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Stage 9

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I rarely find myself at a loss for words, but today I am simply stunned by Stage 9. This Tour continues to be brutal. If anything good can come of these crashes, let it be that we all are more careful and look out for one another.

Let’s look at two take-aways from today’s stage. First, although Garmin relinquished the yellow jersey, it was the right decision. Sometimes you have to know when to stop, and while Thor’s run in the lead was magnificent, it had to come to an end. Pulling the plug when they did saved a lot of energy that will be needed over the next 13 days. Garmin did not give up, they did not quit, but they were able to make the right, albeit difficult, choice in the midst of chaos.

The second take-away is that persistence is rewarded. How many days now has Voeckler attacked? He was finally rewarded with a long day in the breakaway, and, ultimately, the yellow jersey. He said after the stage that he went out looking for yellow. He keeps searching, keeps fighting the good fight, and today he was rewarded. There’s a lesson there for all of us.

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 8: Thunder

In Norse mythology, Thor is the god of thunder, oak trees, and strength. Today, Thor Hushovd lived up to his name. They say that having the yellow jersey gives you extra strength; I wonder if being named after a god does, too?

In case you don’t know, Hushovd is a sprinter; a man for the flat roads and fast finishes. Mountains are not his forte’, and he was suppose to lose the yellow jersey today. Apparently, though, he did not get the memo. Today’s profile (elevation map) was uphill from the beginning, with 4 ranked climbs. Thor’s tenuous lead of 1 second was sure to evaporate, but it didn’t. Cadel Evans, lying in 2nd overall, is 30lbs lighter, and one of the best climber’s in the business.

Let’s take a look at two keys from Hushovd’s tactics; don’t get overwhelmed, and don’t quit. Thor said in the post-race interview that all he did today was watch Evans. He took a very complex, potentially overwhelming problem, and reduced it to the most basic element. When I talk an athlete through a race beforehand, I am very careful not to overwhelm them. We focus on one, maybe two things. Don’t make things harder or more complicated than they need to be, drill down to the core issue and focus on that.

Hushovd actually lost Cadel’s wheel with 1k to go, but said he rode his own tempo, then made an effort to get onto the back of Cadel’s group at the finish, leading us to the second take-away from today – don’t quit. If, like Thor, you can keep from getting overwhelmed and resist the urge to give in – you’ll go far.

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 7: Concussions

Chris Horner is among my favorite riders to watch. He’s just a blue collar stiff who puts his nose to the grind stone and gets things done. He’s not polished, he’s not pretty or even particularly well-spoken. He likes to eat at McDonalds and tell things like they are. He’s the Kelly Pavlik of the cycling world. And like Kelly, damn he’s good, and damn he’s fun to watch.

So today, watching the video of Horner at the finish, quite obviously concussed, was tough. Actually it was frightening. Apparently he was a little groggy after the crash, came out of it, and then the symptoms just showed back up while he was on the bike. From what I’ve read at the Science of Sport blog (http://www.sportsscientists.com/2011/07/tour-takes-on-new-complexion.html) that is how head injuries often present – after the fact.

We’ve all seen boxers and football players who aren’t quite right anymore. Not old guys, mind you, but 40-year olds who took one too many hits to the head. What you may not have heard about are athletes who hit their head, think they’re fine, and then drop dead a few hours later. Do a search for Natasha Richardson.

Yes today’s post is serious, but so are head injuries. Always wear a helmet, replace it after any impact, or after 5 years. If you do hit your head, get checked out. And above all, don’t continue. It’s just not worth it, and the consequences really can be permanent.

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 6: All About the Benjamins

At the Tour, winning is not everything. The most obvious prize is the Yellow Jersey, or maillot jaune, of the leader. Next are the individual stage wins, which are obviously also important. But did you know that there three other jerseys up for grabs, and an additional two competitions?

We’ll save those for another day, and today focus on money. It makes the world go ‘round, and it makes the Tour go ‘round. More specifically, it is one of the main reasons for the long breakaways we often see that might have you scratching your head. “They never win, so why do they do it?” It all comes down to $$$. Or, actually, €€€.

The easiest to understand are the mid-race prizes. Each time there is a sprint or a ranked climb, the first rider(s) over the line get money; anywhere from €200-800 for first. Win a couple of those, and it’s not a bad day’s work.

However, the even bigger prize is TV time. In the 2010 Super Bowl, a 30-second TV commercial cost $2.6million. Teams are funded by sponsors who want to see their name on TV; lots of TV time means more sponsors, bigger paychecks and job security. If a breakaway lasts for 5 hours, that’s a lot of TV time! If we compare the number of viewers of the Tour to the Super Bowl, and assume a break is just on TV for 2 hours, that’s nearly $25million worth of advertising.

You better believe the directors of the smaller teams are telling their guys to get into the day’s breakaway – they can’t afford not to!

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 5: Rubber Side Down

If this keeps up, I will be talking a lot about crashes during this year’s Tour, even though I’d really rather not. First, a little plug for my coaching blog, where I’ve got a two-part write-up on how to treat road rash: http://www.ontracktriathlon.com/?p=221 If you look around, there’s also a post on why crashing is beautiful, although I’m sure the guys in the Tour might not feel that way today.

What can we learn from the pros in the Tour to keep us “rubber side down” on our rides? First, big groups contribute to crashes. If you’ve ever ridden the MS-150, or the Hotter’N Hell, you know this already. But if you’re newer to cycling, you know this instinctively if you ever drive in a big city. I grew up in Houston, and now live in Dallas. I know there’s a much greater risk of a fender-bender on 610 or 635 at rush hour than on FM1175 at 8am on a Sunday. So be extra cautious if you do have to ride with a large group. Also avoid riding where there is a lot of vehicular traffic.

The second thing we can learn is that nervousness leads to crashes. If you are nervous, you’ve got a tighter grip on the bars, and probably locked elbows. A little bump, on the road or from another rider, is likely to make you fall, and you’re less able to make quick steering adjustments. If this sounds like you, practice riding, practice relaxing, and stay near the back of the group. If you see someone around you that looks nervous, just give them a wide berth. It’s also perfectly acceptable to ask someone to ride at the back, or even leave the group entirely if they are posing a risk. Of course if you’re not comfortable asking that, you can always choose to leave the group. Better a solo ride than learning what road rash is like!

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 4: He Who Hesitates is Lost

Today Thor Hushovd hesitated, and it cost him dearly. Although he retained the yellow jersey, he lost a shot at the stage victory and precious points towards the Sprint competition.

Of course Thor is not the only rider who hesitated as the race rounded the final left hand bend, but as one of the biggest guys in the race, wearing bright yellow, and a favorite for a sprint victory, he was easy to spot!

In a normal sprint, there is a lead-out train the delivers the sprinters to about ~200m to go at absolute top speed, at or near 40mph. Today the finish was tactical because of the climb. Contador and Gilbert both tried to attack, but the bunch was obviously expecting this, and they came up short. As the climb flattened out towards the top and the field came around the final bend, the gap to the very front riders closed. Instead of accelerating around these riders, Thor and several others sat up ever so briefly. Cycling is a game of momentum, and they lost theirs. It’s easy to see Thor slow, then never quite get back up to speed.

Opening the sprint at that moment would not have been ideal – it was probably still a skosh too far out. However, you have to play the cards you are dealt, and it even if it didn’t net him the win, it would have resulted in a better placing and more points towards the Green jersey.

So today’s take-away is to seize the moment. It may not be perfect, or even what you were expecting, but when the time comes, don’t hesitate (funny how sport is a microcosm for life like that).

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 3: America’s Day!

Garmin-Cervelo started as small pro team with hopes of one day making it to the Tour. “We want to get an invite to the Tour within 3 years,” is something I remember Jonathan Vaughters, the team director, saying.

Now, just a few years later, here they are with the yellow jersey and two stage wins. Better yet, an American rider, on an American team, won a stage of the Tour de France on Independence Day.

With a little luck, a lot of hard work, and the right people with the right attitude, anything is possible for a little pro team with big dreams. Or for a brand new country who decides to declare their independence.

Here’s to more wins for American teams, and another 235 years of the American dream.

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 2: Ride Like the Pros

The fastest teams on paper usually don’t win team time trials, just like the most talented teams don’t always win the championship in American sports. Rather, it’s the teams that work seamlessly, like a well-conducted orchestra, that prevail.

The lesson that all cyclists can learn, even Cat 1 racers, is that working smoothly together trumps raw power. And yet, nearly every time I ride my bike, I see people mess this up. Let’s look at the three keys of an effective pace line. First, and foremost, is to ride a steady pace. Often the stronger rider(s) will increase the pace as soon as it’s their turn to pull. This is a mistake, and it’s harder on everybody, even the person pulling. The key is to roll through at the same speed or effort level (speed should drop on hills, increase on downhills). If you are that much faster than everyone, take a longer pull. Pull for 2, even 5 minutes, but keep the speed the same.

What’s the correct speed? It’s the speed of the slowest rider. If Bob happens to be the slowest guy, ride at a speed that Bob can maintain. Otherwise the line will get disrupted, you’ll have to regroup, and will actually be slower than if you’d just ridden Bob’s pace. Of course you can go on ahead by yourself, if you want to be that guy.

The final key is to draft effectively. This means angling back and to the right if the wind is from the left. But it also means riding close enough to get the benefit of the draft. If you are 2-3 feet behind the next rider, you are working much too hard.

Learn from the pros, and ride in an effective pace line. I promise your rides will be faster, easier, and more fun.

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 1: Choose Your Battles

Phillipe Gilbert is one of the best cyclists in the world. Indeed, in the middle of June he was ranked #1 in the World Cycling Tour. Today he gained a few more points towards that ranking, his first ever Tour de France stage win, and his first ever maillot jaune.

If you follow pro cycling, even marginally, you probably heard about Gilbert’s string of victories in April, taking 4 massive wins in 11 days. Any one of those results would make a rider’s career, and to string them together was just spectacular.

Last week, he gave a hint of his form and a foreshadowing of what we can expect at the Tour, by winning the Belgian National Championships. Okay, you’re asking what you, the average cyclist, can learn from this. Well, I’m glad you asked. Gilbert was winning everything in April, and is winning again now, but do you know what he was doing between then and now? He was training. No races. Too often we as cyclists get caught up in events, and forget to train. Racers race every weekend. Rally riders do every rally then can get to. How many people do you know that haven’t missed a group ride since Clinton was president?

Your goal may be as dramatic as the state championship, or as humble as finishing the Saturday ride with the group. Whatever it is, make it your chosen battle so that you arrive fresh, fit, and hungry.

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

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