Cycling Plus

The Importance of Being Idle

Team Ineos’ Luke Rowe once remarked that the winner of the Tour de France boils down to the rider who sleeps like a champion. The Welshman wasn’t being flippant. Those who reach the Champs Élysées will have ridden over 3000km with tens of thousands of climbing metres over 21 stages, played out against roadside temperatures reaching 40°C, suffocating humidity and altitude, frenzied crowds, anti-doping control, relentless media duties and lengthy hotel transfers.

Come the third week, the physical and mental toil leaves the world’s best mere shells of their former selves. But if a rider and their support team can manage their fatigue levels from one day to the next, maintaining a strong immune system, high energy levels and laser-like motivation, the yellow jersey beckons.

Which is all well and good, but how do the recovery strategies of Bernal, Froome and Sagan translate to you, the recreational rider? You might have the replica shirt but a glance at your Strava account reveals you’re racking up a 20th of a professional rider’s annual 40,000km. Your ‘training plan’ isn’t bookended by beetroot and balm – it’s squeezed between work, domestic chores, Jonny’s swim club and Maggie’s Beavers. Which is why most of us are so poor at recovery – and why we’re not maximising the gains from every ride. Thankfully, by assimilating what’s realistic from the professional’s fatigue-management handbook, you can ride faster, longer and fresher.

Train without (too much) pain

“Progressing without falling

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