None of us can ride as fast a Chris Froome but we can learn from his pacing strategy to maximise our performance.
Pacing your effort on major climbs, particularly the climb up Kosciuszko, will be crucial to getting your best time in L’Etape.
At last year’s Vuelta a Espana, Chris provided the perfect case study.
On the Queen stage, to Lagos de Covadonga, the triple Tour de France winner ignored the tempo of the peloton, and let his main rivals ride off into the distance with 10km still to climb.
Alberto Contador heard Froome was dropped so went on the attack. Nairo Quintana joined him. They built up an advantage of more than one minute.
But Froome didn’t panic.
He set about riding his own tempo, to get from the bottom to the top as fast as he could. He couldn’t control the pace of his rivals, only his own.
By the finish line, Chris had caught and passed everyone expects Quintana.
If Chris tried to stay with the early attacks he may have blown up and conceded an even bigger chunk of time to Quintana, as Contador did in the end when he paid the price for his earlier efforts.
The temptation at L’Etape is to get caught up in the excitement of riding in a large peloton, on closed roads, and go too hard, too early.
You want to set a tempo that doesn’t cause you to blow up early or arrive at the finish line still feeling pretty good. The aim is to set a pace that has the tank hitting empty right on the finish line.
Go steady early and find a group that has you feeling reasonably comfortable in the early part of the ride.
Remember more time will be gained on the final climb than on the flat sections. Enjoy the scenery early and keep eating and drinking.
How to measure your effort
On the final climb, a heart rate monitor or power meter is the best gauge of how your body is coping.
Test your body in training by doing a 30-minute maximal effort on a trainer or long steady climb, then taking your average heart rate for the last 20 minutes for a good guide of your lactate threshold heart rate.
If you’ve got a power meter this will also give you a rough estimation of you Functional Threshold Power, to then calculate what wattage you can maintain on a climb the length of Kosciuszko.
Staying just below this heart rate/power output will help you avoid the red zone.
It’s only in the last five kilometres that you can really start to flirt with the red zone and drive it home.
Combine your pacing and fuel strategy, and practice it in training, to get your best result… before collapsing just after you cross the finish line.
Being one of the most recognisable voices of cycling, Matthew Keenan regularly forms part of the international commentary team at the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, broadcast around the world from Europe, USA, Africa, New Zealand and on SBS in Australia.
Matt is one of the two official voices of L’Etape Australia by Le Tour de France.