Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ullrich reveals more form

I don't know about you but only once did I find the time and motivation in my life to do 700km a week. For just one week. And a few 500km weeks either side. And some (read six months or more) 400km weeks either side of that. So probably 8-12 months of really hard, focussed training at a sub-elite level. No HRM, just training by feel. I don't think I found my peak, as such - although across 5 years or so of riding where I averaged close to 200km a week that period was one where I was the most prepared. And when it mattered I flopped.

The 228km race I aimed at went well until my bunch splintered on the mountain. Rather than regroup at the top we remained fragmented - indeed many just stopped and got in cars! - whereas just a minute up the road a bunch or two did form and they won the race. Me? I rode the next 100km largely catching, briefly riding with and then watching individual riders stop and give up; and when the only guy left with me chucked it in, so did I. That sort of negativity is catching. Although I had plenty of miles in my legs I needed to go harder up that one key climb and make sure I had a bunch around me that would be committed to finish.

Cycling's a solo sport in many ways - but one where getting into a team, either a loose collective of like minds or a formal club, national or pro team is absolutely vital. As is setting your goals and planning to achieve them. Just having the miles in your legs may work at club level but it falls apart when things get serious and "they" start ganging up on you.

Which brings me to Jan Ullrich. Setting aside Lance Armstrong, Jan is the dominant tour rider of our generation. By now he must know how to train and peak at the right time. Yet he still needs his team - they must match wits, skill and strength with Basso's proven squad plus fend off Phonak's team and the less fancied but capable individuals like Cadel Evans. So we mustn't focus on Jan's form alone but on his team's performance overall. Nevertheless it's reassuring to see him pushing the pace in the Tour de Suisse (link to Cyclingnews coverage). It's a step forward. (Jan is now 7th on GC, Cadel is 12th.)

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