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View from the lab - Ric Stern's Tour de France sports science
British ABCC coach Ric Stern (www.cyclecoach.com) is a regular contributor to Cyclingnews' Form & Fitness section along with being a full time coach. Still an active rider when time allows, Ric will be providing a physiological insight into the challenges that face the riders in the Tour.
July 22, 2005: The perfect break
Today's route would be another tricky one, with plenty of up and down roads, several classified climbs including a second category ramp and a nice downhill to the finish. That was today's recipe for the Tour de France!
With the final time trial of the 2005 Tour de France coming up tomorrow it was highly likely that this would be a day for the GC riders to take it easy, and the last chance for a breakaway to organise itself, as the final stage is likely to be a big sprint fest!
As the big guns were taking it easy, and a break was up the road, the only other riders that really needed to work were the three riders aiming for the points classification - Thor Hushovd, Stuart O'Grady, and Robbie McEwen - and of course their team mates to hold it together for them in the final kilometres.
The breakaway group of the leading four riders - Giuseppe Guerini, Sandy Casar, Franco Pellizotti, and Oscar Pereiro worked well together all the time that they were away. They appeared to evenly share out the work and no one sat on and shirked their work. This is the secret to a breakaway riding well - when people 'sit on' and don't work, other riders can be annoyed and it can destroy the rhythm of the group. Of course, in some situations it is normal to sit on and not work - for example, if one rider in the break has a team-mate back in the main peloton who is highly placed on GC and one of the other riders in the break could threaten your team-mates GC position.
Behind the leading four the second group of riders seemed unable to organise a solid chase and there appeared to be plenty of infighting, where Salvatore Commesso would attack regularly and the rest would chase him down and once he was caught would ease up a little.
Back with the leading four as the riders came towards the finish, Guerini executed a perfect attack at 1400 metres to go. The small climber attacked hard, viciously hard, and drove it all the way to the line. Such an attack would've required a huge burst of initial effort, followed by a maximal effort to the line.
One of the ways to replicate such an attack in your training is to do a big effort - flat out - for around 30 seconds - followed by riding as hard as possible for a further 60 seconds. This type off effort really taxes your anaerobic power, and these types of intervals are very fatiguing. However, unlike the stage 16 report on sttacking, when you attack so close to the finish you don't need to modulate your effort. You have to give it all and not hesitate; else the remnants of a break will pull you back before the line.
Well, tomorrow I predict a huge battle between Lance and Jan, which is no real surprise! I predict that Lance will win the stage and Jan will overhaul Michael Rasmussen for third place. It should be a battle royale!
2005 entries - the Tour de France
Previous Cyclingnews features by Ric Stern