Well, this is the last update before the main event – the Etape du Tour 2013. In case anyone is not aware, this is the stage of the Tour de France that mortal athletes are allowed to ride, en masse but with closed roads, crowds, policing & neutral support vehicles just like the real thing.
This year, they have chosen the final mountain stage before the arrival in Paris on the Champs Elysees the following day. This stage is relatively short at 128 km, but contains a few bumps before Mont Revard at 1463m and the final ascent up a brute of a hill (11km of 8.5% ave) to the resort of Semnoz above the picturesque lake Annecy, close to Geneva. The organisers of the Tour proper had it in mind that if there were close contenders for the General Classification (GC), then this hill would test their mettle & separate them!
The last time I did the Etape in 2011 (also a hilly course that included the Col du Galibier and Alpe d’Huez), I managed an overall placing of 3113 / 6443, so just in the top half. The aim of the Polarised Training Challenge has been to get myself in a good enough shape, despite being in my 50th year, to better this position. I think that the earlier test events described previously in this series have set me up well, but the Etape attracts not only the best amateur cyclists in Europe but several newly ex-Pros as well.
And what of the training itself, has it improved I hear you ask? One of my big concerns about starting this program was that I would not be able to do my more social rides on weekday mornings due to the different pacing structure requirements compared to a ‘steady’ ride. What I’ve discovered though is that I can maintain the same average speed as before, whilst alternating between hard & easy intensities. The example below is a session I did last week of 2 mins hard, 2 mins easy repeated 12 times.
The odd thing is that although the 2 mins on are always hard work, my perceived fatigue level after the ride (during the working day!) seems no higher, and might even be less than the old way of doing the whole ride steady in the same time. So let’s see what happens on Sunday. Bring on the Etape!