Le Tour 2019 - Stage 18

Hotting Up

The first day in the Alps, with the riders having to cross the Col du Vars, Izoard and Galibier. An absolutely brutal day. An early breakaway with some ‘ex’ GC riders of Yates, Bardet, Quintana, and many others, and of course, all 3 passes were over 2000m. Today was an extremely important GC day.

Ineos, are quite obviously frightened or surprised by Alaphilippe, and needed to get rid of him. However, even though Egan Bernal attacked and gained time he’s approximately in the same place behind Alaphilippe, as Geraint Thomas is.

Pinot didn’t attack today, as I suggested yesterday. It’s perhaps not surprising. He’s either starting to feel his Pyrenean efforts, or he’s simply waiting for the two summit stages that will decide this years Tour. Of course, other riders are also waiting for these stages — notable the Ineos pairing of Bernal and Thomas, Kruijswijk, Buchmann and surprisingly Nairo Quintana. The Movistar team, seem a little unpredictable and who knows what they’ll do over the next two days with Landa and Quintana.

As you ascend to higher and higher altitudes, air pressure decreases making it harder to extract oxygen to your muscles. Although this starts happening as soon as you start climbing, big changes can occur at altitudes of over 1800m. These decreases in performance due to the altitude, can happen to anyone, irrespective of fitness (some people who are really fit can be badly affected, whereas others who are less fit may not be). Regular training sessions at altitude can help you become accustomed to this phenomena. On the other hand, training continuously at altitude can result in performance decreases as your power output is lower at altitude due to the lower air pressure. Thus, many riders sleep ‘high’ in an altitude tent (over their bed) at a simulated altitude, but do their training at sea level. Other options would be to sleep at actual altitude (such as the hotels at the top of Mount Tiede, but to descend down to sea level to do any hard training).

Today, we saw Alaphilippe struggle on the Galibier. Eventually he was distanced, but he did keep trying to sprint back on. Repeated high intensity efforts uphill for 30-seconds at an intensity equal to or greater than MAP repeated many times can help with this. Additionally, we also saw Alaphilippe’s excellent descending skills to recatch the GC group. This aspect should not be overlooked to be a complete rider.

Will tomorrow’s stage make changes to GC or will Alaphilippe cement his lead?

Richard Stern