Training by numbers

Watching today’s stage of Paris Nice on TV I noticed Cofidis’s Amaël Moinard in the breakaway, and that he had an SRM meter on his bike. In case you didn’t know the SRM system measures the watts produced by a rider with a pair of cranks that have been modified with strain guages, plus a display unit on the handlebars (circled in the image above). Quite a few riders train with SRMs and other similar tools. But it’s rare to see French riders using them.

I might blog another day about how the French romanticise about cycling. Reducing the sport to watts and aerodynamic drag coefficients (not mention pharmaceuticals) is a surefire way to get your Frenchman changing TV channels. They want panache, courage and du tempérament. But this is a whole other subject for another post.

But the French also want a winner and training properly is the first step. Cofidis had a reputation as a chaotic team (I’ve blogged earlier about their fax machines) with the worst instance being when riders like Gaumont were allowed to turn to shady figures like Bernard “Dr Mabuse” Sainz*. Today’s it’s all changed. Cofidis has a full time trainer on its staff, Dutchman Vincent Villerius. The likes of Saxo, Liquigas and Astana don’t have a trainer. Some teams will consult experts but few teams have a coach on roster, at their sole service. Cofidis have done this and it’s a good step to ensure their riders are competitive.

Training right doesn’t make you into a champion but it means like the likes of Moinard, Rein Taaramae and Rémi Pauriol stand out as some of the best riders in France today. Many non-French riders use older training methods but I sense that the French have been some of the slowest to adapt to the science of power meters and structured training. Here’s hoping they can up their game, it will be good for the sport. And let’s salute the way Cofidis has been turned around under new manager Eric Boyer, they are looking for a new sponsor and deserve to find one.

* Dr Mabuse is the French name of Dr Strangelove from the 1964 Stanley Kubrick film. But Mabuse is like m’abuse as in “this doctor abuses me”.