A Typical Week for a Professional Rider - Ex-Professional BMC Development Ride

We are delighted to have local Swiss cycling legend Valentin Baillifard writing exclusively for Kudos Cycling. A fascinating insight into life on the road as a professional cyclist.

Being a pro rider is not only trying to ride fast, but it is also a lifestyle. I will describe to you what a typical week is like, if the race takes place on a Sunday. The end of every week is different because you adapt each day with your tiredness, goals, the time of the year and when you start the next race.

Monday is recovery day but a key day. I sleep longer than normal. My sleep time is usually 10pm to 8am but if we come back directly after the race I often arrive home really late if the races are in other countries. During the travel home it is impossible to sleep because my body has suffered so much during the day and I can’t just fall asleep easily. When I wake up later, I usually don’t need breakfast and I just have to go for an easy one hour ride and will just have lunch. As it’s a recovery day, the menu is only meat and vegetables. Monday is a key day with the type of food I eat. It is the hardest day because on a recovery day you shouldn’t eat a lot but your body is telling you to eat as much as possible. During the race, your body has burnt huge amounts of calories. On the Tour de France, riders will typically burn about 4,000 kcal on an "easy" stage. Average stages require between 4,000 and 6,000 kcal. Gruelling mountain stages demand calorie burns of 7,000 kcal or more so it’s a lot! To help me recover, I drink a lot of water during the day for hydration, as well as for recovering as fast as possible. During a race you can never drink enough so it’s important to recover over the next few days after a race. During the afternoon I have a siesta, the duration depends on my tiredness. After that I take time to analyse the last race but I also prepare looking at the stats, the course and all the details for the next race so I know exactly which wheels or tactics I will use. I plan my training week and go to the physio for a recovery massage.

Valentin Baillifard

Valentin Baillifard

Tuesday is the first training day. It will be an explosive day with power or sprints. After a core training session in the morning, I have a healthy breakfast. My meals for the day will be more protein. Often the training is only for 2 hours but when you finish, your muscles will be destroyed because the goals for these type of training exercises is to improve your fast muscle fibres. Like after every training session, the right food is important for recovery and so lots of protein. If I have meeting with sponsors or media, I will always try to plan it on the Tuesday after training.

Wednesday is a big day. First is core training and after a good breakfast. The riding duration will be about 4h/4h30 with a lot of climbing and PMA exercises. After training it is really important to take care of the recovery. I stick to my schedule and I never change; 5 minutes after training I have some sugar, 10 minutes shower, apply the compression socks, 20 minutes after training a high protein shake, 45 minutes after training some easy stretching, 1 hour after training a full meal. I take some time to download the training on the computer, do the analysis and write feedback for the trainer. Then it’s time for a well deserved siesta.

Thursday is the last good training day. Using the same schedule as Wednesday but training will be longer, 5 hours, with lots of threshold training on climbs. After completing the training plan, I finish like the day before.

Friday is again a recovery day with one or two hours of endurance/easy training. I take care to eat less. After training I take time to plan my travel day. First I take a look at the team travel schedule and check my flight. I plan when I have to wake up and set off from home. I look at the weather forecast and prepare my bag. I wash my training bike (leaving it at home) and prepare it for my come back on Monday. I have a Skype discussion with my psychology coach. Finally, it is time for relaxing.

Valentin baillifard

Valentin baillifard

Saturday is a travel day. I have to be careful to eat healthily and not to get too tired. We are taken to our team hotel and I will go for a short ride with sprints. After travelling my legs are heavy so I have to make sure they feel fresh ready for race day. After a light spin I have a massage followed by a team dinner and an early night.

Sunday is race day. After we wake up, I have a healthy breakfast, have a quick team briefing, final bike prep and then it’s time to fight! I will explain to you in more detail about the race day in my next blog.

After the race it’s a shower in the bus and it’s all about recovering well until we go again.

Blog written by Valentin Baillifard ex BMC Development Team

Dallaglio Cycle Slam 2018 Charity Ride: Lawrence Dallaglio, Andrew Ridgeley and Warren Smith in Verbier

Photo credit: Dallaglio cycle slam

Fancy cycling 1,800km with 30,000m of climb from France to Croatia, via Switzerland, Italy and Slovenia?  Yup, us too, so we sent Kudos Cycling's correspondent Catie Friend to find out from the horse’s mouth what it’s like. She interviewed Lawrence Dallaglio, Andrew Ridgeley and Warren Smith in Verbier during the 2018 Dallaglio Cycle Slam and caught up with Warren again once it was all over.

On a sunny May evening in Verbier, I sat opposite three smiling, chatty men, who had just cycled in from Chamonix, over the imposing Col des Montets, Col de la Forclaz and up the 8km climb into the famous Swiss ski resort we call home.

It was only day two of 15, so despite some fairly punishing climbing in the heat, they were full of beans and happy to chit chat about the day, the charity and their shared love of cycling.

All three of them spoke warmly about their cycling life. Ridgeley recalled seeing the Alps in the summer for the first time two years ago; how majestic they were and how astonishing he found the scale of it all. Smith pointed out that due to the fantastic winter we had they were cycling over cols, marvelling at the contrast between the bright greens of summer and the lingering snow patches.

They were enthusiastic about the impending three five-day stages (a stage in Slam vocabulary is five days long, not one as per the Tour de France) that would eventually see them all arrive safe and sound in Split, Croatia, and looking forward to various elements along the way. Andrew Ridgeley, formerly of pop duo Wham!, was looking forward to some friends joining him and Lawrence Dallaglio, former England rugby captain, was excited to be cycling past the stunning Italian lakes of Como and Garda. Warren Smith, owner of the Warren Smith Ski Academy and ski coach on The Jump, was just happy to be back on his bike exactly one year to the day since a horrific cycling accident almost kept him off games for life. Friends, scenery and a working body; is there anything else you need for a good bike ride?

Photo credit Dallaglio photo credit

Well, as it turns out, an amazing support crew is also vital - as all three found out along the ride. I caught up with Warren again after the ride was over to get a view of how a three-week ride across five countries changes you.

Inevitably, as with any multi-day ride, there were highs and lows. Cycling over the Simplon pass into Italy in torrential rain, where the second climb of the day was akin to riding upstream in a river, was a definite low. As was the climb from Slovenia into Croatia in 41 degrees, where the ever-present support ambulance had its work cut out helping wobbly, dehydrated cyclists.

They all found Croatia tougher than anticipated. The expectation that once over the Alps it would all smooth sailing down the coast and into Split was rudely smashed with some climbs of 24%!!!

Physios and support crew kept them all on the road, especially Ridgeley, who came off downhill and was on crutches for a couple of days and Smith, as his recent injuries niggled on and off throughout. Following his 2017 crash (at 70km/h downhill when a tyre blew out), he was keen to look after himself as much as possible.  Surprisingly, the broken hip he sustained gave him the least trouble. To protect his badly injured knee he was careful to spin when he could and to pull up on his pedals as much as possible to avoid putting too much power through the joint. Daily post-ride ice baths and visits to the physio in week one meant that by week two he was feeling fit and by week three there was no further fluid build up at the end of each day.

The tendon replacement in his shoulder seemed to prove the biggest niggle, causing quite a lot of pain, but with physio and acupuncture throughout he says it feels stronger than it did and will just take time to heal properly.

I asked how three weeks on the road changes you, physically and mentally and Smith gave a typically thoughtful response. He claims to have grown in confidence as a cyclist, although having witnessed him cycling downhill like a bat out of hell on my day out with the Slam, I’m not sure how one becomes more confident than that… However, he had the great privilege of riding stage two with a fast, experienced group that included Austin Healey, former England rugby player and none other than Chris McCormack, two-time Ironman World Champion.

He says they took the time to teach him about proper peloton riding (not something McCormack learned in Kona, one assumes, as long distance triathletes are forbidden from drafting). Smith likened his five days with the “fast boys” to being a child riding with its parents. Constant encouragement, lots of pointers and no doubt a few moments of frustration on both sides! He seemed so grateful to them for building his confidence as a cyclist and despite being on the edge of his comfort zone all week, was thrilled to be able to pass on his new-found knowledge to the group he rode with for the final stage.

Physically, he is delighted to report post-ride, he feels ski fit and ready for a summer on the glacier with his coaches, but I sense that the mental boost that these three weeks on the road gave him has been the biggest gift. Following the crash that could have had very much more serious consequences, he went through months of operations, rehab and some very dark days. Bad dreams and fears that his career may be over have been replaced by a confidence that he says came from riding with positive people. On top of the skills learned on the ride, being able to talk about the accident with cyclists who have also had crashes (although, he admits, his seems to have been gold medal standard compared to most) appears to have been as therapeutic as the physio and the ice baths.

A mixed group of people, from many walks of life, including “celebs” from the worlds of sport, music and film, could be a difficult one to unite. However, with all of them reduced to the simple task of turning their pedals every day, cycling has a levelling effect. Regardless of status, ability or fitness, the shared experience on the road as well as the encouragement afforded to each person, fast or otherwise, there appears to have been no personality clashes. No mean feat with some of the characters I met on my fantastic day out with the Slam!!

Photo Credit dallaglio cycle slam

I finish the interview with three impressions of Warren’s ride:

1.     He LOVES cycling downhill. I mean he really, really loves it! He described riding some of the corners like being on skis, having to get your weight shifted to the sweet spot and flying round them.

2.     He had some favourite new rides, such as round the lakes in Italy, but what he took away from this was how much he really wanted to explore more routes in our adopted home canton of Valais and take advantage of our doorstep.

3.     He said that three weeks of cycling can make every day a little like groundhog day but that without fail, two hours into the day, once the wheels are turning and the rhythm has been established it becomes like a moving meditation. Switch off, let your mind wander and just pedal. Sounds magical. Sign me up.

Warren, Andrew, Lawrence and many, many others raised over £1,000,000 for Dallaglio RugbyWorks during this ride. The charity supports young people in the UK excluded from mainstream schools by teaching them life skills such as respect, punctuality and discipline through the medium of rugby.

It is not too late to donate to Warren’s page by clicking here and if you are inspired to take part in 2020 (it happens every two years) then you check out the ride on www.dallagliocycleslam.com

For top tips and advice on how to train for such an event and how to be prepared as possible, please contact us for some great riding and coaching in the Swiss Alps. 

  • Physically prepared - ride fit including core strength exercises
  • Technically confident - riding in a group at speed (peloton), descending techniques, braking points, how to climb confidently and how to ride in wet conditions
  • Mentally strong - dig deep and tips for getting up that final climb
  • Nutritionally - what your body wants and needs. Eating correctly and keeping hydrated
  • Preparing your body and muscles for multiday efforts - get in the habit of doing yoga before and after a long day in the saddle. The beers can wait! 
  • What to wear - don't leave it to chance!
  • Bike fit - probably the most overlooked aspect. Bike position is vital and will help stop painful knees, back, neck, wrists and other sensitive areas!

    Please contact us for some great riding and coaching in the Swiss Alps with our expert team. info@kudoscycling.com

Some cycling facts

Current bike
Lawrence Dallaglio: Custom built, handmade Legend by Bertoletti, Bergamo, Italy
Warren Smith: Scott Foil Premium, 6.2kg
Andrew Ridgeley: Trek Emonda Project One

First bike
Lawrence Dallaglio: BMX
Warren Smith: Tomahawk
Andrew Ridgeley: Metallic green single speed

If you only had one last ride in you…
Lawrence Dallaglio: The Stelvio
Warren Smith: RAAM (Race Across America)
Andrew Ridgeley: The Lands End Loop

Cycling Hero
Andrew Ridgeley: Mark Cavendish, Sir Chris Hoy (for their Olympic success)
Lawrence Dallaglio: David Millar (who took newly the retired rugby player for his first bike ride)
Warren Smith: Sir Bradley Wiggins (who learned to ski with Warren in 2017)

Graham Friend Local Valais cyclist does the Haute Route Alps Geneva – Nice 2017 – An insight in to the physical and physiological demands required to tackle the Haute Route and some useful tips!

Day one and placed 51st so pretty pleased. Went too hard to start so had a terrible middle climb - I just hope I have not done too much damage to my legs - steady day tomorrow with the aim of finishing each climb strongly and to be strongest on the last climb

Day 2 and the 3 weeks of the Tour De Force meant I recovered well overnight. I decided to ride well within myself to ensure I could ride well all week. I was worried backing off would see me plummet down the rankings and that my 51st yesterday was an aberration. But I placed 51st again which is encouraging when I did not go too hard and suffered a short mechanical. I have been riding with a head cold which was worse this morning - I hope I will get over that as it is holding me back a bit but no excuses. My gold medal target is top 50 so I need to hope that the TDF gives me an edge as the week progresses. Weather is increasingly a challenge - it's getting hotter every day.

Sock Porn - coming from a tri background where we typically don't wear socks on the bike to "proper" cycling I had no idea how much I would have to up my sock game. It's a good job I did as there is a daily competition for the best socks and €100 to be won! So today I am sporting these which I am teaming with my lime green Rapha aero jersey. However my expectations are low, like all things in this race I am outclassed in every front, including the socks. However, as always, I am giving it my best shot! The head cold is back with a vengeance and I do not hold out high expectations for today. I have also comfort eaten and am feeling bloated and crap - back to careful eating for today and breakfast at 5:00am and not 6:00 as today which has left too little time for the food to clear. Feeling a bit sorry for myself this AM.

Day 3 and it's all gone horribly wrong apart from my sock game which I am sure you agree is worthy of the €100 prize and note coordination with the jersey. So my head cold has descended onto my chest and despite ventolin I was wheezing like a bloke on 60 fags a day. I was operating on half a lung and basically in survival mode all day and could not generate any power. I am so hacked off as I will not get a chance to see what I could have been capable of. 75th on the Laurent and Sarenne but despite resting for 30 mins by the side of the road in the neutralised zone I was 105th up the "other" side of Alpe d'Huez and about that for the day dropping from 51st to 57th in the overall general classification. Tomorrow is a single time trial up the iconic Alpe d'Huez with the 21? hairpins. It is the first time I will have ridden it and it's such a shame it's likely to be in survival mode! Just been to the chemist for more drugs - just hoping for a miracle recovery now!

Sock porn challenge and Alpe D'Huez - today's programme. I went to see the race Doctor yesterday as I am feeling so bad. They gave me steroids which I took last night but this morning I feel no better and walking up the stairs from breakfast left me gasping for breath. My plan today is to ride as hard as I can without putting too much stress on my lungs and enjoy my first ride up this iconic climb!

Stage 4 Alpe D'Huez time trial - drugged up to the eyeballs on paracetamol, ibuprofen, ventolin and steroids and I rode better than survival mode and relatively hard but without killing myself. I was able to enjoy the iconic climb and all 21 of the named and numbered hairpins. The drugs helped and it was an ok time 1:01:59 placing me 95th and I moved up one in the GC to 56th which is better than I expected. To put this in context the fastest time was 47 minutes and the fastest pro ever was around 10 minutes faster still but 47 mins shows the company I am not keeping. I thought I might slip back further. The gap between 56th and top 50 is about 16 minutes which now feels like a lot of time to make up. Tomorrow is the queen stage - which means it's a bitch! 4,500m of vertical lies ahead so I have to hope for some great recovery today - I am eating well, drinking shed loads and about to try and get some more drugs out of the race doctor!

Sock Porn Day 5 and the Col du Glandon (1,924m), Col de la Madeleine (2,000m) and Col des Saisies (1,650m) await with 4,500 m of vertical. I got onto the sock shortlist yesterday but still no cigar - not sure what tactic to adopt today, with temperatures predicted to be high I am leaning to the subtle, light blue "climbers socks" with the strategy of playing some of my stronger socks later in the week when hopefully others will have exhausted their reserves. More steroids, more paracetamol, more decongestant and I am feeling a little better but it's hard to tell with all the drugs. Usually everyone riders harder after the rest day so I will need to push harder today if I can. I am though backing off my planned watts to allow for the cold - will be interesting to see what happens - I am at least looking forward to the ride a little.

The first day I have actually started to feel better - hooray! 4,500m and 183 km is a big day but as I had dialled back my watts it was all really quite pleasant. I never really felt too uncomfortable and am getting back towards my normal levels of performance. I was 75th for the day (better than 95th yesterday) on a comfortable ride so relatively pleased although not so happy to have slipped 10 places to 61st. But everyone goes hard after the rest day but the good news is that is a matter of a couple of minutes back to my mid 50's ranking. So currently waiting confirmation from my coach as to the plan but I think tomorrow needs to be a day of do or die although the course is not ideal with a lot of flat sections so if you are lucky or unlucky with the group you are riding in this can make a big difference. Hopefully going to wake up tomorrow feeling even better!

Sock porn challenge day 6 - do or die and so it is with my socks. Not surprisingly I did not make the sock shortlist yesterday. Woke to a cough on my chest that does not bode well and feeling pretty rough again and a poor nights sleep. Anyway, will ride as hard as my body will allow - not feeling too hopeful though. Today did not start well and it seemed my body had chosen the die of the Do or Die plan - after a short descent from the resort we went straight into a steep climb with no warm-up. I was unable to breath despite a low heart rate and had to back right off as I feared some form of coronary. At this point I basically wrote the race off but surprisingly did not feel too bad as It was my health that was stopping me - not weakness of my mind.

I got over the climb eventually as best I could but was then able to deploy my skills developed overtaking lorries on the Verbier hill to pull back quite a few positions. In the valley, I found myself in a well organised Group that was not pushing too hard and causing me to red line so I made good fast progress to the foot of Epine.

Having warmed up I felt a lot better and decided the "Do" option was still open and decided to attack the hill and delivered reasonable watts and felt good. I kept with the same group on the next valley floor before the start of the famous Colombiere - this also went well and I was able to drop and put time into a few riders who I knew were ahead of me in the GC. It was kinda cool thinking about who to attack and putting time into them - very Tour de France!

The descent from Colombiere was neutralised so I took my time to recover and eat and again the same group worked well together to the foot of the Joux Plane. I attacked this the best I can and put in a pretty good effort - again putting time into key rivals and arriving not too long after chaps who I knew to be stronger than me - I had a sense it had been a good day after all.

I was placed 55th overall for the day and moved back up in the GC from 61st to 58th and there are 12 minutes between me and 50th place which is my gold medal target. It will be a big ask to close that tomorrow but the profile of the course might suit me and I am definitely recovering. The plan is full gas, empty the tank and gain positions on the descent whilst hopefully avoiding dying. We will see!

Sock Porn Day 7 final stage - woke this morning feeling the best I have all week. Alarm set for 4.00am and attempted to make porridge, trail mix and blueberry combo but something was very, very off and I still have a metallic, poisoned taste in my mouth - probably the unwashed blueberries or the bowl the kitchen lent me - I'm now worried I will come down with food poisoning! So I binned the lot and had the hotel breakfast at 5.00 and could have had an hour extra in bed!

Not even on the sock shortlist again so going for a more classy little black and white classic combo - hopefully they may move away from preferring the equivalent of the Christmas sweater variety of socks today.

Final stage and the plan is to try and get something of a warm-up in before the start to avoid breathlessness on the first climb - at least now I know it passes.

I have written a list of all the bib numbers of those between me and top 50 so I am going to try and really push as hard as I can today and see what happens - lots of ups and downs so it should suit me!

Do or die once more!

It's done - sorry about the sandals! I managed to finish 58th overall which was my silver medal goal range of 50 to 75. All things considered, I am pretty happy with my final position. Had I not been unwell I think I would probably have made it inside the top 50 but not much more than that. There is a lot more to learn about cycle racing at this level compared to previous haute routes where I was middle ranked. There is a lot more tactics, psychology and mental strength required to race well. So my progression has been 2015 217th, 2016 117th and 2017 58th so I am developing as a cyclist. 2018 I think I will target Haute Route Pyrenees and just do a recce before going for it seriously in 2019. So now I am putting the bike away to focus on ultramarathon running - 3 days of racing in The Canaries and the Oman desert marathon later this year as a prelude to the Marathon Des Sables 2018. But right now I'm going to have an ice-cream!

#earnyourkudos

If you want to get yourself physically and psychologically prepared so you can tackle the Haute Route or any other cycling event to the best of your ability you can enquire about one of our Performance Improvements Packages please contact us

Local Swiss Valais cycling legend Graham Friend reviews his experiences and tips from cycling in last years Tour de Force now known as the @Le Loop

What I learned from cycling the Tour de France route

Riding the TdeF is a major logistical nightmare but can be executed flawlessly.

I rode the TdF with the Tour de Force now known as the Le Loop, in support of the William Waites Memorial Trust which provides funds to small, niche charities in memory of William Waites who was tragically murdered in Honduras as an 18 year old during his gap year.

There were approximately 40 “lifers” who had signed up to ride the full tour route and others joined for sections increasing the number to a maximum of around 150. The logistics of managing 150 individuals, their luggage, accommodation, transfers, food, etc is staggeringly complex yet the project was executed flawlessly by a phenomenal woman called Sarah and her team – I have never been as much in awe of an individual.

Part of the logistical operation involved signing every turn of the route with green arrows – all we riders had to do was follow the green arrows – I only made two wrong turns in 3 weeks and both were entirely my own fault.

Riding the tour is hard but not that hard unless you’re a pro

Unbelievably a couple of people turned up to ride the 3,500km without training – they failed and abandoned within a week! A good few had done very little training and carried “excess weight” and they made it but they struggled. We would start riding at 8:00am each morning and those with little training would often not finish until approaching midnight – for them it was a hard ride. Anyone who had done a reasonable amount of training could ride the TdF comfortably.

I had trained hard with big weeks comprising 10 to 12 hours of ski mo and 10 to 15 hours on the bike. I could ride all the hills hard and the flats hard when I wanted to but primarily used the flat sections for active recovery. I was probably one of the stronger riders typically posting some of the fastest times for the climbs amongst the TdF Strava Group and finishing first on a number of stages.

The first week was tough due to continuous rain and strong headwinds and 200km plus stages – at the end of each stage I was weary but not exhausted and this was also true at the end of the entire route. The weather made a big difference to how testing each day was. As we adapted to the daily effort we would regard a flat 200km plus stage as a recovery ride and would feel good at the end of it. It is worth mentioning that a “flat” stage would still involve 1,500 to 2,000m of vertical ascent! The well-trained riders began to see some recovery after the first week and many of us felt strength returning as we reached the end of week 2 but by the final stage none of us wanted to ride anymore.

The pros would ride the stages usually in half the time of the fastest riders in our group. If the pros rode a stage in 4 to 5 hours the fastest of us would need 8 to 10 hours and those that had not trained would be out for 12 to 15 hours. I have new found respect for the pros – to ride on the edge of their physical limits and to be mentally alert to execute a race strategy each day requires a level of fitness and mental strength that is hard for me to comprehend.

I might not be able to tie my shoelaces for weeks

Hours and hours of resting on my hands on my handlebars has caused short term (I hope) nerve damage to my hands and fingers. The result is I cannot tie my shoelaces nor hold a knife and fork properly at meal times and have to eat with table manners of a six year old.

Group riding is mentally demanding and breaches of etiquette can really hack people off

200km stages and headwinds mean that riding in a group to share the burden of shielding others from the wind is essential. Many people do not know how to ride safely and effectively in groups. A new person who took the lead and would “surge” ahead to demonstrate how strong they were would really hack people off. Communication is key to agree how long and how hard to ride on the front and ensure efficiency and those on the front would get really cheesed off if another rode “took over” without invitation as this basically said “you are too weak to be on the front”. Not ever taking a turn on the front was also likely to really upset people and it is better to do a turn, even if its short, than shirking responsibility.

Rapha clothing is a cult phenomenon

British riders were pretty much decked out entirely in Rapha kit and the brand had achieved almost cult status. Many owned 30 to 40 individual Rapha items and you can imagine the cost of their entire cycling wardrobe when the socks cost £15 a pair and jersey is north of £130. I had some Rapha tops and their rain jackets and they were brilliant. I continue to be underwhelmed by their shorts and believe Assos shorts are the best for long rides. When the weather is terrible the Castelli Gabba top is essential along with endura neoprene gloves.

If the weather is bad you are going to be cold whatever you wear

If it is wet, windy and cold and you are at 3,000m and about to descend a mountain at speed it does not matter how many clothes you wear – you are going to be cold. At one point I was wearing a merino wool t-shirt, merino wool base layer, Gabba top, a Castelli long sleeved jersey, Rapha deep winter jacket, wind stopper gillet, neck warmer and hat and I was still frozen!

It’s almost impossible to avoid getting ill

When the weather is bad you sweat and overheat on the way up a hill and freeze to death on the way down. The continuous daily repetition meant that by the end of the ride we were all suffering from varying levels of what felt like pneumonia. We were all riding on paracetamol and ibuprofen by the end of the tour. For the last 3 days I was feeling pretty unwell.

Saddles sores are a pain in the butt

Everyone had issues with saddle sores – some having to miss stages they were so bad. I had big issues the first week due to riding in rain-soaked shorts for 9 to 10 hours each day and with a chamois cream that was fine for an hour on the turbo but not 10 hours in the rain. By day three I had open wounds on my butt and sitting on the bike was agony. I was saved by the team doctor advising me to put compede on the open wounds and taking paracetamol to null the pain. The strategy worked and the wounds healed. My mistake initially was to remove the compede patches each night which effectively involved waxing my arse! I learnt just to leave it on. I switched to Assoss Chamois cream which in my opinion is infinitely superior to any other product. Once healed I then managed the sores and occasional infected spots with a combination of sudacreme and betadine and would ensure I changed out of wet kit as soon as possible, regularly applied additional chamois cream and ensured I always wore clean kit.

Most mechanical issues were wheel related and carbon rimmed wheels are a nightmare

Most of the riders had very expensive bikes and carbon wheels. Many of those with carbon wheels, such as Zipps, had issues such as the wheels delaminating. Carbon rims also make a lot of noise when you brake and can be less effective in the rain. I had standard Mavic wheels and loved them – for a day race I would use my carbon wheels but for multi-stage events I will stick with my Mavics (which are just as light as Zipp 202s!). There were many mechanical issues but most seemed to be related to carbon wheels.

It is easy to eat too much and put on weight

The first week I had a stomach bug which meant that food was passing through me at an alarming rate. I lost weight during the first week until I started on the Immodium and after three pills things returned to normal. Each day there were four food stops with real food – pasta, sandwiches, etc. Despite burning between 3,000 and 4,000 calories per day I put on weight as 1) it was hard to measure how much I was consuming and 2) I was either comfort eating because it was cold or terrified of bonking. I also ate far too many bakery products – often as there was no other option – and I do not want to see another croissant for a very long time.

Without a Power Meter it is difficult to gauge how hard you are working

I started the tour with P1 Power Meter Pedals but 8 days of continuous rain resulted in them failing. The company were brilliant and shipped me replacement pedals from the US to one of the hotels but for half the ride I was without power data. Without power data it is really hard to know how hard you are riding.

After the first four or five days I could not raise my heart rate above 150 bpm when my normal maximum would be in the early 170s. So normal heart rate zones became meaningless. It was also impossible to rely on Perceived Effort because on some mornings it required all my effort just to get out of bed! When I did not have power data I used heart rate targets but re-calibrated downwards by about 10 to 15 bpm. Towards the end of the tour my heart rate began to return to normal.

Riding well is all about pacing and finishing strongly

In mountain stages if I rode too hard on the first few climbs because I was being overly competitive with the younger riders I would lose all power for the final climb and crawl home. When it comes to racing mountain stages my goal was always to be able to ride the final climb hard. This meant riding conservatively on early climbs and also building my effort during each climb so that I finished each climb strongly. During the 21 stages I found myself in survival mode only on one, possibly two occasions – both of which were self-inflicted.

Short efforts on hairpins can put a lot of space between you and other riders

My coach’s training plan required me to put short efforts into each hairpin on training rides. It was only when I did this on the mountain stages under race conditions did I realise how effective a few seconds of effort can be in opening up a gap on competitors. I wished I had practiced this more.

France is a great country but roundabouts are a nightmare

I had no idea how diverse and beautiful France is and what an amazing cycling destination. The two Alpine stages and the final few stages in Provence provided some of the best cycle rides of my life and my wife is delighted I now want to holiday in France.
We only rode one lap of the Champs Elysee but once was enough. Drivers coming onto roundabouts have right of way which seems crazy and our single lap provided almost continuous life and death moments.

It is difficult to identify another challenge which would be a worthy successor to the TdF

I am now wondering what to do on a bike after the TdF which would provide the same challenge and emotional appeal. It is difficult to think of something that physically and emotionally would have a greater appeal – any suggestions would be much appreciated!

To learn how you can get fit enough for the Le Loop, look at our training packages or email info@kudoscycling.com

Graham dodging the cars Around a famous landmark...Kudos earnt!

Graham dodging the cars Around a famous landmark...Kudos earnt!