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: 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.
...it 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.