Dissecting The Alpe d'Huez Time Trial
Chris Carmichael dissects the Alpe d'Huez time trial.
to the Prologue because the air was anything but hot. We?ll have to wait and see if the weather conditions on Wednesday favor its use this time.
The Ride Itself
Even though 15.5 kilometers is short for an individual time trial in the Tour de France, riders are going to have to carefully adjust their pace to avoid losing time at the top of the mountain. The hardest part of the stage is in the first six kilometers, but the fastest portion of the stage is in the final four kilometers. If you go too hard at the beginning, you may have a great first time split, but burn so much energy you can?t reach the higher speeds necessary to finish the top portion of the climb quickly. On the other hand, if you take it too easy on the steeper bottom section of the climb, you?ll run out of road before you can make up the time you lost. This is part of the reason riders, including Lance Armstrong, visited the mountain in training. Lance rode up Alpe d?Huez four times in one day to get better acquainted with the climb and figure out the best way to get to the top fastest.
The switchbacks are the most famous aspect of Alpe d?Huez, and they will play a significant role in the stage winner?s performance. Lance has looked at the turns and knows the lines he wants to take through them. He wants to accelerate through the switchbacks but not necessarily follow the shortest line in the inside of the corner. The inside line is also the steepest pitch, and that leads to a big spike in power output. Repeated and frequent changes in power output lead to fatigue more quickly than maintaining the same average power with a more steady effort. Though Lance wants to accelerate through the corner, he will be balancing the energy costs and the performance benefits of doing so.
As you approach the top of the climb, the pitch levels out so much that aerodynamics can become a factor. Lance will have aerobars on his bike, but his overall position on the bike will be in between his road and flat time trial positions. For the climb, his aero position will be higher than on his fully-aero time trial bike. The relative positions of the pelvis, lower back, and upper body that lead to maximum power production are different when you?re climbing than they are on flat ground. Since everything leads back to the ability to produce more power, Lance has a special aero setup just for the climbing time trial.
How Will It Turn Out
While I expect the main favorites, including Lance Armstrong, Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich, Andreas Kl?den, and Francisco Mancebo to occupy most of the top positions on the stage, I believe there will be at least one unexpected rider in the top five. Iban Mayo and Roberto Heras have struggled a great deal during this Tour de France, but they may be able to pull out good