Stage 12: Cugnaux – Luz Ardiden (211 km)
The first of three stages in the Pyrenees is guaranteed to be a very hard day. The stage is long (211km), the first 120 kilometers are gradually uphill before you even reach the base of the first major climb, and once you do there are three giants in a row – with the finish on the final summit.
The pace over the first climb might not be too terrible, but it will split the sprinters and some of the weaker domestiques off the back of the pack. The second climb will likely be ridden at a high tempo to whittle the lead group down to 15-20 riders, maybe 10. The purpose of this higher pace will be to sap the legs of the main contenders, but also to test the contenders’ teams to see who will have good climbing support in the mountains. With a nearly 20-kilometer descent before the beginning of the final climb to Luz Ardiden, several contenders will have one or more support riders back beside them, but by this point everyone will know who is strong, who is weak, and who can be isolated from teammates. Then except the fireworks to start!
The Workout: 2:00 EnduranceMiles (50-91% of Field Test average heart rate, 45-73% of Field Test average power) with ClimbingRepeats. (Click for CTS Field Test Instructions)
ClimbingRepeats is a straight-forward workout designed to increase your maximum sustainable climbing power. The intensity for the intervals is just below your maximum sustainable power output, meaning you’ll be asking for full power from your aerobic system and also tapping into your glycolytic system (often referred to as anaerobic or lactate threshold energy system). Accumulating time at this intensity forces your body to adapt so you can produce more power from the aerobic engine, which means you’ll either be able to stay with the leaders more comfortably or have the power to push the pace even higher.
ClimbingRepeats are very effective for increasing the maximum power you can sustain for the duration of a long climb. The intensity for these intervals is 95-100% of your field test average power or 95-97% of your field test average heart rate. During these efforts, you should feel like you’re going hard, but that you could accelerate in response to an attack if you needed to. These efforts should not be as intense as a time trial.
Beginners should complete two, eight-minute ClimbingRepeats. Intermediate riders should complete three eight-minute intervals, and advanced riders should complete three 12-minute intervals. The recovery between intervals should be 12 minutes for each group. Be careful not to start the intervals too hard; spend the first 90 seconds gradually getting up to speed.