The Etape du Tour 2013
Sunday 7th July
So was all the training and preparation worthwhile? Read on to find out!
Taper & travel
After a couple of good rides the previous weekend, I began my taper with an hour long aerobic ride on Weds 3rd July, and a light workout Thurs 4th. Friday I was up early and drove almost 700 miles down through France via the Channel Tunnel to the beautiful lake Annecy. Driving such a long way invariably takes its toll, so I was not surprised to see my HRV dip from what had been a promising upward trend. Saturday morning was the day to collect race numbers etc., and I rode into town along the lake shore, along with hundreds of other riders, being careful not to get involved in any accidents that could spoil the big day. On the way back I decided to loosen my legs just a little on one of the smaller climbs (col de Leschaux), but it was hot, and I felt fatigued from the travel so kept it short.
An early start, followed by an ample breakfast of cakes, fruit juice & yoghurt that the hotel had kindly prepared for me, then a 10km warm up ride to the start. The legs felt better and I was raring to go, buoyed on also by a recent high in HRV. It seemed like an age in the start area before our group 6 (of roughly 1000 riders!) was finally called up to the inflatable starting arch and sent on our way.
Plenty of other bloggers have described the route in detail, so I will not go into it further. The whole thing was rolling but it built over smaller hills to the 16 km climb up Mont Revard (a ski resort) and finally up the Semnoz to the finish which at an average of > 8% grade and no flat sections in 11 km was every bit as hard as I had heard it was going to be! This hill is a beast, and I was doing my best not to notice how many people were dismounting, to take a break, or worse, perhaps give in to fatigue so close to the finish.
I uploaded the .hrm file from Precision Pulse into the excellent free analysis program Golden Cheetah to produce the histogram above, and what I took from this is that I did manage to sustain a high effort level at the top end of the lactate accommodation (Zone 2) throughout. This was helped greatly by the continuous ingestion of sweets, sports drinks and the odd savoury snack that I craved at the rest stops.
Analysis of performance 2013 vs. 2011
My official time in this 2013 event was 5:55 placing me 2039 overall out of 10624 that finished (11475 started). That’s inside the top 20%, and 364th within category (men 40-49).
In 2011, on a similarly challenging mountain course my time was 6:10 placing me 3113 / 6443 ie only just inside the top 50%. That does seem to be a pretty significant improvement, but just in case the standard of competition changed a lot in the past two years, an additional reference is vs the guy who won this year (Nicolas Roux) who was also the second place finisher in 2011.
In 2011 he managed 3:41, so with 6:10 I took 68% longer, whereas in the 2013 edition, he took 4:13, and I took 5:55 – a mere 40% longer!
My main conclusion right now is that despite having trained regularly and diligently with approximately the same weekly volume for more than 15 years, that within the space of 6 months, I managed to find considerable improvement by changing the way I spend my training time, from riding pretty much all the time at a steady pace to polarising between hard & easy. HRV has been a great guide in this process, allowing me to gauge much more objectively when to do the hard sessions, and when to do the easier aerobic rides. It is rare in life that you get everything possible out of a new technique within 6 mths, so I hope there is more to come. We will see…
I can’t sign off without thanking everyone who supported me in this journey, from training partners offering unselfish advice and encouragement to my family for putting up with my cycling obsession, to the staff of HRV Fit, to Gary and the team at G A Cycles and to everyone who reads and has followed this series.