Advice from the Pros: Getting through the Tour of Sufferlandria
The riders are starting to arrive in Sufferlandria in preparation for the Tour of Sufferlandria. All the big hitters are here: Evans, Cancellara, Sanchez, Sagen, Boonen, Wiggins, Froome, Voeckler, Voigt - hell, who isn't here?
Of course, more important than all that is that you, as part of the Sufferlandrian National Team, are here. And, as part of the National Team, you've got exclusive access to our guest coach, Stephen Gallager. Stephen dedicated his life to racing which included time as a pro rider from 2003 with Team Endura Sport. He then went on in subsequent years to ride for Flanders-Afin.com, Flanders, Giant Asia, Murphy & Gunn, the An Post/Sean Kelly Racing Team and more recently Sigma Sport Specialized and Cycle Premier Metalek. Stephen is currently the Director of Forme Coaching, one of the most exciting new coaching outfits around.
We asked Stephen to sit down with the team and give everyone some ideas of how best to prepare in these last few days, how to get through the event in one GLORIOUS, HONOURABLE, VICTORIOUS piece. We want you to nail this event and look toward the rest of your goals for the year (amongst which are surely a Classics victory and a Tour de France podium).
Here's what Stephen had to say:
Allright, Sufferlandrians! As your national tour, the Tour of Sufferflandria is probably your first big ‘event’ of 2013 and one that will really put your current physical and mental state to its limits. Your country's pride is at stake, and you want to kick off a new year with a bang, so let’s go through some points to help you get the most out of the next two weeks pre, during and post Tour. By this stage the ground work should be completed. The hours spent on your turbo over the past few months will make you feel you have reached a new level of (twisted?) relationship with this piece of cycling machinery. Are you ready for The Tour? All will be clear come your first stage on Saturday. Between now and Saturday your overall physical fitness will not improve greatly but there are some basic steps you must take in the next 3-4 days to get the most out of yourself come the start of The Tour.
3 Days Before The Start
Tapering is good. Failing to ‘taper’ properly will lead to an over fatigued state. You might not feel it in first few stages but will impact performance by the time you complete 2-3 videos. So here’s the recommendations for Sufferlandrian National Team members:
- Maintain regular habits - Sleep, nutrition and external stresses should be kept to your normal routine. Avoid activities that may bring injury or extra unnecessary stress. Don't wrestle with The Minions or get stuck into any confrontations with a Sufferlandrian Wildebeast.
- Don't get sick - This may mean dodging your friend who has a bad cold or being extra careful who you sit beside in work but essential none the less. Don’t let months worth of work be jeopardised because of picking up a badly timed cold virus. Wash your hands, avoid sick people when practical and use first defence nasal sprays along with balanced nutrition.
Pre-race training - Any exercise now is aimed at maintaining the immune system, increasing freshness and avoiding heavy training loads. This is a balancing act and each individual will be different depending on physical ability but some principles apply.
- Rest - Take least 1 total rest day in the final 3 days leading up to event.
- Get an easy training day - Do it before the first stage, normally 45min- 1hr 30min is enough to avoid that ‘heavy leg’ feeling on the first day and get you focused for the coming 9 days.
- Don't go too hard now - Make all your training intensity at a medium to low level during each ride in the final 5 days. This can help you keep your muscle memory maintained and not have a heavy legged feeling on the first day.
- But have a bit of intensity - Include some short 10-30sec sprints at high revs (100rpm+), this will help keep the aerobic system open without causing too much muscle damage or stress allowing you to be ready to rock on stage 1.
- Focus on the challenge at hand - Make your plans, organise your family and work routines to minimise distruption. As non-Sufferlandrians, other people in your life might not understand the magnitude of what you're undertaking. Plan when you will race each day - this will help you organise your nutrition, sleep, recovery techniques (massage, stretching etc).
Pacing the Stages
Now you have to FOCUS on the stages. Sufferlandrians are known for their vast capacity for Suffering - but keep in mind that this is not a single stage, this is not a sprint event, and certainly now one that will be over quickly. With that in mind, keeping cool and calm under physical and mental stress - when Voeckler attacks or when Cancellara goes to the front - is going to be the difference between finishing the last 2 days on tune or fighting every pedal stroke. This is an ENDURANCE event so treat each stage as this and remember there will be good and bad patches. This is normal, keep this in mind when you feel like pulling the plug. Maintain focus and calm in the bad period and don’t panic, this is the key.
If you follow my advice and taper towards the event you'll likely feel a bit fresh and full of energy in the initial stages but don’t let this new found freshness encourage you to push your limits more than normal - you pay for it come the half-way point. An over enthusiastic stage using up too much energy will leave you below par and potentially unable to complete the event if you are unable to recovery adequately. Self-discipline in the initial stages must be applied to avoid decreased performance in the last half.
If, on the other hand, you feel a little 'jelly legged' in the first stage please don’t panic, this can also be a normal consequence of a gradual taper towards event. The first stage will help open up the muscles and lungs and have you ready to rock the next 11 stages.
The last half of the event will put you to your limits so save your bullets for this. You have 6 videos in the last 4 days with hard efforts to complete within these stages so keep cool in the first half. You're going to be under constant attacks from all the big guns - these are WorldTour teams, after all - and you need to be able to respond to those if you're going to win this race.
If you need to reduce the effort in a bad patch then do so, don’t be a hero early on and remember you want to hit the last day with legs and motivation to hit every effort perfectly. If you feel overly stressed keep your intensity below your threshold effort (normally around 7 to 7.5 in scale). This will reduce lactate build up and help your body which causes that burning feeling and keep you ready to hit the next stage fresher and stronger. Better to give up a few seconds early in the race and blow-up and lose minutes.
During and After the Stages
- Stay fueled: Routine with proper hydration and nutrition is the key to keep you primed and ready to make the next day count. A good stretching routine can help a lot; these intense efforts can put a lot of strain on your glutes, hamstrings and lower back. A weak muscle may not show up in your regular training, but could prove problematic over a course of this 9 day Tour. Do not do any exercises or stretches that are not part of your normal routine. Always avoid trying new techniques when under times of heavy stress, i.e. when doing a 12 stage, 9 day Tour of Sufferflandria! Keep in mind that the biggest influence on your performances the next day will be your nutrition and hydration. Check out the post by The Sufferfest and Powerbar. READ IT AND APPLY IT…!
- Stay cool: Using a fan and proper air flow during the stages will help your body cooling system and reduce another stress put on your body. This will reduce your body’s sweat rate thus reducing the likelihood of overheating and dehydrating, this can lead to a decrease in blood volume which in turn leads to an increase in core temperature. Coupling this with thicker blood as a result of overheating and dehydration it will cause your body to work harder (higher heart rates) when performing the stages. Proper hydration and adequate air flow available when performing stages will help prevent this.
Training is complete. Ensure a proper rest period. Positive attitude all the way and you are ready to quite literally rock the house down with your first big event of 2013. Those WorldTour riders won't ever want to race against you again.
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