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By Chris Carmichael, Carmichael Training Systems
While Allesandro Petacchi is proving he is the dominant sprinter of the 2003 Tour de France, the sprinters’ days are numbered as the race approaches the mountains. Petacchi seems to suffer more than Erik Zabel or Robbie McEwen in big mountains, and the green jersey competition is still most likely to come down to a contest between the Australian and the German. Even Fridays sixth stage will be a struggle for the Italian, as the two Category 3 climbs near the end of the stage may take the snap out of his legs.
Stage 6 may not even come down to a sprint. The course is the hilliest of any stage thus far in the race, and terrain gives the opportunists a great chance to snag a victory from a breakaway. Stages in the foothills of major mountains are among the hardest stages for the entire peloton. The climbs are not large enough to suit the pure climbers, but they are too steep and long for the sprinters’ tastes.
Even the overall contenders face a tough day in the saddle in the 230-kilometer sixth stage. Large rolling hills and small mountains are hard on the legs because there is no time to settle into a nice climbing rhythm and the entire field works hard to stay together. These stages are so important that I put workouts into Lance Armstrong’s training program specifically designed around the demands of sprinting up small inclines.
On extended climbs, the peloton splits significantly and Lance ends up with a group of elite climbers. This allows him to spend the majority of the time at or below his maximum sustainable climbing power. On days punctuated by small climbs, he has to sprint up the hills with the rest of the peloton, so we spend time each spring working on his ability to deliver very high power outputs for short periods of time.
HillSprints are one of the key workouts we utilize to increase Lance’s peak power output. These sprints start on flat ground at the base of a climb and proceed upwards for 15 seconds. As the road tilts upward, the resistance against him increases and he has to produce more power to maintain his speed. A typical HillSprints workout for Lance consists of 3-4 sets containing 3-4 sprints, with five minutes of easy spinning between efforts and 10 minutes of recovery between sets.
HillSprints are also an important part of George Hincapie’s training program, and we utilize them during his preparation for the spring classics. Races like the Tour of Flanders and Ghent-Wevelgem contain numerous short, steep climbs and it is essential for him to have high peak power outputs to stay with and attack the lead group.
You can integrate HillSprints into your training program as well. They fit into your yearly training plan around the time you begin your Specialization Period, about 10 weeks before your goal event. Start with 1-2 sets of 3 sprints, with five minutes easy recovery between efforts and 10 minutes between sets. While it is good to do two HillSprint workouts per week (three for advanced racers) while you are working on developing your power, you can also use them to maintain your strength during your racing season. One HillSprints workout every 7-12 days helps maintain the power you worked hard to obtain earlier in the year.