Editor’s Note: This is the second installment in FasCat Training’s 2012 Tour de France training plan. For more on the plan, which mimics the entire Tour route, click here.
Congratulations on finishing the first week of the 2012 Tour de France training plan! Looking back at the previous week’s workouts, you should definitely be feeling some fatigue in the legs, so the rest day today is extremely important!
The first week of your Tour de France training started with VO2 max intervals separated by a day of fairly easy riding finishing with sprint work. These intervals should have been done in the VO2 max range and left you nearly falling off your bike at the end! How did your two-minute interval power compare to Peter Sagan’s stage 1 victory power? His SRM data revealed a final 2:20 average power output of 493 watts that ended with a final 200-meter sprint averaging 970W and included a 1,236W surge! All this at end of five hours of racing. For you, doing two-minute intervals is all about developing the raw power outputs to win races and perform well.
Stages 2, 4, 5 and 6 were sprinters’ delights. Power demands for these stages should have been quite low, aside from the max effort in the last 10 seconds. This is why you were riding in zone 2. André Greipel used his massive legs to win stages 4 and 5 back-to-back. Greipel won stage 4 with maximum power output of 1,566W, but ‘only’ had to average 190 watts over the entire stage.
Rest day recovery tips
For today’s rest day, here are some recovery tips to ensure your body recovers properly and adapts to all the training you’ve done:
1. Sleep an extra hour and/or take a nap;
2. Take the extra time to prepare a well-cooked nutritious meal;
3. Schedule a massage or put your feet up. At the very least lay on the couch; and
4. Keep in mind that rest is when your body adapts to the training and allows you to get faster.
Now that the Tour moves into the Alps, threshold power outputs rule the day. From yesterday’s time trial you should have a good idea of your functional threshold power (FTP) from your wattage or heart rate data. Your threshold is the single greatest determinant of endurance performance and the greater your FTP, the greater wattage you can put out over the course of an hour. Your FTP also sets your zones and will help you complete your threshold workouts coming up this week.
The best way to perform these threshold intervals is by using wattage, heart rate, or feel in order of preference. At 17.4km, with an average gradient of 7.4 percent, the Col du Grand Columbier on Wednesday’s stage will be a supra-threshold interval. Your power should be around 105-110 percent of your FTP. It will be important to properly pace this climb to ensure you don’t go out too hard and lose the ability to maintain proper pacing over the later part of the course. If you don’t live in an area with mountainous terrain, such as Florida or Texas, threshold intervals are still possible. A stationary trainer is a good tool for making threshold power. Flat roads into a headwind or riding a larger gear are also good ways to complete your intervals. Whatever your scenario, if you can make the power or do a hard effort that is the next best thing to having a 20-minute climb nearby.
Looking ahead to next weekend, stage 14 on Sunday will feature climbs near the finish that will no doubt bring attacks out of the peloton. The efforts needed are called Over-Unders. You go over your threshold and then ride just under your threshold but then finish over your threshold! At the beginning of the interval, a 30-second zone 6 effort is required to respond to attacks. Then settle into your threshold wattage for the duration of the interval or climb. The final 30 seconds will be near the top of the climb, when another attack will go for mountain classification points or to escape for the descent to the finish. Punch it to stay with the group or get KOM points!
For specificity (and fun) finish the ride with a sprint — imagine yourself outsprinting those skinny little climbers. You can do that, right?
Good luck with the upcoming workouts this week, and stick to the structure as best as you can. The intensity of the workouts is the most important if you are short on available time. You do not need to train for five hours in order to mimic the stages of the Tour de France. Remember to fuel, hydrate and recover properly at the end of each stage (workout). Let us know if you have any questions regarding the training plan and keep the rubber side down.
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 email@example.com.