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Footnotes from the saddle

Tour de France - footnotes from the saddle

Sportive Insider: Top Tips On The Tour de France Pyrenees Haute Route

With the excitement of the Tour de France now upon us, many of you intrepid cyclists will be contemplating a challenge of your own. If you’ve ever competed in or even simply contemplated a sportive, we’d like to give you an expert PerformancePro low-down that will hone your preparation.

We asked our resident cycle nut and sportive veteran Tony Purcell, to think back to his time on the road in the mountains of Europe.

The thought of climbing Everest two and half times on a bike made me feel sick. But that’s what you face if you undertake the seven-day, seven-stage race, covering 800km 20,000m of vertical climbing they call the Pyrenees Haute Route. It’s beautiful but brutal!

A little extra edge

Over 10 years of competitive cycling I learnt some valuable lessons. Followed carefully they should help make your experience a little more comfortable (if that’s possible) as well as giving you a little extra edge:

1. Don’t crash whilst riding in a group!! on day two like me. Energy is precious, so get really used to riding in groups, as you will need to be good at positioning yourself in the peloton. That way you’ll get the benefits of drafting.

2. Do watch your power-to-weight and body fat-percentages: they are key performance indicators in the mountains. If you are looking to compete at the top end of the GC then you must get as close to 5w/kg in your FTP test. Getting leaner – around 10-12% body-fat – is another great way to boost your performance. Ultimately, if your goal is to complete the event without being in a world of pain then 3.5 to 4w/kg and 12-14% body fat are the magic numbers.

3. Do make and start a training plan NOW: your first port of call is to find out your power to weight / body fat percentage and heart rate training zones. You can have these tests done here at PerformancePro

Once you know what’s what, I and the team can support you on your way with a training programme, to match your experience and ambition precisely.

4. Don’t forget to mix it up: training should be weighted towards endurance but don’t forget to mix in some high intensity too. A good sessions is vo2 Max Intervals

  • 10 minutes warm-up: steady pace
  • 6 x 3 minutes: maximum efforeffort
  • 3 minutes recovery between efforts: easy pace
  • 5 minutes warm –down: easy pace

5. Do train with power (Watts): using a power meter will keep your training focused, measured and detail your improvements. PerformancePro offer group and individual training on our Wattbike pros. These sessions are power and heart rate based. You might also want to look at SRM / Power Tap and Rotor Cranks, that can be attached to your bike for power-based training outside.

6. Don’t skimp on strength-training – it’s a ‘must’: the stronger you are the more force you can put into the crank. That way you’ll get increased power for less metabolic cost – it’s that simple. You also need to be able to hold yourself on your bike for long periods of time with our compromising your ability to deliver force into the crank. Total body strength and conditioning is key for improving this. None of the above can be done in the saddle, so commit yourself to a well structured gym based programme, as well as putting miles in on the road.

And finally

And finally don’t forget to enjoy it! Every sportive is an experience of a lifetime so look up and take in the terrain, both whilst training and definitely when doing the event. Too much focus on the numbers and data can become boring and take away the reason you started cycling in the first place.

“ Crossing the finish line is a great achievement and after a month of reflection you find yourself searching for the next event, and looking at a new set of wheels “


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