What it Takes to Tour

A behind the scenes look at the Tour de France from Cycling legend Frankie Andreu

When it comes to the Tour De France, and cycling as a whole, few are known to be as knowledgeable as Frankie Andreu.  Frankie has raced the Tour nine time, from 1992 to 2000, and captained the United States Postal Service team from 1998-200.  Today Andreu continues to play a role in American cycling by giving talks to up and comers as well as being one of the most recognized voices in the sport of cycling.  Andreu frequently commentates the Tour as well as other major cycling races throughout the year.  Frankie as also worked with INFINIT nutrition to create custom drink blends for himself and the community while providing insight into the needs of riders participating in the tour. 

The following is a look at what goes through the heads of riders and what goes on behind the scenes before the Tour written by Frankie himself:

Coming soon to the biggest theater of sports is the Tour de France. Many riders have been working all year waiting for their chance to race on the roads in France. They are preparing by riding other races to prove themselves ready while also waiting for the phone call telling them they have been selected. For many teams that selection won't take place until after their National Championships, usually held at the end of June. Sometimes it’s a mass email, sometimes a phone call, but either way it’s only 9 riders selected from a team that contains as many as 25 riders. The managers and directors usually remain quiet, holding their cards close to their chest to not let anyone know. They want the competitive spirit to play out within the team. This way they can judge how riders react, and race, to the pressure of an unknowing selection.

At least the riders don’t have to worry about their equipment. One of the biggest factors in being successful at a big event is making sure that the equipment you use works perfectly. The mechanics and team staff take care of this end of things while all the riders have to do is worry about their fitness. A lot goes into a rider getting ready for the Tour. Besides the multiple races leading up to the Tour de France, their training, diet, and recovery all need to be dialed in. Their nutrition guidelines that they will follow during the race are used during their training as well. INFINIT meets the hydration needs while also meeting the caloric needs. It’s superior to trying to eat solid foods during a race and easier to steadily consume than choking down bars and cookies at race speed. In addition, with INFINIT’s ability to customize formulas a rider can switch from a high electrolyte drink mix to high calorie or protein mix depending on the weather. Every race is different and INFINIT can meet the demands for every type of race.

Much of the training leading up to the Tour de France is about recovery. The hard work and countless hours on the bike have already been logged. In the final weeks towards July it’s about framing that training schedule to allow the rider to peak at the right time for July. It’s a mix of rest, some long days, and some intensity days. Three weeks out training is still important but one week before the Tour a rider is either ready to race or he is not ready. It’s different than preparing for a one-day race. It’s important to have more rest than usual and come into the three week race fresh with a full tank of reserves. If you try to play a game of training catch up right before the Tour you risk faltering in the second or third week.

Team’s will speak with the riders and see how they are mentally and physically. They will look at their training, check their watts, look at their weight, measure their lactate threshold with a test on the bike, and do blood work all to try to eliminate any surprises that may arrive during the race. The riders will also be counting calories, resting up, speaking with their coaches, and analyzing their competitors. They would have already done any reconnaissance missions needed to look at the critical stages of the race. The idea is to try and take away any surprises before they occur. Confidence creates success and this comes from being as prepared as possible. 

During the three days before the Tour starts, assuming the rider received the phone call inviting him, the riders travel to the race. It’s mostly easy rides, getting race numbers, team meetings, press events, scheduled interviews, Tour presentation, and medical checkup from the Tour. All of this takes place while also trying to stay off their legs as much as possible. It’s a busy time but the mood and atmosphere is contagious as everyone is excited to start the Tour de France. There is nothing like the Tour. The media, fans, TV coverage, pressure, and racing is extreme. It’s about being tough mentally as much as it is physically. Each and every stage of the Tour de France is a career maker for the winner. For the overall winner, it’s a life changer.