Archive for May, 2011

May 19, 2011

Giro d’Italia SRM files.

In the Giro we’ve had easier days, hard days and really tough days. Yet, the toughest days of the race, and perhaps of my career, will come in the next week.

Midway through the Giro d’Italia the wear of the race is evident. In the peloton riders are coughing and spitting as their weakened immune systems fight to battle bacteria and viruses. Others are covered in bandages and tape from crashes and injuries. A week ago we were fresh, healthy and strong. Every second counted and riders battled incessantly to be at the front of the peloton. The mountains had yet to crush dreams and sap the fight. Now, as we near the end of the second week of racing the riders, with realism, know their place in the peloton.

I’ve posted 5 SRM files below. The two mountain stages, Stage 7 and Stage 9, also include the descent down the mountain after the finish. The green line is power, speed is pink, cadence is blue, heart rate is red and brown is altitude. The average values for the day are on the top left of the screen with overall distance and energy produced at the bottom of the list.

The mountain stage to Etna was a hard day of racing as the peloton never settled into a steady rhythm but raced at a hard tempo from start to finish. The course was either up or down so we had little time to eat or drink, as we were either breathing intensely going uphill or concentrating and gripping our handlebars while descending.  At the finish it was evident the day had been wearing. Many riders ran out of fuel on the final ascent while others struggled to hold the pace from the start of the stage and had to sprint for the finish line to make it within the time cut (riders who don’t finish within a certain percentage of the winner’s time are eliminated from the race). With roughly eleven kilometres to go on the stage, I was dropped from the front group and rode to the finish at a steady tempo to save energy for the next days.

The flat stage from Termoli to Teramo allowed the peloton to recover. Soon after the start, a small breakaway formed and the peloton chased at a steady speed. The finales of sprint stages are intense as the peloton swarms using every inch of the road as the finish line nears. In the uphill sprint I helped out our sprinter Davide Appolonnio who finished 5th.

The following stage to Castelfidardo was a tough day on difficult terrain. As the stage distance was relatively short and over relentlessly hilly countryside there wasn’t a relaxing moment. Again, the dropped riders had to race like mad to make the time cut while at the head of the race the speed was constantly high. Riders were either attacking or the peloton was chasing threatening breakaways. In the end, the stage came down to a group sprint. As we rode back to the bus after the finish line most riders were complaining of very sore legs.

The coming stages are those the peloton is fearing.

Stage 7. Maddaloni – Montevergine di Mercogliano

Stage 8. Sapri – Tropea

Stage 9. Messina – Etna

Stage 10. Termoli – Teramo

Stage 11. Tortoreto – Castelfidardo

May 13, 2011

Giro d’Italia SRM Files

The course profiles we receive at the beginning of a race are often deceiving. The altimetry can be inaccurate, the maps sketchy and the distance off.  And, we often deceive ourselves and think a stage is easier because there are few climbs. The toughest days are often those where we relax and assume the race will finish in a sprint but are then surprised by relentless short climbs, twisting roads and bad surfaces. The peloton inevitably thins into a long line and we sit uncomfortably on our saddles for hours, burning far more calories than imagined and accumulating more meters of climbing than calculated. The Massif Central in France is famous for its tough rolling terrain, rough tarmac and baking heat. The conditions on 6th stage of the Giro d’Italia from Orvieto to Fiuggi were similarly hard. Under the weight of the day’s racing the peloton splintered in the finale and roughly 80 riders sprinted for the line. In the sprint it was evident the riders were spent as it became a race of force instead of speed. Meters after the line, the sprinters collapsed in exhaustion.

My SRM file from the stage is posted below. The stages are usually quick for the first hour and then, once the breakaway forges a gap, the peloton settles into a steady rhythm in pursuit. With ten kilometres to go we ascended a five kilometre climb. At the top, I went to the back of the group, which was in a long thin line, with my teammate Kjell Carlstrom to bring our sprinter, Davide Appollonio, to the front so that he was in position for the sprint. My final effort of the day was a surge on the front of the group with two kilometres to go. Spent from the effort I sat up and rolled across the line while Davide sprinted to 5th place.

The stages in the Giro d’Italia are often technical. Fortunately, the organization provides fairly accurate profiles with detailed breakdowns of the climbs. Yet, a detailed breakdown in a book can’t fully prepare us for technical descents on gravel roads. The second SRM file I’ve attached is from the 5th stage to Orvieto. The finale 40 kilometres of the course took us over sections of white gravel roads. The peloton fractured into dozens of groups as soon as we reached the roads as riders came to a standstill on the dirt climbs and crashed on the descents. It was clear which riders had experience riding on gravel. Unfortunately, I crashed just before we reached the gravel so I spent the rest of the race chasing to regain contact with the front of race.  The SRM files give an idea of the effort required on a rolling stage in the Giro. I’ll post some more files as the race goes on. The mountain stages should be interesting.

Stage 5: Piombino – Orvieto 191km

Stage 6: Orvieto – Fiuggi 216km

May 11, 2011

Le Jet d’Eau.

When we crested the summit of the final climb and began the descent I was on familiar roads. Our tires, pumped harder for the faultless Swiss roads, hummed as we flew down the mountain. On the flatter roads that hugged the shore of Lac Léman we sped along at over 50 km/h. As I rode on the front of the peloton the landmarks and sites we passed sparked the occasional flash of an old memory. Fifteen years ago, when I was an amateur racing for a team from Annemasse, a suburb of Geneva across the border in France, I had ridden and raced on the same roads. I was a neophyte in a foreign land with the goal of becoming a professional.

Once a week, on my easy training days, I would ride into Geneva and stop at a lakeside café. As I sipped on a coffee I’d daydreamed while watching the jet d’eau spray its fine mist across the harbor.  I pictured myself one day finishing a professional race in the city centre. The images in my mind were glamorous and glorious. The reality is different.

The final stage of this year’s Tour of Romandie finished 200 meters from where I had been sitting fifteen years ago. Our team controlled the finale perfectly for Ben Swift, the sprinter. With an impressive burst of speed he won convincingly.

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May 9, 2011

Training for the Giro d’Italia Team Time Trial

Three days prior to the start of the Giro d’Italia the team got together in Turin for a few days of training. The opening stage of the Giro was a team trial so it was important we become accustomed to riding with one another in formation and refine our technique. Bobby Julich, who is a coach with the team and was a time trial specialist and Olympic Medalist, was there to guide the team and give us advice. During the race he sat in the passenger’s seat of the team car and relayed all of the key course information to us over the radio.
To me, the TTT is one of the most beautiful events in cycling as it not only requires complete sacrifice from every rider but also selflessness. To ride fast everybody needs to be constantly thinking of their teammates as any sharp acceleration, poorly taken corner, or bump in the road can have a detrimental effect on the whole squad. Rhythm, fluidity and a constant steady speed will ensure that a team carries the momentum to travel as fast and efficiently as possible. It is also the only event where the whole team can stand on the podium together and celebrate the victory.

Here are a few photos of the team training before the start of the Giro d’Italia.