What's Cool In Road Cycling

Pro Shop: Grand Tour Recovery

Every bit as important as the workouts we choose and races we compete in, are the methods we use to recover from these hard efforts. It’s a very simple concept – recovery is essential to allow the body to gain rest while being able to utilize our fitness for the next effort. We asked George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Andrea Peron how they recover after a big Tour.

Recovering correctly makes it possible to retain fitness and helps to avoid injury and overtraining. In this edition of the Pro Shop, we ask three competitors from this year’s Tour de France what they did to recover from the world’s most difficult bike race.

Pez: How do you recover from the Tour? How long does it take?

George: Nothing particularly specific, I just try to ride and keep the legs moving; I avoid longer rides or anything with lots of intensity. I’ve been riding with Levi the last couple of days, and I did some Criteriums with Lance this past week, but no specific training right now. It’s kind of hard mentally to go and hammer out intervals when you still are trying to recover, while at the same time trying to stay focused (for the Olympics) and keep the shape from the Tour.

George also enjoyed the more relaxed atmosphere of post Tour racing in Prague: “I’ve always wanted to see Prague – that was kind of fun. I went with my fiancй, Lance and Sheryl, and had enough time to actually enjoy it. We do so many races throughout the year in so many cool cities –but we never get to see those cities, so here we were able to see the city and check it out a bit.”

Levi: I stay on the bike because I think it’s important to keep riding, but I spent a week during which I rode 2 – 2.5 hours maximum a day, with no intensity. The Tour gives you such good form, that you recovery very quickly.

I definitely think I’ve recovered, and my legs are feeling, I’d say, very good. It’s hard to know how you’d react in a race (like the Olympics), but I’d say I’ve recovered better this year than I did two years ago after the Tour.

Andrea: I keep riding a little bit, because my body is so used to racing every day, so it has to keep working. If I don’t have any races coming up, I just go out and ride easy 2-3 hours for a week. I try to follow my feelings; if I’m too tired, I will only ride 2 hours, if I feel I’m okay I’ll ride a little more, but it’s important to keep the body trained and not let it forget all the work you’ve done for the last 3 weeks. It’s important to also do some motorpacing to spin out the legs.

Pez: Are you more tired after the Tour than the Giro?
Andrea: Normally you’re more tired after the Tour de France, it’s tougher mentally, so after 3 weeks you are both physically and mentally tired in the Tour because everyday you ride very hard, in the Giro sometimes the body gets stressed a little less.

You can take a little time off the bike, but not too much because it is too hard to come back. And it also depends on your schedule after the Tour. If you want to keep good form you’ve developed from the Tour, you can be very good for the 3 weeks after. But if you don’t have any objectives or races after the Tour you can take it a little easier.

Right now I’m on a two week break, and my next race is the Zurich Grand Prix.

Summing It All Up
1. “Active recovery” versus “total rest” – Unless you are truly burned out and can’t get out of bed in the morning, active recovery (riding easy) is preferred over total rest. At the camps we teach athletes to do an easy, but effective workout called “bursts”. Bursts help stimulate recovery by getting that heavy feeling out of the legs. On a recovery ride, pick a smaller gear (39×16) and small rise in the road. Come to almost a complete stop and then jump, as hard as you can for 8-10 seconds, spinning as hard as possible. After 8-10 seconds, stop and coast, doing some soft pedaling. Do 4 of these in a 1 – 1.5 hour ride. It’s amazing how it helps facilitate recovery.

2. Mental Recovery – All riders have to balance the physical side of the sport with the mental toll it takes on each one of them. Every athlete is different because each athlete requires different amounts of time to recover and really feel like they are ready to compete at a 100% level. Don’t overestimate how important this aspect of recovery can be. The physical and mental sides work hand in hand, as you cannot do hard efforts unless you really want to.
Patience – Don’t come back too soon. Listen to your body; only when it’s ready to rock and roll again should you begin your structured program.

3. Stage Race or multi-day races – I think it’s important to point out that all three of these guys mention the incredible fitness they gain from a Grand Tour. Obviously, we can’t do 3 week stage races, but we can do weekend stage races and race both days of a weekend. We can also plan our training programs around stressing the body for consecutive days. The benefits of doing this type of racing and training are enormous.

We all know what it’s like to feel sluggish, tired and have no motivation. Chances are these feelings appeared as a result of improper recovery. As a rule of thumb, remember it’s always better to be a little too rested then take a chance and begin to dig yourself into the hole of overtraining. Once that hole gets bigger, and you are feeling the affects of overtraining, it’s more difficult to get out. So, when in doubt, REST!

Bruce Hendler created AthletiCamps to provide cycling specific coaching and training to athletes and cyclists of all levels. Find out more at www.AthletiCamps.com.

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