Stage 18 Pinerolo – Galibier (200.5km)
Even though Stage 19 finishes on the fabled Alpe d’Huez summit, Stage 18 is the Queen Stage of the 2011 Tour de France. It is brutally difficult because it’s long (200 kilometers), contains three gigantic climbs (the 23-kilometer Col Agnel, the 14km ascent of the Col d’Izoard, and the 23-kilometer climb to the finish on the Col du Galibier), and two of the three summits are at elevations above 8,000 feet. Any one of these climbs is difficult enough to prove decisive, but by the time the peloton reaches the base of the Galibier the fatigue from the earlier climbs may cause one or more yellow jersey contenders to lose a big chunk of time. To add to the potential difficulty of this stage, the points sprint is just 46 kilometers from the start, meaning the pace for the first hour of racing could be very high as the sprinters’ teams try to contain the breakaway attempts and sprint for maximum points.
For just about everyone in the race today, finding a good climbing rhythm will be essential. Whether you’re conserving energy for a big attack on the final climb, trying to limit your losses so you can race back to the peloton on the descent, or in the sprinters’ group just trying to get to the finish inside the time cut, the key to performing well in a stage featuring well more than 60 kilometers of climbing is spending as much time as possible at a sustainable climbing pace. You have to minimize the number of hard accelerations and big efforts you put in, because each of those efforts uses up a lot of energy you’re going to need later on.
The workout: 2:30 EnduranceMiles (50-91% of Field Test average heart rate, 45-73% of Field Test average power) with High-Cadence ClimbingRepeats. (Click for CTS Field Test Instructions)
How to do it: These are essentially the same intervals you performed during Stage 12, but with a focus on maintaining a higher cadence. 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. Try to maintain a cadence of 90+rpm throughout the interval. This will most likely mean shifting into lighter gear than you would normally ride when climbing at 80rpm. Initially you may feel like you’re working harder to maintain the cadence than to climb the hill, but stick with it. By the later portion of the interval, and especially during the second and third intervals, you’ll likely notice that your power output and pace are not dropping off like they normally do when you’re pushing bigger gears.
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.