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Find out how the other teams train, and see files from the 2018 Tour de France here!

Pro tour riders all have specific strengths that make them an asset to their team. Whether they’re known for being sprinters, time trialists, general classification riders (GC) or climbers, they all have areas where they shine. While all of these phenotypes come with their own unique skill sets, it’s often the classic climbs of the Tour de France that capture the audience’s attention and imagination. Let’s look more closely at what classifies a climber on the Tour, and how mere mortals might train to be stronger when things tilt skyward.

What makes a climber?

What’s the difference between a rider built for climbing and those who focus on other disciplines? First and foremost, great climbers have a high strength to weight ratio (W/Kg). They’re often able to hold 5-6 W/Kg on climbs lasting several kilometers at very steep grades. They accomplish this by maintaining a lean and light body type while still being able to put out high power for longer durations. This gives them an advantage over sprinters and time trialists who may be bigger riders, or not able to maintain power for as long as it’s needed in the mountains.

Typically these climbing specialists also have a very high VO2 Max. These genetically gifted riders produce VO2’s in the 70-90 ml/min/Kg range determining their high aerobic capacity and ability to produce energy aerobically. High W/Kg, genetically gifted VO2 Max and the right body type make these athletes ideal for the high mountains of the Tour.

How to Train for Climbing

Just like the pro riders, any rider hoping to get faster on hills should focus should on watts per kilogram. When the terrain begins to go upward, W/Kg is what matters most. The two most productive things an athlete can do to be prepared for climbing is to find their ideal body weight, and increase their power. This will yield a maximum strength to weight ratio.

Other key areas should be developing your body’s lactate clearing potential, aerobic and anaerobic capacity, muscular strength, and threshold. This can be accomplished by executing workouts that prepare the body for the rigors of climbing. Integrate increasingly longer efforts at or just below FTP to encourage aerobic and muscular gains. Also include shorter efforts above threshold to train the body to efficiently use anaerobic sources of energy. Climbing, like any other bike skill, can be learned and developed over time with consistent and proper focus.

The massive climbs of Europe are what help make the Tour de France what it is. They push riders to their physical and mental limits by asking the absolute most from each athlete. Climbing specialists in the pro peloton have developed the power necessary, along with the ideal body type and natural ability, to conquer these climbs. While most athletes aren’t pro tour riders, every cyclist can focus on being a more confident and proficient climber—regardless of their genetic predisposition.

 

 

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The post How a Tour de France Climber Trains for the World’s Toughest Mountains appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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There are few races as awe-inspiring in cycling as the Team Time Trial (TTT). Similar to the team pursuit event in track cycling, modern Team Time Trials up the ante by adding four additional riders with varying strengths and weaknesses. Riders will contend with variables associated with the course and environmental conditions—all while traveling in a tight rotating formation at speeds upward of 55 km/h.

Watching a team perform with flawless precision like Orica-GreenEDGE did in the 2013 version of the Tour (averaging a shade under 58 km/h) is a thing of beauty. But, underneath this seamless show of fluidity is a complex interplay of power, aerodynamics, timing and meticulous preparation that can set the great teams a notch above the rest.

Below we look into the anatomy of a TTT, and show how we have attempted to model these races to help teams and coaches come up with actionable insights.

So much power

In an individual Time Trial (TT) riders tend to target a steady pace at or around their Functional Threshold Power. But in a TTT, each rider will take turns pulling the group at significantly higher power for a short period of time.The goal is to keep the team’s speed consistent, but higher than any individual rider could ride alone.

Notably, at these speeds, the front rider will be pushing very high raw power, which means that their watts/kg will have a minimized impact. Disregarding aerodynamic differences for a second, on a flattish course, a smaller climber and large power TT rider have to push roughly the same power to maintain that speed when riding out front.

Check out this sample data file from a professional TTT rider at the world pro tour level. We can see the extreme demands associated with pull intervals, as well as the rest intervals as the athlete sits in and recovers before their next turn on the front.

TTT exampleThe raw numbers of the pull phases are eye-popping and can often exceed 130 percent of Functional Threshold Power (FTP). The average pull power for the athlete above was between 525 and 540 watts, with an average duration of 30 seconds to a minute. He averaged 325 to 340 watts for his two to three “resting” minutes between pulls.

Because speed was maintained fairly consistently on each half of the course, you can assume that the pulling power was relatively consistent from rider to rider. But keep in mind, that raw power number represents a different maximum capacity of each rider’s Power Duration curve (i.e. 530 watts may be the two-minute power for one athlete whereas it could be closer to the five-minute power of another).

Each rider’s pull duration can be significantly impacted according to these individual power characteristics. Strong riders might be expected to take longer, 45 seconds to one minute pulls, whereas smaller, less powerful riders might even sit out some rotations in order to stay in contact with the group.

In the above example, the rider’s average power for the entire course was 377 watts. For some small GC climbers that could represent a higher percentage of their FTP, putting them at a significant disadvantage for this type of stage despite their superior watts/kg.

Every Aero Advantage

Of course, all this power discussion disregards what is probably the most striking visual from a TTT: The aerodynamic gear and positions. We mentioned that watts/kg is not as important in this type of race, but watts/CdA is a different story.

In other articles we have discussed the importance of CdA, (or coefficient of drag area). The faster a rider goes, the more power they need to produce to overcome aerodynamic drag. So, the more they can mitigate that drag with equipment and position, the less power they’ll have to produce.

Today, all teams and riders understand the extreme importance of aerodynamics, and spend a lot of time and resources perfecting their positions and equipment. While there are still gains to be had and well-funded teams still hold an advantage, the difference between the best and the worst in terms of aerodynamics has shrunk significantly over the years.

However for modeling purposes, it’s important to know the characteristics of riders in different positions in the train to help formulate strategy. Recent studies have shown that the aerodynamics of the group (even the pulling rider) are better than any of the riders solo. Using our Aero Analyzer Tool we can investigate the numbers and see how this could impact future races.

Looking at the time series data from the example above we can see the distinct difference between pull phases where CdA hovers a bit over .22 and rest phases where it drops to a low of .12, or roughly 50 percent less. The reduction also follows a pattern which bottoms outs when the rider is in the center of the team rotation. This matches recent research into drag effects on pelotons.

Now that we have some baseline details of the numbers involved in the race we can start to use that to model and find insights for future races.

Modeling stage 3 of the Tour

A couple years ago we discussed ways to model Team Time Trial races with several tour teams. The complexity is significantly higher than modeling a standard TT; however, we developed a straightforward and simple method that can still provide teams insights as it relates to course reconnaissance and weather/condition race impacts. To do this we only consider the pull phases of the race and use the lead riders’ aerodynamics data to model the race as if it was a single unit.

By doing this teams can start to see the average speed tendencies, as well as areas on the course where there may be an advantage to have stronger riders pull for different durations, and ideas about placement of key GC riders within the group. Ultimately this sort of modeling can help fine-tune their strategy going into the stage.

The goal of the model is not to tell teams the exact strategy but instead provide tools to validate ideas and give specific course insight and intelligence.

Looking specifically at stage 3 there are two major factors that immediately stand out. First is that the modeled speed slows over the course despite an early climb. Second is that the average power increases over the course.

This is due to a forecasted strong prevailing tail/cross in the first half, which turns to headwind on the way back. Teams that push too hard over the first two checkpoints could lose significant time in the back half of the course if rider power drops.

Using the Best Bike Split Time Analysis Tool we can estimate the impact of this. Pushing 5 percent more power on pull phases can shave 20 seconds off the time in the first half whereas fading by 4 to 5 percent in the second half results in 30+ seconds of lost time.

Saving stronger riders for the back half combined with the rolling nature of the course can also have the added benefit of allowing smaller GC riders sit in for longer at reduced power to minimize the risk of losing or having to slow down for key riders.

Finally, in the TTT, the time stops when the fifth rider crosses the line. For some teams it may make sense to shed riders at a key area to propel the team to the victory or for a GC rider to save some precious seconds.

In the closing sections of stage 3, if there the wind predictions hold, there is a section where a large effort can result in a meaningful time gains.

Using the Time Analysis Tool’s Time Delta metric, we can see that maximum effort from 33.5 to 35 km can gain .26 seconds per hundred meters over a faltering pace.

Where every second counts over a three-week race, modeling doesn’t always provide the perfect answer, but it allows teams a deeper insight into a course than previously possible.

To try for yourself checkout out our Stage 3 coverage and use the Time Analysis tool to look at different scenarios for this year’s TTT.

The post Anatomy of a Team Time Trial appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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tour de france stage 3
Team Results:

1 BMC Racing Team 0:38:46
2 Team Sky 0:00:04
3 Quick-Step Floors 0:00:07

Stage 3 was always going to be pivotal in the first week of the Tour de France, with the main GC contenders’ teams going head-to-head prior to the mountains. With so many GC riders having lost time due to early crashes and mechanicals, the Team Time Trial gained even more significance. Ultimately BMC proved to be the world’s best TT team once again, winning the stage by a slender margin to Team Sky and getting Richie Porte some time. Yet the GC standings remain close, with the top five teams finishing within 11 seconds of each other.

(See Best Bike Split Analysis)

Rider Analysis: Simon Clarke

Simon Clarke

Team Finish Position: 6th +35sec
Click HERE to view the file

EF Education First- Drapac p/b Cannondale team captain Simon Clarke said this stage has been a target for his team since the Tour de France route was announced last year. But looking at Simon’s individual stats doesn’t really tell his (or the team’s) full story, so we must break them down to reflect the tactics of the day.

In a TTT, the official team finishing time is taken with the 4th rider to cross the line. It all comes down to getting those 4 riders, and the team GC leader (in this case Rigoberto Uran), to the finish line as fast as possible. To do this, the pacing and energy expenditure of specific riders at different points on the course was planned with tremendous detail.

It is obvious looking at Simon’s data that his job was to get the team off the blocks as fast as possible, with a peak 5 minute power for the day set within the first 4km. He rode that opening 5 minutes at an average power of 405w (6.43w/kg), and the effort continued over the opening 21.5km; Simon was one of the team’s driving forces in the early kilometers of the stage and well through the halfway point.

Stats for opening 21.5km

0:23:47
54.5kph
Average Power – 364w, 5.78 w/kg
Normalized average power – 388w, 6.16 w/kg
Ave Cad – 100rpm

The opening 21km was littered with small twists and turns, along with several roundabouts. but EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale remained fluid, showing their ability to be totally cohesive as a team on such terrain.

If we look at some Peak Speeds, we can really appreciate the incredible pace of these teams. During the middle section of the stage, Simon’s team had a peak 5 minute AVERAGE speed of 61.5kph. He had an eye-watering max 5 second average speed of 90.4kph. His highest speed for the day was 91.3kph. When you consider the positioning of the group (riding barely 2cm from each others’ wheels) it is truly impressive to think of the skill and technique required to avoid disaster.

During the period in which Simon was with the team you can see that many of his turns at the front were very smooth, despite kicking his power up to 450-500w, 7.5w/kg approx. for the 20-30 second turns over the front.

It’s also worth noting that some of his short-term peak powers were done as the team accelerated out of the many corners. For example, his peak 5 second power took place exiting a roundabout after 13km of racing. Here he averaged 805w, 12.8w/kg with a max power of 906w, 14.38w/kg. I am confident that the ability to take these obstacles at speed and maintain a powerful exit was a decisive factor in many of the teams’ finishing times.

As you can see from this file, Simon’s job was done after 21.5km. Here he pulled the pin and let the team fight out the final 12km without him. Simon rode a steady tempo into finish, safe in the knowledge that he had made a major impact to the team’s final time. His huge effort in the first half of the stage was a major factor in what turned out to be a successful sixth-place finish for the team.

Rider Analysis: Mathew Hayman
mathey hayman

Team Finish Position: 4th +9sec
Click HERE to view the file

As team captain and one the chosen riders to make the start as fast as possible for his team, Mathew Hayman is in a similar position to that of Simon Clarke. The Mitchelton-Scott GreenEdge team had an incredible ride, finishing only 9 seconds off the winners and earning 4th place on the stage. Like Simon, most of Mathew’s peak powers took place in the opening 18km. His peak 5 minute power began at the start ramp, and continued for the first 18km, going over 5w/kg for the opening 20 minutes of the race.

Peak Powers:

5min – 453w, 5.66w/kg
10min – 425w, 5.31w/kg
20min – 406w, 5.07w/kg

The long drag of around 2% leaving the start town of Cholet was the perfect opportunity for Mathew to use his big engine to power the team to a fast start. On this section of road, Mathew made his peak 2 minute power for the day at 579w, 7.15w/kg.

Although they were the first team off the start ramp, Mitchelton-Scott GreenEdge set some extremely fast opening splits which were only beaten by a small number of teams later in the stage—in fact they were faster than both Sky and BMC in this section.

Again, like Simon Clarke, Mathew had his final pull at the front with around 10km to go, before rolling in the final 10km section at a steady pace. Both teams pulled off an outstanding race on this crucial stage.

The post 2018 Tour de France: Stage 3 TTT Analysis appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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Find out how the teams train, and see files from the 2018 Tour de France here!

For a sprinter to prepare for the Tour de France is like baking a cake—but not one of those box cakes! It takes time, a few key ingredients, and a lot of patience. It also requires confidence that the process is going to pay off. That said, some cakes come out great, and some do not; it takes years to perfect the process. It’s easy to define the baseline demands of being a Tour de France sprinter, but becoming one is anything but simple.

Weathering the Storm

The number one objective for a sprinter (on a sprint stage) is to make it to the last kilometer in the front of the race. In other words, the rider must get to the start of the sprint in a position to sprint—not in 100th wheel, not in a group off the back, and ideally not even in the front of the field if there’s a breakaway up the road. A sprinter must clear multiple hurdles before the actual details of the sprint matter. I call this huge part of the race “weathering the storm”.

It can be argued that the demands of every race are different. But on a simple physiological level, what a sprinter needs to “weather the storm” is the capacity to absorb 3000 to 4000 kilojoules of work, with large chunks of that occurring around FTP or lactate threshold. They also need to be able to handle some high intensity efforts along the way to stay in the field and to position for the final sprint. With the Tour de France, we also have to factor in that it is a 21-day race. That means recovery and an ability to handle the load day-to-day are paramount. Sprinters are going to be preparing not just for the demands of one specific day, but also for surviving the race.

How To Prepare:

When it comes to workout construction every athlete and coach is going to have their favorite potion of choice in preparing to “weather the storm”. Staying with the theme of keeping it simple, here is a baseline example of how a sprinter might prepare for the aerobic demands of a sprint stage, followed up by tapping into their speed for the finish:

tour-de-france-sprint

Boiled down: stay on the pedals, rack up some kJ’s, and sprint at the end. It’s also important to focus on good form under fatigue. This is the key: to make it to the race, and still be able to go fast. Certainly races vary, and there are further nuts and bolts it can be broken down into, but it’s also easy to lose the forest through the trees. So let’s make sure we’re seeing the forest before getting caught up in the trees. That is what “weathering the storm” is all about.

Sprint Mechanics

Once a sprinter has sat patiently in the field for five hours “weathering the storm”, it is time to execute the sprint, and hopefully win. The fundamental issue is that fifteen other riders and teams have similar hopes and dreams. Now we are into the mechanics of the sprint. In training sprinters may have all prepared really well, but the rider that puts out the highest peak power in the final 200 meters does not always win. The sprint goes way beyond training, beyond intervals and fitness. At the end of the day the mechanics of a sprint are about positioning, timing, a well-drilled team, and a lot of confidence to execute without hesitation.

There is a great article on TrainingPeaks already showing a deeper file breakdown of the final sprint of a TDF stage, but it doesn’t address the dynamics around the race.

To prepare for the mechanics of a sprint, athletes are not sitting at the computer figuring out what intervals they need to do. They are at races, building a team, and building their specific skills. Now, one could certainly counter that any rider contesting sprints at the Tour has built their specific skills pretty well or else they would not be there. That is a fair statement. However, racing is still king for preparation. Ability to “weather the storm” is the entry fee for starting the race, but time spent racing and dialing in sprint mechanics is how to win.

The same way every sprinter is going to have their favorite workouts to prepare, they are also going to have their favorite race schedule. There is by no means one strict path. But, by the time we are watching our favorite sprinters duel it out on TV, they have been preparing their sprint mechanics for six months.

The Leadup:
January

Training camp. Here the sprint train started to form up and do some specific lead out work – but without the stressors of actual racing
February: May include a stage race to build some of that general aerobic fitness before getting into the classics campaign. These stage races are also a great chance for the sprinters to test their sprint train in a race setting.

March and April

Probably saw some big objectives in the classics, maybe a Milan San Remo podium if things went well. As the Ardennes classics fired up in the second half of April, our sprint heavyweights were likely going into recovery mode. Then there might be a May trip to altitude as preparation for the Tour.

June

Another stage race for fitness, and to dial in the sprint train before the big show.

In conclusion – it’s a long process. Plus, with so many other teams jockeying for position, it comes with a high risk of failure. A Tour de France sprint may look like 200 meters, but in reality it’s months (if not years) long.

 

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Tim Kennaugh is the performance manager for team EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale. The following interview has been edited lightly for length. 

LT: What has Uran’s leadup to the Tour de France been like?
Tim Kennaugh: So this year Uran’s actually done a similar amount of race days pre-tour as last year. Last year he did 33 days, and after he’s finished Slovenia this year he’ll have done 27 days
So pretty similar buildup, obviously what he did last year worked really well.

LT: Are you trying to recreate what he did last year?
TK: Pretty much. He has his own external coach, so I don’t actually coach Rigo, but from his training and his plans he looks to be doing a similar buildup, maybe slightly more TTT work.

rigoberto uran

LT: What does that look like?
TK: A good session I like to do for TTT work is behind the motorbike. You basically replicate a TTT, so you do turns alongside the bike for anywhere between 10 to 30 seconds, then you drop back behind the bike as if you’re resting like you would in the paceline. I think that’s really good because it’s very specific to the race, and it’s easier on the guys’ heads, because they’ve got something to sort of race against instead of just looking at their power meters.

LT: How fast is the bike going?
TK: Anywhere from 45 to 55k per hour really, depending on the terrain.

LT: So if you were just a normal rider at home, how could you replicate that? Find a friend with a bike? Chase a car?
TK: I think it’s actually illegal in a lot of countries, so I can’t suggest people do it.

LT: What, motorpacing?
TK: Motorpacing is illegal in Spain, yeah, and in England.

LT: So, uh… how do you pull it off?
TK: I mean, it’s one of those things where you’re not allowed to do it, but no one really stops you.

LT: And then if you get caught I guess you could just pretend you don’t know each other…?
TK: Yeah, he’s just following me around out here!

LT: So you probably can’t tell us too much about team selection, right?
TK: Obviously having the TTT and the cobbles does effect team selection, because it’s going to be vital that Uran limits his losses, or doesn’t lose any time in those stages. Fortunately, the characteristics of a good classics rider, or someone who’s good on the cobbles, normally lend themselves to being good TTT riders, which is useful.

LT: What in particular?
TK: Their power output, and their anaerobic capacity to be able to go fast on the flats basically. It’s generally more suited to the bigger guys than the skinny climbers. So we’ve been encouraging the guys on the long list to put more TTT work into their training schedule in the build up to the tour, which they’ve been doing. We’ve held a few training camps, and got a pre-tour camp coming up (TTT specific), and we also did one in January training camp. So that’s been useful for sure.

LT: How is the team atmosphere after last year’s Tour de Framce?
TK: As far as the team’s atmosphere around Uran’s breakthrough Tour last year? Well I wasn’t actually on the team last year so I can’t compare, but everyone always seems to ride well when Uran’s on the team. He’s a very calm, very relaxed leader, so it’s very good for team spirit and the team environment.

LT: That’s pretty amazing that the riders aren’t stressing. Are they really not feeling the pressure?
TK: No. He would be like the most relaxed one on the team, even when he’s up there on the GC. But obviously the riders put pressure on themselves, they want to perform. And I think, when you know you’ve got a rider on the team who can win the big races, it definitely brings a bit more out of the riders, and helps get that extra 1%, that motivation.

Rigoberto Uran

LT: What specific metrics or tools from Training Peaks do you use most?
TK: Yeah, I like the PMC quite a lot, because that’s a good overview of riders fitness, and freshness and fatigue, and gives us a good indicator of where their form’s at. So I like to use that. Also what can be useful is their peak watts per kilo over certain durations. In the last month of training, for example, if we know you’ve got a race where there’s a climb that lasts 7 minutes, and it’s a key moment of the race in the last 20k or something like that, then you can really compare the riders over that duration, then you can make good team selection and tactical choices.

But obviously people still have to be able to race a bike, not just put out good numbers.

LT: Do you have any good workouts to share?
TK: As far as training sessions go, that’s a pretty difficult one to answer because it depends what you’re training for, what your goals are, and what phase of training you’re in. But if a rider was looking to improve their threshold, or do better at tie trials, or go on longer sustained climbs, A good session is 2×20 minutes. The first 20 minutes at 98% of FTP around 95 RPRM, 10 minutes easy, then the second block of 20 minutes at a 100-105% FTP 95 RPM. You can obviously build up to that, drop it to 15 minutes then build to 20. It’s a hard session on the head, but it definitely works.

LT: What stage are you most excited for?
TK: I’m really excited for that 65 kilometer stage, the really mountainous one, because it’s just gonna be epic. And they’re gridding the start line, so the GC positions will be on the front. It’ll be racing right from the gun, it’ll be really interesting to see how that’s raced, also the time limit—it’s going to be such a fast race on the front, it’ll be interesting to see if the sprinters get dropped on the first climb.

LT: Will you be with the riders during the Tour?
TK: Not sure what I’m gonna do there yet, it’s so busy there.

LT: What’s it like managing their training and then just watching the Tour de France play out?
TK: Oh good question. I don’t know actually. I’ll be worried at certain points in the race, the TTT for example, because that’s a key moment, and it’s something that we’ve struggled on in the past. And we really want to perform there, so you get a bit nervous and there’s things like that. And obviously you’ve got your fingers crossed on the cobbled stages that we don’t puncture at the wrong time. That’s the main thing, I’d guess.

LT: So more like the stuff you can’t control?
TK: Yeah exactly.

Rigoberto Uran

LT: It must be cool to watch these guys do what they’ve been training for.
TK: Yeah, especially as you build up relationships and get to know a few of them them. It’s only my first year here so I don’t know a lot of the guys super well, but the few you build a relationship with you definitely watch the race in a different light.

LT: Is there someone you’re gonna be really rooting for or is it like your kids, where you can’t choose favorites?
TK: I think you can’t choose favorites!

LT: This is your first year with EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale. Who were you with before?
TK: A British team called JLT Condor, I was with them for five years. This was something I’ve been working for for a while to be honest. It has always been my goal, so when the opportunity came I jumped at it.

LT: So this is your first Tour too!? Come on, you’ve gotta be nervous!
TK: Yeah, I’m just trying to kinda step back and do what I can do and not worry too much, you know what I mean? otherwise you’re just tired all the time. You can’t worry about it can you?

LT: Well that’s super exciting, I hope it goes well for you!
TK: Cheers, fingers crossed!

LT: Is there any other wisdom or nerdyness you’d like to share about training?
TK: I think just do the simple things, right? Everyone’s trying to look for the next big thing, the 1%. But is your diet good? Are you consistent with your training? Do you rest? Just the basics take you a really long way. Not everyone has them nailed down before they’re looking for the super workout or the special diet. The basics are diet, consistency, and recovery (so, not getting sick.)

And ride slow—I think a lot of people get caught up in just doing lots of work in zone 3 and 4, riding really hard all the time. There are so many adaptations that come from riding in zone 2. It really works to just keep a really long zone 2 ride in your week, for sure. Even as you get into the season, definitely keep a few maintenance rides just to maintain your condition.

Find out how the other teams train, and see files from the 2018 Tour de France here!

The post Rigoberto Uran is Gunning for the Time Trials appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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