Stage 21: Creteil – Paris (Champs Elysees) (95km)
Following a long transfer from Grenoble to the outskirts of Paris, the peloton will roll out on the final stage of the 2011 Tour de France. Traditionally, the race for the yellow jersey is not contested today and the first few hours are predominantly a procession until the peloton reaches the Champs Elysees. There the race will heat up, as the sprinters contest both the final intermediate sprint (on the third lap on the Champs Elysees) and the stage finish. Mark Cavendish is the favorite to win on the Champs Elysees, as he’s already won four stages in this year’s race and has a well-drilled leadout train. But American sprinter Tyler Farrar is itching to notch his second win of this year’s Tour and would love to win the most coveted sprint victory in cycling. Perhaps I’m being influenced by a bit of national pride, but I think Farrar’s Garmin-Cervelo team will rise to the occasion and deliver their sprinter to the final straightaway with a clear path to the finish line. In a head-to-head battle on the Champs Elysees, I think Farrar will take the victory. That is, of course, if Omega Pharma-Lotto’s Philippe Gilbert doesn’t jump away in the final kilometer and win solo. He’s about the only rider in the peloton with the power to do it.
The Workout: 2:00 The Workout: 1:30 EnduranceMiles (50-91% of Field Test average heart rate, 45-73% of Field Test average power) with HighSpeedSprints.
The sprint on the Champs Elysees starts from an incredibly high speed. From the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, the road is downhill, then it’s flat until there’s a dip through the tunnel near the Louvre, and then it’s flat again all the way to the finish line. With the leadout trains flying at full speed in an effort to control the front of the race, the speeds will be in excess of 40mph with three kilometers to go, and at least 35mph in the final kilometer. Even in the draft it takes a lot of power to ride at these speeds, and then sprinters have to accelerate a few times to get into position before launching their final surge for the finish line. Since you don’t have a leadout train, the best way to simulate sprints from a high starting speed is to sprint downhill. Use a gradual descent (2-3% downhill) to get up to at least 25mph (don’t use a super-steep hill because then you don’t have to work hard enough to get up to speed). When you launch your sprint, have your hands in the drops, jump out of the saddle, and sprint for 15 seconds. You can also use landmarks (like telephone poles) to gauge the distance of your sprint so you don’t have to worry about looking at your handlebars or counting in your head. Beginners should do 5 sprints, intermediate riders should complete 7 sprints, and advanced riders should complete 10 sprints. Take 5 minutes of easy spinning recovery between sprints.