The Col Collective


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!

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

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!

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!


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, 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!

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 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 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

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