Monday, July 28, 2008

Adieu to the Tour de France for this year!

I hope you thought this Tour de France was as exciting as I did, and enjoyed bringing a little of that excitement into your classes. If this was the first time you've done this in your indoor cycling program, know that every year it will get easier, and you will have more experience to add every time you do it. Judging by the number of emails I received, there were a lot of first-time Tour watchers out there who have been creating stage profiles for their classes. They've commented about how much fun they've had as well as their students. This is very rewarding to me, and I hope that all of you reading this have enjoyed these posts for the past 3 weeks. (If so, let me know below by leaving a comment).

Don't think that your profiles have to be shelved for a year! You can do Tour de France rides all throughout the year - they are simply another fun and exciting profile to add to your repertoire. You now have some excellent, very real Race Day and Strength Energy Zone profiles from the time trial and Pyrenéean and Alpine stages.  Of course you also have Interval rides from your flat or rolling stages with a lot of attacks and recoveries, and the long flat stages sitting in the middle of the peleton are perfect Endurance Energy Zone profiles.

It's been very time consuming the past three weeks. Phew, I need a little break (just like the riders do after 3 weeks of racing)! I am going to go back to an average of once a week posts. You may want to subscribe to the Feed Reader (on the left side of the blog, near the bottom, the orange icon that says Feed Icon. Then you'll be given an option to subscribe to a feed reader such as Google, Bloglines, My Yahoo, etc. You'll be notified there when there are any new posts.

Or just put this link in your bookmarks or on your desktop and check back regularly for profiles, cuing and coaching tips, physiology, programming, and music ideas. I'll try to have profiles from guest instructors at least once a month (contact me if you have a great profile you would like to be considered). Remember to share this blog with all the instructors you know.

If you have any suggestions for content or something you would like me to discuss, please leave a comment. I appreciate any and all comments at any time, any post! All comments also appear in my inbox, so no need to email me as well.

Vive le Tour! 

(Note: the photo above is George Hincapie carrying the American flag on the Champs Elysée in Paris in 2005 after the 7th win by Lance Armstrong).

Saturday, July 26, 2008

About today's time trial - Tour de France 2008 Stage 20

As Paul Sherwen said in the race, a time trial is all about "dosing your efforts". Well, Cadel Evans didn't dose his very well - in fact, they mentioned that he was pedaling a higher gear than he normally does. If this is so, one has to wonder why you would do something different than you normally would do?

Carlos Sastre rode the time trial of his life. He finished "only" 12 in the actual time trial, but that was enough to keep his yellow jersey. It is said that once you pull on the yellow jersey, you ride like two men. And he did!

Cadel Evans didn't ride the race of his life...and he didn't live up to anybody's expectations or predictions, not the least of which was his own. But to be honest, I'm quite happy about it! He's not my favorite rider. He's a whiny, mean person with a wimpy voice who is very aggressive with the media. Check out these Youtube videos posted on another cycling blog of how mean he can actually get!

So my hat goes off to Carlos Sastre and Christian Vande Velde, who also rode the TT of his life and lifted himself up to 5th place, not bad for an American who no one had in their radar for a top finish! And the exciting thing, he gives us great hope for next year! 

If you dream about possibly watching the Tour de France in person, and riding some of these great cols, contact me now to get on my mailing list to be the first to hear of my tours for next year! You can check out my blog on cycling in Europe for discussions of how and where to view various stages of the Tour. I guarantee you the time of YOUR life!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Saturday's Time Trial - A Great Race Day opportunity!

The results of this year's very exciting Tour de France, is coming down to Saturday's time trial, stage 20. Cadel Evans is 1:25 behind Carlos Sastre, after Sastre's amazing ride up Alpe d'Huez on Wednesday. The announcers kept saying that Evans is a much stronger time trialist, and has the possibility of putting up to 90 seconds on Sastre, given the distance of this final time trial. But when one has the maillot jaune, one is far more motivated! And Sastre no doubt will be motivated. I can imagine he is doing daily affirmations and using visualizations to picture himself on the top place on the podium in Paris. Will Carlos Sastre pull out the ride of his life this Saturday?
One thing is for certain - this Tour de France may be the closest margin in history (currently Greg Lemond holds that record, with an 8-second win over Laurent Fignon in 1989 - photo above). As well, the top 5 or 6 riders may be within the shortest amount of time in history (as of now, the top 6 are within less than 5 minutes)!

You can use this in your Stage 20 ride! Use that excitement, that motivation. Ask your riders to pretend that they are Carlos Sastre who knows that this must be the best performance of his life, if he is to realize his dream of being #1 in the Tour de France. or better yet, imagine that they are Christian Vande Velde, the American on Garmin-Chipolte who is such a strong time trial rider, that a fantastic ride might take him from 6th to 3rd or even 2nd!

Put your intention into every pedal stroke. Believe in yourself, see yourself on the podium. Imagine the sweet glory of it all. It makes all the effort, training, and pain so worthwhile.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Stage 17, Alpe d'Huez and the "Pendulum of Pain" tomorrow!

I talk about Alpe d'Huez so much you'd think it's the only climb of the Tour!! I apologize for that, but it has such a mythique to it, and it's looming in all the rider's minds as well. If this climb was earlier in the stage, it would not be a very big deal, but at the end of the stage, it's a monster! Tomorrow is such an epic day of the Tour, I hope you realize how important this stage is. Stage 17, along with the time-trial in a few days, will determine the podium on Sunday in Paris. If you have chosen to do stage 17 tomorrow or in the next few days, make sure you emphasize this fact and bring that excitement into your ride. 

As of yesterday, there was only 49 seconds between the top 6 riders! This is unprecedented! And less than 5-minutes separates the top 10. Today's stage over the Lombard and the Bonette-Restefond will shake up the GC a bit more, no doubt.  But one thing is certain, it pales in comparison to tomorrow's stage, which I am sure will wreak havoc in the peleton and cause a lot of riders to crack.

Here is a quote by one of the riders, Allan Gallopin: ‘That last week is brutal, really tough. No one will be able to say they've got the race sewn up at least until they get to Alpe D'Huez - and maybe not even then.’ Those 21 switchbacks do something to the psyches of the riders. They are numbered in reverse order from the bottom up - so you always know how many more you have to go. I wonder if the riders in the Tour really want to know this information? Does it help or hinder them as they climb? "Only 18 more to go - AUGH!"  I know when I climbed it the last time I tried not to look which switchback I was on - until I got close to the top that is!

I did stage 17 in my class this morning, exactly as I did it at WSSC. I was a bit nervous, because this is somewhat of a tough crowd, and it's hard to crack that nut sometimes. They aren't very expressive.  But they received it well and a few commented on how interesting the psychological aspect was of talking as if I am their consciousness speaking to them.  (See my previous post on how I teach my Alpe d'Huez ride). We are doing a raffle and every student gets an entry for every class they attend, but i also brought in a pair of King of the Mountain socks (white with red polk-a-dots) that I've given out on my bike tours, and picked a name out of a hat and gave it away at the end of class. A new student who just joined won, which was awesome!

As I have been watching the Tour on TV, I look at the faces of the riders, especially the ones that cannot hide the pain, who grimace as they climb, or the ones at the rear of the peleton, struggling to make it to the finish line. I wonder what is going through their mind? What is their story? One rider's wife had a baby during an early stage - did that fill his mind the whole time or could he focus on how he was riding?

Every rider, no matter where he is in the GC, is thinking of Alpe d'Huez.  Every one of them. And they'll be thinking of it tomorrow when they wake up, and as they mount their bicycles at the start in Embrun, and while they are climbing the Galibier, and the Croix-de-Fer (both HC climbs).  Once you ride through Bourg d'Oisans, the town at the base of AdH, and you see the sign indicating Alpe d'Huez is 13 km away (uphill), it is almost impossible not to have butterflies. Your stomach turns and there is a certain dread mingled with trepidation, you have to purposely fill your mind with positive thoughts to overcome the doubt and fear that fills your head. You've become so conditioned to believe this is such a killer climb, and you wonder "What the heck am I doing here at the base of Alpe d'Huez, about to ride up this thing?"  You know that the "pendulum of pain" will be swinging hard in your direction. 

But once you see this sign... means you're almost there! It means you've accomplished your goal! It means the 21 switchbacks are over, you've overcome all obstacles, you've arrived.

It means success.

If you are teaching Stage 17 in your Spinning class, let me know how it goes. How are you doing this profile? How are you motivating your students? What are your cues? What might you be doing that is different? If you try the narrative approach like my profile (and I hope many of you do!) let me know how it goes! Leave a comment below.

Allez! Allez!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Curious how teammates can help in the Tour?

If you're still learning the strategies of the Tour de France, you may be a bit confused as to why someone high up in the General Classification (GC), that is, someone who is a strong hopeful for a podium finish at the Tour or is shooting for the yellow jersey, may or may not have his teammates around him.  Some riders have a whole host of teammates to protect him, some seem like they're riding alone most of the time. If you remember the "Postal Train" or "Le Train Bleu" as the French called US Postal, and also the Discovery Train, they were the most skilled at creating a train of teammates to help Lance up the climbs. They would take turns at the front (Lance just tucked himself in behind his men) and one by one, when they dropped off from fatigue, he would still end up with at least one faithful teammate as they approached the finale of the climb! The above photo is in the Pyrenées in 2005, with the discovery Train leading the way up the first of 3 major climbs!

It comes down to the calibre of the team, and how fatigued they are at this point. They may not be able to set pace, or ride up at the front. Or maybe they're skilled at sprinting, but that keeps them at the tail end of the peleton on the mountains, unable to help out their team leader.

Here is a great explanation of how poor Cadel Evans seems to be riding alone, without teammates, and also the reasons he lost his yellow jersey on Stage 15. He is only 9 seconds back and is a strong climber, so he can still regain it in the next few climbing stages, or in the final time trial. But having some teammates around him would sure help!

In your Spin classes, make mention about having teammates around to help set the pace or to protect you from the headwinds!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Please tell us about your Tour de France Spinning Program

Are you running a Tour de France program in your Spinning classes? Would you be willing to tell the world about it? Even just briefly, leave a comment on how many stages you're doing, what kind of promotions (if any) you're doing, class responses, etc.  I've gotten quite a few emails from instructors describing what they're doing and how fun it has been. Things like decorating the Spin room with posters, putting yellow, green and red/white polk-a-dot ribbons on the bikes, giving away jerseys, students who have formed their own "teams", etc.

Let us know here! If it's just a brief description (a few sentences or paragraphs) please just click "comments" below any post on this blog and enter it there.  If it's longer, email me and I'll include it as a post, combined with other programs. In fact, if you want to share some of your profiles, send them to me and I'll post them right here on this blog with a little bio about you and your club.  This blog gets around 100 hits a day (and growing - please continue to share this with any instructors you know) from instructors all over the world - so anything you share can help other instructors across the globe! And you may get a lot more ideas to add to your program, or to keep in mind for next year's Tour de France.

This weekend, I'll be writing a post about how to create a profile based on the finale in Paris, with 8 laps around the Champs Elysées. As the final class of your "Tour" you can create a lot of fun activities around it.

Thanks for sharing! My email is

And check out my other blog on Cycling in Europe and how and where to view the stages of the Tour de France (in person, on your bicycle). Share it with all the cyclists you know who might one day want to take a cycling tour to Europe or other parts of the world.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Alpe d'Huez, Part 1

Alpe d'Huez. Just the mention of the name engenders awe in the hearts and minds of cyclists passionate about climbing the big cols of Europe. There is something very magical and mythical about this mountain; it has an allure that is difficult to explain. It's not the longest, nor the most difficult climb in the Tour de France, but it is definitely the most famous. 

Alpe d'Huez is 13.8 km long, about 8 miles. It has an average grade of 7.9%, an 11% 'wall' at the bottom of the climb, and 21 switchbacks, or as the French call them, "lacets" for shoelaces, that snake back and forth to the ski village at the top. 

First, a little background on my attraction to Alpe d'Huez, and tomorrow, I'll post the profile of my popular AdH ride presented at WSSC and other conferences around the country.

I have ridden AdH 3 times and have driven as sag support for my riders numerous other times. My first time there was in 1988 but I didn't get to ride it, and I longed for years to return. I was in the middle of a 2,500 mile solo, self-supported bicycle odyssey around Europe and took a train to Grenoble in order to ride up the Alpe d'Huez for the Tour de France.

Very long story very French was lacking at the time and I misunderstood about my bike arriving on the train with me... it didn't! "Mais non, mademoiselle! Ca va arriver dans 3 jours!"  It's arriving 3 days later? I was devastated. Fortunately I had my panniers, tent and sleeping bag (back then I was into roughing it. Today, give me a fancy hotel), and hitch-hiked to a nearby campground in Grenoble (about 2 hours from AdH). I met many people going to the stage, and got a ride with a Swiss guy named Christian the next day, the day before the stage. We battled the traffic and found a place about 3/4 up the switchbacks of the Alpe, where he could barely nose in his old stationwagon. He had his bike and rode down and up, and I just hiked around, broken-hearted to be at the Mecca for cyclists without my bike! We befriended our neighbors, shared a meal and slept in the back of his stationwagon which was at a serious tilt. There was no available flat spot to set up a tent.

I remember getting up at 2 am to go to the bathroom...and having to dodge traffic! The cars continued to arrive all night long, as they would be closing the road the next morning.

I hiked around the next day and explored the village a few miles further up. The Tour didn't arrive until late that afternoon.

This was the year Greg Lemond had been shot in a hunting accident, so he wasn't there, but what excitement it was! (Someday I'll have my slides converted to digital). Pedro Delgado won the stage, and was later charged then cleared of failing a drug test. Afterwards we drove slowly back to Grenoble with tens of thousands of other cars, picked up my bike at the train station, and Christian dropped me off at a campground in Annecy a few hours north. It was July 14th, Bastille Day and I was treated to an amazing fireworks display. The next day it snowed as I crossed the mountains of Switzerland...

The next year, 1989, I began working in France as a tour guide for a bicycle tour company but never had the chance to go back to Alpe d'Huez until an amazing opportunity fell into my lap. I was asked to be a tour guide on a bicycle tour to the Tour de France with Greg Lemond in 1999! This exciting tour could take several pages (I've got LOTS of stories about Greg), so I'll keep it short for now. As the guides, we dropped off the clients 10 miles from the base of ADH, so they could ride as a "peleton" up ADH with Greg the morning of the stage, decked out in their colorful Lemond team jerseys. After parking the vans, we were able to climb up. This is one of the only photos that I've scanned into digital, of my co-guide Saunie and me prior to riding up ADH in our Lemond jerseys, gloves and bikes.

Climbing the 21 switchbacks of Alpe d'Huez lined with tens of thousands of people cheering you on is delerious. Few words can describe the exhilaration and motivation it provides. I was in such a daze from the surreal situation I found myself in, I remember thinking that the people around me seemed to move in slow motion. Some offered water or even beer as I climbed! There were far fewer women climbing than men, and we attracted a lot of attention. I seriously bonked 2/3 of the way up (that will happen when you're so preoccupied you forget to eat). I straddled my bike and stuffed my face with a melted chocolate energy bar. Just a few minutes later I felt my energy return and rode triumphantly to the top where we had a private lunch scheduled with Greg and some Tour VIPs.

I think my time was under 2 hours, but I didn't really time myself. There were so many people along the way that we couldn't go fast, and it was fascinating people watching as we rode!  Also I had to stop and eat, and we were actually sent a different way than the official route by a policeman for the final 4 km, so we had to make our way through town.

Later, Giuseppe Guerini won the stage, despite being knocked over by an over ambitious fan taking a photograph! Lance was somewhere near the top - this was the first year he won the Tour. Two days earlier, we had VIP passes behind the scenes at the arrivée in Le Grand Bornand where Lance took the yellow jersey for the first time. Afterwards, Greg had a private meeting with Lance in his team bus to congratulate him and give him his advice. The next day, our entire group packed into Greg's hotel room to watch as Lance won the stage in Sestriere. I remember Greg saying, "He didn't take any of my advice!"

Hmmm, I wonder if that was the original source of his ire with Lance that surfaced years later?Probably not, but it's fun to say I was there!

In 2004 I sagged my own tour group as they climbed it the day before the infamous time trial. It was so mobbed on that day, I'm not sure I would have enjoyed the ride that day quite as much as I did in 1999. The photo below was sent to me from Ron, a Spinning instructor who actually was there for the stage in 2004 and saw Lance when he passed Basso!

In 2005 I set my own personal best. I took a group in June whose goal was to beat Sheryl Crow's allegedly reported time of 1:38. My best rider was a woman who rode it in 1:16, and she said she never stood up once; just sat in her saddle and churned the pedals! After supporting them as they climbed and afterwards were happily settled at a bar to celebrate, I jumped on my bike, descended and rode up. My time was 1:26, but I can tell you I was in some serious pain. 

Last year, I took another group and rode the Alpe by myself prior to their arrival (the photo at the top of the page).  This time I didn't push myself as hard, and was only 10 minutes slower (I still beat Sheryl Crowe!) but I was in infinitely less pain.  On this tour, I had one very fit rider, Mark, who rode it in 1:02. He was unhappy with his time and calculated that if he went a little slower at a lower heart rate at the tough bottom section, he could do it faster overall. He and another client went back the next day (while the rest of us rode another beautiful route) and rode it again; this time his time was :58!

His wife Anne, by the way, also rode up (non-timed) but she rode for two! When her son was born almost 6 months later, she was able to say he got to ride up Alpe d'Huez. Here's a very funny story: the two of them plus two others (Kim and Brian) who were on that tour are all Spinning instructors. They all came to WSSC this year and rode on stage with me in my ADH ride. A week later, Anne called me and said Alpe d'Huez must have a special effect on her - she returned from WSSC and found out she once again rode Alpe d'Huez for two (albeit indoors) - she's pregnant again!

As you can see, I have so many fond memories of this mountain. If you want information on how to go and climb Alpe d'Huez on a self-guided tour, or want to put together your own group at your club for a private guided tour, contact me! I am convinced that with a little training, even primarily in Spinning classes, almost anyone can do this famous climb... You can reach me at 

And check back tomorrow for my Spinning profile of Alpe d'Huez.