Don't miss a moment from Paris-Roubaix and Unbound Gravel, to the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and everything in between when you join Outside+.
By Neal Henderson
Neal Henderson is the Sport Science Manager at Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. He is a USA Cycling certified coach and works with a diverse clientele at BCSM. He has been Taylor Phinney’s personal coach since 2006 and will is traveling with Phinney and his family in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics.
“Votre hard-drive ne marche pas … c’est morte” is something that I didn’t want to hear today.
Translated, they told me that the hard drive on my computer is dead. This isn’t good news as we’re in Bordeaux, France, for five more days and then off to Beijing for the big JO’s. As a kid, JO referred to the Junior Olympics for swimming … now it’s referring to the real deal Jeux Olympiques, en Francais (or Olympic Games in French).
Taylor’s training has been going extremely well for the past ten days here, and there aren’t many more workouts left that can make a difference in Beijing (AKA Pekine or Peking) as we’re just two weeks out as of today. Taylor has ridden some of the highest power outputs that he’s ever recorded in the past week, and he’s gone faster than ever on the track while training on Bordeaux’s famously fast velodrome. Unfortunately without my computer, analyzing all of Taylor’s training data and videos will be a little bit more difficult.
The past week in Bordeaux has been busy outside of the training as well, including a trip to Paris last weekend. My wife and girls (Abby and Renee) arrived on Saturday at 1pm. To meet them on time, I took the “bullet train” or TGV (tres grande vitesse = very great speed) from Bordeaux to Paris. It’s a 500 km trip, and we got there in about three hours including several stops along the way. The security at most airports in Europe is a little different than in the US — there are police officers patrolling with automatic rifles in their hands. In the US, we have most of the same safety measures (and maybe even more), but you don’t get the full-on military look that you get in Europe.
Fortunately the girls arrived with all of their luggage and on-time. My youngest daughter, Abby, was extremely tired as she just turned two years old and only slept about three hours during the overnight trip. She typically sleeps about 11-12 hours a night so she was wrecked … it took her a few seconds to realize that she was actually seeing me there, since it had been nearly three weeks since I had last seen her. We all got on the trains into downtown and Paris, and made it to our hotel in the late afternoon.
Paris was buzzing, as it was the day before the Tour finish on Sunday. I told Jane, my wife, that it was like they were arriving into New York City on New Year’s Eve. Also arriving into Paris was Gabe Kennedy, one of Taylor’s good friends from Boulder. He is getting ready to start college in August, and came in to be able to spend some time with Taylor … a nice reminder of home.
On Sunday, we had a nice breakfast and then headed toward the Tour finish area around 1pm. There was definitely a circus atmosphere and there were thousands of people lining the route along the Champs Elysees. We talked toward the media area, as we had some passes to be able to access that area. We stopped by the Versus TV truck, and got to see Phil Ligget, Paul Sherwin and Bob Roll working inside the announcing trailer. Then we headed toward the team bus area to try and pick up a couple of things for Taylor from Allen Lim. We got to the team bus and Allen searched around for what we needed, but the stuff was actually in the team trailer and we’d have to meet up later after the stage was finished.
We walked over to the Place de la Concorde and stood at a spot about 400 meters from the finish to watch several of the eight finishing circuits pass by there. It was impressive as the riders went by, but even more wild and chaotic was the car caravan behind. There are plenty of sponsors and VIPs who would get in and out of the following team cars for a joy ride lap on the Champs Elysees. I think that any of the drivers of the team cars could probably get into some sort of motor sport racing if they ever get tired of cycling, as they seem to have some pretty impressive skills. Also, I wouldn’t ever recommend buying a team car second hand … they sure look like they get abused, or minimally pushed to their limits day in and day out.
After a few laps at the Place, we walked back toward the finish line and got a sweet spot 100 meters before the finish. We watched as Gert Steegmans crushed the finish, winning handily. It was also good to see Julian Dean of the Garmin-Chipotle team mixing it up in the finish as well.
After the stage was over, we walked towards the other end of the Champs Elysees, where we would meet up with Allen Lim at the Garmin-Chipotle team bus. The roads were teeming with people, and it took a while to cover the distance. We passed by the Arc de Triomphe, which is pretty darn impressive in size. Pictures usually don’t do justice to such impressive structures. Be sure that you get to see it if you get to Paris.
We finally met up with Allen and picked up some of the recovery equipment that the team had been using in the tour, including the compression boots and cooling devices. The potential small gains that can be made in improving recovery might make all of the difference in Beijing, so we’re leaving nothing to chance. Training properly is incredibly important, but recovering from the training that you did is just as important, if not more important. Most athletes do a good job of passive recovery (resting), but I like to encourage focusing on active recovery strategies such as optimizing nutrition, using massage therapy, and other small things that can help your body adapt to the training stresses more quickly. On race day, it’s not just about who has trained the hardest … it’s about who has had the most adaptation to their training. Au revoir from France … next week you’ll be hearing from me in Beijing!
Special thanks to Gabriel Kennedy who loaned me his computer so that I could write this article.