TDU Roundup

January in Australia, for a club cyclist at least, means a pilgrimage to Adelaide for the Tour Down Under. I hadn’t been for the last two years, so I was overdue a visit this year and when Stu said he was going down for a half-week, I was in too.

The usual protocol is for our club to ride around 100km per day, stopping at the occasional bakery to refuel and intersecting with the race route to watch the pros in action. Depending on numbers, we usually have more than one bunch, with the fast bunch doing a few more kms (up to 130) and the slower bunch doing 80 or so. Everyone rides the climbs at their own pace - whether that’s all-out to see how fast you can go, or a comfortable effort - and we re-group at the top.

Usually I flit between the two groups, riding at the front of the slow group, or hanging on to the fast group, but this year it became apparent from the first climb that I was the tail-end Charlie on all the climbs, even in the slow bunch! Not enough hard training in the last few months, or really any training at all.

Sure, I’d been riding a few times a week, but not really following anything structured that you could call a training plan, and now my lack of fitness was revealed 😁 Unfortunately there was only one bunch this year as numbers were down, but I managed to find one or two others each day who were around my pace and happy to do a few less kilometers and it all worked out in the end. I’ve ridden those roads enough times to know my way around, so my preference is to let the main bunch do their own thing, rather than me holding them up. Sounds altruistic, but it’s actually me being selfish and not wanting the pressure of trying to keep up! The Adelaide hills are still a great place to ride, even if most of your club-mates are on a different route.

Bushfire aftermath at Cudlee Creek

A few days before Christmas, a bushfire broke out in Cudlee Creek, an area we habitually visit, and riding through there this year was eye-opening. The scent of smoke was still in the air, more than three weeks later, as we rode down roads surrounded by burnt trees and slopes, marvelling at how houses had been saved despite being surrounded by burnt-out land and then being reminded of the toll these fires take by the occasional ruin of a house that couldn’t be saved. One thing is certain - the Country Fire Service did a really good job under pretty testing circumstances.

Thanking the Country Fire Service

October Training Update

Well I’ve been back ‘training’ for two months now and some progress is being made. September was more about getting a routine going again and was a bit hit and miss. The weekly plan was for a long ride on Monday, weights Tuesday & Thursday, intervals on Wednesday and another long ride on Saturday. I was pretty good at getting both weights sessions in and Monday rides were also fairly consistent, but Saturday’s weren’t great, nor were the mid-week intervals.

Still, overall, I did start training consistently with 4-6 sessions per week, even if they weren’t always exactly what I had planned. I had also aimed to get my weight down under 90kg which turned out to be too ambitious, particularly as I skipped too many long rides.

September and October PMC

October’s training has gone a bit better. Monday rides got longer, up to my target of 3.5-4hrs. I got my weekly intervals session in most weeks on the indoor trainer and I’ve been better at getting a long ride in on Saturdays as well. I even entered a local C-Grade crit which didn’t go well 😀

I’ve had to dial the weights work back over the last two weeks though as I found I was just completely shattered the next day. I expect some muscle soreness, so that wasn’t an issue. But my fatigue levels were off the charts the day after a weights session which made it tough to get out and do a bike session. The plan now is to switch weights to maintenance mode for the moment - I’ll do one session a week with 20 reps of each exercise at slightly lighter weights. That should be enough to give the small stabiliser muscles a workout without smashing the larger muscles and leaving me wrecked the next day.

The only problem I had in October was getting a little too enthusiastic int he final week and doing too much work - almost 13hrs in total - digging myself into too much of a hole (the yellow bars) and destroying my motivation for the first half of the following week. Need to keep a lid on that. Slow, steady progress will win out in the end rather than overdoing it and being forced to back off.

Weight still isn’t under 90, though it’s heading in the right direction. At 91.1, it’s down almost 3kg from peak laziness.

This weekend I’m off to Kangaroo Valley for a tw-day training camp with my SUVelo clubmates. I’ll probably get my arse kicked but it should be fun.

Third de France Wrap Up

Well the full Tour is done and dusted, so how did I fare in the end.

Out of 21 stages…

  • I rode 16 as intended
  • I missed one stage due to being away for the weekend
  • I missed one and a half stages due to fatigue
  • I missed half a stage due to a mechanical
  • I missed half a stage due to illness

I completed 17.5 stages out of a possible 21, or really 19.5 given that I can’t do anything about a mechanical and was always going to miss a stage while away for the the weekend.

The fatigue/illness part of things was almost certainly due to starting this whole thing with a very low level of fitness. I started with a CTL of 29 so the fatigue piled up pretty quickly in the first week, as can been seen with the yellow line below.

Third de France CTL Graph

All my missed or shortened stages came in the second week which took the pressure off a bit (yellow line rises slightly) and then allowed me to get a clean, uninterrupted third week. Having said that, the fact that the French weather resulted in shortened Stages 19 & 20 also helped by reducing the workload towards the end.

In summary, my totals over the course of the event were 30h 43m of riding, covering 869km and a total workload of 1711 TSS, resulting in a CTL increase from 29.2 to 48.0. I’m happy enough with that. I’ve taken a couple of days rest and will get a few days riding in before heading off on holidays to Malaysia and Singapore for ten days - not an ideal followup to a fitness gain, but by the time I’m back I’ll still be fitter than I was when I started this Third de France :)

Third de France, Stage 21

Pros: Rambouillet > Paris Champs-Élysées, 128km - Flat

Me: 42km

All done! The pros had an easy ride into Paris and I had an easy ride out and back to Wellington Point. I’d say they got the better deal, although they did deserve it after the last three weeks. I thought about getting Jacqui to drive alongside me and hand up a glass of champagne but I guess it’s only the winner who does that and I definitely wasn’t doing the same efforts as Egan Bernal. Still, it’s been a solid three weeks and I’m looking forward to a couple of days off the bike now.

Me: 44.5km, 1h 53m, 942 calories, 84 TSS.

Pro: No idea. No-one has uploaded to Strava yet - too busy partying 🤣

Weight: 92.2kg - CTL: 44.8 - TSB: -18.9

Third de France, Stages 19 & 20

Pros: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Col de l’Iseran, 90km - Mountains, and Albertville to Val Thorens, 59.5km - Mountains

Me: 5m @ 100%, 10m @ 90%, 5m @ 90%, 20m @ 75%, 20m @ 85%

Well it’s been quite the weekend at the Tour de France! Friday’s stage didn’t get off to a great start with Thibaut Pinot, France’s great hope, retiring early with a knee injury sustained a few days prior. He had been in great shape in the Pyrenees and looked ready to shake up the race to Paris.

Mother Nature had other plans for the race anyway and dropped lots of snow and rain on the descent from Col de l’Iseran. So much in fact that water and ice started flowing over the road less than 10km from where the riders were racing the descent at 70km/h plus. In the end, the race organisers had no choice but to cancel the remainder of the stage, especially as video started emerging of mudslides blocking part of the route as well.

Saturday’s stage was also affected, with mudslides blocking the road down from Cormet de Roselend, leading to that being cut from the stage and a short 60km being all that was left. 25km on the flat to warm-up, then the 33km ascent up to the finish at Val Thorens.

As for me, well I got sidetracked on Saturday and didn’t leave myself enough time to ride my version of Stage 19, so I took advantage of the real life Tour chaos and just added an extra interval to make a combined Stage 19 & 20, riding that today instead.

Most of the riders aren’t going full gas on the longer climbs as they are out of overall contention, so my final intervals weren’t as intense as they might have been. It’s probably just as well, as Friday’s interval session gave my legs a good going over.

All the hard work is now done, and all that remains is an easy ride tomorrow to finish Stage 21.

Me: 55.5km, 1h 38m, 1034 calories, 102 TSS.

Pro: 175.1km, 5j 38m, 6195 calories, 405 TSS

Weight: 92.2kg - CTL: 47.1 - TSB: -15.1

Third de France, Stage 18

Pros: Embrun to Valloire, 208km - Mountains

Me: 68km, 5m/15m/20m/20m SST

Stunning stage last night, starting at Embrun and then running through the Ubaye valley to Col de Vars, which is the first ever mountain climb I did, with Kevin, back in 2010. Some odd behaviour from Movistar, riding on the Izouard and taking a few minutes out of the gap to their own teammate, Quintana, who ended up winning the stage.

If they’d let other teams ride Quintana could have ended up right in the mix over the last two mountain stages, but now he’s two minutes behind the favourites with no chance of getting any more significant time back.

For me, I opted to do the ride indoors as it was pretty much all intervals. Tough ride in the end. y legs felt tired at the stage, so you can see how the longer “easy” rides can be used to sap the legs a bit before the mountains. The final interval was hard going and left me thinking I should have adopted the pros technique of taking it easy most of the climbs. Looking at a few Strava files, it seems they were only riding at around 70-75% instead of the 90% I set myself.

Might try that tomorrow if they take it easy again tonight!

Me: 55.6km, 1h 32m, 1078 calories, 111 TSS.

Pro: 216.4km, 6h 5m, 5127 calories, 326 TSS

Weight: 91.7kg - CTL: 46.9 - TSB: -17.4

Third de France, Stage 17

Pros: Pont du Gard to Gap, 200km Hilly

Me: 68km, 5m SST

One small interval today and then cruise along for the remainder. That’s the last of the flat days over with - it’s now into the Alps for the pros, which means lots of longer intervals for me. 2h 45m of sub-threshold intervals over the next 3 days - my legs will be toast!

Me: 67.1km, 2h 37m, 1467 calories, 136 TSS.

Pro: 208km, 5h 5m, 3355 calories, 180 TSS

Weight: 91.7kg - CTL: 45.3 - TSB: -11.5

Third de France, Stage 16

Pros: Nîmes to Nîmes, 177km - Flat

Me: 59km

Pretty straightforward stage today. No climbs but the pros, so no intervals for me. Just ride along for 59km.

Nice ride in a balmy 25C - gotta love a Brisbane Winter. Back on my old bike while I get the broken spoke fixed and definitely noticed the difference. Wheels are about 350g heavier and noticeably slower to spin up, though once they’re going they’re great.

Power and HR were both up, so not sure whether that was due to legs feeling good after a few days’ rest or just a bit of dehydration after not drinking much water all day. Will find out tomorrow with another pretty flat stage before all the action kicks off on Friday.

Me: 59.8km, 2h 21m, 1330 calories, 129 TSS.

Pro: 181.6km, 4h 20m, 3597 calories, 194 TSS

Weight: 92.2kg - CTL: 43.1 - TSB: -5.3

Second Rest Day

The second week of the Tour ended up being a bit of a light week, with one rest day, another Stage missed due to being away and two short stages due to a broken spoke and risk of getting sick. So be it, life gets in the way, and the risk of getting sick is I’m sure partly due to starting this Tour at such a low fitness level.

As you can see from my CTL graph for the second week, fitness (blue) has remained fairly constant and tiredness has improved somewhat. Probably just as well, as the final week is going to be really tough.

Week 2 CTL

Totals for the 15 stages so far: 20h 40m, 558.8km, 1149 TSS

Third de France, Stage 15

Pros: Limoux to Foix Prat d’Albis, 185 km - Mountain

Me: 62km, 10m/15m/15m/15m SST

Great stage last night and well worth staying up for. Lots of attacking and all the top guys cracked at various stages, with the exception of Thibaut Pinot. Alaphilippe showed that the strain is getting to him too, so it’s all down to the Alps later this week with five riders in with a realistic chance. If Pinot wins, he’ll be the first French winner since 1985 and France will erupt! Would love to see it.

After all that excitement, my session was a damp squib. J woke up after the weekend feeling sick and I was feeling a bit run down too. However, felt a bit better after lunch and decided to go ahead with the session, but was starting to feel it again after the second interval so opted to cut things short. 55 mins at sub-threshold takes a chunk out of me, so didn’t want to push myself over the edge into full sickness.

The last week has been a bit hit and miss - some I can’t do anything about like breaking a spoke or being away for the weekend - but tomorrow’s a rest day, so hopefully I’ll feel better and be good to go without further interruptions for the final week.

Me: 28.2km, 48m, 554 calories, 50 TSS.

Pro: 26.9km, 4h 47m

Weight: 92.4kg - CTL: 42.0 - TSB: -9.8