Stage 13: Pau – Lourdes (152.5km)
The Col d’ Aubisque is a massive and very difficult climb, but during Stage 13 it is unlikely to cause a shake-up in the overall race for the yellow jersey. The summit of the climb is more than 40 kilometers from the finish line, and it is likely that any serious attack from a major yellow jersey contender would be chased down well before the finish line. However, it’s not easy to chase down an attack on mostly descending roads – the lone attacker or small group can go just about as fast as a larger chasing group – so it is a great stage for a breakaway. It may also be a good place for a darkhorse contender, someone sitting a few minutes out of the yellow jersey who would normally be thought of as a threat for a top-20 finish but not a top-10 finish, to go on the offensive and move way up in the general classification.
One of the hardest parts of racing downhill – rather than merely riding downhill – is accelerating out of the corners. It’s imperative that you keep your speed up, and that means you have to jump out of each corner after slowing down to get through safely. Often, your gearing for these situations is going to be very high, because once you’re at speed you’re going fast enough that anything less than your biggest gear is useless. You’re not going to downshift more than 1-2 gears in the sharp corners, so you have accelerate that big gear to get back up to speed. As counterintuitive as it may seem to use low-speed, high-power accelerations as preparation for high-speed descents, a modified version of the classic PowerStarts workout is perfect for developing the power for this very-specific type of acceleration.
The Workout: 2:00 EnduranceMiles (50-91% of Field Test average heart rate, 45-73% of Field Test average power) with Rolling PowerStarts. (Click for CTS Field Test Instructions)
How to do it: PowerStarts are typically done from a standing start, or as close as you can get to one without putting a foot down. But for Rolling PowerStarts I want you to roll at about 10mph (around a sharp corner if you one), shift into a very big gear so there’s a lot of resistance when you start your acceleration, and put your hands in the drops of your bars. To start the effort, jump out of the saddle and drive with your legs to accelerate the gear. Accelerate for 15 seconds, or until you’ve spun out the gear. Ideally, the best place to do this is a sharp downhill corner so you can practice braking, getting through the corner, and accelerating out of it. Take 4 minutes of recovery between efforts. Beginners should do 5 Rolling PowerStarts, intermediate riders should do 8, and advanced riders should do two sets of 5 with 15 minutes of recovery between sets.