Now that the Tour of Sufferlandria has slotted into the international racing calendar, it's the clear choice for those not racing in the Tour Down Under or the Cyclocross World Championships. But at 9 days long, and full of brutality, spit and fire, is it too hard for early in the season? Or is it exactly what you need as your first goal of 2013 and the stepping stone to greater things later in the year?
Let's take a look at each day of the Tour of Sufferlandria, starting with Day 1 and 2.
Saturday, 26th Janaury - Stage 1: Hell Hath No Fury - 75 minutes
Lots of lesser stage races let you ease your way into the race with a short prologue, then maybe a flat stage or two. Bah. This is Sufferlandria - there is no ease and quiet here, no time to stretch and have a look around. On Day 1, we get stuck straight into some serious racing in....The Tour of Sufferlandria! HHNF features the story of the Sufferlandrian National Team racing in the ToS. Over the course of 75 minutes, you'll get a bit of a warm-up, then go into two 20:00 intervals. Each of those intervals is different, but both will do their best to break you. You finish the session off with a 3:30 team time trial that will suck every last bit of energy you have left out of you. Can you hold onto the leader's jersey?
How to get through it: Use the recovery between the two twenty minute intervals wisely. Make sure you ease right off, hydrate and get ready for the second 20:00. The first few minutes of that interval are going to seem like absolute hell, but if you can get through them you'll make it to the end of the day. For the TTT, use the first :30 to ramp up the speed and then flatten the world in the last 3:00.
Sunday, 27th January - Stage 2: The Hunted - 60 minutes
The end of HHNF suggests that you've just finished the ToS and won it. If only that was the case. On Day 2, we go straight into the biggest mountain stage of the race. With two big 20:00 intervals in your legs from the day before, you need to make sure you've had time to recover before tackling this one. Now, there are two things you need to know about this day: the climb takes 20:00 and the last 5:00 have been declared a Crime Against Humanity by the United Nations. You're going to get attacked over the course of the climb - most notably by Robert Gesink - and rumour has it that Lance Armstrong will already be struggling by this point. Once over the climb, a very fast descent will see your leg speed tested. As you're not a sprinter, you're going to need to break away toward the end and solo in if you want to add some time to your position in the GC.
How to get through it: The climb is long and gets faster as it goes on. Resist the temptation to attack on the lower slopes and wait until about halfway through to really ratchet up the effort when you need to stay with Gesink. For the last five minutes? You're on your own. Good luck. We don't even want to watch.
Summary: The first two days don't give you any chance to ease into the tour. Not only will you have three 20:00 intervals in your legs at the end of it, but you'll also have lots of attacks, breakways, high speed descents and flat out time trialling. If you're already struggling at this point in the Tour, rest assured, it doesn't get any easier.
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