How many miles can I cycle day-in, day-out?

The Société du Tour de France regulations stipulate that the total mileage of Le Tour must not exceed 3,500 km (2170 miles), spread over 21 days of racing, which includes 2 compulsory rest days, during which the distance of 225 km (140 miles) cannot be exceeded more than twice. In preparing for this trip, I have often wondered whether this sort of mileage is achievable by a non racing amateur on a touring bike with panniers. Obviously, the TDF riders do this in one go, without stops. I, on the other hand, have all the time in the world. If I plan to set off each day by 8am, I could conceivably take 12hrs in which to complete that day’s stage. If you include stops totalling 2hrs, this reduces the actual ride time to 10hrs, giving an average speed of 22.5kph (14 mph) for a 225 km (140 mile) stage or, for the average 180 km (110 mile) stage, 18 kph (11 mph).

Personally, I think this is achievable, even though these sort of distances will have to be covered on a pannier laden touring bike day-in, day-out, for seven consecutive days. Currently, because of work commitments, I only train twice a week. If I do a road training session, it’s generally a hilly 25 mile route which I can easily do in one and a half hours at 18+ mph. My Heart Rate for these rides generally averages 168 bpm. Obviously, this is done on a lightweight road bike without panniers. Given the greater distances than my usual training rides, by lowering my effort/Heart Rate, I’m quite sure that I’ll be able to do that sort of mileage on a daily basis.

My only real worries are the long Alpine stages. Taking the 2010 Etap du Tour as an example, the181 kms stage from Pau to the Col du Tourmalet includes 3 Hors Category climbs: Col du Marie-Blanque, Col du Soulor and the 19km-long (with an average height difference of 7.4%) Col du Tourmalet. 10,000 amateur riders of varying standards started this event with just 6,888 riders finishing before the time limit. The fastest rider this year completed the stage 50 seconds short of 6 hours.

Etape du Tour 2010

Etape du Tour 2010

I’m hoping that by the time the Alpine Stage come along, I will have had a whole week of intense mileage under my belt, which should put me in good stead for these stages. I might be clutching at straws but for every climb, there’s a descent. Ultimately, I won’t know if I can do it until I actually do it……..or not!.

If anyone has any views on this, please comment.