Lotto Belisol Tour: Belgium gets bike racing
The Lotto Belisol Belgium Tour kicked off today with a 7.8km ‘prologue’. I say ‘prologue’ because it was really a time trial labelled as a prologue; the longest a prologue can actually be is 8km so with the course falling just 200metres short I’ve decided I’m calling the organisers bluff.
The Tour is one of the last on the calendar before the world championships later this month and acts as some riders final preparations for the season highlight in Spain. For most those who weren’t selected to represent their countries it is the last race of the season and an opportunity to finish the long season on a high before they start their off season. Regardless of what category you fall into (I’m in the second) it’s a race where everyone wants to perform well.
This is my third time racing the tour and it s probably one of my favourite races of the year. What can you say, Belgium just gets bike racing.
With an extra day added to this year’s edition the race is now five days made up of a prologue (time trial), three road stages and a team time trial which are all raced around the famous cycling regions of Flanders and Wallonie.
I’ve always viewed time trials as a necessary evil; I only do them so I can do the road stages the following days. This hatred is partly motivated by the fact that every time I put a skin suit on a little part of my self confidence dies, but also because I’m not known for my time trialling abilities. However, despite all this I was pleasantly surprised to hear I finished 17th in today’s opening prologue.
After finishing the race I had decided to put it in the ‘I would rather never think about that again‘ category as I was almost certain that my grandma could have ridden faster than me. When I saw my sports director after the race I just looked at him and shook my head, “that was bad…”, was all I said. He was a little more positive, “you’re start was bad but the middle and end was good.”
Still not convinced I made no effort to find results or look for my time so when my teammate, Julie Leth came into the living area of our accommodation and told me I’d cracked a top 20 all I could say was, “you’re kidding?”
Annemiek van Vlueten won in an incredible time of 10.08 with an average speed of 46.3. Lauren Stephens finished second 26 seconds behind and Marianne Vos third 32 seconds behind.
But, given that it was a time trial there’s not really much you can write about tactics except, ‘I started fast, went faster and finished fastest.’ So instead, I thought I would share with you just exactly how I prepared for the opening stage of the Lotto Belisol Tour.
The Warm Up
Time trials are hard, but finding a warm up that works for you is even harder. Almost as hard as finding the perfect carrot cupcake with cream cheese icing; you’ll always have to try a few before you find a great one.
If you ask 10 people what they do to warm up for a time trial you will most likely get 10 different answers, but just like once you know a recipe you can add or take away a few ingredients until it’s just right.
I’ve tried more than a few time trial warms up; some given to me by directors, others given to me by coaches, but the best – and the one I continue to use – was given to me by Ina-Yoko Teutenberg in 2012 before the prologue at Thuringen Rundfahrt.
I still remember asking Ina if she would mind if I did the same warm up as her as we were driving in the team van to the race. After having raced with Ina for three years I had come to know that she wasn’t one who liked having a flock of girls behind her copying her every move. On more than a few occasions Ina said to me, “can’t you think for yourself?”, so I was slightly nervous when I did finally decide to ask her.
Luckily she didn’t seem to mind and was more than happy to help me out. I’ve since passed the warm up on to some of my teammates and they also swear by it.
Ina told me she and her brother, Lars Teutenberg – one of the most clued in guys in the cycling world when it comes to time trialling and currently works for Scott – had helped her hone the warm up over the past few years so while I might not be able to tell you all the scientific, physiological reasoning behind it you can rest assured that some of the best brains in the business are behind it.
So here it is:
1-8 min Threshold build: What this basically means is that for the first 8minutes of your warm up you gradually build up to your threshold power which you then hold for the last 2minutes. For me that means I gradually move through my power zones until I reach 280watts and then hold this for the last 2minutes of the 8minute build.
8-16min T 1/2: This just lets you get your heart rate back down after the threshold build. If you’re not sure what T1/2 is it’s the zone you would ride a longer ride in, like 4-6hours.
16-17min 30 second max sprint: This is just what it sounds like. For 30seconds you sprint as hard as you can. I try to stay above 500watts for the 30seconds.
20-21min 30 second max sprint: Same as above.
24-25min 1minute at 300watts with cadence 80-85rpm
28-31min 2minutes at T2 then 1 minute at 300watts free cadence
Finish 15minutes before your start.
Tomorrow’s 110km road stage will undoubtedly be aggressive. With Rabobank already stacking the general classification with three of their girls placed in the top five on GC it is on everyone else to try and shake it up.