Dissecting The Alpe d'Huez Time Trial
Chris Carmichael dissects the Alpe d'Huez time trial.
Lance will continue eating small snacks, drinking water, and sipping sports drink during the next few hours. Within the last hour prior to his start time, during his warm-up, Lance will most likely consume a PowerBar PowerGel and a full bottle of sports drink as well as at least one additional bottle of water.
Warming up for any time trial is important, and it is even more critical when the time trial twists its way up the side of a mountain. The climb of Alpe d?Huez takes up 13.8 of the total 15.5 kilometers in Stage 16. With just 1.7 kilometers of flat road before the steepest part of the entire climb, there will be no time to settle in and find your legs; they have to be there from the moment you leave the start house.
Lance Armstrong?s warm up will take about 45 minutes to an hour and contain efforts ranging from easy to full-throttle. The harder efforts are a necessary part of starting the lactic acid buffering and clearance process. These systems will play a huge role in allowing Lance to maintain the intensity he needs to possibly win the time trial, and they have to be activated and primed during the warm-up.
Cadence is going to be as important as overall intensity prior to Stage 16. While he climbs at a very high cadence, he will perform several low-cadence, high-power efforts during his warm-up in order to maximize the recruitment of fast-twitch muscle fibers. With the high power demands of the climb, and the necessity to accelerate sharply out of particularly tight turns, Lance is going to need all the anaerobic power his fast-twitch muscle fibers can deliver. Though fast-twitch fibers are more suited to producing power anaerobically for sprints, they can also produce a small amount of energy aerobically. In an all-out race to the top of Alpe d?Huez, every little bit of aerobic energy helps.
Hard efforts during a long warm-up increase a rider?s core temperature and sweat rate, which can lead to dehydration and diminished performance. If the temperatures continue to be as warm as they have been the last few days, you may see Lance using a special vest developed by Nike as he warms up. The idea of the vest is not just to keep Lance?s core temperature from rising too high, but to actually pre-cool his body.
The concept of pre-cooling the body prior to steady and intense exercise revolves around the idea that there is a critical upper limit to body temperature, above which performance suffers dramatically. By cooling the body, you in essence increase the amount of heat that can build up in your body before you reach that critical internal temperature limit. Studies have shown distance runners increase the distance they can cover in a 30-minute time trial after pre-cooling. Similar techniques have been used by the Australian Olympic Rowing Team as well.
Lance had the vest at the beginning of the Tour de France, but did not use it prior