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Greg Henderson talks final Tour preparations
Jun 27th, 12. Today Greg Henderson leaves his European home in Girona to head to the start of his first Tour de France, he told RoadCycling.co.nz about his final preparations.
In preparation for his Tour debut, Henderson has had three stints at altitude to get his body ready for three weeks of mountains, sprints, TTs and stress.
For the last 10 days he has been living on and off in an oxygen tent in his lounge as he completes the last few training sessions before his trip around France.
What did his pre-tour training comprise?
Here were his final three days of training, a three day block he has repeated many times in the previous weeks.
- Sprint, a really heavy sprint day - about 3-3.5hrs but with a lot of 30sec-1min standing starts and seated sprints.
The day RoadCycling.co.nz talked to the Kiwi, he had just finished his mountains/sprint effort session.
"I was leading out JJ Haedo as he's the sprinter for SaxoBank - so I practised my leadouts and he practiced his sprints. It works out well, he's a good mate of mine and we often train together," he said before adding, "I think we are going to be in for a hot Tour de France, these last couple of days have been very hot!"
What was the oxygen tent for?
Altitude training is about depriving the body of oxygen to gain the benefits of the body's response - the performance enhancing boost gained from increased red blood cells. Henderson has had three blocks of altitude training, in Boulder, USA back in April, Andorra, Spain late May/early June and most recently in simulated altitude in an oxygen tent in his Girona home in Spain.
"Your body responds to the lack of oxygen and starts producing red blood cells and what happens is when you come back down to sea level your body goes, 'ah there's heaps of oxygen around now, I don't need to keep producing it myself' so it shuts down your production, you have to keep spiking it," he explained.
"That's why I went straight up to Andorra, Spain for another 10 nights just to let the body know, 'hang on, there is a lack of oxygen' so it keeps producing again and then I came back down.
"For now, I didn't want to go back up again, but the lifespan of a blood cell is 3-3.5 weeks so you kind of have to be in the tent and keep producing new blood cells. I've been doing day in, day off – for ten days."
Pre-stage planning - race book studyAt this stage, Henderson has not reviewed the stages of the Tour in too much detail - only enough to determine which are the stages he believes will come down to a bunch sprint.
Those are his priority stages, his Tour de France goal is to earn stage wins with the team's No1 sprinter Andre Greipel.
He gets to ride the first two stages of the Tour before the racing begins, but most of the learnings come from studying the race book he said.
"I'll study the race book the night before and again in the morning so I know exactly every left, every right, where 500m is, you have to know everything.
"Now we've got radios as well we'll have someone at the finish line telling us if it's headwind, tailwind, crosswind, which side to go in the gutter – it helps a lot having the radios.
"If it's headwind or slight uphill we'll try and deliver the sprint 100m later as it's going to be harder and longer," he explained.
Form is feeling good - 1400 watt efforts after 5 hours
With the training done and the racing about to start, Henderson is feeling confident of his form - for the sprints, time trials and for the many difficult days in the mountains.
"I'm feeling really good to be honest. I've done all my altitude blocks up in the mountains, and while I don't do intervals and I don't do specific threshold stuff on the mountains but just teach my body to ride uphill, your body just gets used to it.
"I'm actually feeling really good on the hills at the moment. I've lost quite a bit of weight, consequently which also helps going up those climbs."
Henderson has dropped a couple of kilograms to hit 70kg.
"It hasn't affected my power – I did a sprint today after five and a half hours in the heat and I still hit 1400 watts which is bang on that 20 watts a kilo which is not bad after a big ride. I feel really comfortable after five or six hours on the bike which is the most important thing, I think I'm really fit."
The time trial stages are a focus, but for recovery rather than results. Henderson's goals are to conserve as much energy on these days whilst ensuring he finishes inside the time cut.
"I've got a nice position on my TT bike, I'm comfortable in my position, I can get very aero - making time cut is important on those TT days. The key there is to be as slippery as possible and ride totally within yourself just to make sure you make the time cut and be ready for the next sprint stage."
And now to the Tour start in Belgium
After arriving in Belgium, Henderson joins with his Lotto Belisol teammates to ride the prologue and look over the first couple of stages. The fastmen will do a few leadouts to "get the feeling again" before heading to the team presentation on Thursday evening.
"You've got to go in to a Grand Tour fresh," said the 35 year old who has ridden the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta Espana grand tours. He won a stage in the Vuelta Espana in 2009.
This is the second in a series of articles from an exclusive interview with Henderson on Sunday 24th June. The first was Greg Henderson talks Tour de France debut, still to come are discussions about sprint trains, and on setting and resetting goals.
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