GRENOBLE, France (VN) — Bradley Wiggins (Sky) arrived to the Critérium du Dauphiné from another planet: Pico de Teide. He’s been training at altitude on Spain’s Tenerife Island for four weeks to be ready for the Dauphiné and to win the Tour de France.
“When you been there, trained on that terrain, you can see it’s perfect,” Sky sports director, Sean Yates told VeloNews Sunday morning in Grenoble. “You are way from distractions, on another planet almost.”
Wiggins traveled to the Spanish island off the west coast of Africa twice this year, each time for two weeks. He just returned one week ago from his last trip. Yates accompanied Great Britain’s Tour hope on the first occasion this year, staying and training in a remote hotel at 2165 meters elevation. It’s the only hotel on Pico de Teide or the Peak of Teide, the highest point in Spain.
“You have altitude, which is supposed to lift your hemoglobin, but it’s more the fact that the hotel is superb, the food is superb, the terrain is the best, the amount of climbing you can do is phenomenal,” said Yates. “There’s no distractions. It’s eat, sleep, ride a bike.”
Wiggins placed fourth at the Tour with Garmin in 2009 and joined Sky over that winter. In 2010, he only managed 24th overall and started to think about what to change. He’d never trained at altitude before and after some research, decided on Tenerife. The results were amazing.
He won the time trial in Bayern Rundfhart and won the overall in the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2011. A crash and broken collarbone at the Tour meant that he had to abandon, but he came back and placed third in the Vuelta a España, took silver in the time trial at the world championships and helped Mark Cavendish to the road race win.
This year Wiggins has been even better, riding as a leader to overall wins at Paris-Nice and the Tour de Romandie.
His helpers – Chris Froome, Richie Porte, Michael Rogers, Kanstantsin Siutsou and Christian Knees – have traveled with him and benefited. Rogers won the Bayern Rundfhart overall a week ago, Porte won the Volta ao Algarve in February and Froome was second in the Vuelta last year.
“The training is harder than the racing,” Yates said. “When push comes to shove in a race, on the top of [Col de] Joux Plane, it’s going to be hard, but 99 percent of time the training is harder than the racing.”
Wiggins is not the only rider to benefit from altitude training. Several teams travel to Tenerife, while others train at Mount Etna and the Stelvio Pass in Italy. Alejandro Valverde and Movistar trained in Spain’s Sierra Nevada last month and this week, Garmin-Barracuda’s Christian Vande Velde is training in Colorado.
“I guess Lance [Armstrong] was the pioneer in training to race,” said Yates, who raced with Armstrong. “In a grand tour environment, you can train to be good. It’s not the same as the classics, where you have to be in the mix, you have to know the cobbles. In an event like this [Dauphiné] or a grand tour, if you’re going for GC, it’s all about being able to climb, being rested, being trained up and ready. That environment is perfect for that.”