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Fatigue Tolerance: Lessons from the Tour in Recovery

As the 2010 Tour de France enters the final few days of racing, overall success may depend less on a rider’s sheer skill and strength and more on the ability to recover and cope with fatigue, both physically and mentally. Being able to ride away from the group on a climb or hammer it on a time trial at the end of 3 long weeks of hard riding is a bit different from accomplishing the same feats with fresh legs and a clear head. The conclusion of this year’s epic battle between Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck may come down to which rider has a higher fatigue tolerance in both mind and body.

How can we apply the lessons learned from these riders to our own training?

By Gordo Byrn, Endurance Corner Coach

When I listen to athletes talk about the Tour de France, the conversation often gravitates towards fitness, body weight and ability to endure pain. We marvel at the top end speed, low body fat and mental toughness of our cycling heroes.

Having done some big training cycles in my time, what’s most impressive to me is how well the top contenders cope with fatigue. Personally, I’m good for about 8-12 days of drilling it before I start to fall apart. For athletes to keep hitting it for three weeks is truly impressive.

What are the lessons that we can take from the Tour for our own big training cycles?

Keep Score: while there’s only one overall leader, by turning your training into a game, you can give motivation for competitions inside the main event.

Give Everyone A Chance To Be Strong: the Tour has a wide variety of stages, and finishes, that suit different types of riders.  If you’re organizing a training camp then figure out how to create situations where each athlete can share in some success.

The Power of Teams: a game that we play at our camps is a group TT where we mix the abilities of riders.  The team must finish every rider to stop the clock.  It’s a great session that gets the absolute most from the team.

Point To Point: I’ve endured some truly awful conditions at training camps because I had to get to the motel at the end of the stage (and was too stubborn to quit).  I always ride stronger, and longer, when the camp is structured point-to-point.

Goals: before I enter each big cycle, I think about what I want to achieve from the block.  When things get tough, my big picture goal gets me out of bed in the morning.  I’ve used this tactic to ride across the US as well as New Zealand – great base training by the way!

It takes a long time to get good and the tactics above will help keep things fun while you endure the trials of miles.

See you at the races,



Gordo Byrn is hosting the Tour of Utah with Robbie Ventura in September 2010.  He’s the founder of Endurance Corner LLC, which organizes cycling-focused camps in the Rockies and desert Southwest. Find more information on Endurance Corner’s training camps here.

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