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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.
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.
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
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?
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!!
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. firstname.lastname@example.org
Some cycling facts
Lawrence Dallaglio: Custom built, handmade Legend by Bertoletti, Bergamo, Italy
Warren Smith: Scott Foil Premium, 6.2kg
Andrew Ridgeley: Trek Emonda Project One
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
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)
For someone who cycles in Essex, where there really aren't any hills to talk of, heading to the Swiss Alps for a “cycling break” might not seem like the most obvious choice. If you're in a similar boat, fear not, in Anthony at Kudos Cycling you really don't need to worry. First of all, Anthony is careful to find out exactly what sort of cycling you've done before so that he can choose a route that will challenge you without breaking you. Add to that the wonderful Swiss Valais region and you are onto a winner.
Sure, there are mountain passes that would keep Chris Froome and Vincenzo Nibali happy, but the valley floor between Martigny and Sion alongside the River Rhone is flat, beautiful, filled with delightful medieval Roman villages and towns and bedecked with vineyards, orchards and apricot orchards on either side.
Now although the valley was a pleasure to be pedaling along, I actually wanted to test myself. Each day started with a chat with Anthony seeing how the legs were and working out what would be a good route for me and my fellow riders. Each of the four days out with Kudos Cycling were different. A steady, but not too tough ascent to the ski resort of La Fouly was rewarded with a coffee and lunch in a delightful alpine restaurant where I sampled the local cuisine. Day two was tougher with a ride along the valley before a testing climb up through a nature reserve to a stunning beautiful lake at Deborance. The route takes you up some tough steep ramps but eases off to take you through the most extraordinary section of road literally blasted out of the side of a mountain. The tunnels are extraordinary and great fun to blast down giving a yodel as you go, hearing it echo as you go from light to dark and back again.
With the legs feeling it a bit, day three was something completely different: e-biking! This must surely be the way forward, particularly for families and a great way to explore the valley. Anthony had organised mountain bikes from Mountain Air in Verbier that come with a battery unit attached that is good for 40-50km depending on how you use it. On the downhills you use the bike exactly as normal, but on the way up, you can get a helping hand. I chose to test myself using the lowest setting 'eco mode' though others chose one step up: tour. If you go up to Turbo mode, although the battery wouldn't last very long, you would keep up with the aforementioned Mr Froome!
Although the group had cyclists of different standards, these bikes evened it all out. What strikes me is that with the multitude of trails in the area, you could easily have a whole family outing that simply wouldn't have been possible otherwise for the real hardy characters, you could go out on a normal mountain bike with your loved one heading out on an E-bike. They are brilliant fun. We climbed over 5,000 feet on ours and ended up on the lower slopes under the Glacier de Corbassière. Just below this stunning viewpoint was the Cabine Brunet mountain restaurant. It was almost a throwback in time. Clearly a family run concern, father was busying himself restocking the cellars while Mother produced good wholesome alpine food. Among our group we had a delicious macaroni dish while other had goulash soup served with great hunks of still warm home cooked bread and a slab of local cheese on the side. Delicious.
All good things must come to an end so there was only time for a short foray back into the hills on my trusty steed - a Specialized Roubaix S4 - and Anthony had kept the best (and hardest) for last. A challenging climb up numerous switchbacks saw us rise rapidly up the valley sides over a couple of 'cols' before a brief descent back down to the village of Vollege for a well-earned coffee and cake. This was me getting close to the limit but with words of encouragement from Anthony ringing in my ears I cannot tell you the elation I felt making it over the top.
For me, Anthony was able to work out exactly what I was capable of doing and then gently teasing that little bit more out of my legs so that I was left feeling hugely proud of my achievements. Pushing me onwards without ever really getting to that red line; looking back as I write this, it is a rare talent indeed that can choose just the right route for the occasion.
Travel to Le Chable couldn't be easier. You can fly into Geneva from pretty much anywhere in the world and take the ever-efficient Swiss railway to Martigny and then on up the valley. From this winter on, a new operator Powdair will start flights into Sion flying from London City, London Luton, London Southend, Southampton, Bristol and Manchester as well as Antwerp. You can then train right up to Le Chable. Swiss efficiency was more than in evidence on my return. The train departed Martigny bang on time and arrived on time at Geneva Airport. It was then a whole eight minutes from stepping off the train until I was through security at the airport. Admittedly a quiet time, but still, you'd be hard pressed to do it anywhere else!
It would be wrong of me not to finish by mentioning the region of Valais again. The views are simply stunning, the cycle routes (on and off road) numerous, varied and just plain awesome. Restaurants are varied in price, type and style and don't forget the small coffee shops - after all you need to treat yourself after all that effort. If you fancy trying something a bit different from the norm and want to challenge yourself, just enough, then you could do a lot worse than get in touch with Anthony at Kudos Cycling. I for one, will be heading back just as soon as I can.
Power metres have very much come to forefront of the training tool to have in recent years and understanding the information you can gather is crucial. They provide a measurement of the force pushed through the pedal and crank and the velocity with which you do it, to give you your power output.Read More