Stage 8: Aigurande – Super Besse (189km)
The Central Massif region of France is a difficult place to ride a bike. The roads are constantly undulating, and then routes are punctuated by longer ascents. Stage 8 will be the first time the 2011 Tour de France encounters a Category 2 climb, in this case the Col de la Croix St. Robert. The summit of the climb is only about 25 kilometers from the finish line, which is at the summit of a tougher-than-it-looks-on-paper Category 3 climb. This is a perfect opportunity for a rider hoping to win the King of the Mountains polka dot jersey to gather nice fistful of points. In recent years, the key to winning the polka dot jersey has been grabbing maximum points in the medium mountain stages before the yellow jersey contenders start taking maximum points in the high mountains. And if recent history is a guide, it is difficult to predict a winner for this stage because the past few Kings of the Mountains have been relatively unexpected winners for that competition.
If the St. Robert climb is going to serve as the launchpad for a stage-winning attack, the rider who initiates the move will need to be a strong climber who also packs some explosive power. The attack would most likely come within 1-2 kilometers of the summit so there’s enough time to open up a reasonable gap over the chasers before reaching the summit. Going too early on the climb would use up too much energy and doom the breakaway to being caught in the valley between the Robert and Super-Besse climbs.
Today’s Workout: 2:30 Endurance Miles (50-91% of Field Test average heart rate, 45-73% of Field Test average power) with HillAccelerations. (Click for CTS Field Test Instructions)
How to do it: At a moderate speed (13-16 mph), approach a relatively small hill that takes 3-4 minutes to climb. As the road starts to go uphill, bring your intensity up to about 90-95% of your field test power output in the first minute, and then increase to 95-100% of your field test power in the second minute. As you get to about 1 minute or 500 meters from the top of the climb, accelerate to maximum power and speed. As you reach the top of the hill, you want to increase your cadence and shift into a harder gear again to go over the top as fast as possible and continue at max intensity for another minute of the descent. Beginners should do two sets of three intervals, intermediate riders should do two sets of four intervals, and advanced riders should do two sets of six intervals. Take 5 minutes of recovery between intervals and 8 minutes of easy spinning recovery between sets.