Now that the Tour de France is in the rearview mirror one might think that the world of professional cycling takes a long vacation before beginning their preparation for next year. That's hardly the case, and immediately following the Tour’s conclusion is what is touted as “America’s Toughest Stage Race:” The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.
The 2018 edition kicked off on Monday and will have racers tackle some of the Beehive State’s most demanding terrain tackling 548.3 miles over the course of 6 stages and a prologue from down in St. George to up in Layton.
The race earns its reputation as America’s toughest stage race for a reason. For an example, the highest point in this year’s Tour de France, the Col de Portet, found in the Pyrenees mountain range on France’s southern border, topped out at 7,267 feet above sea level. In the 2018 Tour of Utah, at no point does it dip below 3,000 feet above sea level, with stages 1, 2, 5, and 6 bringing them either above or just shy of elevation 10,000 feet.
The demands these kinds of extreme profiles have on a rider’s body rises exponentially even with slight rises in elevation. According to the Center for Wilderness Safety, the difference in the effective amount of oxygen at 7,000 feet above sea level and 10,000 feet above sea level, can be up to two percent.
A gut reaction might invoke one to say, “Just two percent isn’t that much,” but when you are talking about athletes who are incredibly tuned to their physical needs and who have made a name for themselves and their sport in their pursuit of “marginal gains,” two percent means a lot.
Tom Dumoulin, for example, won the individual time trial of this year’s Tour individual by one second over Chris Froome, which amounts to a 0.00041-percent difference over a 40-minute time trial.
Riders train hard to acclimate themselves to the stresses of racing at altitude for the Tour of Utah, and seek every edge they can get to ready their bodies. One of the key ways some of the biggest contenders and veteran riders alike have used is reframing their usage of PR Lotion to help them gain those extra invaluable percentage points.
Rob Britton of Rally Cycling, the 2017 Tour of Utah overall winner, who returns to the race hoping to defend his title, makes a point to use the lotion in training to extract the most amount of effort he can from his legs.
"PR Lotion has become an integral part of my preparation for big events. It’s not just a race day only or time trial only type of thing anymore, I use it for nearly all my long and hard training days. Before so I can get the most out of my efforts on the bike and after so I can bounce back faster and do it again the next day.”
Alongside Britton, Elevate-KHS’s, Brian McCulloch, returns to the race, having used his preparation at altitude as an experimental test-period to see what different application strategies could have on his performance.
"Since I began using PR Lotion I have been finding more and more reason to utilize it in my training and recovery process. In preparation for last years’ Tour of Utah, I used one application of PR Lotion for each of my hard training sessions. While at our Elevate/KHS Pro Cycling Tour of Utah Prep Camp, I even used an additional application post ride for recovery, as going hard at altitude is extra demanding on the body."
Regardless of their approach to the race, riders will face the same topographical challenges while we enjoy what is sure to be some explosive racing.