Ex professional cyclist gives advice on Act 2 Etape de tour 2011

Stage 9: Issoire to Saint-Flour


I’ve written this note about the way I would do it so if I say some obvious things I apologise. The first step we would be put through would be to have ridden a couple of the highest mountains, or ones with a similar ascent and height, prior to the day. This allows you to find the right rhythm, pace and gear for that type of mountain. You probably can’t do that unfortunately but it was a huge advantage for someone like me who wasn’t a mountain climber.

The stage is 208km and has 8 mountain climbs, with 3 being a level 2. The two longest climbs come at 91.7km and 146km. The good news is that the mountains at 116km, 127.5km and 139.5km are tough but short climbs, as you are already up the mountain range somewhat.

Prior to the first climb (at 40.1km) focus your mind on getting the rhythm right, get yourself to be absorbed by the bike – you and the bike are one. You are not on the bike, you and the bike are the same – a machine that can go all day.

There is an initial climb of 3.4km at 40.1km (753m). Stay with the bunch but keep well in the middle. It is unlikely that the bunch will split at this point.  If it does it is likely to be a small breakaway: the peloton will almost certainly stay together. Keep within a bunch so you have riders on both sides, in front and behind.  This gives some protection if there is a wind and also provides a measure as to how you are doing. Use this first ‘hill’ to get your position right for climbing, test your legs and test the gear combinations that seem right. Move in and out of the saddle and let your body and legs get used to the traction. The rhythm for the climb is within your whole body – arms, back head, legs etc. The whole body has a rhythm that keeps the legs turning despite the pain.

Keep within a bunch through to the start of the first nasty one – the Col du Pas de Peyrol (1589 m and a 7.7km climb to 6.2%.) You aren’t out to win this race and you must keep at the back of your mind that the last big climb starts at 146km – a long way away and you must be in shape when you arrive at that one.. The Col du Pas starts at 90.8km: make sure you have got yourself into a mindset of pain acceptance but knowing you will come through it. [I found this invaluable.] You have about 30 kms after the Cote de Massiac to ensure you have a smooth rhythm. Don’t talk unless you really have to, don’t socialise, just focus on the task ahead. Visualise the climb and how you are going to make it up as easy as possible (not easy but easy as possible;) visualise your legs moving in a steady rhythm; embed the feeling that you’re a part of the bike, not riding it but part of one machine, you and the bike.

When the climb starts keep within a bunch for as long as you can. Do not share the lead unless you really have to. Swing in towards the rear but not at the very end of the bunch. Keep adjusting your gears to ensure you have a steady rhythm in the legs. Focus on the rhythm of your movements. Do not look up; focus your eyes on the immediate road ahead (I used around 10 metres); do not think about how far you have come or to go. Get into an almost robotic rhythm – get your mind into a state where it excludes all thoughts of the end of the climb and is fixed on the immediate bit of road you are on (say 10 metres ahead.).  Think of each 10 metres as a success as you move through it. When you turn a corner do not look ahead to the next unless it is within your immediate sight line of 10 metres.

If you can’t stay with the bunch do not give up or cease the rhythm. Try and find a rhythm that still keeps you moving up the mountain. Form your own bunch and work together if possible.

Once at the top (and you will make it) DO NOT use energy in chasing those who might have got ahead. You have 3 smaller climbs over 40 km. and two are at 7.9% so do not under rate them Descend in a way that allows you to reset your legs, get your breathing under control, drink and eat if necessary, Follow the same approach on the shorter climbs. The critical issues are rhythm and mind set – do not allow the thought of giving up even enter your mind. Focus on the immediate road. I used to say to myself “That’s another ten; that’s another ten” all the way up.

You need to prepare for the last big climb. You come off the Cote de la Chevade at 139.5km and start climbing again around 148km so you have only 8.5km to get in shape. This is an 8km climb at 6.1% – nasty. Now start to move your mindset to the finish. When you cross over this one you have a nice long decline with a few bumps and then a couple of hills to climb. Although you still have 54km  to go from the top of Col de Prat de Bouc the worst is over. You can afford to really suffer on this one if you have to. If you are struggling, and the legs are in pain, try and find a rhythm that maintains but doesn’t increase the pain – mindset again is vital. Tell yourself that your legs can make it; they have made it to here. “Another ten behind me; and another ten. And another ten…” Don’t try and keep up with anyone on this mountain if it is draining your energy. Set your pace, your rhythm and focus on the10 metres ahead. Do not look up – 10 metres at a time is all you have to cover at any point. Keep in your mind the worst is over once you cover the top of this mountain – then it is downhill mainly and home.


This might sound a bit ‘new age’ but it is how I did it.  I studied the route of each stage well before the event. The night before a mountain stage I looked at a map of the route, thought about each mountain, thought about the pain I would suffer based on previous mountain climbs that were similar. I visualised what I would seek to do on each based on the length of the climb and the gradient. I also made sure I had a plan in mind if I stayed with a bunch and one if I was dropped. I was a very good descender but did not burn energy doing so (unless it was essential in terms of race position and the team.) You will burn a huge amount of energy on each mountain so conserve all you can off the climb. For the first 20kms or so focus on rhythm, on becoming part of the bike. Avoid distractions and keep your mind focused on those things alone. Do not think about the length of the stage at this point nor how long to go. Get yourself in a state that says “this is how I will ride, can ride, for as long as I need to – even if it is all day,”

Hope that helps.  That’s how I did it and hope there is something there that you can use. See you before the event anyway. Give me a call if you want to chat about anything in this. If it is crap then throw it away – I won’t be upset.



The last long ride and an inspirational Ironman

Yesterday I completed my last 6 hour ride. It was a great feeling knowing this was the last time I would ride for so long. The training has been long and hard and with the rigors of work it is good to let my know body rest before the race.

The training during the week was also tough with a ride to Windsor in the big gears (hard work on the leg muscles) and 10 hill repeats in Richmond Park as fast as I could go. I pushed hard and in both training sessions felt my calves spasm because of the shear exertion and amount of time I continued to push hard.

I did not know how I would go in the long ride and often with these rides I tell my strength by how well I climb the hills. I went out on the 6 hour ride with my coach and another ironman athlete. I was tired at the start of ride because I had not had enough sleep all week. I was not sure what my energy levels would do through the ride. I decided to test “Zero” by High5 to replace electrolytes when I ride in hot temperatures. The tablets dissolve in water and have a slight fizz to them.

We had about 6 hills to climb and we had a slow start in the first half of the ride. It was like we were warming up but that soon changed as my coach led us out for the middle section of the ride. He lifted the speed and it was a matter of keep up or fall far behind.

My legs got stronger as the ride went on and I rode hard up the hills. Training in the United Kingdom is very different to the hills in France but I used the fast hill climbs as a way to strengthen my legs. I felt more and more confident as the ride progressed and my body was coping well with the fast sprints and change of pace. I could tell how strong I was when I could accelerate and pull away from the other riders along the straight and hill climbs as we returned back to Richmond Park. My legs actually felt powerful and I had plenty of energy left in the “gas tank”. The Zero tablets were good and apart from making be burp did not upset my stomach.

The Ironman athlete riding with us was a true inspiration. He has kidney disease and has only one kidney working. What is more he has only 20% of that  one kidney functioning. He has been training for an entire year for the Ironman and he is 2 weeks away. His condition was good when he started training however in the last few months his condition has got worse. His production of red blood cells is less than normal which has reduced the transmission of oxygen to his muscles when he exerts himself on the bike. When we climbs hills he has 30 seconds to 1 minute of strength and then he fades badly. He has continued to train and with two weeks to go is determined to succeed. I look at his attitude to training and his self belief and I honour his commitment to completing his Ironman challenge.

When I talk to and follow the journey of first time Ironman athletes it is guys like my friend above who inspires me and are the true stories of this wonderful sport. When I know he has crossed the line I know a man has conquered a massive personal challenge.

I have one last week of serious training. It involves a 2 lap time trial around Richmond  Park, Fast ride to Windsor and a slow ride for 2 hours. I so look forward to the 2 hour slow ride as I will know I have finally completed all my training. Next week will be some easy 30 minute rides in the gym as my bike is heading to France carried on the roof rack of a car. I will use this time to pack, sleep and prepare my body for the onslaught.


Newtotri: Introduction and making the decision start triathlon





  1. making the decision
  2. First steps to take
  3. What to expect with training
  4. Swim
  5. Bike
  6. Run



Introducing Rhys Chong and making the decision to enter your first triathlon


My name is Rhys, I am a physiotherapist  based in London and completed my first  Ironman in Switzerland last year. I have been asked by Newtotri to write weekly articles to help all of you who might want to do your first triathlon or are regularly enjoying this incredibly exciting sport.


I trained for one year to complete my Ironman.  When I started training I wanted learn the sport fast as there was no time to waste.  I managed to find several coaches to help me. These coaches included Ironman experts covering the areas of training, swimming, nutrition, mental preparation, bike mechanics, massage, and pilates.  I was able to take care of my injuries as a physiotherapist.


These coaches directed me in all aspects of Ironman training and saved me hours of work looking for information on places to train, equipment to buy and events to enter. I owed the success and enjoyment of my Ironman to these coaches.


I would like to share with you what I have learnt from these coaches and in my training. I hope I can enhance your triathlon training and race experience.


If you have never done a triathlon and are thinking about starting you might have loads of questions you want answered. It helps to read magazines, books and websites like Newtotri.. It also helps to talk to coaches because they can adapt their advice to your specific circumstances. There are many coaches in each discipline of triathlon. It is important to find coaches you enjoy talking to and trust. The best test is to meet them in person and then make sure their coaching is clear and easy to understand.


It makes a big difference to have coaches who have done what you want to do. The coaches will then appreciate what you will be going through and can offer practical solutions to help you.  If you do not connect with a coach find another one.


When I was making a decision to start in triathlon the greatest fear I had was the fear of the unknown.  These fears raised questions such as Could I do it? Was I able to fit it into my life? Who would help me? and where do I get the information I need? I spoke to lots of people but ultimately the decision was a step into the unknown. When you take the first step it is amazing how the rest will fall into place.  My advice is just get started, enter a race and take small steps in your training.


Training is a very personal experience. Every triathlete will find what works best for his or her body. Remember you get better the more you train and race and give yourself the time to learn. Making mistakes will happen but correcting these mistakes is when you learn the most.


Training with a triathlon club can introduce you to other triathletes and resources. I personally found working with coaches on a one on one basis and then training myself was better. Training in a group intruded on my own training outcomes. In a club the speed, distance and times of training were predetermined. I wanted to train when I had the time and at the speeds and distances suiting my training plan.  In a triathlon race you will be racing alone so it is better to train alone to get used to it.


Training alone has other advantages. I became more aware of my body and my equipment. I noticed my heart rate rise rapidly when I exercised hard and I was aware of how fast I recovered. I was more intune with my body’s reaction during training and as I learnt more I could adjust my race plan during the race depending on how I felt. This is very important in triathlon as you will be racing in three different sports one after the other and do not want to “hit the wall” and end your race prematurely.


In this article I have shared with you the benefits of having coaches to help you,  told you to enter your first triathlon even if you still have questions, and highlighted the benefit of training alone to  keep to your personal training goals.


You can find out more about my Triathlon Coaching Team on www.physical-edge.com Feel free to contact Physical Edge with your questions and read my blog on one year of Ironman training from my website.  Until next time, remember to stay focused and enjoy your new sport. You are now an athlete in currently the fastest growing Olympic sport in the world.


Training sessions 28 February 2011

Time to increase time on the saddle. We will keep the weights but lets going to step up the weights to 8-10reps:
1xweight session  1x3h hilly ride (if unable to go to surrey you can do kingsto hill in richmond) 1x4h more flat kind of ride. If you’ve got problems with the time, let me know.

Coach Fran

Last two weeks training plan before Ironman

Just two weeks to go. This is taper time, we aren’t improving fitness here but just maintaining what we have gained. All the work outs will be set as race pace unless I state otherwise. Healthy meals, carbo loading and hydration are first priority now.

Mon 12 july  off

Tues 13 july bike ride as 15-20mins easy spin then 2 laps to Richmond park in your aerobars at your race pace (rp), finish with at 30min run 1-2k/h faster than your rp (for example if you aim to run at 11k/h try 12 or 13k/h)

Wed 14 july  wetsuit swim practice as 3x200m accelerations, faster than rp. Keep a faster speed for the 160-180m approx. and then back off to rp (1min) The meaning of this session is to practice the race start as you will need to try to swim faster to find open water.

Thurs 15 july  1h rp run

Frid 16 july Kingston hill repeats, ride one easy lap as wu then 4 climbs recovering on the downhill.

Sat 17 july  off

Sun 18 july  2h bike ride as 30min easy/1h race pace in aerobars/30min easy

Mon 19 july  30min easy run, visualize while running.
Pool swim as 200m wu/5x100m accelerations faster than rp (30sec)/ 200m cd

Tues 20 july  ride two easy laps in Richmond park, visualize while cycling. Get the bike to Sigma to check up gears and breaks but it will need to be ready for tomorrow, thursday the latest. They should be able to do it in the same day, you may want to do this also after sunday bike ride just in case.

Wed 21 july  time to pack, the best way is to make a list and once you’re packing it tick it, and don’t forget the list!

Thurs 22 july  flight, no training today. We have some work outs fri the 23 and sat the 24. Relax

Week 3: Training Plan

Your work outs for the week:
Mon 5 july  swim as 200m wu/2x500m as 500 race pace (30) 500 easy/200m
30mins easy run
Tues 6 july  outdoor bike ride as kingston hill repeats: 1lap to the park easy then 5 hard climbs recovering on the downhill.
Wed 7 july  1h 30min race pace run (keep the form)
Thurs 8 july  if you’re very tired from tues and wed take it off, if you’re ok 30mins easy swim
Frid 9 july  45mins hard run as 10min wu/ 30min faster than race pace/ 5min cd
Sat 10 july  off
Sun 11 july 3h bike ride (race pace as much as you can although use first 20-30mins as and easy spin)