Tour hopeful Joe Dombrowski.
Tour hopeful Joe Dombrowski. (Jonathan Devich/Getty)

What You Can Learn About Training from Pro Cyclists

Despite the chronic doping scandals, the sport still has a lot to teach us about fitness

Tour hopeful Joe Dombrowski.
Jonathan Devich/Getty
Vernon Felton

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You are forgiven for letting le Tour slide from your attention. Much of the race is no longer on prime-time television, there hasn’t been a compelling American contender for years, and the near constant stream of doping scandals is enough to make anyone tune out. But there are still reasons to care. Everyday athletes can learn a lot from cyclists who pedal 2,188 miles in 23 days at an intensity most of us would have trouble sustaining for two city blocks. On the eve of the 104th running of the world’s biggest bike race, we reached out to a few Tour stalwarts for the best (legal) training hacks for the rest of us. 

Hit the Gym

Joe Dombrowski, Tour hopeful, team Cannondale-Drapac

“Focusing exclusively on endurance isn’t healthy. There’s a lot of hormonal suppression that comes with huge volumes of that type of training. Balance it out with some time in the weight room. You’ll improve bone density and connective­tissue strength, which will help curb overuse injuries and keep you in one piece when you crash.”

Avoid the Rut

Andrew Talansky, three-time Tour racer, team Cannondale-Drapac

Andrew Talansky.
Andrew Talansky. (Tim de Waele/Corbis via Getty)

“People—even pros—spend too much time riding at a pace that’s not exactly easy but also not hard enough to produce results. They never recover or improve. Don’t get stuck in the middle. On your easy days, take it really easy—you should be able to pedal and talk normally without huffing and puffing. On your hard days, challenge yourself. Join a club ride that’s above your comfort level and see how long you can hang. Try to break your record on the local hill climb. Race your friends to every city-limits sign. I guarantee you’ll get stronger and have more fun.”

Eat Smart

Peter Stetina, two-time Tour racer, team Trek-Segafredo

Peter Stetina.
Peter Stetina. (Josep Lago/AFP/Getty)

“Your digestive system can absorb about 300 calories per hour during exercise—about one energy bar and one sports drink. Any more than that and you risk loading up your gut. You’ll want to stick with solid food at first; only switch to gummies or gels in the last 90 minutes of a ride or race. Gels are like nitrous, and as every good racer knows, you never hit the nitrous button too early.” 

Suck It Up

Chris Carmichael, former Tour racer for team 7-11; founder of Carmichael Training System 

Chris Carmichael.
Chris Carmichael. (Courtesy of CTS)

Something always hurts. Bike manufacturers and fit specialists have convinced people that all discomfort can be eliminated from cycling, but there is almost never a time when everything feels right. So rest—that’s important—but know that you can’t always wait until you feel perfect before you get back on the bike.”