Welcome to the first training surgery from Coach Potato, our resident fitness expert.
He’ll be answering your questions at the start of every week so whether there’s something stopping your quest for speed, or you just don’t know where to start, write in with your questions and he’ll do his best to answer them.
Dear Coach Potato
I don’t know if you can cater for a roadie expedition but we are going up Alpe D’Huez on the day the Tour de France is there. Apart from getting lots of miles in do you have a training programme I could follow I am male 42 12 stone reasonably fit (do half marathons).
Hope you can help.
The following advice is specific to this rider and his “king of one big hill” desires, but it holds true for anyone wanting to increase their strategic climbing capability, from a good level of base fitness.
Although they’re super long, European climbs are typically less steep than short and brutish British hills. As a result you don’t want to waste time training for peak sprint power for those do or die chainbreaker gradients. As a half marathon runner you’ll also have more than ample base fitness, with it’s attendant fuel and oxygen efficiency.
The area that will be taxed most and you are probably weakest in (I’m guessing here) is recurring hard effort (think alpine hairpin climbs) and recovery, and learning to ‘surf’ your maximum efficient climbing speed. To ‘vaccinate’ your body to the pain of repeated short bursts and make the hard sections of the climb seem much easier your best option are interval sprints.
30 seconds is pretty much the ideal duration to make sure you really work the muscles without it being so vile you just give up. After you’ve warmed up for ten minutes or more find a quiet hill (or a flat bit if that’s the only option) and sprint up it as fast as you can for 30 seconds. Turn round immeadiately, ride back down (so you’re effectively resting for 30 seconds) and immeadiately sprint back up again. Do the hill 5 times – the fifth should be a truly horrible experience but stick with it and think of leaving your mates stood round the hairpins of the Alpe.
Ride gently round for 5 minutes and then do another set of 5, 30 second sprints. You should feel absolutely guttered after the second set (if not do a third set) but the whole session’s effectiveness depends on you keeping the hammer down for those last burning 5-10 seconds of each sprint. Ride home gently to warm down and then stretch and eat as soon as possible.
The second session is also best done on a hill, but this time it needs to be a long one, ten minutes long in fact. If there isn’t such a beast you’ll just need to be more mentally committed to pushing yourself.
Start the watch and accelerate till your legs are simmering / you can’t talk in sentences exertion level and just hold it. Concentrate on holding that slight burn while spinning the pedals round smoothly. Try and think the slight pain away (like you would when stretching) and as you relax pop up another gear. Hold the intensity for ten minutes, then relax and ride gently for two minutes before picking up the pressure to the same level again. It will probably hurt like hell but then this is training so stick with it. If you’re feeling done, ride gently home, if you’re still frisky nail another ten minutes on. What this session does is condition your body to ride as hard as possible while still running efficiently. It also means as you hit the long drag sections of D’Huez, you’ll be thinking, well this isn’t as hard as that B***ard Spud made me work. You never know you might even be grateful as you watch your mates struggle into view half an hour after you’re at the top.
As for when to do them one of each a week should see real results,and just do a longer fast paced ride at the weekends, riding any hills ‘firmly’ rather than flat out. After all you don’t want to reveal your speed until the big day!
Some other quick points. Make sure you stretch after hard sessions and espescially after the D’Huez climb itself. You don’t want cramp screaming back down again at 60mph. Also get a bigger bail out gear 28 / 30t rear sprocket or triple chainring front on your bike. Even the big names suffer in 39 x 23. Finally, if you intend to ride up the climb the same day as the race, make sure you set off early. The ‘Tour might not come through till much later but roads are closed early for the advertising ‘caravan’ to go through. On the plus side you should get lots of moral support from spectators.
Any more questions get in touch, but otherwise, best of luck.
That’s all for know folks but to Liam, Tyrone and the others who wrote in already, we’ll have your answers up later in the week. Sorry for the delay.