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Stage 21: Wrap-Up

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In case you were wondering about the champagne and stuffed animals, the final stage into Paris is historically more of a celebratory parade than a bike race. The parade into town, in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe, is reminiscent of the home-comings of victorious armies in bygone days.

The finish was also a bit of a formality, with HTC once again proving they have the best lead-out train in the world, and ‘Cav demonstrating that he is the best of the fast men.

This year’s Tour was filled with the dramatic, and the traumatic. I’ve compiled a list of a few key take-aways from le Tour; things to keep in mind to help with your own training and racing.

  • Life happens. In the Tour, it’s crashes and illness. Often it’s the same for us, but sometimes it’s a sick kid, a pressing work project, or even a spat with your spouse that derails your plans. The riders who crashed out of this year’s Tour aren’t bewailing their fate, they are planning their next race and using this as motivation – a good lesson for all of us.
  • Nothing is ever certain. This is why we race, to find out how things actually unfold. Voeckler should never have had the yellow, nor kept it for 10 days, much less finished 4th. His teammate, Pierre Rolland, was never a candidate for the Top 10 or the White Jersey. Contador was supposed to win, and Cavendish wasn’t supposed to make it over the mountains. Don’t be afraid to try, as history is filled with examples of people doing the impossible.
  • Never give up. It’s taken Cadel Evans years to achieve the top step in Paris, years when the critics said it could never happen. As Churchill said, never, never, never give in. There’s a reason these stories inspire you, because we were made to overcome. Keep plugging; good things will happen.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the Tour as much as I have. I hope this brief commentary has provided a bit of perspective and insight. Mostly though, I hope you were inspired by the beauty and struggle of the sport. Sport is a microcosm for life, and it’s lessons are more far-reaching than the obvious. Here’s wishing you the best in sport, and in life.

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

TdF Stage 20 / Overall – Goals

- With guest writer Rick Wetherald –

You couldn’t have designed a more exciting end to the 2011 TdF if you tried. Coming into the final time trial, Cadel Evans had a large – though still managable – 57 second deficit to yellow jersey wearer Andy Schleck. The situation dictated that both would start the race with the highest motivation and aspirations, and that the whole cycling world would all be glued to the TV waiting for time checks.

There were many doubters over the last three weeks when it came to both riders’ tactics. The arm chair critics were saying the Andy/Frank duo should have attacked more and harder. Cadel should have spent his energy attacking instead of pulling the favorites around the windy Pyrenees and Alps. As it turned out, though, the Schlecks simply couldn’t attack, because Evans’ calculated and controlled pace always kept the brothers from summoning enough energy to do so. Those same critics predicted that Cadel may have used too much energy chasing in the slopes of the Alps, but he showed Saturday that he knew all along what he was doing and exactly how much energy he was using. The Australian put forth an inspiring effort to not just take the yellow jersey, but leave the doubters eating their words, and besting both Schlecks by a staggering two and a half minutes.

What can you, average joe bike rider, learn from Cadel Evans’ performance during the hardest part of the toughest race in the world? For those who were paying attention to the details, Evans was putting on a clinic in managing resources. We’ve all done a long group ride or race where we went out too hard. It’s almost a requirement for new endurance racers to suffer the consequences of an over-ambitious start. Some athletes will grow out of this phase, and learn to preserve their efforts, and some will continue to go for the early glory at the expense of the result that matters. Next time you line up for a ride or race, decide what your ultimate goal is. Consider the near future and how today’s ride will help you during the coming weeks and months. Then decide where you want to be at the finish of this day. Work backwards from there and plan ahead on what you are going to do during every phase of the day’s effort. Though Cadel was behind on time in the mountains, he knew just how important the final TT was, and he metered his effort accordingly. Stick to the plan, and you’ll give yourself the best chance to reach your goal.

Here’s hoping we can all see our own personal version of the top podium step in Paris.

Rick Wetherald is a pro mountain biker, elite triathlete and road racer for Sun and Ski / Subaru racing, elite coach for Athletes on Track, coordinator for the TMBRA Kids Kup series of mountain bike races, and doctoral student at Texas State University in San Marcos, TX. Rick has been racing for almost two decades, and has been coaching athletes of all levels for 7 years. Rick can be reached at rickwetherald@gmail.com .

Stage 19: Battle Royale

Where to start?

First French win in this year’s Tour? First French win on Alpe D’Huez since 1986? First French White Jersey (Best Young Rider) win since 1979? Alberto Contador throwing caution to the wind and attacking from the gun, trying to salvage his Tour? Thomas Voeckler initially riding away from F. Schleck and Evans only to come unglued at the end of the day and lose his shot at the podium?

To pick just one thing to write about from today’s stage is overwhelming, so I won’t even try. I’m going to go ride my bike! I encourage you to do the same. Anyone who doesn’t want to immediately climb on a bike after watching today’s stage must not have a pulse. What a beautiful sport! Be inspired, get outside and feel the sun on your shoulders and the wind in your hair. Relish the whoosh as you speed down a hill, and revel in the feeling of your muscles overcoming gravity as you fight your way up a climb.

Cycling really is the most beautiful sport, but the best thing about it is that it’s a participant sport, not a spectator sport. Go. Ride. Be free. Fly. Smile. Be Alive!

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 18: Willing to Lose

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