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Giro Ready: How the Pros Prepare for a Multi-Stage Race

This coming Friday marks the start of the Giro d'Italia, the first of the Grand Tours that occur every summer. 

This coming Friday marks the start of the Giro d'Italia, the first of the Grand Tours that occur every summer. Teams participating in the Giro are staring down 21 stages of racing, pedaling 3445.4 kilometers (or 2140.87 miles), and thousands of meters of climbing over the next three weeks.

So how does a rider get ready for such an undertaking? We got in touch with two of our PowerTap sponsored Pro Continental Teams: Bardiani-CSF and Androni Giocattoli and asked for some power files from each. Bardiani gave us a file from Enrico Battaglin and Androni gave us two from Franco Pellizotti. Power files in hand, we asked Product Manager, Justin Henkel, to review and analyze to help understand what goes into preparing for one of the world's most strenuous mult-day athletic events.

Pellizotti: Base building ride

Known as a climbing specialist, Franco Pellizotti has traditionally done well on the various climbing focused stages of the Giro. However, even top racers need to start somewhere. The first power file we looked at represents a typical, base building, early season ride for a pro cyclist. Pros often do rides like this a few times a week, and sometimes back-to-back. This ride in particular featured 2 big climbs: one with a 5% grade for 5.6 miles and another with 3644 feet of climbing over 22.4 miles. Averaged across both rides, Pellizotti churned out around 260 watts on both climbs—safely below his functional threshold power (FTP) allowing him to focus on building his aerobic engine

According to Justin, a ride like this for a hobby cyclist would be amazing to do a once a year, and it would take several days to recover from it. To help further interpret the ride, Justin imported the files into Strava. This ride resulted in 15 Strava segments where he placed in the top 10 while never turning a pedal in anger.

Duration 6:08:45
Energy Expended 4,159 kJs
Distance 112 mi (180 km)
Elevation Gain 7500 ft (2441 m)
TSS 270.8
Top 10 Strava Segments 15
Strava Tough Suffer Score 125

Pellizotti: Climbing focused

You don't get to be a climbing specialist by riding flat roads. The second power file from Pellizotti focuses on two larger climbs done at 35km and 68km into the ride. The first climb was just under 6 kilometers and 10 minutes in length. The intensity factor (IF) was 0.94, or the "sweet spot"—as most people call it. During this climbing interval his cadence spanned a leg draining 60 to 90 rpm. The second climb is very similar to the first, touting a 5 kilometer distance and a 7% incline over which Pellizotti continued his sweet IF and variant cadence patterns.

While reviewing this file, Justin said, "Pellizotti is no doubt preparing himself for some of the Giro climbs where attacks and accelerations can create a lot of changes in pedaling speed."

Duration 3:44:39
Energy Expended 2,398 kJs
Distance 70.5 mi (113.5 km)
Elevation Gain 5,528 ft (8896.5 m)
Top 10 Strava Segments 21
Strava Tough Suffer Score 93

Battaglin: Big gear repeats

At 24, Enrico Battaglin is a young up-and-comer in the professional circuit who won the fourth stage at the Giro last year and temporarily donned the pink jersey. He recently broke his hand in a crash, yet kept on training—including this structured workout.

Justin imported Battaglin's power file into Strava and determined that at about 27 miles into this ride, Battaglin does a 10 min climb where he averages 312w (0.90 IF), then does 3 low rpm (~60) repeats of another shorter climb at a lower power. Riders will typically do this to build leg and core strength. Compared to Pelizotti, Battaglin is almost identical in terms of size and threshold output. This ride is just over half the duration of Pelizotti's and at a much lower average power 157w vs 188w. So overall a much lower stress level, while still achieving a specific goal.

Duration 3:49:04
Energy Expended 2,151 kJs
Distance 66.5 mi (107 km)
Elevation Gain 4104 ft (6604.7 m)
Strava Tough Suffer Score 98

A special thanks to Androni Giocattoli, Bardiani-CSF, Franco Pellizotti, and Enrico Battaglin for letting us take a look into their training and Justin Henkel for helping us dig deeper. We wish both teams well as they arrive in Northern Ireland for the Grande Partenza (aka: Big Start).