Stage 14: Saint Gaudens – Plateau de Beille
The Plateau de Beille climbs for nearly 16 kilometers at an average gradient of 7.9%. It’s steepest for the first six kilometers, and there are a few steep pitches further up, before the climb levels out to just 2.5 percent over the final kilometer (hence the plateau…). But after six categorized climbs in one stage and three days in the high mountains of the Pyrenees, no one is going to reach the base of Plateau de Beille with fresh legs. When tired riders hit big climbs, they tend to set a reasonable but quick tempo and then test each other for weaknesses. No one will commit to a huge effort without having a sense for what the others in the group are capable of. And by this point in the race, although fans want to see an epic battle of attack-counterattack-attack-counterattack, the riders may not have more than 1-2 big efforts in their legs. If the yellow jersey contenders are pretty even in terms of their abilities – meaning that they’re all exhausted and unable to really accelerate away from each other to gain a lot of time – then it’s likely that the only big time gaps that open up on this stage are to one or more contenders who crack in the heat and pressure of the Pyrenees and lose ground.
The process of testing each other on climbs requires that riders accelerate, settle into a sustainable climbing pace, accelerate again, and again and again. It’s during the repeated accelerations and surges that you can catch your opponents at a moment of weakness; you push them beyond their limits one too many times and they crack and slow dramatically. The best workout for preparing yourself for the rigors of surging or coping with the constantly-changing pace on climbs is OverUnders.
The Workout: 1:30 EnduranceMiles (50-91% of Field Test average heart rate, 45-73% of Field Test average power) with OverUnder Intervals. (Click for CTS Field Test Instructions)
OverUnder Intervals are a more advanced form of SS Intervals. The “Under” intensity is your SS range, and the “Over” intensity is your CR range. By alternating between these two intensity levels during a sustained interval, you develop the “agility” to handle changes in pace during hard, sustained efforts. More specifically, the harder surges within the interval generate more lactate in your muscles, and then you force your body to process this lactate while you’re still riding at a relatively high intensity. This workout can be performed on a flat road, rolling hills, or a sustained climb that’s relatively gradual (3 to 6 percent grade). It is difficult to accomplish this workout on a steep climb, because the pitch often makes it difficult to control your effort level. Your gearing should be moderate, and pedal cadence should be high (100 rpm or higher) if you’re riding on flat ground or small rollers. Pedal cadence should be above 85 rpm if you’re completing the intervals on a gradual climb.
To complete the interval, bring your intensity up to your SS range during the first 45 to 60 seconds. Maintain this heart rate intensity for the prescribed Under time and then increase your intensity to your Over intensity for the prescribed time. At the end of this Over time, return to your Under intensity range and continue riding at this level of effort until it’s once again time to return to your Over intensity. Continue alternating this way until the end of the interval. OverUnder Intervals always end with a period at Over intensity. This workout builds up high levels of lactic acid. Working in this way trains your body to dissipate and buffer lactate, also known as increasing your lactate tolerance. Recovery periods between intervals are typically about half the length of the work interval. Note: A more advanced version of this interval would alternate between SS and PI intensities instead of SS and CR intensities.
Note: The parameters of the OU intervals are written as: 3×12 OU (2U, 1O). This should be read as follows: Three intervals of 12 minutes. During the 12-minute intervals, the first 2 minutes should be at your Under intensity (2U). After two minutes, accelerate to your Over intensity for one minute (1O), before returning to your Under Intensity for another two minutes. Continue alternating in this manner – in this example you’d complete 4 cycles of Under and Over – until the end of the interval. Spin easy during the recovery period before starting the next interval.
Beginners should complete 3×9 OU (2U, 1O), 5 minutes easy spinning between intervals. Intermediate riders should complete 3×12 OU (2U, 1O), 6 minutes easy spinning between intervals. And Advanced riders should complete 3×15 OU (2U, 1O), 8 minutes easy spinning between intervals.
Training Intensities for OverUnders: HR: 92–94 percent of highest average heart rate from CTS Field Test (Under) alternating with 95–97 percent (Over). Power: 86–90 percent of highest average CTS Field Test power (Under) alternating with 95–100 percent (Over).