Sun & Ski Rotating Header Image

Stage 18: Willing to Lose

If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to our RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!

Stage 18

Willing to Lose

You can’t always have your cake and eat it, too. Sometimes you have to take great risks to reap great rewards. When these risks pay off, you will be a hero, a genius. When the risk does not pan out, you will be vilified. Those of you that watch American football will understand this; think about on-side kicks, 2-pt conversions, and going for it on 4th down. The papers the next day hail the coach as a genius when those plays work, and call for him to be fired when they don’t.

If you’ll pardon the rough analogy, today Andy Schleck went for it on 4th and long. He won the stage, and took enough time back from his rivals to put himself in the thick of the hunt going into the final two decisive stages.

In the post-race interview, Andy said that he didn’t care if he lost the race, that he was trying to win it. While that might seem oxymoronic, it’s actually the crux of the situation – you have to risk it all to win it all.

For most of us, “winning it all” has a slightly different appearance than it does for Andy Schleck, but it is no less important. Just because your personal battle will never be on TV doesn’t mean it’s not a battle, and worth fighting for.

The great riders, the great coaches, have the courage to lay it all on the line in pursuit of victory. Do you?

Steen A. Rose is an elite cycling and triathlon coach. He started coaching in 2003, and has been an Elite Coach with Training Bible Coaching since 2009. Steen is also captain of the Sun & Ski/Subaru Cycling and Triathlon teams. He has been racing since 1997, holds a Category 1 license, and has 13 state championships, 3 national medals, and 4 international podiums to his credit. He can be reached at srose@trainingbible.com

Stage 17: A Little Bit of Everything

A Bit of Everything

Cycling is unique among sports in the range of skills required. Riders face a little bit of everything, and a to be a true contender you must at least hold your own in a variety of circumstances. Recent Tours de France have featured gravel roads, cobbles, climbs, and yes, descents. It remains self-evident that what goes up must come down. That certainly was the case today, with the final descent into Pinerolo.

Just as the best climbers have a chance to shine on big mountains, and the sprinters have their days when the road is flat, the best descenders should be allowed their day as well. Those who are not good descenders complain, when in reality they just need to practice.

If you always stay in your comfort zone, you will never become a better bike rider. Just as you push yourself to see improvements in your climbing and time trialing, you should push yourself to become a better all-around rider. You may not love gravel roads and steep, twisty descents as much as I do, but you should at least be able to navigate them competently. In addition to opening up new routes and new events to yourself, your every day riding, and perhaps more importantly your emergency riding, will be greatly improved when you’re comfortable with these skills.

What is emergency riding? It’s when there’s a sudden patch of gravel or sand in the middle of the road that you can’t avoid, an obstruction that causes you to suddenly shift your line in a turn, or any number of scenarios that can and do present themselves on the road, or even on a hike & bike trail. Yesterday’s stage passed perhaps the most famous example of emergency riding in recent history, when Lance went cross-country to avoid the fallen Joseba Beloki. Be like Lance, be a complete rider who is ready for anything, because I can promise you that the road won’t always be flat, straight, and dry, no matter what the Schlecks may prefer.

Steen A. Rose is an elite cycling and triathlon coach. He started coaching in 2003, and has been an Elite Coach with Training Bible Coaching since 2009. Steen is also captain of the Sun & Ski/Subaru Cycling and Triathlon teams. He has been racing since 1997, holds a Category 1 license, and has 13 state championships, 3 national medals, and 4 international podiums to his credit. He can be reached at srose@trainingbible.com

Stage 15: Kamikaze

Kamikaze

While some would say that you’ve got to admire the spunk of Philippe Gilbert, I think he’s been a bit reckless with his efforts. There’s no doubt that he’s putting on a good show, but it’s really not accomplishing much, and at the end of the day, that’s the only way to judge a bike race.

Early in my career, a coach told me that you should always have a reason for expending energy in a bike race. We even touched on this earlier when we talked about why you should avoid pulling unless absolutely necessary. To that, we can add attacking.

Taking risks and going for the glory is a big part of bike racing. We’ve already seen the benefits; just ask Thor Hushovd or Thomas Voeckler. But when the odds of success are zilch, a kamikaze if you will, I just don’t see the point. There was no way that HTC was going to let anyone go today with 3k to go, but especially, especially not Gilbert, who is a rival for the Points Competition.

With an incredibly hard week of racing yet to come, and with plenty of opportunities for riders with legs left to gain points, Gilbert should have kept his power dry today. In your rides, heed that advice. Go for it if there’s a chance, but have the courage to skip the showy waves of defiance when they do nothing to benefit you and save something for when there is a chance.

Steen A. Rose is an elite cycling and triathlon coach. He started coaching in 2003, and has been an Elite Coach with Training Bible Coaching since 2009. Steen is also captain of the Sun & Ski/Subaru Cycling and Triathlon teams. He has been racing since 1997, holds a Category 1 license, and has 13 state championships, 3 national medals, and 4 international podiums to his credit. He can be reached at srose@trainingbible.com

Rest Day #2: A Look Ahead

A Look Ahead

This is already the most exciting Tour I can remember, and we haven’t even entered the final week yet! The next 6 stages are, on paper anyway, the most important and most exciting of the Tour. After what we’ve seen so far I’m not sure they can live up to that, but let’s take a look at what’s to come.

Tuesday – This is a transition stage that will deliver the riders to the foot of the Alps, where the real action is expected to begin on Tuesday. However, it promises to be anything but easy. It’s uphill from the very beginning, and culminates with the Cat 2 Col de Manse before descending into Gap for the finish. With riders fresh from the respite today, with the sprints competition still hotly contested, and with one of the final chances for a breakaway to find glory, look for a fierce stage. Also, watch out for the descent into Gap. It’s tricky on a good day, and with rain in the forecast, could be quite sketch.

Wednesday – The rain I mentioned for Tuesday? It’s forecast in the higher mountains as well, only if the form of snow. It looks like the race will dodge the actual snowfall, but look for cold temperatures, sketch descents, and stunning Alpine views! The race heads into Italy, taking in several climbs along the way. Sestriere is the most well-known and challenging climb, but as it comes some 60-odd, mostly downhill, kilometers from the finish, the GC contenders may choose to keep their powder dry ahead of Thursday’s epic. The race should be fast from the start, as many will want to be in the break, and HTC will be closely watching Rojas and Gilbert to make sure they don’t make any headway into Cavendish’s Points lead. Another potentially sketchy downhill finale that should keep us all on our toes!

Thursday – The Queen Stage. Each year there is one stage of the Tour that stands out as the hardest and most important. Stage 18 is certainly that, with 4 Hors Categorie climbs, the highest point in this year’s race, and almost the whole day at high altitude. The race will be brutal, time gaps will be huge, and the winner atop the Galibier Serre Chevalier may very well be your winner in Paris. The polka-dot jersey competition for best climber could very well be decided today as well.

Friday – Another huge mountains day, starting with the Cat 1 Col de Telegraphe and then the Hors Categorie Galibier. From there it’s a 50-kilometer descent to the foot of the Alpe d’Huez and it’s 21 famous, leg-breaking switchbacks. Look for an early break to try their luck to hold on for the glory of a stage victory, and watch for the GC-contending climbers to try to put as much time as possible into Evans and Contador before the final time trial.

Saturday – While time trial specialists like Fabian Cancellara and David Millar vie for the victory, the real race will be among the GC contenders. If time gaps are still close, the winner and the entire podium could be decided today. I like Leipheimer as a dark-horse for victory today, assuming he doesn’t go for glory Thursday or Friday.

Sunday – A ceremonial stage for the most part, the sprinters and green jersey contenders will be out for blood. Cav’ would love to 3-peat on the Champs Elysees, but Tyler Farrar is out to de-throne the king, while Gilbert and Rojas will be scrambling for points if they are ahead or within striking distance of the lead.

Steen A. Rose is an elite cycling and triathlon coach. He started coaching in 2003, and has been an Elite Coach with Training Bible Coaching since 2009. Steen is also captain of the Sun & Ski/Subaru Cycling and Triathlon teams. He has been racing since 1997, holds a Category 1 license, and has 13 state championships, 3 national medals, and 4 international podiums to his credit. He can be reached at srose@trainingbible.com

Stage 16: Carpe Diem

On Stage 13 we talked about Thor going for it, and achieving the unexpected. Although Thor won again today, I’d like to talk about just going for it in a different context.

It is well and good to execute a plan, no matter how others may rate your chances of success. But what about when an opportunity suddenly appears? Do you go for it? Do you hesitate? We’ve already talked about how “he who hesitates is lost,” but as the race prepares to head into Italy tomorrow, let’s consider the Latin saying “carpe diem,” or “seize the day.”

Today, Cadel Evans seized a sudden and unexpected opportunity to gain time on Contador and Sanchez. He never attacked on the wet and twisty descent into Gap, but when he found himself with a gap (pun intended) over the two Spaniards, he went for it.

In the end, he only gained 3 seconds on Contador, although it may well have had a much larger psychological impact. Either way, he went for it. They say that fortune favors the brave; I encourage you to be brave, and seize the day, whether you are trying to win a local race or just beat your buddy to the coffee shop for bragging rights. Put fortune on your side, seize the day, and just go for it. Even if you don’t make it, you’ll know you went down swinging.

Steen A. Rose is an elite cycling and triathlon coach. He started coaching in 2003, and has been an Elite Coach with Training Bible Coaching since 2009. Steen is also captain of the Sun & Ski/Subaru Cycling and Triathlon teams. He has been racing since 1997, holds a Category 1 license, and has 13 state championships, 3 national medals, and 4 international podiums to his credit. He can be reached at srose@trainingbible.com

Stage 14 – Pressure & Expectations

Stage 14

Pressure & Expectations

There has been a tremendous amount of research in the world of sports into the “why” of performances. Why do athletes win? Why do they lose? Why do they “choke?”

One of the more interesting questions to ponder, and to research, is why certain athletes perform way beyond expectations, and why some always fail to meet expectations.

Let’s take a look at two riders who factored in the finish of today’s stage: Thomas Voeckler, and Tom Danielson. Danielson, who rides for Garmin, was heir-apparent to Lance Armstrong as America’s next great rider, and signed with the Discovery Channel Team in 2005. Now, 6 years later, he is riding in his first ever Tour de France! Danielson never performed up to expectations.

Voeckler was a relatively unknown figure in 2004. He won the French National Championships in June, which may have given him a boost of confidence going into the Tour that year. He gained enough time in a break on stage 5 to take the yellow jersey. Critics thought he might hold onto it for a day or two, but against all odds he hung on for 10 days! In the 2004 Tour, and ever since, Voeckler has always exceeded expectations, and he’s doing it again this year.

Without knowing either rider, I still have a pretty good idea as to why that is, based on my experiences as an athlete and a coach, and from the research literature. Danielson has always had tremendous pressure to meet high expectations. Voeckler, meanwhile, has been free of those pressures, and consequently free to perform.

How can you apply this to your riding? Free yourself of expectations! Putting stress on yourself to meet a certain goal will have you riding physically and mentally tight. Relax! We do this for fun and for fitness, but the same principles apply to you and the pros – so be like Voeckler, free to ride great and have fun, AND, free to have a bad day without consequence.

Steen A. Rose is an elite cycling and triathlon coach. He started coaching in 2003, and has been an Elite Coach with Training Bible Coaching since 2009. Steen is also captain of the Sun & Ski/Subaru Cycling and Triathlon teams. He has been racing since 1997, holds a Category 1 license, and has 13 state championships, 3 national medals, and 4 international podiums to his credit. He can be reached at srose@trainingbible.com

Stage 13 – The Unexpected

Sports are exciting because of what could happen – that’s why we watch, and that’s why we participate. Today was a nail-biter until the very end, and it was great.

Thor’s entire ride today was unexpected, from first getting into the break, to attacking the break at the foot of one of the biggest mountains, to winning the stage. What’s even more amazing is that in a pre-race interview today, he said his legs weren’t feeling that good!

Non-the-less, he decided to try and make it into the break if he could. Then, he decided to attack the break early on the climb, to allow himself to ride his own tempo (as we discussed yesterday). Until the top of the Aubisque he was really just rolling the dice.

Granted these were not wild, uncalculated risks, but he was still gambling. Sometimes you just have to go for it; try something new, do something unexpected. Otherwise, unlike Thor, you’ll never know what could have happened.

Steen A. Rose is an elite cycling and triathlon coach. He started coaching in 2003, and has been an Elite Coach with Training Bible Coaching since 2009. Steen is also captain of the Sun & Ski/Subaru Cycling and Triathlon teams. He has been racing since 1997, holds a Category 1 license, and has 13 state championships, 3 national medals, and 4 international podiums to his credit. He can be reached at srose@trainingbible.com

Stage 12: The Importance of Pacing

Stage 12

The Importance of Pacing

Today, as the race finally entered the big mountains, we had two great examples of the importance of pacing. Too often, cyclists, even the pros, blow up by trying to ride at a pace they cannot sustain.

Hang around coaches, elite athletes, or even online message boards very long, and you’ll soon hear terms like MLSS, Threshold, and FTP thrown around. The fancy terms and jumbled acronyms come down to this – the pace you can sustain for a long time; like say a hors categorie climb in the Tour de France, or maybe just the last 5 miles to the coffee shop on your Sunday ride.

Today we saw Geraint Thomas from Team Sky attack ~4km from the top of the Col de Tourmalet. This attack dropped Jeremy Roy from Francaise des Jeux. However, because Roy was patient and rode his own pace, he was able to catch Thomas and beat him over the top of the mountain; netting himself a cool €5,000, a bunch of mountains points, and more than a few bragging rights as a Frenchman winning a famous French climb on Bastille Day!

On the final climb to Luz Ardiden, race leader Thomas Voeckler came off the group with a little more than a kilometer to go. Again, he rode his own pace and only conceded 37 seconds of his precious grip on the yellow jersey, rather than a minute or more had he gone into oxygen debt and toiled his way to the line.

Both of these riders were under tremendous pressure, but were able to keep their wits about them and ride within themselves. It’s terribly hard to let someone ride away from you, but I promise that it’s even harder to crack, or blow-up, and crawl the rest of the way. Better to concede a few seconds than a few minutes, right?

Steen A. Rose is an elite cycling and triathlon coach. He started coaching in 2003, and has been an Elite Coach with Training Bible Coaching since 2009. Steen is also captain of the Sun & Ski/Subaru Cycling and Triathlon teams. He has been racing since 1997, holds a Category 1 license, and has 13 state championships, 3 national medals, and 4 international podiums to his credit. He can be reached at srose@trainingbible.com

Stage 11: Who’s Turn Is It, Anyway?

One of the more misunderstood concepts in cycling is whose responsibility it is to pull, or work at the front of the group. In today’s stage, it was primarily HTC doing the pace setting. Let’s look at why this was their responsibility today, and why the other teams did not contribute.

There should always be a reason for doing work, and you should always avoid it if at all possible. If we exclude the teams who had no realistic shot at winning today (that is, no reason to work), that excludes 16, including Europcar, the team of race leader Voeckler. Since no one in the break was a threat to yellow, they had the day off. This is actually quite fortunate for them, as they’ll have their work cut out trying to keep yellow tomorrow.

So of the 6 teams in with a shot today, why was only HTC doing the work? Cavendish is obviously the strongest sprinter in the race, and has the best shot at winning. The other teams know that HTC can’t afford to let a chance at a stage win pass, so they sit back and wait, forcing HTC to pull. These teams finally contributed towards the end of the stage, but only enough to ensure a sprint finish and to keep their riders in position – in other words, only as much as they had to.

The next time you find yourself pulling a group along, ask yourself why. Whether you are trying to win a race, or just beat your buddy to the top of the hill, ride like the pros, and save as much energy as possible. The strongest rider, the rider with the most to gain, or lose, and the team with the most numbers almost always has the responsibility to pull. You, meanwhile, have the responsibility to make them! By saving your matches, and making them burn theirs, you greatly increase your odds of success.

Steen A. Rose is an elite cycling and triathlon coach. He started coaching in 2003, and has been an Elite Coach with Training Bible Coaching since 2009. Steen is also captain of the Sun & Ski/Subaru Cycling and Triathlon teams. He has been racing since 1997, holds a Category 1 license, and has 13 state championships, 3 national medals, and 4 international podiums to his credit. He can be reached at srose@trainingbible.com

Stage 10: Wow

What an exciting finish. Bravo to Voeckler for staying aggressive even with the leader’s jersey. It’s beautiful to see someone just go for it, heart and soul. To be sure, we watch the Tour to be entertained, but today we were inspired as well. Did anyone with a pulse not feel their heart jump when the yellow and green jersey attacked?

Meanwhile, though Voeckler inspired with his courage, the bigger story today was Gilbert’s selflessness. From 10km to go, it was clear that he was on a suicide mission. The team tactics played out flawlessly, and HTC was forced to burn matches to bring back Gilbert. This set up his teammate, Greipel, for the win. What makes this even more remarkable is that Gilbert and Greipel are a little at odds for team leadership. Although Greipel is the designated sprinter, Gilbert has the green Points jersey, and a good chance to carry it all the way to Paris. Today he sacrificed himself, and put teamwork ahead of personal glory.

So for me, today was all about the beauty of cycling. Today’s stage was massively entertaining, but also massively inspiring – courage, sacrifice, team work. Cycling can be brutal, it has a dark side, but through it all it is beautiful, and Stage 10 showed us why.

Steen A. Rose is an elite cycling and triathlon coach. He started coaching in 2003, and has been an Elite Coach with Training Bible Coaching since 2009. Steen is also captain of the Sun & Ski/Subaru Cycling and Triathlon teams. He has been racing since 1997, holds a Category 1 license, and has 13 state championships, 3 national medals, and 4 international podiums to his credit. He can be reached at srose@trainingbible.com