James Birrell and his pals have taken a more serious approach to this year?s Etape, enlisting the help of Pure Sports Medicine performance coach David Smith to get them into shape for July.

Name: James Birrell

Age: 37

Height: 183cm

Weight: 95kg

Years cycling: 16

?I started racing when I was 21 ? I used to do criteriums back home in Sydney ? but then I got into rugby so cycling went on the backburner for a while. My build is not great for going up mountains. I started at 99kg and am down to 95kg but the target weight is 90kg. It took a little while to get the cycling muscles back but the big shoulders [from rugby] are gradually going.

?This will be my fourth Etape. Last year it took 10h 30m and I can?t say it was pleasurable ? the heat made a big difference.

?Training seemed like a chore previously but now there is a goal for each session and it?s a lot more fun. We are riding well as a group and getting faster. We used to go out with a target distance in mind, but now we go out with specific instructions ? you have to think, and you have to work with the other guys in the team. It brings you a lot closer to the other guys you are training with.

?We have had our muscle and bone structure checked and a 4k static bike test every two months, and a nutritionist who has focussed on keeping sugar levels constant throughout the day.

?I do three rides, two sessions in the gym and either a swim or easy ride every week. After the first few weeks, I thought ?why am I doing all this?? but I?ve enjoyed the fact that you do see improvements. The whole six months has gone so much quicker than last year.?

PERFORMANCE PROGRESSION

Date 10/07 2/08 4/08 6/08
Body weight 98.1kg 99.1kg 97.7kg 96.3kg Chest 111.3cm 112cm 109.7cm 110.2cm Hips 107.5cm 108.2cm 106.3cm 105.3cm 4k TT 04:45 04:44 04:30 04:16

THIS WEEK’S TRAINING

Monday: 50 mins @ 80rpm plus 30 mins @ 125-130rpm (60 seconds easy every 4 mins)

Tuesday: Gym session focussing on strength work

Wednesday: 3 mins hard @ 95rpm (4k TT pace) plus 3 mins moderate pace, 10 sets

Thursday: 50km steady pace @ 90rpm

Friday: 30 mins easy am, easy swim pm

Saturday: 125km steady pace @ 95rpm

Sunday: Rest

www.puresportsmed.com