Just how close could you be to winning the Tour de France?
PUBLISHED: 16:30 28 July 2016
As Chris Froome made his triumphant ride up the Champs Elysees to claim a third Tour de France title I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought “I wonder if I could do that”.
Ok, there are a few things that make that extremely unlikely; age, weight and talent being just three.
But as an enthusiastic cyclist, with a second tilt at Ride London looming this Sunday, I consider myself to be fairly fit for my circumstances.
Therefore the chance to test myself and look at the science of a Tour and Olympic rider was too tempting.
And boy was it difficult.
The machine used is called a Wattbike which, designed with British Cycling, measures a multitude of things including cadence, the balance of force produced by each leg and the power created by a cyclist.
It’s this figure that is used by Team Sky to gauge efforts during a race.
I was given two tests; a six second, full gas effort, recorded a speed of 41mph and a maximum power rating of 1,091Watts.
The second though proved the killer. Starting at 85W and increasing by 15 every minute, the idea was to hold it at that level for each passing minute.
It’s cycling’s version of a bleep test; and I lasted just four minutes before waving the white flag.
It did produce my VO2 max figure, the maximum volume of oxygen that can be inhaled and absorbed by the body, which came out at a suprising 53.9, considered pretty good for someone of my age.
It would put me comfortably into midfield of a top amateur race apparently but it pales into insignificance alongside Froome, who recorded 84.6 in a test last year.
However, the one noticeable thing was even though I could post good numbers at any one moment, the effort needed to sustain that level was incredible and well beyond my reach.
My chief torturers were based at Nuffield Health, at Highfield Park in St Albans, which has just had a million pound refit, including new machines, of which the eight-strong Wattbike suite is part.
And the fact that a no-hoper cyclist from South Tyneside can test himself in the same way as the pros shows how the emphasis of training has changed.
Mark Woods from Nuffield Health said: “Athletes were training one way and members of the public were training differently.
“But over the last few years there has been a shift in the industry which says what works for athletes, can also work for non-athletes.
“There’s more opportunities for sportive rides and races these days so the Wattbike zone is aimed at those individuals who want to improve their cycling performance.
“We also have an athletics zone, and increased the availability of equipment.”
The club run over 100 classes a week, from pilates to yoga and circuits to spin classes.
On-site indepth healthstyle tests and physiotherapists are there to “get the nation fitter and healthier”.
And while they may not get you challenging for a malliot jaune, they can give you an idea of what it will take to get there.
It’s well-worth checking out.