Learn From the Pros: How Tour de France Riders Prep for Race Day

Pros share what their training and fuelling looks like in the weeks before hitting the starting line. Steal all their secrets to a solid performance. 


The Tour de France is like the World Cup of cycling: It’s not just an event, it’s the event. A stage win can make or break your career. It’s where heroes are born and legends are made.

So how do you prepare for something that requires such athleticism, skill, and mental stamina? We asked a few Tour veterans, as well as a couple of first-timers, how they dial in their training ahead of the iconic race.

Here’s what to know about their race day prep and what you can learn from their habits.

Fine-Tune the Little Things off the Bike

“I focus on the details: I try to get a lot of sleep every night, focus on making sure my nutrition on and off the bike is good, and that I’m doing my stretching and massage that I normally do,” says Ineos Grenadiers’ Ben Turner.

“I try to focus even more on the details.”

“Personally I do nothing crazy,” says João Almeida of UAE Team Emirates, who you’ll see lead out Tadej Pogačar or sprint for his own stage wins. “But with the Tour de France being the biggest race in the world, I try to focus even more on the details. I try to be in the best shape possible, and every training session, I’m making sure I’m pushing my body and mind to their best.”

Get Specific With Fueling

“To be honest, I’m just a little more focused across the board on the small things, especially with nutrition,” says Derek Gee of Israel-Premier Tech, when he’s in the last few weeks ahead of the start. He’s racing in the Tour de France for the first time this year after a breakout ride at the Criterium du Dauphine in June and a handful of podium finishes at last year’s Giro d’Italia. “Being 100-percent dialled on nutrition all year is a good way to crack myself mentally, but going into a big target for a limited period of time, I find it super rewarding to just have that little bit of extra control. Unfortunately, that means some skipped desserts!”

Lest you think a rider like Gee is trying to drop weight heading into the race, he’s actually consuming more in and around his rides as he prepares for the Tour, to ensure that every effort is done with fuel in the tank, and that postride, he’s recovering as fast as possible. “I make sure that I’m fueled as well as I can be for every session,” he says. “The biggest thing is making sure I’m fueling the right amount per session on the bike, so trying to push 100-plus grams an hour of carbs for big sessions.”

Practice Visualisation

“For the most part, the lead into a grand tour or big stage race is pretty standard—lots of training and focus,” says Gee’s teammate, Matthew Riccitello. “I’d say the most surprising thing I do is visualising the race, both in training and away from training. I think it’s important to know what you want to get out of a race, goal wise. Once I know my goals, I visualise myself in accomplishing those goals.”

You can visualise riding success no matter what goal you have in mind, whether that’s picturing yourself keeping up with everyone on a group ride or crossing the finish line feeling strong at your first gran fondo.

Stay on Top of Prehab Exercises

“The training I’ve been doing in the lead up to the Tour de France was pretty similar to what I’ve been doing the last few years, but this spring I had to go through a long period of rehab after I had some tendinitis in my patella,” says EF Education First’s, Neilson Powless.

Since then, Powless has been focusing on hamstring strength workstretching, and foam rolling. “I probably spend a good 20 to 30 minutes ahead of every training ride just loosening my body up, even if it doesn’t feel like I really need it,” he says. “The way that my tendinitis came on earlier this year was so sudden and abrupt that I didn’t see it coming and I wasn’t expecting it. It’s even more important to stay loose and on top of things, even if I feel like I don’t really need it or if it feels monotonous.”

Prepare for the Climate

“This year, I’ve done a bit more heat adaptation training,” adds Powless. “When I was in Houston, that just meant hot coffee during training on a hot day but here in Nice, France, it’s not too hot yet so I’ve been riding for an hour indoors with all of the windows shut with some extra layers on to try to get myself used to the heat and sweat a bit and hopefully it pays off.”

Stay Away from Sickness

After last year’s Giro saw a huge chunk of the field drop out with COVID, riders are even more cautious about not getting sick ahead of the Tour. “It’s all about being focused and staying healthy in all aspects,” says Mads Pedersen, a sprinter at Lidl-Trek. “The most important thing is to not get sick, and that’s sometimes the hard one because it means that it’s not always possible to attend birthdays, dinners, and so on with family and friends.”

Limit Mental Stressors

Turner also likes to make sure his home life is dialled in before heading to France. “I like to make sure all the jobs in the house are done before I leave so I don’t have to worry about them or think about them during the race,” he says.

This is great advice for anyone heading to your season’s A race as well: Try to have all of your work and home responsibilities wrapped up as much as possible so that while you’re at your race, you can be entirely focused.

Don’t Do Anything New

You may have heard the advice to never try a new type of sports drink or gel on race day, and there’s a good reason for that. Even things that seem like a good or healthy choice—like adding a huge amount of vegetables to your diet, or increasing the duration of your workout—can have negative consequences when they’re done close to race day.

Once you find out what works, changing it close to your race can be a disaster. Hence why these riders all stay the course, or as Turner puts it, “I don’t do anything unusual and try to avoid doing anything that I wouldn’t normally do.”

READ MORE ON: 2024 Tour de France cycling tips Pro Secrets Tour de France

Copyright © 2024 Hearst