Interview with Team Katusha Alpecin headcoach Kevin Poulton.
Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix: These two classics are undoubtedly the most interesting, exciting and toughest races of the spring. But what is important when it comes to riding these monumental races, how must they be trained for? Alpecin Cycling interviewed Team Katusha Alpecin head coach Kevin Poulton. Poulton as a coach has led Mathew Hayman to victory in the “Hell of the North” in 2016.
What are the most important skills to win Flanders and Paris-Roubaix?
One of the key points is knowing the course. An experienced rider who knows the climbs, the turns, the dangerous parts of the course, is able to conserve a lot of energy by being more relaxed. They know when it’s important to move up. They know when they have to fight to be at the front before a particular turn. And from this experience they also know when they can relax and save a little energy.
In terms of skills, the obvious one is learning how to ride the pave. Knowing to ride on the crown of the pave, and being able to ride the echelons.
What are the physiological requirements to win Flanders in comparison to Paris-Roubaix?
We know that these classics are generally completed with a normalized power of around 360w. But that’s the race as a whole. From this data if we look a little closer, we know that a race like Roubaix consists of over 100 high power efforts of 20sec to 90sec. As well as this, in Roubaix there are about 4-5 key high powered 5minute efforts. With the climbs of Flanders the emphasis is more on the longer efforts of 4-5min.
What is the difference between training for Flanders and training for Roubaix?
There isn’t a whole lot of difference in training for Flanders and Roubaix. As we have seen, it’s possible for a rider to win both in the one season. And because they are just a week apart, it doesn’t allow for specific training. Rather, a rider will train specifically for the demands of the classics. The key points in the classics require high powered 3-5min efforts.
What kind of special training is needed to climb the steep hills in Flanders?
This is where we can include some race specific efforts in training. Generally the climbs are performed seated and with a lower than normal cadence. In training a rider will perform repeated efforts such as this at the expected race power.
What special training is needed to attack the paves?
Surprisingly, there is a lot of surging on the pave sections. In training we perform longer tempo type efforts of up to 20min, with 20-30sec surges throughout the effort. Again, these are performed with a lower than normal cadence.
Is there a big difference in power output? I heard that climbing a “Helling” requires 1000 watts? Attacking a pave is not such an intense effort, but longer, isn’t it ?
The pave climbs are a very high powered, steady effort. They are generally shorter efforts. Whereas the pave of Roubaix allows for longer efforts, but with more accelerations throughout them.
How important is the watts per kilogram ratio in these races?
W/kg is always important, but when the climbs are 3-5min in duration, it does lessen it’s importance a little. This is that fine line of the classics rider wanting to be strong and carry a little extra muscle, as well as being light. Because the efforts required over the pave and climbs of the classics are short and intense, the bigger riders tend to dominate here
What are the secrets behind Mathew Hayman’s win at Paris-Roubaix in 2016?
For Mat Hayman there certainly are no secrets. His success came about from experience and a love of the classics, along with a lot of hard work. But I do think in his later years his knowledge of the route was a big advantage. He would always make the key echelons and knew when it was important to be at the front going into certain parts of the course.
Pictures by Kathrin Schafbauer, Laura Fletcher