In June, le grimpeur is fortunate to be travelling to France to see some of the Dauphiné Libéré, particularly the stage to Mont Ventoux, and to report on it for Pez Cycling News.
At the top of the agenda, though, is the randonée ride Cinglés du Mont Ventoux, organized by the club of the same name. This fixed route, as many readers surely know, consists of three ascents of the famed Geant itself by three different routes. The total ride is only around 130 kilometres but a full half of that is climbing, over 4,400 metres worth.
The toughest day your author had in the saddle last year was a 200 km exploit with around 2,000 metres of climbing. The Cinglés may not be as long, but 4,400 metres of upward roads will be a singular test. Quelle folie, indeed!
So le grimpeur is currently in serious training for the expedition. But how to approach such a ride, which will be almost exclusively ascending (of the most torturous kind – it is Mont Ventoux after all) and descending? As such, only the finest hill climbing training techniques from some of the best grimpeurs have been assembled and incorporated into the programme.
The overall theme is a variation of Eddy Merckx’s training dictum: Ride (hills), lots.
Merckx was himself a fan of the 44t chainring for his mountain exploits. Le grimpeur will be keeping to the more preferable choice of the 34t chainring, however, paired with the most-excellent SRAM cassette that gives a 23 for most tough situations but which also includes a 26 for when the going gets really extreme.
Another great Belgian mountain man was Lucian Van Impe. The 6-time winner of the KOM classification in the Tour, with nine stage wins, was in fine shape when he won his final title, much of his condition honed with the aid of gym work.
“When one season ended, I’d rest for one week then start doing gym work,” he told Procycling in 2007. “I would spend two hours a day, a few times a week until Christmas working on specific muscle groups in my legs.”
Gym work has already been a feature of the off-season programme so far, but it remains to be seen if the tiresome and taxing leg work will manifest any benefit in pushing larger gears.
Greg LeMond recommended strength conditioning, but preferred to work at it on the bike, using big-gear sprints, for example. Now that the improving weather has opened up more riding options, there will certainly be some big-gear action taking place.
LeMond was also fastidious about his riding position and, with the help of Cyrille Guimard, made a number of changes to his riding position and set-up that remain popular today. In particular, LeMond recommends a seat height based on the following calculation: inseam x 0.883.
Good advice indeed and according to LeMond this calculation is based on 170mm cranks. He, however, used the same calculation but adopted 175mm cranks, perhaps inspired by Jacques Anquetil, giving an even higher ride position. Le grimpeur, however, favours 170 or 172.5mm (bike dependent) but has adopted LeMond’s seat height calculation nonetheless.
LeMond was an early adopter of new technology and was one of the first professionals to train using the concepts of power. But there will not be a power meter or even a heart rate monitor included in this programme, following the dictum of Iban Mayo that such adornments are superfluous to simply riding in the mountains (Mayo’s techniques have been discredited, unfortunately, due to recent revelations – but they remain a romantic throw-back to a bygone age).
[Basque principles will also feature strongly elsewhere in the programme, but will be covered in a separate post.]
Mayo put his training into action on Mont Ventoux itself, winning the time trial in the 2004 Dauphiné using a specially-constructed aluminium bike and setting a new record for the ascent.
His record eclipsed that set by climbing guru Jonathan Vaughters in 1999. Vaughters recently published some of his training tips in Bicycling last year, including a particular gem. He calls it the On/Off Interval (other coaches have similar variations), which involves 10 seconds of maximum instensity followed by 20 seconds of easy spinning. For 10 minutes. As Vaughters wrote: “And eventually, you’ll throw up.”
It is not yet clear whether such intervals will feature in the programme. The, er, pinnacle of the training programme will likely be a 3-time ascent of local mountain, Mt Seymour, which will total around 3,000 metres of climbing. Puking will be discouraged.
Vaughters is apparently a fan of some of the local Provence produce, which le grimpeur plans to sample extensively (as the budget allows). The best local elixir has, of course, already been discussed here. Until it is available, the best post-ride recovery is undoubtedly the vitamin-rich formulation pictured below.
Bob Roll suggested this tonic as part of a training programme that also involved Jameson whiskey, hamburgers, and six-hour slow rides. While Bobke was more than capable of doing his fair share of hard work in the mountains, he was never a pure grimpeur.
At least for now, this is where the line will be drawn for training advice.