Wanting to live the champagne lifestyle on a beer budget, a number of MWCC riders utilised the altitude facilities at Sydney Altitude Training Centre to go up to 2,300 metres and use their training bikes to TT up a select part of the Alpe D’Huez course. A number of egos were crushed.
It may have been a sunny clear day on top of Alpe D’Huez however back in Sydney it was cold and raining and so the riders sought sanctuary inside these state of the art facilities. The centre has two altitude chambers, both can be set to various altitudes. We were in the main room which contains 6 ‘Velotron’ bikes which are similar to a bike on a wind trainer that is hooked up to a computrainer. The bikes may look a bit unusual but they were amazingly road like and provided a very real ‘road riding’ experience.
The room is entered via a sliding door and I think a few of the riders were a little nervous to enter the room, which would soon become their pain chamber. The altitude was set to 2,300 metres which is the highest point in Australia and the mid point on the climb of Alpe D’Huez, apparently the room can go up to about 10,000 metres. It was decided that we would cover the mid section of the climb with a brief flat 500 metre run up, the end would have us finishing on a 12% gradient.
The first 6 riders were set up on their bikes and given a brief run down on how to change gears and what to expect. The rest of us gathered around to cheer and heckle them on. A short 5km TT shouldn’t put anyone into any real difficulty we thought…
Brad Hamblett was the first rider who was pushing out some big watts out of the gate and we were able to watch their progress up on the big screen in the room, which showed the 6 riders on course, their power and speed along with how they ranked against the other riders. It wasn’t long until the riders were unzipping jerseys and having the sweat pour out of them, Col Carrigan must have thought that you have to remove a piece of clothing for every kilometre covered judging by the way he was stripping off the clothing.
Throughout each of the time trials, we were monitored by the guys from the Centre, who would measure our oxygen debt and saturation via a little plug on our finger. It showed that some of us were not as suited to the altitude as others and our bodies were working harder as a result.
As riders pushed through the kilometres, we had scenes of riders drooling on themselves, Ed Gralton pulling off some absolute classic facial expressions and just buckets of sweat pouring off every rider – as the metres ticked down, the look of pain and suffering showed on every rider.
There were some real battles on the night with Chris Taylor and Gavin Peacock doing battle, while Ed Shilland had the best poker face – never showing any sign of emotion. Evan Snow collapsed over his bike at the end of his session, absolutely broken by his effort.
By the end of the night Brad Hamblett had beaten Nick Gatland by 3 seconds for the fastest time, while Norbert Gerold had the highest watts per kilo performance. However everyone walked away completely gobsmacked how hard it was to push ourselves on that course and at that altitude.
It was without a doubt a great night of training, that finished with a few refreshing ales at the pub. I think we will all be back at another time, maybe at a different altitude and on a different course.
The Sydney Altitude Training Centre will be sponsoring the August and September road races and all MWCC riders who race or marshall at these races will go into the draw to win a training pack at the Centre valued at $600.
Ed Note: This night was provided free of charge by the Altitude Training Centre. The centre provides altitude training for all levels of athletes, not just elite athletes. The chambers can be used for bike riding, running on a tread mill and general weights and exercises. The centre can create programs for athletes and all people are monitored while using the facilities. Interested riders can set up a number of different courses and terrains to be stimulated at the Centre, like your favourite course or TdF route. For more information about using their facilities – their website can be found here.