Secrets to winning the TDF – Team Sky

The science of winning: behind the scenes at Team Sky

What is the secret to Team Sky approach to winning the TDF? At the core of Team Sky’s model was an approach was taken to follow and initiate a scientific and rational method to the art of cycling performance. It was a clear break from a past dominated by a mindset rooted in tradition, low self-belief and an unwillingness to explore new technology.

Riding and racing with the energy systems.

Team Sky race within physiological demands, minimizing the amount of time spent above anaerobic threshold.

Froome will try to spend as little time over that threshold as possible, even if that means losing his position within the group.

As he crosses that threshold, he starts feeling his body screaming at him to slow down. He starts breathing faster as his muscles demand more oxygen. sweet-spot

Use the aero dynamics of riding protected by the team.

Riding behind a team can save 30% of your energy, which can then be used for strategic attacks.

“It’s great when you manage to save as much as possible and you’re ready for the last climb,” Froome says.

Pack aerodynamics (cyclists)

Specificity in training

Kerrison (Team Sky physiology coach) has been tracking data from every single pedal stroke his riders take, both in racing and training, for more than four years. That data is the foundation for the comprehensive and detailed training programme that all Team Sky riders undertake.

“We turned the conventional periodisation idea around,” Kerrison says. “It made more sense. One of the foundations of sports training is specificity, which means that everything you do in training has to be related, to some degree, to what you need to do in competition. So we began working on the team’s anaerobic systems from the very beginning, developing their strength, speed and power.


Mindset – Believe you are an elite rider

“I began to understand that I belonged with the best climbers,” Froome says. “I wasn’t struggling the way I thought I would be.” He gained confidence and learned how to use his internal engine.


Immediate technical feedback from training

Kerrison adopted a database system called Training Peaks in which the athletes could download the data so that he could study it. “It’s an ongoing thing now,” Kerrison says. “Every day we have a new current power curve for the riders. Our compliance rates (downloading data) , in terms of riders, when they’re at home downloading the data, went through the roof, because they all started seeing how it affected their training plans.”

Altitude Training

“I did start to question if we were going to be able to compete with guys who spent their whole lives growing up riding in the mountains at altitude in the heat.” To address this, Kerrison scouted Europe for high-altitude camp locations, eventually deciding on Tenerife.

Nutritional cycling, carbohydrate fats

The interaction between these three types of metabolisms – carbohydrate-fuelled aerobic, fat-fuelled aerobic and anaerobic – is the foundation of Froome’s training plan. Kerrison then adjusts Froome’s nutritional physiology: the nutritional fuel he uses for this aerobic effort. This fuel is a mixture of carbohydrates and fats, which are metabolised in different proportions depending on the intensity of the effort. “We restrict carbs in training and this shifts the metabolism,” Kerrison says. “It drives an adaptation that makes the body become more efficient at using fat as fuel. So up to a certain intensity, say 200 Watts, Froome will predominantly be using fat as fuel. A significant portion of a typical five-hour stage is ridden at a relatively low intensity, meaning he’ll be burning mostly fat, saving the carb stores for the more intense stages of the stage where it’s needed the most – for example, the final mountain climb.”

Kerrison has a five-page checklist that he keeps for each of his riders, 74 factors, qualitative and quantitative that is tracked, items such as power curve analysis, demands of the events, fat-carb metabolism, heat and altitude. These 74 factors are the blue print of what it takes to win the Tour de France.

As we see it #specificity is the key to winning the Tour de France.

The king of specificity was Lance Armstrong who changed the way in which training, clothing, bikes, technology, and team trained. A famous quote was that by February of the TDF year, he already knew whether he was on track to win the TDF purely by a specific power test up a 1 hour mountain climb.

#specificity is king