Science Interviews


Sun, 8th Aug 2010

The Views of a Sprint Cyclist

Tyler Farrar, Team Garmin-Transitions

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show The Tour de France

Meera: -   When talking about the Tour de France, we can't go without meeting the people that have to combine all the technology, nutrition, and fitness together to try and win stages, and jerseys.  Thatís the cyclists themselves.  I spoke to world class sprinter, Tyler Farrar, at the start of stage 10 to find out how he prepares...

Tyler Farrar

Tyler: -   You know, for me, thereís a lot of focus on real maximum power training and high speed work.  So we do a lot of sprint training, a lot of riding behind a scooter or a gurney, kind of motor pacing to simulate racing in the final sprints, and then weíre doing a lot of work with the power metres to kind of register what kind of values I'm putting out, how that relates to where I was in my preparation before in previous Tour de Frances or Giro díItalias, things like that.

Meera: -   Whatís your goal when you're looking at all of this in the training sessions, and how much impact does that actually have when you're out riding?

Tyler: -   I mean, at the end of the day, in racing, itís the results that count, not the numbers, but you can at least have a sense of where you're at in your training.  I know for example that if I'm doing X number of Watts in a sprint, that means Iíll be in about the same shape I was in, when I was doing that right before another race, that I won.  So, itís kind of a nice gauge.

Meera: -   So would you say then that power is more important to you, perhaps say, than monitoring things like heart rate or breathing?

Tyler: -   It depends on who you are. As a sprinter, you know, sprints are so short, you're heart can't catch up to the workload, so itís power that really measures what you're actually doing.

Meera: -   How do you handle things like climbs then?  Yesterday was a mammoth climb.  So how do you handle things like that?

Tyler: - I have to train for that just to get through the stages.  You know, thatís the biggest thing, making it inside the time cut, trying not to kill yourself too much. I actually spend a lot of time training in the hills too, just to kind of build the general condition a lot.

Tour de France - stage 10Meera: - And I guess when it comes to cycling, itís more than just you as the person.  Itís your gear, itís your diet, so how much does that all play a role?

Tyler: -   Itís all a factor.  You know, bike races are won by really small margins.  So, itís all the little things you can change and tweak that make the difference.  Itís how you're eating, how you're sleeping, how you're training, and if you can do little tweaks that change 1%, that could be the difference between first and fifth place, or something like that.

Meera: -   Well thereís a lot of developments when it comes to say, bike equipment.  So is there a particular technological advance that you would say has really helped you?

Tyler: -   Wheel technology has been incredible.  They've really changed the wheels weíre racing on in the last 10 years, so you know, bikes don't look the same as they did a decade ago. And thereís a lot of limits on what a bike frame can be, how itís shaped, but you know, building faster and faster, lighter and stiffer wheels are whatís really made a difference, I think.

Meera: -   What about what you put inside you - so your diet; is there a key thing that you rely on perhaps, either before a ride, or during, that really helps?

Tyler: -   As a team, we do an anti-inflammatory diet that is pretty thorough, and then during the race, itís just a matter of staying hydrated, keeping the food in you and you know, when itís as hot as itís been in this tour, staying on top of the hydration is life or death really.  I mean, if you don't stay on top of it one day, your tour could be over. 

Meera: -   Well this tour has been particularly hot on certain days, especially I think Saturday, I heard even roads were melting.

Tyler: -   Yeah.  Itís been really warm.  Itís been a pretty cool year up to this date, so not a lot of guys are used to it.  We havenít raced in the heat a lot.  Itís been a bit of a shock to the system, but you expect that on the tour.

Meera: -   I'm amazed when I hear about someone breaking their arm, or breaking a rib, and continuing to cycle for 200 kilometres.  So whatís your worst injury been that you've actually then pursued and finished the race with?  Havenít you got a broken elbow now?

Tyler: -   I have a broken wrist right now.  I've had worse broken bones, but I havenít continued on with them.  You know, I've broken my clavicle a few times and I've broken my wrist before when I havenít been able to race on it.  This time, itís a really small fracture and I can kind of just grit my teeth and bare it, but yes, I've been racing since stage 2 now with a broken wrist.

Meera: -   So, whatís your worst injury ever been?

Tyler: -   I've broken 5 collar bones, 3 wrists, and a rib.

Meera: -   And you're still cycling.

Tyler: -   All throughout my career.  Not all at once, but you know...

Meera: -   Well that wouldíve been awful.

Tyler: -   You add it all up, yeah.

Meera: -   I guess actually, a key thing is being part of a team.  So how much do you rely on your team to really protect you and keep you going, to help you do your final sprints?

Tyler: -   Itís huge.  You know, thereís a lot of fighting for position that goes on before TdF crowd at finish linethe final sprint itself, and thatís where the team comes in to lead the sprint out and you know, let me sit back in the draft, and let them put me where I need to be.  You know, itís a little harder to put it into practice because there is 20 other teams trying to do the same thing, but you know, we do the best we can.

Meera: -   So what are your aims for this particular tour?

Tyler: -   The hope coming here was to win a stage.  I've been second on one stage.  Breaking my wrist derailed that a little bit because for me personally, the most opportunities were in the first week, and when I broke my wrist, I missed almost all the sprints because for the first three days, I couldnít really sprint.

Meera: -   How did you break it?

Tyler: -   Thereís just a lot of crashes on stage 2 and I was in one of them, and just hit the ground wrong.

Meera: -   Has there been anything this year thatís new, thatís kind of revolutionised perhaps, the tour, or cycling, or the route?

Tyler: -   I think the way that teams have progressed in the last few years has really changed cycling a lot.  Teams function as a unit a lot more than they used to.  Races used to be won by individuals a lot more, and now, itís truly team efforts to win races, almost always.  Because the teams are functioning as a unit, the technology is becoming way more dispersed within the peloton, because before, the top rider might have the best stuff and then the team-mates would just have the leftovers.

Meera: -   the second goods.

Tyler: -   Yeah, and now, itís kind of you know, everyoneís riding on the same stuff, everyone has really top equipment, raising the general level of the technology of the sport.

Meera: -   And your thoughts for today?

Tyler: -   Itís going to be a hot one! And itís Bastille Day, so I think the French riders are going to be quite motivated today..


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