Some musings on the Tour and ideas for your “Tour de Spinning®” stages

By Jennifer Sage On July 17, 2011 Under ICA products, Tour de France
Tour de France Spinning classes

Thor the sprinter wins a mountain stage. (Photo Steephill/Sirotti)

How are your Tour de France stages going in your indoor cycling and Spinning® classes? I hope your students are talking about your exciting rides long after the class is over. Let’s look at the past few days of the Tour and see how you can make your own stages more thrilling. It all comes down to how you coach it, the words you use to describe the scene and the strategy, and the variety in how each stage is laid out.

So, the Pyrénées have come and gone. Some critics are saying that after the first crazy week of crashes and drama, the Tour was a little boring in the mountains. To be sure, there weren’t huge changes in the GC and a lack of exciting attacks, but what did become apparent is that the GC contenders who still remain in this race, are very equally matched in ability. No one has been able to surge ahead of the others. This includes Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, the Schleck brothers Andy and Frank, and Ivan Basso (who was written off by critics prior to the Tour but who has proved them wrong). Other potentials are Sammy Sanchez (who has finished on the 3rd level podium) and Damiano Cunego. American Tommy Danielson is currently 9th in the GC which is phenomenal for his first Tour de France, but he’s not expected to contest the yellow jersey.

Despite the lack of vicious attacks, there have been some amazing individual efforts however. The most surprising story is that Thomas Voekler has maintained his yellow jersey all the way through the Pyrénées. No one thought he’d be able to do this – even he is surprised he’s still in yellow. (Side note: anyone else think Thomas Voekler looks like Robin Williams? He’s got the same funny facial expressions – eyebrows, smile, same chin!)

Stage 13 proved to be extremely exciting, even though it “only” contained one massive climb in the middle, with a long downhill to the finish. What made it so exciting was two things: the long breakaway by FDJ (Team Francais des Jeux) rider Jeremy Roy and the attack at the base of the HC climb by “sprinter” Thor Hushovd. I put that in quotes because Thor has a history of being a sprinter, and has won the green jersey twice at the Tour (as recently as 2009). But he stated last year that the green jersey was no longer his goal – there are far faster (and younger) riders who are after that prize. So, he’s been training in the mountains and is transforming himself into an all-around rider.

So Thor attacked on a monster climb! Amazing. He managed to stay ahead of the peleton, and in the long run-out, actually caught Roy in the final kilometrs to take the stage. Though I was heartbroken for Roy, this performance by the “God of Thunder” (Thor’s nickname) is truly remarkable. At least Roy got two prizes – the KOM jersey and the combativity prize. Read Chris Carmichael’s account of this race.

You can do a long breakaway as a different approach to one of your indoor cycling or Spinning® class stages. Why not focus on the amazing courage and tenacity of either a solo breakaway or a small group at the front?

Stage 14 contained five huge climbs, but it still didn’t separate any of the top riders on the leader board. The stage was won by a Belgian rider, Jelle Vanendert (who had made a valiant effort in vain the previous day to win, but was overcome in the final km by Sammy Sanchez). If you are wondering why a stage win like this happens when the “favorites” are so close behind, it’s important to realize the strategy of riders high in the GC. They were too worried about each other – their only concern is what the other favorites do. Vanendert is so far down in the GC that he isn’t a threat to them for the final prize – so they let him win the stage easily. Even Vanandert realized that he was simply able to take advantage of the stalemate in the GC. He’s what you would call an “opportunist” as it relates to cycling. He took advantage of an opportunity and now has a stage win to his name. You know darn well that if the gauntlett was thrown down by one of these favorites, we wouldn’t be talking about a win by a rider named Jelle!

You know what this means, don’t you? It means the battle in the Alpes will be over-the-top….are you ready?

The ICA Tour de France Program

In the ICA TDF program, I present different approaches to each stage that is provided.

The Stage 12 profile focuses on the breakaway on the first climb, then switches to the cavalry of the peleton on the hunt for that break on the second climb, and then finally focuses on the attacks of the leaders on the final climb. For each of the three climbs, I provide examples of different coaching. I also added post-race comments so you can modify how you teach the stage to mimic what actually happened. Or, just keep it simple and teach it like my fantasy stage! Even though Stage 12 has come and gone, doesn’t mean you still can’t teach it, or that you can’t take the cueing and motivation and apply it to an upcoming stage in the Alpes. Just change the name of the peaks you climb!

Stage 16 won’t be an “epic” climb, but the fact that it is uphill the entire way presents a different and exciting backdrop for your class. For this stage I do something completely different: I actually divide my class into the “breakaway” and the “chase group” and give cues on how to alternate back and forth between the two, with the peleton of course bearing down on the breakaway. Will they reel the break in at the final kilometers? Who wins? You’ll have to find out! This was the first time I have done this and my own riders were very thrilled with the class! You can take these coaching tips and apply it to any stage of any Grand Tour (TDF, Vuelta, Giro).

And of course, for Stage 19, Alpe d’Huez focuses on the protagonist in the story, a domestique back in the autobus who has exhausted himself for the sake of his team. The story recounts his journey from suffering to triumph on the 21 switchbacks of this famous climb.




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