Le Tour 2019 - Stage 14


Today we reached the high mountains with a summit finish up the Col du Tourmalet. After yesterday’s epic time trial where Alaphilippe extended his lead over a shocked Geraint Thomas. While it was expected he’d stay in yellow, everyone thought the lead would be reduced in the time trial, with Thomas expected to take over in the Pyrenees. As I suggested in yesterday’s blog, I thought Alaphilippe would be in yellow at the end of the Tourmalet stage, and unbelievably he was.

An incredible stage, saw Bardet distanced on the Col du Solour, with Adam Yates shortly afterwards, although he made it back to the leaders before the Tourmalet. Then one by one, on the Tourmalet as first Movistar and then FDJ set a ferocious tempo, riders dropped away leaving an elite group. With about a km to go even Geraint Thomas was distanced and incredibly after Pinot won the stage Alaphilippe took 2nd place a handful of seconds down.

As the riders climbed past 1800m, the partial pressure of the air decreases, making it extremely hard for riders to breathe and take in sufficient oxygen at the high altitude. In fact, at altitude as low as 500m, these changes start to occur, and different riders respond differently irrespective of their absolute fitness level.

One of the way’s that riders learn to acclimatise and to extract more oxygen, is by doing lots of training camps at altitude, and also by using altitude tents — these are tents that fit over their regular beds and allow them to sleep at a simulated altitude. It’s also important that if you do attempt to use an altitude tent (note that they don’t work for everyone) that it’s crucial you do your high intensity work at a low altitude. This is because at high altitude your power is reduced, and thus your high intensity at altitude won’t be high enough…

But, what can be done training wise to help increase fitness for hills and mountains? Additionally, being a lightweight, rather than carrying extra ‘timber’ will allow you to cycle faster for the same power output. Training wise, completing lots of MIET (hard tempo) and some low threshold work uphill will help you increase your fitness. Match this with making sure you’re not overweight. To help learn to cope with the accelerations that occur on a climb, you can try increasing your pace to around MAP every so often and holding that for 30 to 60-seconds before reducing intensity and recovering and then going back to your tempo pace.

With Alaphilippe in a commanding position and tomorrow another summit finish, will Alaphilippe back up today’s ride with another great ride (perhaps a defensive one?) or will someone else take over (Steven Kruijswijk? Thomas? Pinot?). My guess is that Alaphilippe will still be leading going into the rest day.

Richard Stern