat, that’s such an amazing route…absolutely love it!

Pacing, pacing, pacing is the key. On such a long journey and with little time to recover it’s important to really work at your level (and enjoy the moment as much as you can). I actually put a short article together highlighting some of the key tips for good recovery that may be useful here.

Overall you really need to focus on recovery as a complete, around the clock, process. Even when you’re on the bike think about saving your legs by using a smaller gear. Keeping the fuel coming in with good fuel and hydration, stay off your feet as much as possible pre and post ride. All the little things help to add up to aid your recovery.

Roll on the Alps!!

Good luck!


Love the series and the way the site is put together, really top notch! This summer (late August/early September ish) a friend and I are planning to go over to do a few climbs over a few days...we're thinking of 3 climbs in 3 or 4 days. I'm really keen on one of these being Alp d'Huez or Mont Ventoux. I was wondering if you knew where might be a good place to base ourselves to be able to easily reach 3 climbs, with as little travelling as possible between the days. Ideally staying in the same place, if this is at all possible? Any guidance would be much appreciated! Keep up the good work. Doug

Hi Doug,

Super happy to hear you’re enjoying the The Col Collective series!

I reckon a good place to check out would be Bourg d’Oisans (literally the town at the base of Alpe d’Huez) If you stay there you have some great options very close by. Obviously you have Alpe d’Huez itself (leave early to miss the traffic) then you also have the Col de la Croix de Fer (amazing climb… coming soon!), Glandon and Galibier, Les Deux Alpes and Madeleine all within close proximity.

To bag Mont Ventoux you’d have to do some driving. If that’s essential you could stay in Bedoin and ride all three sides in a 3 days but to be honest staying close to Alpe d’Huez will give you more options and variety. Hope that helps!

Stay well, ride safe and enjoy!


Topic: Climbs, Travel

Hi Guys, I need to replace my Mavic Zxellium 2010 (size 46) and would like to know if the Zxellium Ultimate 2014 uses the same last pattern? I am asking, as I do not have a local retailer and will order online. Thanks so much! Nir

Hi Nir, Thanks for getting in touch.

Yep, the last is the same. Personally I’ve used Mavic shoes since they were first launched and always kept the same size throughout year on year so I’m confident if the 46 worked in 2010 it’ll be the right size in the latest model.

Stay well and enjoy!


Topic: Clothing

Hi Mike, First of all I want to tell you how inspirational your interview was on the Rich Roll podcast. I was contemplating on buying a bike, and since I'm new to cycling, I would like to ask your opinion about the best first bike. I'm planning to go on short and even longer rides, and I would like to build endurance for a potential triathlon/ironman. I was advised that either the Cannondale CAAD8 flat bar 1 or 2, or the Cannondale CAAD8 8 Claris could be a good choice. So my question is, what's your opinion about the flat bar bicycles? Are they comfortable on a 50-100 km rides? And are the Claris shifters reliable, or should I invest on Sora or Tiagra shifters? Thanks. kind regards, Attila

Hi Attila,

Thank you for your message. I’m very happy to hear that you enjoyed my interview with Rich Roll, and super happy to hear that you’re new to cycling, welcome!

It sounds like you are hoping to progress your fitness and even enter a competition (so cool!) The flat bar will be good for all types of rides but is more focused on leisure. Personally I think if you are planning to challenge yourself with a triathlon then a drop bar road bike may suit you better in the longer term.

The two options I’d possibly look at are the CAAD8 and also the Synapse (Claris 8). The Synapse offers a touch more comfort and slightly more upright riding position so really is an exceptional bike especially for those new to cycling. Claris would be great, the most important thing is to try and get the best frame possible (both the CAAD8 and Synapse are excellent frame platforms), you can upgrade the components over time if you wish and the Claris components will certainly function well. If you can afford a bike with better parts now then it’s always a good investment but Claris will certainly do what you need it to.

I hope that helps. Once again thank you for your message.

Stay well, ride safe and most of all enjoy!


Thank you Mike!

It seems that in Hungary there is no Synapse Claris 8, only the women version, and they probably have to make it for me from parts. I’m gonna get an estimate, and I’ll decide. Thank you for the suggestions! I hope you’ll ride safe as well. I love your amazing videos.

All the best,


Topic: Bike tech

Hi Mike, firstly I wanted to say thanks for the inspiration over the years, and your Etape route recons have been an invaluable help. Secondly I'm hoping you might be able to give me some advice on nutrition. I've ridden a few Etape Du Tours now, and am doing it again this year. On all my previous ones, I've got to 70% of the way round and then been really sick, making the last stretch awful. All the food/drink I've used is the same as on sportives in the UK with no ill effects. I think it might be the heat, or that my stomach is struggling to process solid food whilst climbing (I was eating Clif bars). Any help or tips you can give me would be gratefully received. I'm training hard this year, so would love to get this side of things nailed too. Do you normally stick to liquids on the climbs and eat at the top for example? Many thanks, John

Very happy to hear you’ve enjoyed some of my antics of the years and it has been helpful grin

When it comes to nutrition there are a few things to consider. It sounds like you’re sticking to the same things in training as you are on the day so that’s definitely a good start. Some more points that may be worth thinking about are:

1) Are you consuming more than you normally would over the same duration?

2) Is your exertion level higher than it otherwise would be in training when you didn’t have a problem? Working harder will mean more blood will be directed to your muscles as opposed to your stomach which will make digestion harder for anything you do consume.

3) Personally I tend to favour bars and fluid on mid length events (like a sportive) and real food and fluid on ultra endurance rides. I’ve found too much of the high concentration energy products can become sickly and hard to consume / digest.

4) I normally look to refuel at any given opportunity and keep it frequent. Little and often. Valleys between climbs or in the final kilometre of an ascent so that you can get some energy back in you before the descent is good. Nothing worse than flying down a mountain trying to undo a wrapper.

5) I’ve got on well with the Torq range. The vanilla energy drink is very mellow and I like the fact that the bars are more natural and fruit based. A lot of the folk I ride with have switched to Torq as they had digestive issues in the past and have now got on well with it. We’re all different though so best to experiment.

6) I’m not a huge gel taker. I prefer to stick to fluid (energy drink mixed up weaker than recommended normally) fruit based energy bars, dried fruit and real food wherever possible.

7) If it’s a lot hotter than you are used to riding in then this can play a big factor. In the heat it’s essential to drink more water to say hydrated and allow your body to stay in balance. It could be something as simple as consuming more water on the very hot days.

I hope that gives an insight into some areas to consider. Keep the training going and good luck in the future!


Topic: Nutrition

Hi Mike and crew, I would like to add my congratulations to you on the fantastic videos on The Col Collective. They are both beautiful and inspiring and give a real sense of what draws cyclists to the mountains. I'm hoping to go on holidays in the future around Lac d'Annecy and if I was to do one or two epic climbing days in the area what would you advise? I was thinking along the lines of this years Etape route as one option. I have no previous experience of climbing or descending cols and I am looking for the best all round experience. Thank you, Vincent

Hi Vincent,

Thanks for the message, we’re very happy to hear you are enjoying The Col Collective!

For a loop you could look at the 2013 Etape du Tour route which actually started in Annecy. Some details can be found here.

Other climbs close by that may be worth checking out are the Col de la Colombière, Col des Aravis, Col des Saisies and Col de la Forclaz.

I hope that helps give you some ideas. Ride safe and enjoy!


Topic: Alps, Climbs

Hi Mike, I am interested in the bike you ride during The Col Collective. Obviously it's a Cannondale but which one and what groupset are you using? Also what is your preferred choice of pedal and what sort of pump do you carry with you on your rides? Thanks, Peter

Hi Peter,

Thanks for getting in touch. I ride the Cannondale EVO HiMod with Shimano Di2 9070 groupset, Hollowgram SiSL2 crankset and Mavic Cosmic Carbone 40 clincher wheels. This was actually last years model, you can see the new 2015 range here. For pedals I use the Zxellium from Mavic this is the same as the Time Xpresso pedal (Mavic and Time have a partnership) What I really like about them is the engagement mechanism. Instead of having to force your foot into them the spring is always open and when you step on the pedal it engages (a bit like a ski binding) so it makes it really easy to clip in to. I’ve been using the Carbon Road Drive pump from Lezyne for the past year or so. Seems to have stood the test of time so far!

If you need anything else at all please do not hesitate in asking and I’ll do my best to help.

Stay well and ride safe.


I am 66 and will be riding the cols in July. What protein drink should I use. Pre and post? Cheers Derek

Hi Derek,

Prior to exercise there is little need for a protein drink as you can easily get a good serving of protein in through your normal diet. A good breakfast before a ride, say beans on toast (without the butter), or a bowl of porridge with skimmed milk, will provide sufficient amounts of protein and some good fuel too. You want to aim to consume around 20grams of lean protein 3-4 times a day to cover your needs. The most important nutrient to get in before a big ride is carbohydrate, as this is the main fuel you will use during exercise of any sort of intensity, i.e. riding up a col, so it is important to ensure your bodies Glycogen (the name for carbohydrate when it is stored in the muscle and liver) stores are fully topped up. You only really ever break down significant amounts of protein in the absence of carbohydrate, so ensuring you have enough carbohydrate available will reduce your needs for protein. Aim to have a good sized breakfast around 3-4hours before riding if possible to allow sufficient time for digestion.

During exercise protein is best avoided as there is little performance benefit to taking it on and it can take the stomach a long time to break down. This can cause stomach issues, particularly when exercising hard and compromise carbohydrate delivery. If you are aiming for a big day in the saddle (6 hours plus) then by all means include a bit of lean protein in a meal at your lunch stop, but there is little need for this to be in drink form.

Immediately after exercise (within 15-30minutes), it is best to consume a carbohydrate and protein drink, particularly if you are aiming to try and ride the next day or complete another ride later in the day. This should then be followed up with regular meals depending on how big the ride was. There is a short window after exercise where your body can very rapidly replenish its glycogen stores so consuming a drink with rapidly absorbing nutrients in will help kick start the recovery process. Here at TORQ we produce a recovery drink which contains a 3:1 carbohydrate to protein mix which is designed for exactly this purpose. After a big day in the saddle carbohydrate is the main thing that you want to replace, but including some protein as well will provide substrate for muscle repair and generally help with the recovery process.


Ben at Torq Fitness.

Topic: Nutrition

My wife comes from Nice so I'm fortunate to visit there regularly. I've done most of the cols close to the coast such as Col de la Madone, Eze and Col de Vence but what other climbs are within driving distance that can be tackled and return to nice in a day? Many thanks.

Hi Nick,

You could check out the Col de Turini, Col de Castellon, Col de Braus (there are some super nice roads around Sospel).

Venturing slightly further you could head to the base of the Col de la Bonette (it’s a bit further so you’d certainly need the car). If you leave early you could drive over the Bonette to Jausiers and then you are in close proximity to the Allos, Cayolle, Vars and pretty close to the Col Agnel and Izoard.

Hope that gives a little food for thought.

Ride safe and enjoy!


Topic: Alps, Climbs

Hi I am riding the Haute route Alps this year. I have just come back from Tenerife where I was riding a compact 28x11. I found that this was too high a gear for me. My threshold power is around 3.6 watts. I was hoping that you would be able to recommend a better gear. My feeling is that I should go to a 32x11 but I don't want to have the jump from 32 to 28 that most cassettes have.  Any advice would be most welcome, Niall

Hi Niall,

Great to hear from you. It may be that through the spring and summer your fitness will improve meaning that the 28t could be ok.

Obviously you don’t want to be under geared come the Haute Route. If you’re on a 34t front chainring then depending on what make groups you have (Campag, Shimano or SRAM) the options would be to go 29 (might mot be enough) 30, 32 or even 36 on the rear (note that you’ll need to have a long cage rear derailleur and extend your chain if you go above 30t). If you really need it then I’d go for it, having a low enough gear really will help save your legs.

I hope that helps. Best of luck!!


Mike, Thank you for your fantastic Col Collective series! I am an older rider (63) who is coming back after a long layoff from serious cycling. I would like to tackle some big climbs, but do not yet feel ready for climbs line the Galibier or Stelvio, for example. Do you have suggestions for climbs that do not have such a steady diet of 10% plus gradients? Also, any tips on setup would be welcomed. Thank you, again!

Hi Ralph,

Super happy to hear you are enjoying The Col Collective.

Great to hear you’re thinking of tackling some cols. I’d say that the best region to look at would be the Pyrenees, in general the climbs are more mellow and slightly lower altitude.

We’ll be releasing more videos from the Pyrenees in the coming weeks. Maybe have a look at climbs out of Bagneres de Luchon (Peyresourde, Superbagneres, Port de Bales) and also the Col d’Aspin (from Sainte Marie de Campan) If you do end up there and feel up to it then you can also tackle the Tourmalet which, although it’s the highest road pass in the Pyrenees, with the right set-up could be possible as it’s not super steep and allows you to get into a good rhythm. Speaking of set-up, I would recommend a 34 tooth chainring and up to a 32 tooth sprocket on the rear. The great thing is there is no time limit on the climbs, just find your own pace and enjoy the moment.

I hope that helps.

Best of luck!


Hi Mike, First of all, thanks for the beautiful videos you post. It seems to be easy when we look at you riding the cols. I have a question concerning the Lezyne Pod Caddy organizer you have on your bike. Is it a S or M size? What do you put inside? Just to give me an idea of which size I should take. Xavier A french rider from the Pyrenees

Hi Xavier,

Thanks for the message, great to hear you are liking the videos! That makes me very happy indeed.

I use the S size Pod Caddy. In this I put in one inner tube along with…

Glueless patch kit

Tyre levers

Multi-tool with chain splitter

I hope that helps. Very jealous of you living in the Pyrenees, one of my absolute favourite places in the world!

Ride safe and enjoy!


Topic: Accessories, Tools

Hi Mike, I’ve been loving your Col Collective videos. Top notch. I watched the Hautacam edition last night and like the look of the Mavic carbon wheels you were riding. Are those the CC40s? I am heading back to the Dolomites and Italian Alps this year and have been told by my tour group not to bring carbon wheels (which I presume is to avoid heat related blow-outs). Wondering what you think about carbon clinchers in the mountains and what your views are on the Mavics as I understand they use an alloy rim wrapped in carbon which must make a large difference to the heat build-up compared with all-carbon clinchers. I currently ride Enve 3.4 carbon clinchers in the semi-hilly roads of Sydney but haven’t given them a work-out in the high peaks. Any views gratefully received. Phil

Hi Phil,

Well spotted! Yes, I was riding on the CC40C for all the climbs and descents. From experience you have to be very careful with full carbon clinchers that you may not know the development or testing process that they have been through. You and your tour operator are right to be concerned as resins can easily melt under extended braking which can lead to a serious catastrophe. On the outside carbon can look the same but dig a bit deeper and it’s very different underneath. With this in mind I would not ride any carbon clinchers in the mountains that have not been extensively tested and can prove their performance in this application. Mavic spent over 2 years developing the Cosmic Carbon 40 wheel which was tested extensively in the lab and on Mont Ventoux (with a 100kg rider dragging the brakes the whole way down) to validate their materials. They use two types of high temperature resin and a thin internal aluminium rim to dissipate heat build up and also improve braking consistency. This is the only carbon clincher I would trust (I’ve done a huge amount of mountain miles on them last year).

My advice would be, if you have any doubt whatsoever in your equipment then think again about using it in the high mountains.

Super happy that you’re enjoying The Col Collective. Much more to come!

Ride safe,


Topic: Bike tech, Wheels

Hi, I am participating in Haute Route Pyrenees this year. What sort of watts/kg does a rider in middle of the pack have? Would really help me to know where I fit in. Kazim

Hi Kazim,

Thanks for getting in touch and great choice of events, the Haute Route Pyrenees is an absolute all time favourite of mine! Stunning, peaceful and just how bike riding in the mountains should be.

I’ve often referred to this table to get an idea of watts/kg from professional to non-trained cyclists, look at the figure in the FT column. Do you know your functional threshold power? A mid-pack Haute Route rider would be in the Moderate to Good section.

The beauty of the Haute Route is that they cater for all abilities, it’s much more of a life experience than anything else and this is what they want you to have. Of course, training and being in as good physical shape as possible is important so shouldn’t be overlooked but maybe it’s easier to gauge your level by asking a few simple questions, for example….

1) What sort of level are you at as a cyclist at the moment (e.g. just started / regular / experienced)

2) What’s the longest training ride or event you’ve done in the past?

3) Have you ridden any sportives in the past (single day or multi-day events) and where did you finish in these?

4) How many hours per week on average are you able to ride?

With these questions it should be possible to get a good understanding of your level and if you do know your own functional threshold power that’s even better.

I hope that helps. Roll on summer and the mountains!

All the best,


Hi Mike,

Thanks for a detailed reply. My current FTP is around 225 with 75kg weight (carrying winter weight. Will be 70 or below by August). I am aiming for 3.5w/kg which should be good to start with.

I am currently doing various drills 3 days a week on turbo with 2 long rides (100km+) on weekends.Haven’t done any multi day event as such. Done many 100-120 races where I finish in the middle. Longest ride I have done is about 165km. my aim is to finish haute route within the cut off time every day. Not trying to be over ambitious.

Wow, sounds like you’re really doing great! I honestly think that you will be far ahead of the time cut each day. Just pace yourself well, try not to stress (what will be will be) believe in yourself and the golden rule for any bike ride - ENJOY!

Thanks for your efforts in creating such an incredible website for cycling enthusiasts. It really is quite inspiring and I am very much looking forward to tackling some of these climbs in the coming years! I live in Australia and next June/July I will be in Italy (with my bike and partner) on a holiday. I would like to integrate a week of riding around the Italian alps (in the mornings). Then spend the afternoon's with my partner exploring the local area - we just love good food and culture. Can you suggest a good place to base ourselves? I really have no idea where to start. Appreciate your help. Cheers, Jesse Melbourne, Australia

Hi Jesse,

Thank you for your message, and for your compliments super happy you’re liking what we’re up to!

I can certainly help point you in the right direction, there are a couple of options you can consider for cycling in Italy.


Firstly I would say an ideal place to base yourself would be in the heart of Dolomites. Here you have a vast selection of climbs compacted together, each with jaw dropping scenery, your partner would also be surrounded by the same scenery without having to venture out with you on the bike. The Dolomites are a haven to explore both on and off the bike. It offers an abundance of restaurants, walks, and caters very well for visitors. We know of a particularly cycling passionate accommodation, Hotel Ustaria Posta in Alta Badia, the owner is a cycling enthusiast like no other and will give you as much guidance as you need for your rides. Some Dolomite accommodations can be super high class and with it comes the price, see Passo Sella Resort as an example of the quality. There is much more on offer than the Alps or Pyrenees in this respect. One thing to be mindful of, the Dolomites are the busiest region we have ever experienced for cycling, so get your rides in as early as possible to avoid the traffic. Due to the compact nature of the climbs, you can access all of the climbs very easily from the main towns of Corvara, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Arabba, Alta Badia and Canazei.


Hotel Ustaria Posta - Owner Igor Tavella

Passo Sella Resort

Climbs close by:

Passo Gardena

Passo Sella

Passo Pordoi

Passo Giau

Passo Fedaia - Must visit the Marmolada, by bike and by foot

Passo Falzarego

Passo Campolongo

Passo Valparola

Italian Alps

Bormio - This is the mecca - the base of the Passo Stelvio and Passo Gavia, both of these climbs start right from the town. This location is more suited to the cycling side of your trip, the town itself has some lovely restaurants but for the exploring side of the day, there would be more driving involved than the Dolomites. You are still is mesmerising surroundings but perhaps not so much as the Dolomites, they are simply spectacular. We have had some ‘interesting’ experiences in Bormio hotels, and whilst there are quite a few to choose from, the best with regards to price, hospitality and facility is the hotel Nevada whatever budget or standard, this stands out a mile. Plus the owner drove our car to the top of the Stelvio so we could continue our journey home…that service is unrivalled.


Hotel Nevada

Climbs close by:

Passo Stelvio

Passo Gavia

Passo Mortirolo

Passo Tonale

Umbrail Pass

An option may be to split your time between the two regions, spending 2 days in Bormio and the rest in the Dolomites, that way you get to experience the mighty giants and still experience the striking vistas of the Dolomites. The drive is approx 3.5 hours between the two regions. We flew into Venice and out of Milan which is an option to cut down on travel time.

I hope this helps Jesse, we’ve got a load more videos on the way from both regions so stay tuned for more!

Once again thanks for getting in touch.

Cheers for now,


PS - I could so do with some vitamin D right now!

Topic: Travel

Just wanted to get your thoughts on the rising popularity of mid-compact chainsets. I'm currently using a 50/34 compact for the steep stuff but wondered if a 52/36, combined with an 11-28 cassette, be a decent option for the Alps aswell as training in more varied terrain? Thanks, Rich

Hi Rich,

Thanks for getting in touch. Sounds like I use a similar set-up to you in terms of gear ratios. In the big mountains I personally still like to keep my 34 tooth chainring in hand but then I do prefer to use a higher cadence if possible. Having said that, I reckon the 52/36 ratio is the absolute business if you’re riding in varied terrain and you don’t want to switch between a compact and standard chainset each time. I’d say that for most riders this mid-compact set-up would be a great option.

Ride safe and thanks again for the message.


Topic: Bike tech, Gearing

I have booked a 3 week trip to the Alps at the end of June this year. I intend to ride a lot of the top cols including the Marmotte on around the 3rd day. I've been to the Alps and the Pyrenees before but not for this length of time so I've factored in rest days. I live in North Devon which is hilly. Could you give me some guidance on the best way of preparing for the trip please? I'm 45, have a good diet, low alcohol intake and I ride 4-6 times a week. Many thanks, Warren.

Hi Warren,

Thanks for the question. It sounds like you are on for a MONSTER trip to the Alps, that’s what we love to hear!

In terms of preparation, the most important thing will be to try and build a solid base fitness through consistent time on the bike. Riding 4-6 times per week will be perfect of for this especially since you live in North Devon where you have some steep pitches to play with to help to build strength. One very important point in your preparation, and also when you are out in the Alps, is to listen to your body. If you’re feeling tired then back off a little to give your body a chance to recover. Try to build up to the same duration per ride that you hope to do when in the Alps. Use this build up time to practice pacing and experiment with nutrition so hopefully there will be no surprises when you’re out there. Try not to get carried away, it’s easy to get super focused and end up doing too much so once again take note of how you are feeling week in week out. You want to get to the Alps fresh both mentally and physically. The accumulative fatigue from all the climbing that you’ll do out there will mean you’ll definitely want to take some easy days, so good job on factoring those in. I’ve always found that keeping my training simple and as close to the intensity and duration of my end goals has worked well in the past. And finally, you’ve got a lot of time to prepare slowly, slowly, building up your fitness in a controlled way. Make sure you enjoy your cycling, it should always be fun. The moment it feels like a chore it’s likely you’re doing too much.

Ride safe and good luck!

Mike Cotty

I am doing the Paris-Roubaix challenge this spring and have the R-SYS SLR on my bike. I am a bit concerned the carbon spokes might not be strong enough on the harder sections so would like to know what you think about using these wheels for this. I'm 90kg and am planning to use 25mm Vittoria Open Pave tyres. Would have loved to use the 27mm but clearance on my bike is not allowing it. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you, Grandolfo

The carbon spokes on the R-Sys SLR are absolutely capable of standing the cobbles but the overall design of the wheel makes it not the best for this particular event due to its high stiffness. A set of Ksyrium SLS wheels would bring more compliance, control and comfort, however the tyre for this ride is really the key element. It’s a real shame that you can’t use wider than 25mm as this would bring you a lot of added comfort, grip, safety and ride quality needed on the cobbles.

Thanks for your support, good luck!


Topic: Events, Wheels

I have decided to take upon myself a real challenge of doing a 500km ride in my home country of Israel from the south all the way to the north with a lot of climbing and descending. But my problem is that I don't know where to start when it comes to technique, training, nutrition, and proper tools for this sort of thing. I have never done anything like this before. I have done mostly organized sportive events and for this year after seeing your two videos (the journey from Evian to Nice and your 1000 km journey to Mont Blanc) I was inspired to try something similar myself, but I will need your advice where to start? Thank you! Raz

That’s great to hear Raz!

The main thing that you will need to work on is your endurance (lots of kilometres and hours on the bike) so that you can improve your efficiency. I’ve spent years training this area. Keep it simple, if you plan to ride a long way then you’ll need to train to be able to ride a long way. Gradually build this up over the weeks / months and don’t forget to listen to your body and take regular easy or rest days so that your body recovers from the training load. I’ve always found that consistency is better e.g. lots of good quality rides building up to around 250km. If you can ride this far then a great deal after that will come down to three areas (1) Pacing: Don’t push too hard too soon (2) Nutrition: Make sure you take on regular fuel and fluid throughout (3) Mental Strength: I’ve found this is the most important element. How bad you really want it.

Further to your nutrition, everyone is different. I try to eat organic whole foods wherever possible in every day life (no processed foods). I also don’t eat any animal products. Personally I’ve found this clean way of fuelling has worked really well for me but again we are all different. Concentrate on good quality food that isn’t precessed and you will start in the right way. On the bike I also like to eat proper food (gels and energy bars are ok for shorter more intense activities but are too much for the stomach to handle during long rides like this). I make up things like organic rice wraps, sweet potato slices and cereal, along with coconut water for natural electrolyte replacement. Again, we’re all different so experiment in training to see what works best for you.

Hopefully that helps to get you going. Best of luck!


Hi Mike! Love The Col Collective! I'm training for a team Everesting event next year. I will be 50 in January and although I have been riding for years, I don't really know how to prepare for this. The event itself involves repeats of a 1 mile hill in the south-east, the hill is NOT the steepest but I know after 20 or so repeats it will feel like hell, with at least 45 more repeats to come. Help! Dave

Thanks for the question and very happy to hear you’re a fan of The Col Collective!

Sounds like you have a big challenge planned for next year, just what we like to hear! In terms of preparing for this it’s easy to assume that intervals and intensity work are the key here and while each will serve a purpose it’s important not to overlook your base training and overall aerobic conditioning. In an event like this you’ll need to try and be as consistent in your pacing as possible. It’s unlikely you’ll be redlining it (and if you are you’ll probably want to slow yourself down). The goal will be to remain at a comfortable working level that you hope to sustain throughout. At first this may feel too easy but as fatigue starts to creep up on you the tables will turn at which point it’ll start to become even more of a mental battle.

I’d focus the majority of your training at the intensity level that you’ll be working at during the challenge, to try and build your efficiency at this level. It’s important to try and lay the foundations early in the year (higher volume, lower intensity, longer rides) to build a solid base. As the event approaches start incorporating more specific workouts - are you able to train on the climb or something similar? If you can then I’d start to replicate what you intend on doing on the day. Riding the climb at the exact intensity, seeing how you feel, checking your gearing, understanding how your legs cope with lots of short recovery sections on each downhill. It’s not the same as doing a long endurance ride where you keep a consistent force on your muscles whilst turning the gear over.

Whenever I have a challenge I look at the end goal and then work backwards to put a plan together that replicates as closely as possible what I intend to try and do. You need to get to a point in your training and preparation where you feel confident in your technique, equipment, nutrition strategy as well as your physical and mental wellbeing. Don’t forget that recovery is one of the most important elements of training and that you don’t necessarily have to build up to the full elevation before the event (this could cause too much fatigue). Consistency is the key with your training and if you’re regularly able to build up to rides of 4,000-5,000 metres elevation then this will put you in a very good place. You want to get to the event physically and mentally fresh so that you can pull out all the stops on the day. Keep it simple, take a deep breath, believe in yourself and whatever happens as long as you try your best then you’re always a winner!

I hope that helps a little. Best of luck!


Topic: Climbs, Events, Fitness

Hi Guys! I'm flying from Brazil to France with my brother for the 2015 L'Etape du Tour and we are concerned about our wheelset choice. We heard several times people against carbon clinchers, due to poor braking under wet conditions and heat problems leading to blown tires/tubes and such. What's your opinion on this? Thanks in advance! Edson

Hi Edson,

That is a great question and one that needs to be taken very seriously indeed. You’re right to be concerned about rims potentially overheating and compromised braking performance in the wet. In some cases event organisers have gone to the extent of forbidding the use of carbon clinchers where they feel that the overheating may be an issue. We released our Cosmic Carbone 40 Clincher (CC40C) in Spring 2013 after over two years of extensive development and testing to ensure that both of these criteria were met and that rider safety was in no way an issue whatever the conditions. The CC40C utilises a very light weight internal aluminium rim bed that not only dissipates heat but also ensures that the brake track is perfectly true to prevent a rim that feels like it pulses under braking conditions. We developed several types of high temperature resins (TgMax Technology) to ensure that the CC40C achieves the highest possible resistance to braking heat. Not only was this tested in the lab but we also undertook an extensive analysis out in the field with a 100kg rider descending Mont Ventoux whilst dragging the brakes continuously for over 10km. We were also able to reduce stopping distance in the wet by over two times when compared to other carbon rims.

The unfortunate thing is that on the surface carbon can look the same, whereas underneath the surface it is very, very, different. If you are not confident in the materials and testing that your wheels have under gone (or you can’t find out) then we would seriously consider not using them in very mountainous events like the Etape du Tour. We can’t answer for every manufacture but we can say that if you are using a CC40C then we are confident in the performance of this wheel for mountain riding.

We hope that helps. Best of luck next July in the Alps!


Topic: Events, Wheels

We are planning to cycle the Col du Galibier while on holiday next year. This will be our first year cycling in the Alps and wondered if you had any advice regarding gearing? Thanks. Heather

Hi Heather, You are in for a real treat next year, the Galibier is an absolute beaut!

We are planning a series of articles for the “Learn” section that we hope will be of great help to cyclists now and in the future. Gearing will be covered here. Of course, we don’t want to keep you in suspense until then! If it’s your first time in the Alps then you don’t want to get caught out by being under geared. Pacing will be absolutely essential, it’s not a race so take your time and enjoy the experience as best you can. I’d look at trying a 34 tooth front chain ring with a 32 tooth sprocket on the rear. If you can try this sized gear out in advance then that will give you an idea of how it feels. Another little note to consider is that Alpine climbs feel very different to shorter more punchy ascents. I actually find shorter more undulating climbs in the UK where I’m from harder than the longer, more consistent, climbs as you’re not able to get into a rhythm.

I hope that helps. Make sure to post your photo when you’re at the top with #ColCollector. We want to see you here

Topic: Alps, Climbs, Gearing

Hi Mike, Looking to improve both cadence and climbing ability over the winter. Will be on the turbo and currently have a routine as follows 10 mins warm up 1 minute @ 90 rpm at a resistance where I can feel it 1 min @ 100 rpm 1 min @ 110 rpm 2 mins recovery Repeat this until 60 mins is reached 10 mins easy 10 mins going up in resistance every 2 mins until max reached 20 mins at max resistance alternating 1:30 mins in saddle 30 secs out of saddle. 10 mins recovery/warm down at lowest resistance. Will perform this twice during the week and prob Saturday mornings with a 3 hr ride on Sundays. Do you see any issues with this combination? Thx Martin

Hi Martin,

Thanks for the message.

Without having a solid and in depth understanding of your fitness and previous training experience it’s always going to be tricky to drill down specifics so I’ll do what I can in terms of advice based on my experience.

Firstly, everyone is different so there is no right and wrong, a lot of training comes down to what you find that your body responds best to. With respect to the below, the immediate thing that springs to mind is “that is a very hard session”. So my advice would be to definitely make sure that you are able to recover between sessions otherwise you’ll soon find that you aren’t able to get the quality of training in that you’re aiming for. I know for one that I would struggle to perform 3 sessions at this intended intensity each week and recover well between each.

I’d also look to build up any training in a progressive way. Starting with lower intensities or duration and building gradually over time, otherwise you may find that you’re pushing too hard too soon and you subsequently have no where to go. Also, from a mental standpoint it’s nice to be building up progressively than riding at the same level for weeks on end through the winter which may see you plateau and be less productive.

Personally, I’ve found if I want to work on my cadence then I try and ride at a higher cadence for longer periods so I’d maybe look at just doing 45 minutes (or more) regularly at 100rpm or 110rpm with low resistance as opposed to 1 minute blocks.

I always try and simulate my training to match as closely as possible with the riding that I intend to do. In the past I’ve set a turbo trainer up with the front wheel elevated to simulate a climb. I’d then do 20, 30, 40mins or more (depending on how long the climbs are that I’m generally riding) mixing in and out of the saddle exactly like I would on a normal climb out on the road. For me it’s always been more effective to simulate it this way. To keep things fresh you could focus on climbing out of the saddle one session and in the saddle for another.

Once again, I try and make any training that I do as closely matched to the riding that I do, e.g. if I want to improve my endurance and efficiency then I’ll try to increase my volume.

Finally, you could look at focusing just on cadence during one session and then hill climbing for another, again to keep each session as specific as possible. You’re looking to improve two different areas so you want to really get good quality training in on each every time.

I hope that goes some way in helping, as I say we’re all different and this is just based on my experience. Whatever happens, don’t be as lave to your training. If you find one thing isn’t working for you then switch it about. Make sure you get enough recovery in between sessions and over the long-term and most importantly enjoy what you are doing!

Ride safe and good luck!



Thanks for taking the time to respond. I appreciate your advice & will definitely incorporate it into my training plan.

Thanks again.


Topic: Fitness, Technique

I’ve never done any riding in the Alps or Pyrenees but would really like to start in the summer. I can take a trip beforehand to prepare, is there a good region that will prepare me for the high mountains without the more challenging climbs?

There are a wealth of destinations to visit in Europe which would provide perfect preparation for a summer cycling challenge. Locations such as The Canary Islands often make the list but the unrelenting climbs there are often too tough for a first dip into mountain acclimation. Here are three choices to whet your appetite and get your legs in gear:

1. Mallorca tops the list as the most popular and established training location, and for good reason. It offers a wonderful network of smooth roads, varied terrain, from significant mountains to flat coastal routes, and more consistent warmer weather during the late winter / early spring months than northern Europe. Travel to Mallorca is very easy with multiple operator options and transport connections. The whole island is well prepared to cater for cyclists; Hotel rates are very competitive and you will often find cycle specific services at hotels such as access to tools, bike storage and cleaning facilities. If this will be your first experience tackling extended mountain climbs and descents, Mallorca is your perfect introduction.

2. The professional’s choice is the ultimate recommendation and Girona now features as the preferred microclimate for so many athletes. Popularised by cyclists such as David Millar, Dan Martin, Robert Gesink, the Orica GreenEdge team and of course, Lance Armstrong, Girona’s combination of stunning scenery, challenging climbs, quiet roads and rich cultural heritage make it a fantastic escape for pros and amateurs alike. Head north to climb the Pyrennean foothills or east towards the rolling roads which hug the Mediterranean, Girona can offer a bit of everything for a cyclist. Even the local Catalans have embraced the sport and you’ll find Girona one of the most genuine and welcoming areas to ride in. Just an hour away from Barcelona international airport and with plenty of hire bike shops in the town, cycling perfection is within easy reach

3. The Côte D’Azur needs no introduction, home to affluence, glamour and luxury. But head inland away from the bustling, urban coastline and the French Riviera reveals a palate of inspiring roads and stunning scenery. Challenging climbs are on your door step such as the Col de La Madone reaching 925m high straight out of Nice, or escape into the Alps Maritime valleys and the Gorge du Gourdon. The rolling terrain is challenging but the gradient is never too punishing, perfect for training the legs and measuring your efforts. Your rewards are smooth roads passing through rock archways, massif peaks with huge open vistas, blue skies and descents wafting pine through your nostrils. Travel, transport and connections couldn’t be easier to the Côte D’Azur, with London less than a 2 hour flight away. You might even catch the first pro race of the season if you go in March. Aptly known as the ‘Race to the Sun’, seeing the pros racing Paris-Nice might the best inspiration to motivate your training for the summer challenge ahead.

Hi Mike! I am wondering how to set up a plan to train for an endurance ride! I hope it can be combined with gym sessions and outdoor riding. Can you give me some advice in terms of those training techniques please? Thanks, Kevin.

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for the question! Great to hear you’re planing on training for an endurance ride!

I’ve written quite a few different articles that you may find helpful here.

Overall the top tips that I can give you are:

1) Build your fitness gradually over time. Don’t go faster or longer than you are capable of as this may result in a negative result. You want to progressively build up the number of hours / miles that you are training so that your body has a chance to adapt to the training load without over stressing it.

2) If you want to build a solid base for endurance riding then try to allocate a good percentage of your time training on the bike. Basically if you want to be able to ride for a long time then you’ll need to focus your training on this, which normally means time on the bike.

3) Don’t forget about the importance of nutrition. Make sure you’re well hydrated and fed before training. Eat and drink little and often during the ride to maintain energy stores, this is really important so that you have the fuel to keep going.

4) If you’re going to spend time training in the gym, work on your core strength. This will make you more efficient as a rider which is very useful for endurance riding. Stay away from lifting heavy weights (focus on high reps with a lower weight) so that you don’t build muscle that you don’t need on the bike.

5) Make sure you get enough sleep and recovery sessions. It’s only during this time that your body will have a chance to repair and adapt to the training load so make sure you don’t overlook that.

I hope that helps!

Best of luck. Ride safe!


Topic: Fitness

Hi Mike! I'm 28 and I have been cycling for 1.5 years, I have a 540km long race in Norway in 8 months. I hope to finish that race in 20 hours. I'm currently training in my MAF heart rate zone about 10-12 hours per week (including 2 hour rides on my trainer 2-3 times a week). Do you think I should train strictly in my zone 2/MAF heart rate zone to build my aerobic base? How long training rides should I build up to do you think? I'm thankful for any advice! Staffan Edvardsson

Hi Staffan,

Thanks for the message! Is that the Styrkeprøven you’re training for? Great challenge!!

Froma personal point of view I have found that the most important aspect for endurance events is to have a solid aerobic base. It’s sometimes easy to get carried away, up the intensity and push the pace when riding with friends and whilst this is not a problem at all it’s important to remember that good quality hours on the bike at a lower intensity (zone 2) do a lot more to your body over the longterm than you may realise. It really is the training catalyst for aerobic and muscular efficiency. As mentioned, it’s not a problem to go above zone 2 if you want to do a more intense session but overall you want to make sure that a high percentage of your training is focused towards endurance.

Having said this, one thing that is very important for an endurance athlete is to stay mentally fresh. Keep tabs on how you’re feeling. It’s sometimes hard to put in big rides week after week after week and still stay motivated. Don’t forget to factor in enough recovery time. Mix up shorter rides with longer rides if you have to. From my experience training consistently is the key.

If you can build up to riding for 10 hours, and regularly put in rides of this duration, then you should be in a good situation when it comes to the 540km. Of course you can ride longer than this but once again you have to try and remain mentally fresh and the prospect of 12, 15, 20+ hour rides can sometimes wear down your mental reserve. I’ve found it’s better to do more frequent rides of say up to 10 hours and be very consistent with training than going all out for bigger rides closer to the distance you’ll be doing but with less frequency.

Practice with nutrition to see what works for you, taking in real food for big endurance events can often work better than some of the high energy bars and gels which may not sit so well in your stomach after 15 hours.

In reality, if you can get to a situation where you can ride for 10 hours, and do this regularly, then you should be in a good situation. There’s a big difference between 10 hours and 540km but the fundamentals of how you achieve this are the same. Don’t ride at an intensity you know you can’t
sustain, keep fueling little and often, stay hydrated and remember to relax so that you can keep perspective on the situation. There will be hard times, highs AND lows, this is natural and that’s why it is especially important to go into the event mentally fresh. Physical ability is one thing but mental strength is what will actually get you to the finish.

I hope that helps. Good luck and don’t forget these words “your legs may get you to the top of the hill, your mind can visualise the road ahead but your heart will make your dream come true”.



Topic: Fitness

For the past year I've moved over from 23mm to 25mm tires (Conti GP 4000 S), but I am doing La Marmotte and I am thinking maybe I should go back to 23mm to be quicker; thoughts? And what pressure would you run them to? Thanks, Paul

Hi Paul,

Firstly, how do you feel on the 25′s? I used 23mm for years (like most of the world) but found the added comfort of a slightly wider tyre better for the longer rides that I typically do. It’s often thought that the harder and skinnier the tyre the faster but there’s a fair amount of science out there now that has proven the opposite. In terms of pressure, this depends a lot on how much you weigh and the conditions (e.g. wet or dry). In good conditions I run approx 105psi in the rear and 100psi in the front, dropping another 10spi if it’s wet (I’m 60kg). It’s best to take some time to practice before the event to see how you feel at different pressures. I was amazed at how much more traction I got when I lowered the pressure a touch.

Ride safe and best of luck!


Paul Barnes - I’ve found them really good, I can’t notice being slower on them and I think they handle better. Just that typical thing; is there a marginal gain to be had. I weigh just under 70Kg and run the tyres at 110psi; to be honest. I am travelling to the Alps this weekend so will be testing a few of these things. Thanks, Paul

Mike - Glad to hear you’re getting on well with the 25′s! The preconception is skinny is fast but as you’ve found out wider doesn’t necessarily mean slower! Sounds like you have the pressures pretty good too (most folk run tyres too hard – again preconceived that hard is fast). If you’re more confident and can corner better then you’ll always be faster and you’ll use less nervous energy as well to boot!

Topic: Bike tech

I’ve done several long sportives in the UK and will be attempting the Maratona dles Dolomites for the first time. I’ve ridden once in the Alps before but never the Dolomites, how would you say the climbs compare and is there anything I should consider to prepare me beforehand? Thanks for your help! Peter

If you have a good number of long rides under your belt, including an Alps trip, you will be perfectly prepared to tackle the Dolomites. The Maratona dles Dolomites is one of the most majestic granfondos, and anyone partaking for the first time will, no doubt, be blown-away by the incredible mountain panoramas. Although the physical requirements for taking on the Maratona will not differ too much from an Alpine sportive, the mountains can feel a little bit more intimidating in the Dolomites. The mountains are packed closer together and have characteristically steep sides. You ride closer to the mountains faces here, closer to their peaks, you feel you are tip-toeing around a sleeping giant. On the day of the race, soak in the grandeur, enjoy the views but keep one eye on your speed or heart rate. Too often you can just be sucked along by a peloton, distracted by the views and end up going too fast, too soon. Consistency is king in endurance racing.

The Alps, by comparison, are a vast mountain range, with a more open feel. The climbs themselves are longer and more consistent in gradient. The Dolomites, force the roads to be less lengthy and have a few sharper kicks. Be prepared for some short bursts of powerful climbing to get over the steeper sections. Try some steeper hill repeats to acclimatise the legs in training and get used to being able to change your efforts and cadence to suit a changing gradient climb. Thankfully the roads of the Maratona are impeccable smooth, whereas the Alps generally suffer a rougher surface. So you can look forward to some really rewarding descending for your uphill efforts.

Otherwise, standard mountain sportive preparation applies. A compact chainset and a larger ratio cassette are advised. Make sure your fit position on the bike is correct, bike is in top condition mechanically, set your goal for the race and you have a corresponding training plan to stick to.

A final preparation point may be to find out as much as you can about the Maratona course before you ride it. Knowledge is power. Knowing where and how to apply your efforts or save your energy could be make all the difference.

Good luck and most of all enjoy!

Hi Mike, Out of the following – Mavic CC40C, Mavic Ksyrium SLR or Mavic R-SYS SLR wheelsets which would you take for a two week trip to the Pyrenees? Also for 50-60 miles would you still plump for 25′s even on shorter rides or stick with the 23mm tyres Mavic supply with the wheel sets? Cheers, Rich

Cheers Richard. All of the wheels that you mention can certainly handle themselves on the terrain you’ll be riding in. I’ve ridden the Ksyrium SLR’s for a monster week in the Alps last year and the CC40C’s in and around Ventoux and the Pyrenees too so in some respect it comes down to your budget along with what may be most suitable for your normal riding when back home – e.g. do you ride flatter or more hilly routes? The Ksyriums are a tad lighter so may help in the mountains, but the CC40C’s will roll better with their more aero profile. To be honest, if you’re anything like me, whatever you choose will have you smiling – after all you’re going to the Pyrenees! Hell yeah! Oh, and personally I’d stick with the 25′s. M

Richard Treen - Cheers Mike. I used the Ksyrium SLR’s last year when I was over there, and loved the braking from the Exalith rims more than anything. That is what makes me want another set. I am now lucky enough to own a set of the CC40C′s but have not been able test them yet on anything close to the Pyrenees either up or down so your feedback has been useful! Thanks again – Rich

Topic: Bike tech

What's best to eat and drink before a ride and how much time do I give after eating before I hit the road? Also while out on a long ride what sort of food (if any) and drink would you recommend while having a break?

Hi Paul, as a rule of thumb it’s best to try and eat 3 hours before you ride to allow time for digestion. Having said that you also have to be realistic and if you’re an early bird that wants to hit the road at dawn at the weekend then getting up at 4.00am is a bit excessive! If you’re going for a long ride of lower intensity then you’ll be able to eat breakfast later. Try to have something that will give you a sustained release of energy. I personally start the day with porridge topped with fruit. When out on the bike I’ve found that Torq’s fuelling system works well for me (we’re all different so you’ll need to experiment). Little and often is the key. Overall aim to keep your diet as whole and natural as possible, refrain from processed foods if possible and you can’t go far wrong!

Topic: Nutrition

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