I don’t know about you, but I’ve been suffering from a Tour de France hangover these past few weeks. This year more than ever there was more to read, watch and surf over. Supervisors all over the land were probably glad it was finally over and their employees could get back to work—or at least show up on time. Cycling coverage in North America has come a long way since the ABC and ESPN 2 half hour recap days. Fortunately we have the Summer Olympics starting in less than a week and it’s back to the binge.
But before we are distracted even further with such events as synchronized swimming and the long jump, there are several Tour de France lessons, courtesy of Lance, that you can put to good use. The single greatest item that sticks out in my mind is that the boy likes to plan. Lance is a coach’s dream because he has one clear goal and a laser like focus. Coaches love to plan—its part of what we do.
Lance’s preparation and planning is well covered in both print and video, which makes him easy to use as an example. Likewise, all of the brave men who competed in the Tour de France are professionals and work extremely hard and make great sacrifices for their sport and passion. There is no reason why amateur cyclists of all competition levels should not plan for their events the same way the pros do, within reason (i.e., most of us do have another job that actually pays our bills!).
#1: Define your goals and plan accordingly
Whether it is for the end of this season or for next year, a clearly thought out and well-designed training plan will lead to peak performances. Unlike Lance, you will likely want to identify more than one race as a top priority, because it is a huge risk to put all your eggs in one basket. Remember Levi in ’03: he risked it all at the Tour and was taken out in the Stage 1 crash.
Choose a block of races in close proximity on the calendar that will fall under one 3-6 week peak. Alternately, pick two separate events or peak periods, typically near the beginning and end of the season.
#2: Identify your weaknesses and develop a plan to overcome them
Another item that Lance addressed after his narrow 5th Tour victory was his vulnerability in the time trial. Result: the formation of the F-One project and a more aerodynamic time trial package. And of course, many many hours of training and preparatory races specifically dedicated to the time trial.
If you are planning for a stage race next year with a time trial, acquire the necessary equipment for time trialing. Incorporate threshold training into your training and tell the family that a disk wheel can save you up to one hundred seconds in a 40 K time trial
The same principle applies to any area that you identify the need to improve. The challenge may seem overwhelming at first but like Lance and lesson #1 you have from now until next year to accomplish your goal.
Lance also changed his approach for the 2004 Tour to include a block of time in April to be spent with his children: an admirable sacrifice and a potentially risky commitment. But again with proper planning a training plan can be designed to accommodate such needs. The key is to identify the commitment as far in advance as possible. If you have a business trip you know you’ll be attending next year, let your coach know about it or plan your periodization around what essentially will be a recovery block.
#3: Know your limits
Bike racing, training, and riding is a passion for us and as soon as that passion disappears so will the fun. Recognize that you will need to devote time to other areas of your life outside of cycling. We can’t be bike geeks 24/7! Whether it’s spring break with the kids at Disney world, more time at work, or an off season home improvement project, if you allocate the time your training may be designed around it. Again coaches love to plan out these items!
Enjoy the Summer Olympics and remember those athletes plan their training based on a “quadriennium”!! Talk about a coach’s dream…..
Frank is a full time USA cycling certified Expert coach, category 1 road racer, and professional planner. To design your best annual training plan contact