GENT, Belgium (VN) — Team Sky and Bradley Wiggins will race Paris-Roubaix next Sunday according to feel, but also with a big bag of scientific research at their disposal.
This winter, Wiggins timed some of the key cobble sectors that make up the 253-kilometer French monument. In training, he is riding certain times and watts to replicate what could happen in the race.
The same sort of efforts helped him win four Olympic gold medals and the 2012 Tour de France.
“It’s different training, but you can do things to replicate what you’ll find in Paris-Roubaix,” Sky’s head of performance operations, Rod Ellingworth told VeloNews.
“It’s pretty simple: what time are you spending and what intensity, and the intervals between the sectors, what [the watts] look like on the cobbles, what it looks like the rest of the time.”
The 34-year-old Brit made Paris-Roubaix his last major goal with team Sky before he leaves to join his continental team and focus on the track for the hour record and 2016 Olympics.
He began on the track, riding specific efforts to achieve individual and team pursuit gold medals. He successfully transitioned to the road, winning stage races such as Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie, Critérium du Dauphiné, and of course, the 2012 Tour de France.
The 2013 Giro d’Italia was his last grand tour. In 2014, he aimed for the Tour of California, Paris-Roubaix, and the time trial world championships. He placed ninth in Roubaix and won the other two events.
His ninth place on Roubaix’s famous velodrome in northern France convinced him he could return to win on April 12. This winter, he pulled out his DVDs and VHS tapes, and looked at YouTube to prepare for the 2015 edition.
“I’ve been timing all the sectors of cobbles and the bits between them,” Wiggins told British newspaper, The Guardian.
He explained that the longest sector, Quiévy to Saint-Python, takes around five minutes and the important Carrefour de l’Arbre sector takes “about three minutes and 20 seconds.”
“[The efforts needed are] mainly between a mile and a mile and three-quarters in Roubaix, they’re shorter in Flanders, so it comes down to explosive power for a minute followed by [aerobic] threshold,” Wiggins added.
“It’s about the repetition of that. It’s not about power-weight ratio or a time trial where you can predict the power you need. And it’s about making those efforts at the end of six or seven hours.”
Together with his coach, Tim Kerrison, he worked out a training program to mimic those efforts. Ellingworth is looking over star helpers Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe.
“We kept it flexible. You have to train for having an incident, you prepare those guys for not having a perfect run-through,” Ellingworth added. “If you only train for the actual and true timings, then you’d perhaps miss some elements. You have to do different elements like having a problem and going full-gas to get back up front.
“They have to do it without the numbers at times. In Paris-Roubaix or Flanders, you don’t have good numbers because you’re tired. In training, you can always get higher numbers, that’s why it’s better to race on feel and just put the number things in you pocket.
“Brad’s dead into all that stuff, I know he trains specifically on numbers as a guide and target.”