We hope you are enjoying our Tour de France training plan. Two weeks of the 2012 Tour de France plan are now complete! The previous week was dominated by extremely long mountainous climbs and should have produced some very big training days in the legs.
The second week of the Tour de France training program was developed to mimic the physiological demands of long sweet spot (sub-threshold) and threshold intervals. These intervals should have felt much more manageable than VO2 max intervals last week, but still full-gas, or as hard as you could go for the duration of the interval! The first stage in the big mountains climbed the Col du Grand Columbier for the first time in Tour history. Jens Voigt’s stage 10 data shows he used his massive strength to average over 400 watts for the duration of the climb, and finised third on the day with a whopping 1,224W sprint after almost five hours and 5,280 kilojoules expended! How do your numbers stack up? For the training plan, these longer intervals are great for increasing your functional threshold power.
Now that the Tour moves from the Alps to the Pyrénées, Sweet Spot and Threshold intervals continue to dominate the upcoming workouts. These workouts are characterized by large training stress scores (TSS) and a great deal of energy expended (kilojoules). Stage 16 will be one not to miss as the Tour passes over four of the most infamous mountains used in La Grande Boucle.
Threshold Climbing Tips
For days where 30-60-minute climbs dominate the stage, such as stage 16, it is important to develop a sense of riding at threshold and pacing for the duration of climbs in order to make sure you expend the proper effort over the course of the climb:
1. Start a bit more reserved than you think (i.e. 90-95 percent of threshold power or heart rate)
2. Rather than timed intervals (4x15min — how boring) select three or four different length climbs and ride threshold from the bottom to the top. If you don’t have climbs where you live, alternate the duration of your efforts
3. Settle into your own pedaling rhythm, spinning instead of mashing a big gear by choosing a rear cassette with a 25- or 27-tooth sprocket, and possibly even using a triple chain ring up-front
4. Make sure to keep eating and hydrating
5. Un-zip your jersey, and ride by grabbing the tops of your handlebars in order to maximize available oxygen to the lungs. Alternate in and out of the saddle and pretend you are Chris Froome!
Time Trial Pacing
Time trials are where the strong can win the Tour and the weak can lose it, thus the name, “Race of Truth.” Proper pacing for a time trial is essential to complete the distance over the fastest speed and lowest time. You should have a great representation of your threshold power from stage 9’s time trial. Use this wattage and heart rate to help pace the final field test of the training plan. The closer you get to the finish line, the harder you should go. The power graph of a properly paced field test should see a flat power profile right at your threshold power, instead of a massive first five minutes, followed by a slowly decreasing output.
A couple stages in the last week, namely stage 18, will be prime candidates for breakaways to succeed for stage glory. If you’re a GC candidate, these are days where you want to save as much energy as possible and stay out of trouble. For you, saving energy on group rides by minimizing TSS and KJ expenditure will give you a much better chance for finishing in the front pack for the final city limit sprint or KOM:
1. Stay in the top 5-10 riders, or the “arrow” of the peloton, but not on the front
2. Note the direction of the wind and sit in the draft of another rider
3. Try to pedal as little as possible, by coasting. You’ll have more ‘oomph’ left for the race-winning moves
Good luck with the final week of the training plan. Put in some big efforts in training, and make sure to continue recovering properly by fueling with a 4:1 carbohydrate-to-protein mix within 30 minutes of each workout, and adding an extra hour of sleep and self-massage. Stick to the schedule and hit the finish line on your own personal Champs-Élysées with your best victory salute!
Carson Christen (M.S.) is an exercise physiologist and coach at FasCat Coaching. He can be reached for questions about the Tour de France training plan or all things cycling at firstname.lastname@example.org.