Pez: In regards to stage racing, how did you prepare differently for them than you did for a single day event?
Greg LeMond: Most importantly, when I was racing, I trained year-round. I rode 12-15 hours (a week) all winter as a minimum and always trained 3 weeks on, 1 week off, and never more than 1 week completely off after the season was complete. After Christmas, I’d start my preparation for the upcoming season where I would ride 22 – 24 – 26 – 28 hour weeks, finishing with a 35 hour week prior to going to training camp in Europe. I’d then do 2 or 3 stage races in February, followed by Paris-Nice, Milan-San Remo, with the major goal of winning a Classic. I was always competitive in the Classics with a 4th in Paris Roubaix, 3rd in Liege (twice), and 2nd in Milan-San Remo. After the classics I took a little break from racing, but not from training. I’d usually come back to the US and transition my program towards more climbing in preparation for the Giro d’Italia and eventually the Tour.
In summary, my preparation for the Giro wasn’t too different then what the riders are doing today. The major difference today is that a lot of riders are just “training” at the Giro instead of racing and there’s a lot of controversy as to why guys are doing that. The Giro is a great race to prepare for the Tour – but it’s gotten much more difficult – it’s almost the equivalent of the Tour now in terms of importance, difficulty and the competition.
Andrea Peron: For stage racing, I trained a bit differently than I did for one day races. Normally I would spend more time training on long climbs (over 30 km.), and in terms of active days of training, I did sessions of 3 or 4 hard days in a row to prepare my body for the punishment it was about to receive.
Pez: What special things did you do to assist with recovery during the stage race to prevent fatigue over the course of the race? How did the team doctor help? And being in so many different locations every night over 20+ days (Grand Tour), how did you mentally deal with all these locations from a recovery point of view?
Andrea Peron: It is physically and mentally important to get as much sleep and rest as possible. As soon as the race was over I tried to turn my brain off from any stressful thoughts about the race and lay in bed to begin the recovery process. Doing some stretching helps a lot, as well as having a good masseur that can work on your tired legs and body. The doctor helps us with some recovery products, such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids. About a different location, personally, I got used to that and it didn’t bother me too much. I always brought my own pillow, which allowed me to have some familiarity with home.
- Hills – Both Greg and Andrea increased their intensity of training by adding more climbing, knowing that the Grand Tours are dominated by big climbs, which usually decided the winners.
- Consecutive harder training days in a row – Increasing the number of consecutive days of training allows the body to overreach and improve fitness. The length of the race will decide how many consecutive days will be best for you.
- Races before the stage race. It’s important to do some hard races before your major goal of a particular stage race. It allows the body to transition to a multiple day event. Training efficiently is the first step, followed by some key races at important times is the perfect build up for the stage race of choice.
One thing is certain, if you are going to be successful in stage racing, you have to recover from day to day during the race. First, make sure you are recovered and 100% healthy before the race begins. If you are not recovered, because you are putting so much stress on the body, it will never catch up and you are in for a difficult time.
- After each stage, warm down, immediately get out of your cycling clothes and back to the hotel (or home) to start the recovery process.
- Make sure you drink and fuel during and after the race, remembering that you are not only getting ready for the next day, but for after the days following that.
- If possible, set up a regular massage. Not only will it help you recover, but it will help you relax.
- Some riders use ice packs to help reduce swelling in the legs. Swelling is one of the key reasons we do not recover well and doing anything to prevent that swelling like ice or an anti-inflammatory can help the process of healing along.
- In the afternoon after the stage, if possible, take a nap or if you are too “amped” up, just lie in bed and watch TV. No shopping, no going to the movies. Relax and give your body every opportunity to prepare for the next day’s event.
Not only are stage races a true measure of fitness, they are a lot of fun to take part in. Even if you are a one day rider, doing stage races will benefit your fitness tremendously and allow you to be much fitter for your one day goal. Just make sure that you time the stage race correctly, to give the body ample time to benefit from the stress. Consult with your coach about your plan and what makes sense for you as an athlete. And of course, not only are stage races fun, they make you feel like a pro! At least for those few days. Ride strong.
Bruce Hendler created AthletiCamps to provide cycling specific coaching and training to athletes and cyclists of all levels. Find out more at www.athleticamps.com