Third de France - Stage 17

Pros: Bagnères-de-Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan Col du Portet, 65km, Mountains

Me: 15/15/15m SST, 5m RI

A super short stage for the pros with three solid mountains. Doing my 'mountains as intervals' thing saw me well over the usual one third of race distance, with a total of 45km under my belt by the time i finished. The intervals themselves were fine, apart from the last one which was tough.

I'm away for the weekend, flying South to Victoria tomorrow until Monday evening, so that's the end of my 'Third de France'. I'll write up a little summary later, but for now, happy to be done and dusted and wondering how sore my legs will be when we go MTBing or snowboarding at the weekend.

Tour de France - Stage 16

Pros: Carcassonne to Bagnères de Luchon, 218km, Mountains

Me: 73km Z2, 10/15/15m Z2, 5m RI

Not great. Got the first two intervals done, but, during the second, the wind was blowing somke from some sort of industrial fire. Decided I'd rather not deeply inhale that crap so opted to skip the remaining 40km. Turns out it was a fire in a steel yard, so made the right call.

Legs felt OK after the rest day. Intervals weren't too hard.

Third de France - Stage 15

Pros: Millau to Carcassonne, 181.5km, Hilly

Me: 60km Z2, 5/10/15m SST, 5m RI

Well that's the second week over with and not a day too soon. Despite a bit over 9 hours sleep last night, I still woke up tired. The first 100m from my house are slightly uphill, maybe 2% gradient, which is enough to feel the pain in the legs as they get going for the ride. I wonder what the cause of that is? Am I re-tearing damaged muscle fibres or something? It can't be lactic as there hasn't been a chance for any to build up.

Anyway, legs were OK once they'd warmed up. The SST intervals were fine, though the final 15m effort was a little bit tiring. Once that was out of the way I'd 30km still to ride and that was a bit of a struggle. My legs were OK, it was just overall fatigue wearing me down.

Totals at the end of Week 2: 24h27m, 642km, 1364 TSS

Not massive totals really. If I was fit that would be a decent, but not extraordinary, two weeks' training. However, trying to do the same work from a low fitness base it takes its toll!

Rest day tomorrow!

Reality Check

So, a bit of perspective. Above is a screenshot posted by Pierre Rolland, riding the real Tour de France for EF-Drapac. It's his totals for the second week of the Tour, so will be an interesting comparison to my last week doing the Third de France.

Pierre Me

What's interesting is the relationship between TSS (Training Stress Score) and Work. Pierre did 1907 TSS for the week, or 2.5 times my TSS. However, he did 32,247kJ of work, or 3.9 times the work I did. Work is a measurement, in kilojoules, of exactly how much physical work you have put into the pedals, whereas TSS is an approximation of the amount of stress that work has placed on your body. So despite Pierre doing almost 4 times the work that I did, it only stressed his body 2.4 times as much as my work stressed me.

The reason for this is that TSS is based on your FTP (your threshold, measured in watts), so that Pierre riding 1 hour at his threshold will generate the same TSS as me riding one hour at my threshold. However, Pierre's threshold is probably 50% higher than mine, so he will do 50% more work at his threshold. He's also at least 20kg lighter than me, so along with being able to do 50% more work than me at threshold, that work is moving a system (body + bike etc.) >20kg lighter, so he's even faster again.

The other notable figure above is his Fitness score of 153. Fitness is measured in TSS per day and is the average amount of work he's done over the previous three months and therefore also the amount of work he can now do per day without getting tired. At 153 TSS/day he's three times fitter than me, though as we've seen above, TSS is based on threshold etc. etc. so he's actually way better than that.

Third de France - Stage 14

Pros: 188km, Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Mende, Hills

Me: 63km Z2, 10/5/10m SST, 5m RI

Tired today, but the SST intervals felt OK. They were shorter than earlier in the week which helps. However, my HR was quite a bit lower than when I first did them a few days ago. Looking back over the week, each day I've done SST intervals my HR has been lower. Not sure whether that's due to cumulative fatigue, or my body 'remembering' how to do SST again. After all, in March I could do a straight 1hr @ 280W, whereas now I'm doing up to a total 1:10 @ 255W broken up into 4 parts. Only one more day until a rest day. Woo hoo!

Totals for the week: 13h 03m, 351km, 768 TSS.

Third de France - Stage 13

Pros: Bourg d'Oisans to Valence, 169.5km, Sprint.

Me: 58.5km Z2, 5m SST, Sprint.

Had a relaxing start to the day and headed out for a ride just after midday. Nice weather and nice to have a plain Z2 ride again. All went well, legs felt OK albeit a bit tired and slow to get going and it was only when I got home and uploaded the ride that I realised I'd forgotten to do the 5m SST. Didn't forget the sprint though - happy enough with 10s > 1000W too.

Third de France - Stage 12

Pros: Bourg-Saint-Maurice Les Arcs to Alpe d'Huez, 175.5km, Mountains

Me: 58.5km, 20/10/20/20m SST, 7m RI

The last of the big days in the Alps for the pros with a mythical finish atop Alpe d'Huez. Lots more sub-threshold intervals for me. I really wasn't looking forward to this at all as ! was pretty tired from the last two days of intervals. Going to bed at 2am after watching the stage, followed by waking at 7.30am for work conference calls meant I didn't get much rest either.

I put if off for as long as possible, but it wasn't too bad in the end. The first 2-3minutes of each intervals were a bit of a struggle to maintain the power, but then the legs remembered what to do and it was OK from then until the last couple of minutes, which were hard work mainly as lower back was getting tired/tight. Glad that's over and I'm looking forward to some easy sprint stages.

The hardest part of the Tour is finished for me. There are still intervals next week when the pros hit the Pyrenees, but not the same volume as required in the Alps. My fatigue will still increase, simply from riding every day (and because I was starting from such a low fitness base), but the worst of it is over.

Third de France - Stage 11

Pros: Albertville to La Rosière Espace San Bernardo, 108.5km, Mountains

Me: 36km Z2, 20/20/10/15m SST, 5m RI

Another big day in the mountains for the pros. The scenery around Bourg-Saint-Maurice was spectacular, so I think that sorts out where I’m going to go after my few days in Andermatt in August!For me, the scheduled intervals put me well over the required third distance, with 56.7km done. The intervals were hard - not the actual effort, but the cumulative fatigue as they went on. I’d dialled the target effort back by about 5W from yesterday, but the last two intervals were tough - had to concentrate to stay on target power. Made them all, so a solid 65mins of SST in the bag.

Another tough day tomorrow and then it’s back to an easy sprint stage ;-)

Third de France - Stage 10

Pros: Annecy to Le Grande Bornand, 158.5km, Mountains

Me: 53km Z2, 15/20/15/15m SST, 5m RI

No messing around today. Last night got serious for the pros with the first day in the Alps and four big climbs. That means lots of sub-threshold intervals for me. Things went pretty well until the last 15min interval. I cracked half way through - my legs went bang at just under 9 minutes. I haven’t done any intervals in almost three months, so jumping straight in with a planned total of 65mins was perhaps a bit ambitious! More of the same on the cards for tomorrow too!

Third de France - Rest Day

Pros: Rest Day Me: Rest Day

Well, normal work day, groceries, cooking dinner etc. No sitting around with my feet up getting massages like the pros ;-)

Feel a bit slack taking a rest day when I missed two days last week, but things are about to ramp up now as the pros head into the Alps, so I need the break.

Third de France - Stage 9

Pros: Arras Citadelle to Roubaix, 156.5km, Cobbles

Me: 52km Z2, 3 x 5 x (1m Z3, 1m Z5, 1m Z1), 5m RI

The pros are riding a mini-Paris-Roubaix, featuring 15 cobbles sections. The dynamics of a cobble section are (very roughly) a fast run-in as the main guys want to be among the first few onto the section, the section itself is ridden at a hard pace and then things ease up when the section finishes. For me, that translates to 15 bouts of a minute Z3, a minute Z5 and a minute Z1, split into 3 groups of 5.

Third de France - Stage 8

Pros: Dreux to Amiens Métropole, 181km, Sprint Stage

Me: 60km Z2, sprint finish

No riding today. Out for dinner & drinks last night and in tourist mode with visitors today.

Week 1 Totals: 11h23m, 291.1km, 595 TSS (training stress score)

Third de France - Stage 7

Pros: Fougères to Chartres, 231km, Sprint Stage

Me: 77km Z2, sprint finish

Bastille Day! Went to a nice French restaurant last night ;-)

Nothing too exciting today. A bit chilly here this morning so headed out a bit later. We have friends coming to visit for the weekend, so had to be home to drive out to the airport. Managed to get just under 75km in.

Third de France - Stage 6

Pros: Brest to Mûr de Bretagne, 181km, Hilly

Me: 60km incl. 3x5m SST, 5m RI (rest interval), 2 uphill sprints to finish

SST means riding at a consistent pace with no interruptions, so pretty hard to do on the open road. The Murrarie crit track is just up the road from me, so that’s a good place for intervals. It’s a 1.4km loop but the going around in circles isn’t an issue as I’m focussing on my power output and making sure I’m hitting the required numbers.

3x5min was a gentle introduction before the real "mountains" next week.


In the Tour, climbs are categorised according to a combination of distance and elevation gain. Cat 4 is the easiest, then there’s Cat 3, Cat 2, Cat 1 and finally HC (hors catégorie/outside category) as the hardest. An HC climb will take the pros up to an hour and they’ll ride it just under their threshold power.

Not having many mountains nearby I’ll have to mimic the effort, so I’m going to translate an HC effort to a 20min SST interval (SST = 90% of threshold). Working back from there, I’ll do 15min SST for a Cat 1 climb, 10min SST for a Cat 2 and 5min SST for a Cat 3. I’m not going to bother with Cat 4s.

I’m also not going to bother trying to space the climbs according to how they appear in a stage. I’ll do them in the right order, but will take a standard 5min Z1 between each climb, and, if I haven’t completed the required distance for a stage, I’ll finish the remainder at Z2.

Third de France - Stage 5

Pros: Lorient to Quimper, 204.5km, Sprint Stage

Me: 68km Z2, Sprint finish

Crap day today. Had a splitting headache all day and just couldn’t shake it, so no ride today.

Third de France - Stage 4

Pros: La Baule to Sarzeau, 195km, Sprint stage

Me: 65km Z2, sprint finish

Another comfortable day. Supposed to do 65km but ended up with almost 70km, and unlike the pros, I got rained on for the last 45km. Normally wouldn’t have bothered riding in crap weather, so what I’m now calling the Third de France is providing useful motivation.

TDF - Stage 3

Pros: Cholet to Cholet, 35.5km, Team Time Trial

Me: 4 x (1m Z5, 2m Low Z4)

When riding a Team Time Trial you end up riding above FTP (aka threshold) for a short time when you’re the guy on the front, and a bit longer under threshold when you’re drafting behind a team mate. The pros took about 38mins, so a third of that is 12-13 minutes for me. I’ll do a minute over threshold, followed by two minutes under and repeat 4 times for a total of 12mins.

Training Zones

Time for a quick detour into training zones. I have a power meter on my bike, which is a device which measures how much work I am doing at any given moment. Using a power meter, your training zones are defined in terms of your Functional Threshold Power. FTP, as it’s known, is just the maximum average power you can sustain for approximately 1 hour, measured in watts (W). In my case, right now my FTP is approx. 285W.

Given that, the zones are defined as follows:

ZoneName% FTP
1Active Recovery0-55
TDF - Stage 2

Pros: Mouilleron-Saint-Germain to La Roche-Sur-Yon, 182.5km, Sprint Stage

Me: 61km Z2, 10 sec sprint to finish

Easy enough to start. While this is a comfortable pace, the fact is the training effect will come with the volume over the first week, then more intense work over the following two weeks as the pros get into the mountains. At this stage it’s just a case of do the distance and stick to the comfortable pace.


Well it’s been a really lazy two months as we moved to Brisbane, dropping from a consistent 5 rides per week to one or none. That descending blue line if my fitness decreasing over the last couple of months. It’s Winter, so not a big deal, were it not for the fact that I’m off to Europe in a bit over a month with some solid rides scheduled in the mountains, including a weekend riding with two club mates who are way better cyclists than I am.

So, time for a training cram session and I’ve decided to try to ride a mini Tour de France. The Tour started yesterday, so my basic plan is to ride one third of the distance of each day’s stage while aiming to make my sessions approximate the day’s stage. I’ll figure it out as I go along, but I should end up with a solid three weeks of training and some appreciation for what the pros go through.

I’ve missed the start of the Tour as we were away for the weekend, so I’ll be riding a day late. It’s Sunday evening now and the pros will shortly be riding Stage 2. I’ll start with Stage 2 tomorrow.