The Demands of the Tour de France, with Ciaran O’Grady

What exactly does it take to race the Tour—physiologically, psychologically, spiritually? We'll break it down with the help of a WorldTour physiologist.

pro cyclist Fast Talk Laboratories
Photo: Arni Svanur Danielsson

Right now, the 2019 Tour de France is in full swing. Yesterday we saw the riders crawl up the steep finishing raps of La Planche des Belles Filles, and today, as we speak, they’re churning through all 230 kilometers of this year’s longest stage. If you’re like us, every day, for most of July, you’re pretending to work while you surreptitiously watch the biggest race of them all, cleverly tucking the livestream behind some important looking Word document. For three weeks we watch the best bike racers in the world tear themselves apart for four-plus hours per day and wonder if we ever could have done something like that. What exactly does it take to race the Tour — physiologically, mentally, spiritually. Each day these phenomenal athletes race an event that would shatter most of us in just one day. But then they also have to contend with answering reporters questions, pleasing sponsors, transferring between hotels, trying to eat enough food to cover the day’s expenditures, and, finally and perhaps most importantly, trying to get quality sleep. It’s a feat that’s hard to comprehend, so today we’ll try to give a sense of what it takes to race the Tour. We’ll cover:

  • First, an overview of the Tour from a numbers perspective, and why the numbers really don’t tell the tale.
  • Our guest, Ciaran O’Grady will explain his role as a Tour team physiologist and coach.
  • The many challenges of the Tour outside of racing, including not only what I mentioned above, but also not missing the bus, handling the food, and what happens when you get sick.
  • Why getting dropped by the peloton doesn’t make for as easy a day as you might think.
  • What happens to the riders physiologically over the three weeks and why, in essence, it’s just a controlled burnout.
  • How riders try to recover day-to-day, especially when they’re dealing with injuries.
  • How riders train for the Tour and why having incredible endurance comes first. Then we’ll take a deeper dive into how the different types of riders prepare, from GC contenders to stage hunters and domestiques.

Finally, we’ll try to pull all this together and talk about what mere mortals should and shouldn’t take from Tour riders, whether we’re preparing for a weekend race or a three-day stage race. Our primary guest today is Ciaran O’Grady, one of the team physiologists for the Dimension Data WorldTour team. Along with Ciaran, we catch up with one of our favorite guests, Brent Bookwalter of Mitchelton-Scott. Brent has now completed nine grand tours, so he had a lot to say about what it’s like getting through 23 grueling days. We also talked with Houshang Amiri, a former Canadian National and Olympic coach who runs the Pacific Cycling Centre. He’s coached Tour athletes and had a few thoughts to share on getting athletes ready for a grand tour. So, get your bidons and your musettes and your baguettes and your crepes, let’s make you fast!

Primary Guest Ciaran O’Grady: Physiologist for Team Dimension Data Secondary Guests Houshang Amiri: Former Canadian National and Olympic coach who runs the Pacific Cycling Centre Brent Bookwalter: Pro cyclist with Mitchelton-Scott

Episode Transcript


Welcome to Fast Talk the velonews podcast and everything you need to know to ride like a pro



bouncer and welcome to Fast Talk. I’m your host Chris case managing editor of velonews joined as always by Coach Trevor Connor, who is not French. Right now the 2019 Tour de France is in full swing. Yesterday we saw the riders crawl up the steep finishing ramps of whiplash to belfie. And today as we speak, they’re churning through 230 kilometers of this year’s longest stage.


Chris Case  00:36

If you’re like us every day for most of July, you’re pretending to work while you surreptitiously watch the biggest race of the mall, cleverly tucking that livestream behind some important looking Word document. for three weeks we watch the best bike racers in the world tear themselves apart for four plus hours per day and wonder, could I ever do something like that? What exactly does it take to race the tour? physiologically, mentally and spiritually? That’s what we’re talking about today. Each day, these phenomenal athletes race in event that would shatter most of us in a single day. But then they also have to contend with answering reporters’ questions, pleasing sponsors, transferring between hotels, trying to eat enough food to cover the day’s expenditures. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, trying to get some sleep. It’s a feat that’s hard to comprehend. So today, we’ll try to give a sense of what it takes to race the tour. We’ll cover first, an overview of the tour from a numbers perspective, and why the numbers really don’t tell the tale. Second, our guest, Karen O’Grady will explain his role as a tour, team, physiologist and coach with Dimension Data. Number three, we’ll discuss the many challenges of the tour outside of reason, including not only what I mentioned above, but also not missing the bus handful of food. What happens when you get sick? Number four, why are you getting dropped by the peloton doesn’t make for as easy a day as you might think. Number five, what happens to the riders physiologically over the three weeks and why in essence, it’s simply a controlled burnout. Number six, how riders try to recover day to day, especially when they’re dealing with injuries. Number seven, how riders train for the tour and why having incredible endurance comes first. Then we’ll take a deeper dive into how the different types of riders prepare from GC contenders to stage hunters to domestiques. And finally, we’ll try to pull it all together and talk about what us mere mortals should and should not take from tour riders, whether we’re preparing for a weekend race or a three day stage race. Our primary guest today is Karen O’Grady, one of the team physiologists for the Dimension Data World Tour team. Along with Karen we catch up with one of our favorite guests Brent bookwalter of mitchelton Scott Brent has now completed nine grand tours, so he had a lot to say about what it’s like getting through 23 grueling days of racing and two resumes. We also talked with houzhang amuri, a former Canadian national and Olympic coach who runs the Pacific cycling center. He’s coached to our athletes and had a few thoughts to share on getting athletes ready for grand tour. So get your beat ons and your new sets and baguettes new craps. Let’s make it fast.


Chris Case  03:23

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Trevor Connor  03:52

I even bumped into Dr. Andrew Pruitt who actually had a ZTE remember devices on both wrists that were tracking heart rate One of them was definitely


Chris Case  04:00

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So you’ve heard him on Fast Talk before. It’s great to have Karen O’Grady, back on the podcast. Welcome, Karen.



Hi, guys, thank you very much for having me. Again, it’s pleasure to be here.


Chris Case  05:41

Excellent. Today, we really want to dive into what could be considered one of the most demanding sporting events in the world, I got to say the Tour de France 21 stages, brutal, demanding in every sense of the word physiologically, psychologically, mentally, spiritually, Everything about it is just stressful. That just, it’s just from a from a from a journalist point of view, it’s stressful. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be there trying to perform every day, stay healthy. ride that hard. Do it again, the next day, do it again, the next day, do it again the next day, and on and on. Meanwhile, deal with all of the other things that you have to deal with as an athlete, especially if you’re wearing a jersey or winning a stage or battling for the overall and and having to deal with people like myself and Fred Dreier sticking a microphone in your face 30 seconds after you’ve just punished yourself up, I’ll do it. So we want to talk about the Tour de France and the demands of grand tours. So we’re glad Karen O’Grady, who works with Dimension Data can be here to join us and fill us in on the other side of the Tour de France. So let’s start with giving a little bit of a flavor of the Tour de France from the numbers side of things. You know, the numbers don’t tell the full story, obviously. But Kiran, maybe you could fill us in give us give us some sense in terms of the data that the guys in the Tour de France are putting out



compared to everyday cyclists and mere mortals it’s, it’s absolutely astonishing, astonishing what these guys go through over those 21 stages. So over the whole three weeks, they’ll be averaging around sort of 95 to 100 hours of racing. And that’s sort of not include anything extra that they might do in you know, in terms of warming up for time, Charles and things like that rest day rides 3500 to 3800 kilometers as a lot of riding over, you know, undulating terrain, some of that’s sort of Florida stages, in terms of the energy demands, you know, you’re looking at 660 thousand to 80,000 kilojoules over the whole three weeks. And obviously, that depends on things like the size of the rider, the role of the rider, someone who’s possibly more Domestique might burn, you know, 75 to 80,000 kilojoules easily just because they’re going to be in the wind a lot more. And then when it gets hilly, they’re pushing out a lot more to get over the climbs and daily basis, they could be over 4500 kilojoules, 5000 kilojoules of energy just just trying to survive in the mountains. But consider then, you know, when you look at the the average power over the the 21 stages, it can be as low as 170 watts for for some light climbers who are who are protecting protected roles who spend a lot of the time in the wheels protected, and then just have those sudden moments of very, very high power outputs. But on on the most they’re sort of well, they’re going to have more absolute low absolute powers anyway being being a lot lighter, but then the bigger domestiques might have average powers over the 21 stages of about 250 260 watts, which doesn’t sound like much, but so it’s a lot of you know, if you’re holding that for 110 hours, it’s going to certainly add up in terms of physiological load.


Trevor Connor  08:55

Yeah, we are going to ask about that because I actually found a really interesting recent study that just came out last year that showed some of the numbers for typical tour riders, so they they analyzed all the data for for nine riders at the Tour de France, all on the same team. And the numbers were something that you would, you know, I would expect to see doing a local race. So for example, the flat stage tend to average around 196 watts in a flat stage of the tour. So that works out to about 2.6 they have is 2.68 watts per kilogram for the hilly stages 217 watts for the mountain stages 254 This doesn’t seem extraordinary.



Yeah, I would agree with that. It when you look at it on paper like that as a as a pure average, you know, you would think I can do that. But when you when you look into the files of these, these riders and I would take someone like Bernie eisele for example, he might be covering moves at the start of a start of a stage so he’s going to have some pretty high power outputs to sort of close gaps and monitor riders going off the road. At the very beginning, but then for the middle to three hours, you know, everything kind of gets a bit more sedate. So once the breakaway is formed for the day, and you know, all the big GC teams and controlling teams are happy with that composition, they’re going to protect that time gap and just write to a steady tempo. So anyone who’s in the band can actually just take along quite nicely, as long as it’s not a super elite stage. And then you kind of get an inverted use, sorry, a U shaped power output profiles are very hard at the beginning, more sedate in the middle, and then towards the final hour of racing kicks back up again. So it’s kind of offset the averages the sort of middle. So he goes very, very hard when it does go hard. And then they do take it quite easy when they don’t need to. It’s almost kind of a training base, huh? Yeah, yeah. And just taking over, you look at some of the, some of the files, anything, you know, if you’re just take out a section of them in the middle, where possibly after a feed zone, things can look fairly easy. And you would think that this was a section of a rest day file, but then you zoom out, and you see that it’s part of a six hour slog, but it’s just one moment of downtime. But everything’s tactical, if someone’s taking it easy, there’s probably someone on the front who’s who’s sort of taking over at 280 to 300 watts, which will take along the bunch and just pull everyone along and have a lot lower power. So the kind of average powers are, there’s always going to be someone who’s working hard, but it’s kind of offset against everyone else.


Trevor Connor  11:24

The other thing they had in this study that really surprised me, which you’re talking to is they analyze all these riders data in terms of the they put it into the the three zones so your zone one being your your easy base pace type writing, your zone three being that really high intensity, and then zone two being that that in between, so the sweet spot or no man’s land, and looking at flat, hilly, and even mountain stages, riders were spending 70% or more of their time in zone one, at just that slow training base.



You know, the majority of this is a is an incredibly endurance event, it’s it’s over it 200 hours. So it’s going to have to be prolonged sub threshold pace, it’s, it’s inevitable that that’s going to happen. So when you look at the time spent above threshold for a lot of these guys, it’s sort of round about 10 to 15% of the total time. So you know, it doesn’t sound like much, you know, on paper, but when you add it up over the course of 2121 stages, it’s a fair old, physiological whack.



Fair old physiological whack, I like it. That’s the tour in a nutshell.


Trevor Connor  12:33

Brent bookwalter with mitchelton, Scott has become such a feature of grand tours this morning, when I turned on the tour, instead of editing this podcast like I should have, I could have sworn I saw Brent on the front of the field. So now that I’ve quoted a study, I made it sound by the numbers like the tour is not that hard. Let’s hear from someone who actually has a right to talk about the demands of the tour. Oh,



physiological demands of the tour are just massive. I think the the sort of cliched analysis of that, you know, versus the other grand tours is that, you know, maybe the Tour de France is similar or even less than the JIRA or other grand tours. And it’s always the it’s the nerves and the stress and the sponsor pressure and the the heightened microscope of the tour that makes it so selective and so dramatic and difficult. But I think that’s true to some extent. But that, yeah, you can’t take away from just the massive load of the tour. You know, if you look at the, the just the general template, and the hours and the volume, and then the intensity and how far every, you know, almost every meter of every one of those stages, fine. It’s just a huge, huge intensity load. It’s a huge volume load. And you can really feel when you’re in that race, that is the world’s best cyclists all on the best form of the season, many of the best form of their lives.


Trevor Connor  13:45

It’s such a such a deep field. So I guess my question is, when you watch the commentators, they’re always talking about the strategy. And when does somebody going to attack? And when it’s just going to happen? When is that going to happen? from experience? How much of the race is about racing the event? And how much of it is about getting through about surviving?



Yeah, definitely. I think that depends on who you ask, and what their role is in the race. And at what phase of the race you’re in. I think if I look back to my first tour, and 2010, you know, I’d say at least Yeah, at least half of the race, if not more It was about surviving, is it was a, just a massive Battle of survival. And then with that, a desire to want to contribute and support my teammates, and then our team leader as much as I could to so it’s this dynamic of like, panicking to get my head above water. And then as soon as I get my head above water, using everything I got, and then just be sinking, drowning again, and then scrambling to get up to the surface and then just get pushed under again. And I think that’s sort of lost I think because because everyone is in such good form and the wine is so fine, and it’s so competitive, and the stakes are so high, you know, everything at the tour is so calculated and, you know, efforts aren’t wasted, and risks, you know, the long bomb isn’t really throwing as much as maybe it is in other races because there is so much riding on it. And this is this is the livelihood we’re talking about, of us athletes, and this is the, the future and the security of these teams and these organizations that employ, you know, hundreds of people. So it, it needs to be tactical, and it needs to be very thought out because there isn’t room to to be unthoughtful with your effort or, you know, rash with a decision.


Trevor Connor  15:35

Did you ever have moments where you’re just sitting there going, I’m not sure I’m gonna last another hour, and then your team manager gets on the radio and ask you to do something crazy, and you somehow were able to dig deep and do it.



100% I think that’s a, that’s the reality of a grand tour. And that’s what that’s what makes him so amazing and beautiful when you’re on the other side of them is, is realizing what you accomplished physically and mentally that you didn’t think was possible. And that it’s just that that sort of phenomena that happens over and over. It’s a lot of a lot of come back from the dead moments. And it’s just a huge testament to what the body, the mind and the body are capable of and the willpower. It’s a huge battle of wills, I think with each rider within themselves, and then also amongst each other. It’s who’s, who’s giving up first? Who, who, yeah, who throws in the towel first. And since like I said, the the level is so high, and the competition is so deep, and there’s so much anticipation and so much build up. And you know, everyone knows it’s it’s the center stage, the biggest stage, and you never know if it’s the last one, maybe it’s the last one you’re ever going to do. So much heart and soul and grit is poured into it doesn’t make sense. I don’t know. When I think about the moments that I’ve pulled myself out of in those races and how I’ve gotten through from one day to the next. It doesn’t seem like it’s possible, but but somehow it is. And I guess that’s to large extent, that’s the beauty of it, and hopefully in some way, or some even small percentage that’s captured and shared with the fans, because I think that it’s something everyone can can sort of marvel at and hopefully enjoy. How do you make yourself do that?


Trevor Connor  17:07

How when you’re you’re that fatigued and that tired? And you got a job to do? How do you make yourself do it?



Use all my tricks. Yeah, I mean, some of it is, some of it is we are hardwired, you see that you see that with guys bouncing off the ground and crashes, you know, we’re, we train and train and focus and focus and mentally prepared physically prepare for so long that, you know, you see a guy hit the ground, even break a bone rip a bunch of skin off their body, and they’re still like back on the bike, even if they shouldn’t be before you can, someone can even get a second to check them out. So I think, you know, when I’m in those hard moments, and I feels like I’m up against the world, I can’t do any more. There’s still like this sort of subconscious drive and sort of some of its maybe innate that train natural, maybe some of that’s what makes us able to race at the professional level. But it’s also something that’s trained and worked on and practiced and crafted for after years and years and years and, you know, thousands of hours on the bike and pushing through, you know, really hard training sessions and, and having the meaning there knowing that it is so much more than myself. It’s for my team. It’s for what we’re trying to accomplish greater than oneself. And even deeper than that, it’s it’s also for, you know, my whole team for my family that has kept me going and pushed me along the hallway. And it’s for, you know, my coaches and doctors and my physical therapists who have pieced me back together when I’ve been hurt and my mental trainers that I’ve worked with and my friends that have a beer with me and counseled me consoled me when it’s all when it’s all seems like it’s gone bad. It’s for all those, you know, all those hours that you sort of have to dig into those and tap into that and know you’re doing it for just more than more than just just to perform sporty performance.


Trevor Connor  18:57

That’s a great way to think about it. Let’s get back to the show and hear what Dr. O’Grady has to say about this year’s tour



stages that are interesting. For example, it would be like stage five of this year coming up. There’s there’s three times in the last last 75 K and they’re all pretty long with pretty hairy descent. So it’s going to be an exciting one to watch and just to see how the riders then play that who’s in the break whether a team puts puts riders up the road ahead of ahead of the game to try and have some cards to play later. And later in the race everything comes back together and you might have a set of fairly fresh legs from from the breakaway instead of rider who spent the whole day in the peloton fighting those climbs fighting for positions on those narrow roads. So it’s all it’s all a big game of chess with regards to what what happens on which stages but the sprint stages are kind of generally seen as the most simple stages. tactically great goes away, gets X amount of minutes, usually quite a if it’s a fairly, fairly flat stage and no problem for the sprinters teams to control then there. They might get upwards of eight 910 minutes of time gap that will just slowly be pulled back and then towards the sprint finish at the end.


Trevor Connor  20:07

So you said the the sprint stages is fairly simple. There’s a breakaway that goes, I’ve always wanted to ask this from somebody who’s working on the inside. Every team really wants that breakaway to happen, right? Because that’s when the field is going to slow down until that breakaway goes, it’s quite as you said, you’re putting out a lot of high wattage, you’re responding to a lot of attacks. So there’s an advantage to having a break way up the road, correct?



Yes, yeah, massively, it’s got to be the right sort of composition. And that your your viewpoint on what the right composition of the breakaway is, would depend on what team you’re in. So there’d be some pretty much all the small all the French teams, all the wild cards would want to be in those breaks on the on the flat stages, that’s a lot of TV time. And that’s a lot of real publicity for those sponsors. So that’s, that’s invaluable for them, that’s gold dust. But you also don’t want any anybody that could also potentially launch a late move from a breakaway. And just just trying to make sure that then they’re sort of fairly good caliber that they’re actually going to last the distance and they’re not going to blow up 30 k from from the from the finish and then then everything status quo again, and it all gets aggressive again, but you can you have some some days where on the Sprint’s everything goes in the first move, and four guys go up the road, and all the teams look at each other. And they’ll go Yep, this is this is the right break for today. We can, we can take it easy now. And then the the problems happen is when 80% of the teams are happy, but then two teams then say no, we don’t like that, we’re going to chase it down. And then it gets brought back together. And then another group goes up the road. And it’s like sort of constantly rolling the dice and just saying not done like that not done like that. And until you get the one that you do. So you kind of need to have that group consensus and or then if it was just maybe one team that doesn’t like it, and they’re not strong enough to really bring it back, then they’ve got to kind of live with it for the whole day and know that they’ve they’ve kind of not done their job properly.


Trevor Connor  22:05

So as I was gonna ask you as though is Is there any discussion and negotiation between the teams,



a lot of the time that that discussion will be done through the team captains and so on the road captains themselves, they’ll kind of make the call because that they you know, they will be talking to each other they might have discussed before the stage doesn’t sound like they had to have a meeting like a roundtable discussion, but it’ll just be in that start zone chitchat that you might you might hear that this guy wants to go in the break or Thomas again, might want to go in the break. And then everyone kind of goes Oh, yeah, okay, so when Thomas again moves, then he’s likely to get in the break or something like that. So you there’s there’s always there’s discussions and then if Generally, if there’s any big problems, then that’s when the team directors from the cars will radio through and say okay, no, this guy’s dangerous or we don’t want this breakaway gone. It’s not the right composition. And and that that will be chased down.


Chris Case  22:57

What role Are you playing on a day to day basis during the tour, it seems like from the outside as a physiologist, a lot of your work is geared towards getting the guys ready to be at the tour. But what are you doing once the the tour has started?



So at the mental data, we have kind of different roles and for each race or some so they’ll always be a lead physiologists lead sport scientists on the race and for the tour this year. It’s it’s Dr. Daniel green. So he’s going to be heading up he’s going to be there. One of our primary roles is running the time trial days so we plan everything on the time trial days, make sure it runs without a hitch and or any problems on that day. It kind of the buck stops with us we’ve we’ve not done something right probably. But then on a more day to day on the normal stages, we we monitor the way to the athletes, we look at their power files. So generally the the lead physiologist will send out a report that day with an analysis of the the riders files and how they did along with a comment from the rider and a comment from the DS just so we can get a full overview of what happened that stage. And then me personally, I will be sort of just monitoring the riders that I will work with as a sort of more details description. And I’ll be discussing with them usually over over Skype, or if I’m going to be there for a few stages. So it will be sort of face to face discussions. And it’s always important to have those face to face discussions so that when you are talking about a stage you can kind of look in their eyes and and see, do they mean what they’re saying? Or are they just they’re just trying to tell you what they think you want to hear. So that’s always important. But generally it’s it’s it’s all about performance analysis.


Chris Case  24:31

So that brings up an interesting point of which we haven’t talked about yet, which are all of those demands that don’t happen on the bike all the demands off the bike interviews, they might have to do the transfers after the stages, some short some long, sleeping in foreign beds every night injuries that might come up. It seems like it would be really hard to quantify the impact of all of those things, but it seems like it has a massive impact on how well Each writer is doing day to day. Could you give us a sense Kieren of the the impact the the substance there? And and how you deal with it?



Yeah. So I mean, it’s it is a massive sort of under under appreciation of what these guys go through on a day by day by day basis. So this one that for example, is criterion ditto for no stage eight. Yeah, the, you know, the writers would wake up at whatever time they really want to, but as long as they’re down at breakfast, breakfast time, which you know, for examples, 930, then usually, if they’re changing hotels, they’ll have to bring down their suitcase. So that means that they’ve got to kind of pack up everything summarized as a messier than others. Some writers are quite quick at packing other writers, I look in their rooms and think, how are you going to get all this together in some sort of semblance of a, of an order, but they managed it anyway. And then so for example, they might get two cases down to the bus quality 11, they might drive to the hotel that drive to the to the start from the hotel at 11 o’clock, and then sign ons, usually around midday. So as long as it’s not sort of super, super long stage, you know, this one was quite short, for example, 113 k, so they signed on at midday. And then the neutral start was called to, but in you know, in that time, there’s a lot of prepping on the bus getting ready making sure the radios are sort of comfortable and secured, making sure if they need to repin their numbers or restrict them. Some of them have sticky adhesive on the back. There’s always the decision of what, what clothing to wear. I had a joke that the day that a rider knows exactly what to wear on a stage is that the day that they’ve retired because there’s always that that indecision, you know, this guy’s wearing his arm warmers? Do I wear my arm warmers? Or do I put on my base layer, it’s it’s a bit of mind game sometimes with what you do, you know, the whole legwarmers in the classics. And if you’re just doing a training, race sort of thing, but you know, the demands of the demands of the morning are fairly slow. But then once they get going, then they race but once they finish it, if they’ve done anything in the front in the stage, they’ll you know, they’ll be pressed, there’ll be a couple of hours of interviews. And then there’s also team interview. So social media guys from the team will probably want to get a video or some comments that will be put out. So I feel like these guys just race and then get cameras stuck in their face. But that’s that’s kind of part of the job. That’s what



Sorry, guys. Sorry. That’s me.



Yeah, it’s it’s important part, it’s got to happen. I think some of these guys won’t want to be juniors again. So that they don’t have to do it, deal with it. But I think they’re, they’re, you know, some guys that are great about it. And we’ll just happily do and know when to say say no, if they really don’t want to do an interview, they just had no not today and and head to the bus instead of just being a grumpy interview. Yeah, right. I’m sure you’ve had Yeah, yeah. But probably probably what most people don’t don’t realize with the demands that you don’t consider is the amount of logistics that go on, teams might have four to five, sometimes six cars going a bus, a truck, usually there’s a there’s a catering truck as well. And then any sort of special guests that do do attend the race might have their own car. So there’s a fierce logistics and trying to not forget someone is actually quite a real challenge. You know, you want to make sure that when you’ve when you’ve left the hotel, you know, you’ve you’ve had a discussion with the with the directors 40. If you’ve made the plan for the next day, I’m leaving this hotel at this time with this car with these two riders. And if you leave the hotel without one of those, even if they’ve come up and said, You know, I’m going to go in in this other Diaz’s car, then you need 100% make sure that they are leaving in their car, because if it’s not in the plan, and that director then just says, Okay, I’ve got these two riders who are originally supposed to be in my car, then that rider can be stuck at the hotel who could


Trevor Connor  28:50

end up a real home alone situation rider waking up gone, guys.






Yeah, yeah, yeah. But the thing is, they’re probably all the all the race food and the goodies with them as well. The snacks and stuff is probably left with all this on yours. So yeah, they might they might not be too happy you after a couple of hours,


Trevor Connor  29:08

as that ever happened. Are you aware of a rider being left at the hotel,


Chris Case  29:12

it’s bound to have happened. I can’t think of an example off the top of my head. There’s a famous example of Contador getting left at the hotel. But there were some team politics going on at the time. So that wasn’t necessarily because he was forgotten. That was no there was Lance Armstrong was also on the team. And supposedly and maybe this doesn’t go into the podcast, maybe it does. I don’t know how well this story has been vetted. But yeah, supposedly it was intentional that they left him behind. And there was some people that say, oh, his brother slash agent friend was going to take him to the start and then contours people were saying no, you left me at the start intentionally so I’d missed the start, etc, etc. So, again, maybe that doesn’t



maybe that’s not the best example because It’s not about just oh my god, we forgot. Bernie eisel we forgot about Mark Cavendish.



Somebody go back and get him quick. Yeah, it’s a very real challenge that you’ve really got to make sure that you have everyone at the race.


Trevor Connor  30:13

So the story I heard, I don’t know this is an urban myth or not. But this was blanking on his name right now. But a big Australian sprinter, who retired about five, six years ago, late in his career, he was at the zero the Italia and there was a young rider on the team who he taken under his wings. So before the start of the stage, he sat down at a coffee shop right beside the the course, with this kid to talk with him for a little bit. And while they were talking the field passed by the the coffee shop, they realized they had missed the start. Oops. So he just looked at the kid and goes, we’re in for a hard day.



Welcome to the pro racing kid.


Trevor Connor  30:52

And apparently, the two of them did a team time trial for 80 kilometers or something like that until they finally caught the field. Huh?



Yeah, that’s a that’s a long day.


Trevor Connor  31:02

Yep. So what are some of the other challenges that the riders have to get through day after day in order to survive an event like this? So we talked about the transitions packing up everyday, because they’re almost in a different hotel. Every time they finish a stage, they’re hurting? And then they have cameras put in their face and microphones put in the face? Are there any other big challenges that they’re they’re dealing with? Or after that is it go home, get a massage bed?



Yeah, I was gonna say I was gonna say you stole You stole my stole my suggestion, I was gonna say eating, it’s, you know, you think these guys will be able to eat no problem. But sometimes just after racing so much, it’s really struggling to keep your appetites and to bring in the amount of calories that these guys need to replenish after a stage. After each stage, we email them with a recommendation in terms of nutritional guidance for the rest of the rest of the evening. And, and hydration and stuff. But you’ll be amazed at how much calories these guys have to take in even though they’ve eaten on the bike. You know, most of it’s sort of in the extreme or very high carbohydrate intake, just to replenish and recoup, especially if the next day is, is a tough mountain stage or something or short, sharp stage. But just simply taking in that amount of energy is I don’t want to say superhuman, but it’s it’s incredible what these guys do, but they’re constantly eating constantly grazing, you know, nibbling in the food room is generally a sanyas room that’s kept open all the time. And it’s stocked with sort of nibbles and food and grains and nuts that the writers can go in. And just just grab whatever they want. If it’s after dinner, and they just want something to snack on before before bedtime, then they can go in and and replenish the the stores there. So everything’s tried to be managed as much as possible. But it’s it’s always a challenge.


Trevor Connor  32:51

Do they run into digestive issues trying to consume that much food every day?



Yes, yeah, massively. So but that’s where having a good team chef comes in. So we’ve got two, two team chefs that work with with the team over the Tour de France and they’ll keep the palettes really varied. So that there’s there’s always some new flavors, but everything’s very digestible. You know, we have Tom Vander Graf, who’s a great experienced chef, he, he knows exactly what the riders will need any works with our sports nutritionist to make sure that that’s the right timing, type and quantity of food. It can be when when a rider does inevitably know sometimes they just pick up a stomach bug from someone I don’t know a fan who they shook hands with or or had a selfie with, then that’s when problems start because if they decide, yeah, I want to see if I can continue and push through this, then you know, these guys are doing huge stages burning huge amounts of calories, but not really able to take anything back in and you know, absorb the nutrients completely. So it can be a real challenge about how how do you then try to fill these guys so a lot of the writers turns to very plain foods, very simple. So move away completely from grace foods, very high energy foods to more traditional what a more normal person might eat and Whole Foods sandwiches and things like that. smoothies are a quite a popular one if you do have digestive issues, but yeah, usually if a rider is going to get over it, they’ll they’ll have a couple of days of hell and then they’re they’re starting to come back


Trevor Connor  34:23

if they got a stomach bug so deal with it. You keep racing.



Yeah, well, it’s it’s it’s a big pool of the doctors whether whether they do continue, so there’ll be they’ll be looking at from the riders health point of view and saying, is this going to do them damage? You know, if the answer is no, and they can just suffer through and, and push through whatever there’s a bug or something that that’s not going to have any, any sort of prolonged negative impact on the rider. They’ll


Chris Case  34:50

they’ll give them the green light and say, okay, you’re gonna, you’re gonna suffer but you’re not going to do any damage. And this is the stuff that’s going on every day. That The casual fan doesn’t often think about or see because these guys are in their own little private Hell’s dangling at the back of the peloton just trying to get through the stage. And it’s very rare when something like this is visible. Case in point, Tom do Milan taking his pants down on the side of the road at the gyro a couple years ago and having his issues, but it’s usually not so visible like that. But I bet you’re dealing with this almost every day at the tour.



Yeah, yeah. And, and to a lesser extent on every stage race, there’s there’s always problems whenever you’re racing back to back days like that. And we had a one rider who had a pretty rough period Italia with a bit bit of illness stomach illness, this year, and I have I must have had for 250 voice notes over the three weeks just because to simply type was just too much, you know, too much stress almost. So just the whole hold down the record button, and just talk was a lot easier for him. And, you know, it was good, because he then managed to just ramble. And a lot of the sort of true feelings came out. So when, when everyone switches off their Telly, and the stage is over. That’s when that’s when a lot of the hard work starts with the team and support staff.


Trevor Connor  36:17

And the I guess one other thing to point out that a lot of people don’t realize is you think in the race, the riders are very well supported. And if you’re at the front, that’s true, you have the caravan behind you. But if you’re one of those riders who gets popped on the mountain stage three hours from the finish, you’re outside of the caravan, you’re on your own, and my understanding is a lot of them are handed a water bottle as they go past their team car. And that’s what they have to survive on for what the two three hours to the finish.



Yeah, you never want to be in that situation as a writer, that’s it’s not a good feeling. And it’s okay, if you’ve got a group photo and then maybe, you know, one team will sacrifice a team car that will stay behind and just have loads of bottles and some spare wheels, you know, rim brake disc brake, just to kind of be it almost a neutral support for that for that group. So but generally when when a sole writer is dropped early or something, and they can’t make it back, that’s a soul destroying day, it’s that it’s a physiologically tough day as well, because you’ve no shelter, you’ve absolutely no support. There’s no one to Well, unless someone does drop back with you and tries to push you on but then then you kind of start to burn two guys instead of just one guy. So it’s it’s a call by the directors do we sacrifice this guy and in the hope that he may or may not come back? Or do we burn another guy who may be important for that stage or the next stage just to try and help this guy get back on? Yeah, it’s it’s a sometimes a game of massive emotional chess. And


Trevor Connor  37:52

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Chris Case  39:17

Maybe we now take a little bit deeper dive into the physiological impact of grand tour of the Tour de France of a stage race like this and talk about the effects on the body over the three weeks. Are we talking about a steady decline? Are we talking about you come in a little bit rested to hope to to peak and in that third week? What are the demands that we’re talking about from a from a more specific level here? Yes.



So a lot of that will depend on what the role of the writer is and whether they need to perform performing at a specific time in the in the tour. They need to be a sprinter who’s ready for the first few stages that will come in quite fresh but with with lots of intensities in that in the last few days just to make sure that that peak power is in Firing properly. But generally for the, for the grant or winners in the sort of top 20. Guys, they will, they will almost come into it with the idea that they’ll there’ll be a bit undercooked but the first two weeks, we’ll bring them up in terms of performance, but I say bring them up. But for a lot of them, it’s not not reducing performance as much as anyone else. So for example, you know, most most athletes will decline massively in performance over the over the three weeks. They’re just in an inevitable, so really burnouts. But it’s, it’s just an overwhelming fatigue, that that accompanies the three weeks of racing. So, you know, your power outputs might drop 4050 watts across the board, just just because you’ve been doing it for three weeks, so but a grand tour winner might, you know, they don’t lose anything, or they might lose five to 10 watts or something. So it’s always a challenge of trying to get through it as fresh as possible, the neurological fatigue and that the resting heart rate changes that we see over the course of the tour, it does just indicate that depending on the role of the rider, some of them are quite quick if if their event, you know, Domestique that’s working very heavily in the first few sprint stages and the lead outs and in the chase downs, then then yeah, that will start to load fairly quickly. And it’s the directors 40s role to, to then take the information that we feed from them, you know, this guy’s is, is getting pretty cooked, maybe take it easy on him the next day, give him a bit more of a freelance role and to see how he feels. It’s an important management tool to look at the physiology and how it changes and the fatigue of the riders.


Trevor Connor  41:38

So you brought up a really interesting point that hold neurological fatigue. And I’ve read about that, that you as you said, you see the resting heart rate go up, you also see big heart rate depression in the race. By the end of the tour guys, just their heart rate won’t come up to anywhere close to what used to be their max values. I also just downloaded an interesting study that showed that for the couple weeks after the tour riders power is way down. It does seem like it’s almost a bit of a control burnout or overreach.



Yeah, no, I think I know the paper that you’re on about. Yeah, really nice study, just looking at the performance testing before and immediately before and after the grand tour. And, you know, you see, VAT Max is down from sort of up in the 80s down in the 75. And everyone thinks that, you know, vo two Max is pretty, pretty stable. But that’s a massive decline. And that’s, that’s a massive amount of fatigue from three weeks of racing. And you can see it in in the heart rate suppression goes down by about, you know, approximately about 1015 beats per minute across the riders that we can see what we also collected sort of daily fatigue, sort of subjective fatigue, so the riders every morning, and after each stage will will give us feedback through an an iPhone app or an Android app. And that will be sort of muscle soreness, and fatigue motivation and things like that. So we can track as you go through a grant or how that changes you most the fairly obvious that as you go through a grand tour, the muscle soreness and fatigue will go up but then you see as as they just get changeable, you know, if you have a flat stage that the client has might actually recover a lot better, because they might be supported, they might have a very, very easy day. And then it’s almost like a an active recovery for three hours with a little bit of hard intensity at the end. So they come into that next stage feeling actually, you know, actually I’m okay, now I can then go again the next day. So it’s it’s a very individual thing about how how each rider recovers over the course of three weeks.


Trevor Connor  43:38

So what are the question I have for you about the the recovery side, some of these stages are six plus hours, you’re really looking at a big part of your day actually been racing. So is there anything they would do in the actual race itself to start the recovery process even before the race is over?



Yeah, so sometimes if if the writer isn’t necessarily needing a huge amount of high energy foods towards the end of the stage, they might start to bring in a lot more protein and maybe have a protein bar in the last hour of the race. But hydration in the last hour is quite a key one because if you’re dehydrated at the end of a stage, it then takes even longer to kind of kick that recovery process in because the body is trying to recover from the dehydration. So if anything, it’s just get I made sure you’re hydrated and get going there but a lot of the riders will just choose you know cheeky protein bar and start to start to you know, metabolize those amino acids and get them get into the bases that are needed for recovery. But also for example, if it is a sprint stage and the riders done their job already, they have a choice of do I stick with the bunch and potentially stay at 250 to 300 watts average or do I back off the back of the bunch and spin home 100 watts but make sure I stay in the timecard So it can be quite a tactical decision by them to sit up and say, Yep, that’s it, I’m done today, this is this is my cooldown, essentially into the into the finish.


Trevor Connor  45:09

So imagine as be really true for domestiques. When you’re a rider who you know, you’re going to have many, many days where you’re sitting on the front, killing yourself for several hours working for the team, if you have any opportunity to derive easy, you just don’t care about your own time in the race, you’re just gonna back off and then keep it as easy as possible. So you’re ready for the next time you’re on the front with your tongue hanging out?



Yeah, yeah, it’s, it is a big game of chess, sometimes sacrificing your own position and finishing minutes within the timecard is actually preferential from a from an overall team point of view. I mean, there is the overall team classification, but that that’s another story. But from a rider rider functionality, if they can, if they’ve done their job, and they’re not expected to do anything or not able to do anything more in the stage, then getting through the rest with as little energy expenditure as possible. You know, you don’t want someone to burn, burn themselves out, just trying to finish sixth and actually help them you know, contribute nothing to the win. But just so they can say they finish 16th instead of finishing in 100 and 20th. And finishing within the time cut. So it can be quite tactical, sometimes. And writers some writers need reminding more than others.


Chris Case  46:23

So in terms of other things that you might suggest to guys after the stage, I assume that you’re everybody’s getting massage on a daily basis. Are there other things that you’re doing to enhance recovery between these stages?



Yeah, most people get massages. I know some writers who don’t, don’t think there’s anyone on our team who doesn’t get massages, but there are some some out there who don’t like them and just just get on with it without massage. But through massage or even before the massage on the bus home, they might whip out some Norma tech boots, which are like cryotherapy, sort of compression boots, that will help speed up the recovery process. We work with the doctors a lot to make sure that they get the right sort of nutrients and supplements after the stage. So protein bottles are made up ready for the rider specific to them based on you know their weight and how much protein they needs. Following the following the race each each runner will work with a specific rider over the course of a grand tour. So they’ll know what the rider needs day by day. So you know, everyone thinks sports massage, for a cycling stage race would be just legs, but sometimes they need to address something in their back and their legs are actually fine. But it’s the problem in the back that might be referring down into the legs and causing more fatigue, more pain. So sometimes it’s it can be quite interesting watching a sports massage going on at all because you thinking massaging your shoulder, it didn’t crash on the shoulder, but you talked to this one year, and they’re like, Oh, yeah, his shoulder was affecting this muscle which goes down and sort of switches off the glute, right glute, which is causing, you know, the left leg to work a lot more than it should be.


Trevor Connor  48:01

And so that brings up the question about the the more extreme recovery, which is you had a rider who crashed, they’re injured and they’re continuing to race, what are you doing to help them continue to race as close to their best as they can and recover from those injuries? Yeah, so



a lot of treatment from the doctor making sure that those wounds are clean, and you know, well dressed each day because you don’t want any infection if you get an infection and wound that that could be a potential tour ending incident. But if it’s just a nice clean wound that you can cover with with some goals and and swabs, then as long as it’s not too painful to sleep, because that’s, that’s probably the biggest thing once you’re on the bike and moving, you can deal with the pain but it’s when you wake up in the middle of night and you’ve stuck to the sheets and the reason you’ve woken up woken up is because you’ve rolled over and pulls all of the scabs off your of your leg and side. So the most challenging thing is probably this the sleep aspect of of an injury if it’s just superficial skin. But you know, you hear some more stories of guys who have broken bones and just put kinesio tape over their shoulder and said, Yep, I’m continuing. It’s two days left of the tour and I’m gonna, I’m going to muscle through



cyclists are crazy. We all know it’s cycling.


Trevor Connor  49:20

Back to you mentioned the team as a sport psychologist is psychologists ever just gone? They’re voluntarily doing a three week stage race. They’re all nuts. Here.



It certainly might be different different levels of of insanity.


Trevor Connor  49:35

Okay, so let’s talk about the training for the tour. And I think one of the things I want to ask you about first is going back to that study I mentioned at the beginning of this conversation, they show the sort of peak wattage is these riders were putting out kind of a small version of the power duration curve. And when I looked at these numbers, I was frankly not that overwhelmed. So for example, Their their peak five second power was around nine, the biggest that they saw was about 982. You continue down the list, the biggest one minute power was 510. And believe it on the time trial, get the five minutes, the biggest they were seeing was around 423 watts or 5.83 watts per kilogram, get out to 20 minutes. And you’re seen in the time trial in the mountain stages, around 375 watts or 5.1 watts per kilogram. So I look at all this and go, I can do all those numbers. And I wouldn’t last 30 minutes in the Tour de France. So it seems like training isn’t about for grand tours and about what’s the biggest five minute what’s the biggest 20 minute power you can put out, it seems like the the focus is elsewhere is that what are these riders doing when they’re training,



in order to sort of talk about the training process, to get ready for the Tour de France, you need to need to sort of appreciate that it is going to be 100 hours. So one of the first training considerations that you need to, you need to sort of have in your mind, okay, they’re going to need to be able to manage that train that pure volume on the bike. So in the office in the winter, in the the base, the base phase of their training program, they’re probably going to have months where the training load is going to be hundred hundred and 10 hours just to get that time on the bike. And so that when they do a grand tour and have those 21 stages of 90 to 100 hours, that they’re not completely cooked by the end of it. So you build you build that sort of reception to the volume, and then you can work on the intensity above that. But most of these guys, by the time they do a grant or they’ve been pro for several years, their their oxidative capacity, their their endurance engine is going to be super well developed. So simply doing 100 hours of you were seeing the average power and power outputs, it’s it’s fairly low as as an average. And then all you need to then work on is is their ability to, to work on the fatigue. So when you are training, you’re going to be doing blocks of days and then doing you know, I don’t know if this is the technical term, but this is what I call it, I’d call them dirty intervals. So you say, okay, three hours, you go out and ride for three hours, that’s fairly sort of tempo, pace, burn X amount of kilojoules, maybe 2500 3000 kilojoules. And that’s when you start your intervals. So it’s making sure that the body is able to work then on to fatigue. And when you do that day by day by day, and then have the proper recovery and sort of adaptive processes, you will be able to perform in a grand tour environment, if you’ve got the genetic predisposition to do so as well. I


Trevor Connor  52:43

like that name. I like the dirty interval name. So I’ve watched one of the pro tour riders here in Boulder. I was watching some of his rides on Strava. And I noticed he had one that he did a few times where his coach would have him go out and do a couple category one climbs, not for him that particularly hard. But he got into a bunch of these climbs get three, four hours in the legs. And then his coach would take a mountain motor patient for two hours, same sort of ideas is get a little bit fatigued. And then we’re going to I’m going to take you out and make you just ride at 5055 kilometers an hour.



Yeah, yeah, that’s that’s a that’s an extremely common technique. And especially in the last last couple of days before the tours, maybe doing a slightly shorter one of those just as a last physiological kick to two primary engines for the first stage, especially if that’s a rider who’s really wanted to go out and do well in the first few stages.


Trevor Connor  53:34

So I’m sure you’re familiar with this study that came out in 2014. That was put up by Dr. Pino. Looking at six years of peer rollouts training. Are you familiar with this one?



Yes, yeah, fascinating study.


Trevor Connor  53:48

And they showed some of this, that is what they were calling his anaerobic numbers. So his short duration power is five second power 32nd power, one minute power, they said, really didn’t change much over those six years, as he built up to being a top 10 finisher at the tour. What they showed was exactly what you’re talking about was the volume over those six years went up 79%. So just bigger and bigger volume. And you really saw a development of that aerobic engine, that endurance side, that ability to resist fatigue. And one of the things they point out is he had these weeks that were extremely stressful, really hard, big volume, big intensity weeks, and he said the start of this six years, he did only three of those in a year. By the time he was top 10 at the Tour de France. He was doing 11 of those training weeks in a year. So it seems like really the focus wasn’t the let’s build that big, huge power. It was more exactly what you’re talking about. Is that resistance to the grind?



Yeah, yeah, massively. So there’s there’s not huge development in in sprint power. That’s going to be very, very minor. And you know, Even the one minute power is going to be very small changes, but the ability to then do the five to 40 minute efforts at a higher power up. But that’s when that’s where big changes are made and the insurance, that sort of 234 hour sort of sustainable power under fatigue. That’s, you know, one of the biggest changes as a pro tour rider will mature is just developing that those long term physiological changes that that are more than you see on that, that annual basis. It’s the compounding of adaptations that get made just year after year after year of training like a pro. So it’s not really something that you can do for one year Train like a pro and expect to be at that level. It’s got to be something that you’ve got to invest a lot of time to, you know, years and years and years of training and racing it that that sort of intensity because you you will train individual parts of the race. But there’s there’s nothing that beats doing the grand tour and getting that physiological load that that 21 stages of of hard work will get you and then you recover and make that big jump forward. And so a lot of riders then perform exceptionally well in stages, stage races or one day races after the tours


Trevor Connor  56:14

are short stagers after doing the tour has to feel like quick walk in the park.



Yeah, yeah, it’s it’s quite nice for something. And for some riders, they quite like doing it. Because if you have a long gap after after a stage race, you can kind of get into a bit of a lull in your training that if you don’t have something to focus on you, you’ve spent three weeks racing hard, where everything is planned on a day by day basis. And now you’re now you’re on your own, you’ve got your training schedule, but you can you can say that you feel tired and not necessarily do the intervals on a day because you don’t have anything 234 weeks, the weeks later where you kind of you need to perform at so sometimes having that race on the on the horizon is a good feeling for some riders.


Trevor Connor  57:00

Past Canadian National coach Shang, Mary is not only worked with tour athletes, but he has worked with cyclists who have won stages and even one grand tours. We asked them what it takes to train for the tour. What really came across is just how advanced these riders need to be before they can even start preparing for a tour. You have trained athletes for grand tours. So my question to you is, as a coach, how do you train a cyclist differently when they’re preparing for a grand tour,


Houshang Amiri  57:27

you know as to they’re on that level, they have already massive base. And without base, no one can do such a stage race. And as far as training goes up, it is not complicated. It is As matter of fact, maybe simplest things to do is your training starts with a loading phase that that loading phase has more volume than intensity, followed by week of recovery, we can call it but it’s still they do significant amount of volume during that recovery. And then race intensity. And followed by short of recovery face. Before the starter race. Sometimes some athletes they try t train before the start of stage that they can get on the form middle of the tool. But some they do opposite. If is a time to a long beginning. They want to have a good time in GC. That’s the train a little bit differently. But generally speaking, is the volume loading, unloading, race intensity recovery and start the race?


Trevor Connor  58:50

What sort of weekly volume are they doing?


Houshang Amiri  58:53

And weekly volume? Depending on the app, how far are they start? before the race, it can be somewhere between 25 to 35 hours. So a lot. It is lots of hours on the bike. And it’s not just six hours a day, it will be two days of six to eight hours and then followed by recovery day and then build from there is building between building.


Trevor Connor  59:21

When you have an athlete and the grand tour and you’re talking with them most days, what are you focusing on as the coach


Houshang Amiri  59:28

the athletes who race gone to at that level? There they have full support. Right? I play the role in preparation for when they register that they are between their environment and and between their support network within the teams. And those teams. They have one or two physiologists they’re monitoring all the aspects of fatigue training and I am not much involved at that stages. And what I find because of amount of the support, they have less interference less input from the coach keep them more focused. And again, we are talking about athletes who they are doing this, at least for two decades, more than 20 years. They know exactly what they’re doing and they know exactly how the body can function.


Trevor Connor  1:00:26

Let’s get back to the show and talk about the specific training for different rider types.


Chris Case  1:00:31

Maybe we should talk a little bit about the differentiation of the the different types of riders here. And so if you could give us a sense of the training leading up to the tour for a GC contender versus a stage hunter versus a Domestique sure they’re pretty varied.



Yeah, massively varied. So start with the obvious GC contender, they’re going to have a fair idea of where the numbers are leading into into the tour from the preparation races, but they need to make sure that their long power, their sustainable power is up in a competitive bracket. And if it’s not, they really need to work on getting that up, whether that’s motivating whether that’s going out and doing an altitude camp. But it can change depending year on year, depending on how the rider is coming into into each race. If everything has gone on on track, then it could be a fairly easy to plan, preparation, but most riders will have some sort of a setback, whether that’s a crash, whether that’s just a bit of illness, that means they’ve come into some of the pre pre tore stage races a bit, you know underpass. So they need to then go to altitude, go to a camp and do some do some big blocks of work to get that 40 minutes to an hour power up and able to do that repeatedly within within stages.


Trevor Connor  1:01:44

I was going to say that’s the one number that I did see that just had my jaw drop, they did a physiological test on Chris Froome after he wanted a second Tour de France and they were showing his sustainable so that FTP or 40 minute one hour power upwards of 6.4 to 6.7 watts per kilogram it was just absolutely crazy.



Yeah, the the sustainable power to weight ratios are pretty astronomical. And to be to be getting your rider up above sort of 6.2 watts per kilos, that’s when you go from being an average run of the mill pack rider to to then knocking on the door or being being a GC rider. So that’s the sort of if you can see that your ad is coming in above there, then you’re cautiously optimistic, if they’re well above there, then you’re sort of rubbing your hands and saying okay, this is this is a good sign.


Trevor Connor  1:02:33

So what about the the stage hunter? Do they train differently from a GC rider?



Yeah, so a lot of them, you know, I work with, with some stage hunters who will be this, this, this Tour de France, a lot of it will be playing on their strengths. So knowing how they win stages, they will usually stage hunters who will perform in a very specific way. So for example, you know, winning sprints from a reduced punch or getting in the breakaway and motoring it and making sure that that breakaway succeeds. So you you might look back at previous stages that have won from previous years, a lot of it is replication. So looking at Okay, this this guy is held 40 minutes on the last climb, but then they’re done their highest five minute peak power output ever at the end of that. So it’s slowly building up to that sort of level so that when they when they get to the tour, or they get to the Grand Tour, they’re able to do that they’re able to unlock that performance again, that there’s it’s not a huge jump from their norm. But from from the client of you know, from that breakaway stage on to anyone who’s going through a stage when usually you’ll want to work on a on a kick or an attack, that’s that’s quite a a key part of it, because you’ve either got to have the kick to get in the breakaway, or to distance everyone else, there’s no point being this big, solid One Hour of Power specialist if you can’t get rid of anybody else and you just tell everyone to the line and be picked on the line. So that’s probably the key focus for them.


Trevor Connor  1:03:59

So it almost sounds like the the stage hunter it would would treat the tour in some ways, like like a one day race. like they’d have particular stages they would say that’s a good stage for me and really focus on that stage and build the assets they need for that particular stage. As you said, deal with lever the key climb is and then have that kick to drop everybody at the Andhra at the beginning.



Yeah, yeah, they’ll have they’ll have looked at the profile from long time out and put asterisks next next to specific stages and say okay, I want to perform here this is a good stage for me. I’ve looked at the demands, it’s similar to what I’ve performed well on before and they might take it slightly easier the day before, to kind of have fresher legs and really put their all their eggs in that basket. But it can be tricky when the team has asked you to do something else the day before and you need to spend more matches than you might want to so it’s it’s important to have a good overall team plan going into a grand tour. Even just a stage race to make sure that everyone’s happy with what they’re doing.


Trevor Connor  1:05:04

Now what about the Domestique the person that’s going to be spending a lot of time on the front and the wind and then finishing 2030 minutes down what’s what’s their training like?



So for the, for the domestiques in the tour, a lot of the preparation will be sort of fairly standard, you know, fairly similar to other stage races in the year. So there’s nothing too specific that you might do, just making sure that their their their power outputs across the board are fairly high, that a lot of them will be spending a long time on the front of the bunch. So making sure that they’re not coming in with too much fatigue, making sure that they’re fresh, making sure there’s no niggling injuries or illnesses that we need to take care of. But but that physiological point of view will be built up across the stage because if they’re a Domestique in at all, they’ve probably been a Domestique in most other stage races that they’ve been in that year. So it’s kind of the the combination of lots of steps up across across the year.


Trevor Connor  1:05:56

And then you wanted to talk a little bit about that real specialty event, the team time trial. Yeah,



the team time trial, it’s a, it’s a magnificent beast, especially if you’ve got quite a very team, if you’ve, if you’ve got sprinters, if you’ve got a GC contender, and then also some domestiques, in that, you know, if you’ve got one of everybody and some domestiques, then it can be quite a challenge to actually plan the ttt order and how long people are going to pull for the front because you want to you want to maintain as higher average speed as you can. So you know, sometimes it can be that you designate your GC man to stay at the back and just say, okay, your job is today just not get dropped, don’t go through and contribute don’t spend matches, you’re not going to be able to keep the speed at the level that we need. But we don’t want you to lose time. So it can be it can be quite an interesting one to plan for. But whenever you’re writing a ttt byte that hard and that fast, even for these pro guys, it’s always nervous. It’s a super nervous day from from the protein point of view. Because if something goes wrong, it affects your whole team. It’s not like anyone else’s safe. If there’s a crash, it usually affects everyone else. So it can be a lot of stress, but a lot of good fun when it does put off well.


Chris Case  1:07:13

Alright, so now that we’ve discussed all of these demands, and we’ve discussed how each different rider type prepares for the tour, how does that all apply to us? Trevor, me some mere mortals out there. What should we take away from the training and the preparation that goes into these pro riders preparation for the tour? And what Shouldn’t we take away from that? What Shouldn’t we do?



It goes without saying these guys are professionals, this is this is their job to be training 100 hours a month, then 30 hours a week and do huge weeks, but for quote unquote us mere mortals, it’s, it would probably set us back more than more than it would drive us along to do that sort of training, because we’re just not able to assimilate those adaptations that are being made by the stresses that were putting your body under because you can you know, if you have a week off work, you can do a huge amount of volume in that week. But then to make quality adaptations from that, it’s going to be extremely difficult. Because next week you’re back at work, there’s a lot of stress, you’ll probably get ill after doing something like that. But I’m sure most people will kind of be saying, Ah, yeah, I remember I remember the time that I had a big week, and then I got sick the next Tuesday or something like that. But it’s always important just to just to be mindful of what’s your own limitations are. So if you know that you’ve got a very stressful job to try to try to accommodate that and just tone it down more than you see these training rides that the pros do, don’t try to replicate them, just to sort of 70% of what they’re doing. And that will probably be a fairly decent training load for you.


Trevor Connor  1:08:51

Yeah, I think another important thing to bring up here, when you’re talking about the the differences, and this is going to impact training, as we talked about the huge volume of a grand tour, which means any given writer in the tour is gonna be spending most of their time at pretty low intensity. And they when they do their efforts, it’s often pre planned, but they’re very specific and only when they really need to do those efforts where for the rest of us, you’re doing a two and a half hour race on a Saturday or a Sunday, it’s not going to be quite that controlled, you can really expect you’re going to go to that two and a half hour race and it’s going to be non stop attacks. And you’re not going to get a ton of time but actually going slow. So that is going to require a different type of training. And Kiran, can you talk at all to that about what that sort of writer those of us who are doing that nonstop attack to our race versus the the Grand Tour rider?



Yeah, the sort of really aggressive racing which is that pure racing, which I like which is actually something that you can kind of see the pros do in the in the vet on series which is good fun to watch, but it with regards to training for that, you know, you don’t need to be any To complete three weeks of racing to do to do a two hour grip, but in order to be doing those super high power outputs, at the end of two hours, you’ve got to have been training for three, four hours at some point in in your training cycle, it’s going to be very difficult to perform at a super high level, on anything lower than that. And that doesn’t mean that every ride your week that you do in a week needs to be three, four hours, but you’re going to have to need to have some aerobic base that hopefully you’ve built up over over a couple of seasons. But the the sort of development that you might see in your training come depending on when you’re when you’re racing, but you’ve come and you’d start with slightly higher volumes. And if you’re going to pluck a duration, and average weekly duration off the top of my head and just say, Okay, if you’re if you’re available to do 15 hours a week, maybe in the in the sort of base phase, you might be doing that for 15. But as you get closer to the races, you’ll you’ll back down, and you might be doing a lot shorter, sharper efforts, because you’ve already built that that resilience, that that sort of ability to push hard for two hours without the those super high power butts. But then when you back down the volume in your training and do do the shorter intensity rides, your your intensity goes up, your ability to hit higher peak power outputs will go. But you won’t lose the ability to ride hard for flout for two, two and a half hours.


Trevor Connor  1:11:21

No, it’s a really good point. I also imagine something else that is critical to Grand Tour riders that they really have to work on that if I’m just racing on a Saturday, and that’s my one race and in a week is far less important is really that that whole recovery side after the race.



Yeah, anyone who’s done a sort of three day stage race or even a back to back stage race, once you get past that first day, and you kind of you’re in your second row, second day, third day, you’re you’ll feel that your body’s almost on a roll. And it’s only after about seven days when that fatigue starts to really hit you. And if you can get through, get through a five day stage race without feeling like death, then then it’s pretty good going. But you know, you will feel on those last two days that Yeah, I’m not feeling as bad as I thought because your body’s your body’s sort of, in that sort of preparedness, if you’re doing it day on day, your body’s sort of ready, constantly ready for the next stimulus because it’s already come. And that’s where having replicated that sort of demand in a in a training environment. So that it’s not a fresh demand on your body when you get to the race. So if you’ve done blocks, you know, longer blocks of training, you know, five day blocks, where you’ve replicated not necessarily to the same intensity, but replicated that day in day out Riding, riding riding, then when you get to the stage race, you won’t, your body will be sort of more accustomed to it than then it would if you’ve just done sort of the two to three day blocks as you go through your training cycle.


Trevor Connor  1:12:50

So you don’t need to do the the 40 hour training week that a grand tour rider is going to do but what you can emulate is doing the three days in a row teaching your body how to handle it when it’s fatigued from the previous day.



Yeah, yeah, massively. So if you, if you do short intervals, then do them back to back on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and then have a rest day on a Friday and then have a back to back day on the weekend. So it’s sort of bunching up the rides to sort of link the physiological stress of those and try to try to mirror what your event demands are. So if you’ve got a multi day stage race, take a look. Are there any shorter ones, are there any longer ones and try to try to undulate your week of training load based on on what your event might look like, you know, then then sort of get more and more sort of intensity specific as you get closer to the to the event itself.


Trevor Connor  1:13:40

So there is something even for those of us who are doing a two three days stage race to train that fatigue ability, that resistance



Yeah, I would say, you know, even though it is three days stage race, it’s going to be written flat out. So by the end of that third stage, there will be guys who who haven’t done that, sort of back to back days just to climatized the body to it, and they’ll they’ll be flagging because it’s just unnatural for them. So if you’ve done blocks of writing before, and hopefully over several seasons, you’ve built that up and sort of done that more consistently. So by the time you get to your your chosen goal event, it’s going to be like another training event. So you’ve got nothing new coming out and sort of putting extra load on your body. Alright, you


Chris Case  1:14:25

probably remember this from last time Kiran, we like to give you 60 seconds to encapsulate everything that we’ve spoken about today, give the listeners a take home message. So from today’s episode, what would you say people should take home with them.



grantors are hard, furiously hard when you see the riders racing flat out for 21 days is a huge physiological impact of that, that that entails. But there’s also the hidden side, which a lot of people don’t really fully estimate, you know, fully appreciate which is that psychological aspect that there constantly being bumped and barged by riders. So they’re near on crashing every moment of the stage. And you know, the psychological stress of racing and performance under performance and the demands of your sponsor, so that that’s the real sort of underappreciated side that I would I would want people to take home. And when they see the riders being being a little bit RC on interviews to kind of take that with a pinch of salt and say that that’s, that’s a combination of a lot of stress that’s coming out because it’s, it’s 21 days with with very little downtime. Driver,



what do you think? How would you add to that?


Trevor Connor  1:15:35

So I have two things. One is, I think there’s a lot you can take from Grand Tour riders, I think there’s a lot you shouldn’t, if you are married and have a full time job, don’t try to do a three week stage race.



Unless you’re a pro and you’re getting paid to do it,


Trevor Connor  1:15:50

don’t just train for one, well, then it is a full time job. To me, what really struck me is something that we’ve talked about a lot in this show, which is there is a whole bunch of bike racing that we can’t really measure. And I think a grand tour is a really classic example of that I intentionally quoted all those numbers to make the point, I look at those and go, I can do all those numbers. I also know if I was in the Tour de France, I wouldn’t last 30 minutes. So all the things that make me not a tour rider and would just completely embarrass myself at a tour doesn’t show up in the numbers doesn’t show up in in training peaks, or Wk or whatever software you’re using. So bear in mind, there’s a lot to training that is hard to measure. That’s hard to see. But that doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t focus on and one of them, as you said, is that fatigue ability, building that resistance, which is really important, Chris?


Chris Case  1:16:50

Yeah, I think this goes back to what Karen was saying about how daunting a task it is to think about racing for three weeks and and the the quantity of time it has taken these athletes to get to a level where they can even complete such a task, let alone compete every day, or be in the mix every day or stay out of trouble every day when you need to and be at the front of the race when it comes to the summit finish. If you’re contending for the GC and then be ready for that time travel the next day and all these things. It’s a I don’t know that anything that we could quote, in terms of the data in terms of the numbers in terms of just talking about the multitude of stressors really encapsulates how hard the Tour de France is, and all the demands that are there. Just thinking about how stressful it is as a journalist and we get a buffet every night and then we go type some stories and get up the next morning and do it and drive around a little bit. But to be competing every day and be on your game for that long. Dealing with all of those stressors is it’s astounding to me. There’s no take home in in that message really except be impressed because it’s an incredibly impressive athletic endeavor. That was another episode of Fast Talk. As always, we love your feedback. Email us at Fast Subscribe to Fast Talk on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, SoundCloud and Google Play and be sure to leave us a rating and a comment. Become a fan of Fast Talk on slash velonews and on slash news fast doc is a joint production between velonews and Connor coaching the thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talker are those of the individual for Karen O’Grady, Brent bookwalter houzhang Amiri and that non French guy Trevor Connor. I’m Chris case. Thanks for listening.