Le Tour 2019 - Stage 7


The longest day of the Tour after one of the most brutal can only really mean of two things: either a long breakaway, or a sprint finish. Today we had both!

Attacking towards the start our stalwart breakaway riders Offredo, and Rossetto took upon themselves to be out front for over 200 km! However, they were caught not far from the finish and a cracking sprint saw Dylan Groenewegen win (he should have perhaps also won on stage 1).

Without doubt, today, the riders would have been tired. With the back end of the Tour loaded with mountain stages riders will need to consider their recovery and make sure they don’t over extend themselves. The constant racing depletes the body’s glycogen stores, and although being a Tour de France rider means being a champion eater, it is difficult to replace muscle and liver glycogen at a fast enough rate. This is why team leaders leave attacking to as close to the finish as possible, while also using their domestiques so that they can ride behind them and save reduce their power output.

For the sprinters, in the last few km of a sprint stage they’re riding hard (and then very hard and supramaximal in the last km), but how do they get so fast? In part they’ll likely have slightly higher numbers of ‘fast twitch’ muscle fibres — but these riders are still extreme endurance athletes (they’re not sprinters like Jason Kenny, or Chris Hoy) and still have to get round the route and up the mountains.

Most people can improve their sprinting ability. There’s a variety of aspects to consider, from race skills, tactics and the actual physiological effort of TdF riders hitting around 1400 W for around 5-seconds when the riders put down their effort (by the time they hit the line, their power is already dropping off significantly).

One good training session that you can do to replicate high speed sprints, is on a shallow downhill (and a safe piece of road) accelerate to around 50 km/hr (30mph) and as you exit the descent get out of your saddle and start sprinting hard for 5-secs, then sit back down in your saddle and continue for a further 5-secs. Completing 4 to 10 of these sprints will help increase your sprint power and get you used to sprinting at high speed (without requiring a lead out train to get you up to speed — albeit that’s also a good idea to practice!)

See you tomorrow!

Richard Stern