Stage 5: Carhaix – Cap Frehel (164.5km)
This is a somewhat lumpy stage through Brittany, where the roads are often described as “heavy”. This just means that the surface isn’t super-fast, and you feel like you’re experiencing more resistance from the road than in other areas of the country. The wind in this region can also be terrible, especially when you’re riding the coast road. If the winds are howling today, expect the overall contenders who fear the climbing strengths of Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador to come out and play. Catching one or more of the race’s strongest climbers off-guard on a windy day here could lead to a valuable time gain for riders like Cadel Evans, Levi Leipheimer, or Bradley Wiggins.
The stage finish, however, is perfectly suited to the sprinters, so there will be plenty of teams motivated to bring the peloton back together if there are splits along the coast road. The worst-case scenario for a yellow jersey contender caught behind the split would be that the front group contains both sprinters and rivals for the overall victory; there would be little to no help coming from any other teams to close the gap.
Since the stage is most likely going to be a sprint between the fastest men in the world, today’s workout is going to focus on explosive power. In the final kilometers before a sprint finish, there are numerous accelerations to get into position, and then even more accelerations within the sprint itself. While we all focus on the final burst of speed that delivers riders to the finish line, the final kilometer of a stage typically consist of a series of hard accelerations and surges as riders jockey for position and fight for wheels. To stay in contention for the win, whether it’s in the Tour de France or the last lap of your local criterium, you need to be able to initiate and follow these surges. Today’s workout is a modified version of the Speed Intervals I use throughout the year. This variation is designed specifically to help you handle repeated surges with very little recovery time between them.
Today’s Workout: 2:00 Endurance Miles (50-91% of Field Test average heart rate, 45-73% of Field Test average power) with Linked Speed Intervals. (Click for CTS Field Test Instructions)
How to do it: One Linked Speed Interval is actually a series of three sprints, separated by 30 seconds of steady riding. The first sprint (all of which are 12 seconds long) should be in a 53×17, the second in a 53×15, and the third in a 53×13. In other words, you’re going to start with a sprint, then sit and pedal at high speed for 30 seconds, then shift and sprint again, sit and pedal at high speed, and then sprint one more time. If you don’t have those exact gear combinations, it’s not a problem. The concept is to do the first sprint in a relatively light gear, the second in a bigger gear, and the third in an even bigger gear. Beginners should do a total of three Linked Speed Intervals, separated by 5 minutes of easy spinning recovery. Intermediate riders should do two sets of three Linked Speed Intervals and advanced riders should do two sets of four, with 5 minutes recovery between each and 12 minutes recovery between sets. You should start your first sprint of each effort from a speed of about 15 mph, and then return to about 20 mph for the 30 seconds before the next sprint. After the second sprint, return to 20+ mph before the third and final sprint.