– By Chris Carmichael –
In front of the main pack of pre-race favorites, it was a young man from Germany who had the most impressive ride of the day. Linus Gerdemann has been a promising rider for the past couple of years, and today he delivered a huge win and the yellow jersey for the reborn T-Mobile team. Tomorrow’s an even more challenging stage, and a day that should see the big men of the Tour launching major attacks on the final ascent to the finish; but with a lead of more than 3 minutes, Gerdemann may be able to hold onto the yellow jersey tomorrow as well.
Back when Lance Armstrong was racing the Tour de France, he always focused on having a good day on the first stage in the high mountains. And to help ensure that he’d feel good when the lead group hit the slopes of the major climbs, he spent some time riding in a big gear the day before. The idea was to spend at least 30 minutes pedaling at a low cadence against a heavy resistance in order to ease the transition from the flat stages to the mountains.
During the flat stages of the first week, the yellow jersey contenders do their best to stay out of the wind and conserve energy. As a result, they don’t spend much time riding at a consistently high power output for prolonged periods of time. They might have high power outputs for short efforts, but nothing more than a few minutes at 500-plus watts. All that changes on the first big climb of the race, where they may have to sustain more than 400 watts for 40-60 minutes. And if you haven’t prepared your body for an effort like that, it can serve as a severe shock to the system.
Though the Col de la Columbiere is a hard climb, and even harder than usual today because the race ascended the side they normally go down, the nature of the course made the transition into the high mountains a little easier than it could have been. The hardest way to enter the Alps or Pyrenees is with a summit finish, because then the stage becomes an all-out war for the yellow jersey. In contrast, today’s stage featured a 10-kilometer descent to the finish, so the yellow jersey contenders were content to set a fast but steady pace up the climb and wait until tomorrow’s summit finish to start riding more aggressively.
Normally, we see at least one pre-race favorite suffer greatly on the first day in the high mountains, but perhaps the fact that every one of the yellow jersey contenders finished in the same group means that we’re going to be treated to some very exciting racing over the next two weeks. No one, not even the battered and bandaged Alexander Vinokorouv, was put into difficulty on the Col de la Columbiere; and several teams were well-represented with three or four riders in the group.
Tomorrow we’re going to see a very different race on the three climbs in the second half of the stage. We now know that all the pre-race favorites can hold a high tempo on the climbs, but tomorrow we’ll see how well they can handle repeated accelerations and attacks in the high mountains. My hunch is that Stage 8 will be a very good day for Discovery Channel, Caisse d’Pargne, and Rabobank, and my biggest question is whether 2-time polka dot jersey winner Michael Rasmussen will go out on a long breakaway to gather climbing points or whether he’ll instead stay in the lead group to support his teammate Denis Menchov.
Note: Stage 8 is one of the six stages Chris Carmichael selected as a key day for the Do The Tour…Stay At Home™ training program. Visit TrainRight.comto download a full 60-minute audio workout featuring Chris Carmichael and cycling champion Gord Fraser. And stay tuned for Stages 15 and 16, with audio workouts featuring 7-time Tour de France Champion Lance Armstrong.
• Chris Carmichael coached Lance Armstrong throughout his 15-year cycling career. For more information on Carmichael Training Systems’ 9+3 Coaching Offer, the Do the Tour…Stay at Home_ audio workouts with Lance Armstrong, and our free Tour de France Newsletter, visit TrainRight.com.