Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cakes and Altitude

In Paris, the Monday after the Tour de France is an interesting scene at the airport. Lots of cyclists and fans trying to make their way home. It’s cool—except that I didn’t do the Tour, so everytime someone noticed my logos and gear and asked me how the race went, I had to mumble how sorry I was and explain that I was only there for a team event on the last day.

Cervelo put on a luncheon for Tata Consultancy Services, one of the sponsors, just steps away from the finish line on the Champs-Elysees. It was nice to meet some of our sponsors and their guests and give them some insight about what went on the last day. Cervelo led the race into the final kilometer, with an incredible leadout for Thor from Jeremy and Brett Lancaster. I was trying to explain to people that, although Thor did not take home the green jersey for points this year he did put up one hell of a fight for it, and win a stage, so to me his finish was more endearing than if he had won. I’m sure for him it was different.

I was happy to be there and Paris is Paris (and the Tour is the Tour), but I must admit that sitting in the stands just next to the finish line and watching the action was a little strange. I wanted to be on the other side of the barriers. Next year, I hope to improve enough to get my shot. Considering that my teammate Jeremy Hunt made his debut at the race at the age of 35, nothing is impossible.

It’s back to racing for me now—the Tour of Poland. I’m looking forward to being back in the pack but just a little anxious about not having raced for six weeks after my crash. My fitness is good: I was with some other non-TdF teammates at an altitude camp in Switzerland for the past three weeks.

At altitude, you can’t train the same way as you do at sea level. The most important thing is not to go too hard, so it’s critical to keep an eye on the Powertap and heart rate to make sure both measurements are below threshold. To set those zones, I went to our team medical clinic in Basel to do some Vo2Max tests as well as check my blood profile to see how altitude affected my body. (I would also redo the blood profiles after the training camp.)

For me, this period was all about long hours and work below threshold. Marcelo Albasini, one of our sports directors, designed the training and a typical day was 3-6 hours of riding. Twice per week I’d work on power, which meant 8 intervals of five minutes each on a hill, at 35-40 RPM at about 270 Watts. That’s not terribly difficult, but it was an important test of how my knee was holding up. I didn’t have any problems. I also spent a lot of time doing 15-30 minute intervals on climbs at 260-280 watts and 280-320 watts. Once a week I would work these intervals a little toward the higher end—for example every five minutes getting out of the saddle for 10 seconds and accelerating slightly. Not exactly glamorous, but if you do it properly you feel a big difference after two weeks or so.

One of the things about camps that is fun is spending time with your teammates and staff outside of racing. People are generally more relaxed. We threw a barbecue in one of Switzerland’s parks—one of our sports directors, Jens, is a good cook and made us all some nice steaks. And Ted King has a culinary career in front of him when he decides to leave the pedals behind. He’s one of the only cyclists I know who is also a serious baker. I like the kid, but the combination of his skills and my sweet tooth makes him a danger for me.