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...
...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.

Allez! Allez!


Lori said...

Hi Jennifer,
Thanks again for all of the great info on the tour. As you know, I am new to following the race and I have a question for ya... When someone wins the race, I assume that they win as an individual? What does that mean for the rest of the team?

Jennifer Sage said...

Hi Lori,
yes, they have their own personal wins, but for most teams, it's organized as a team effort. In fact, Team CSC this year has been a great example of what can happen when the team works as planned, geared primarily to help one person. in this case, Carlos Sastre. They also had some other great riders - the Schleck brothers, one of whom wore the yellow jersey for awhile. But his time trialing wasn't going to be enough. And they all worked very hard on the big day of Stage 17 to make sure Sastre got yellow. Lance's team (US Postal and Discovery) all had the same mindset during his 7-year reign, and that made it so much easier for him.

In contrast, Cadel Evans didn't often have strong enough teammates around him to help him out in a pinch. By the end of a stage, he often was alone. His teammates were just not strong enough to control the pace of the race, or have the endurance to be there to help him up some of the big mountains. By the time he arrived at the last TT, he didn't have enough in his tank to pull off the effort everyone predicted (and if you read my latest posts, you'll see I'm glad for that - I don't much like him)! Still, it's a little sad for him.

Tomorrow will be fun to watch in Paris, because the podium is guaranteed - it won't change at all. So this is time for the other guys on the teams, who are not very well known or who have worked only for their team leader - to go and try to win a stage. They will have the full verbal permission to try to win, because there's not much work left to do for the team leader. Big glory to be had for the win on the champs Elysee!


Jennifer Sage said...

BTW Lori, here is a great article by Chris Carmichael on teamwork and how well CSC did.