The month prior to the Tour de France, Team Sky organized a small training camp in the Alps and Pyrenees for us to ride in the high mountains while also previewing some of the key Tour de France mountain stages. For us, Brad Wiggins, Steve Cummings and me, the camp also provided us with a good training block as we had been recovering from the Giro d’Italia and required a few good days of training to kick-start our fitness again. In the five day camp we rode roughly two or three key climbs every day. The set-up was ideal as we had a small group of riders, a support vehicle to follow us, and a camper to meet us on the mountain peaks. In the camper we could layer clothing for the descent and grab a quick coffee or tea to keep warm.

Our team coach planned the routes and organized the day while Sean Yates, our team director drove behind us. Pre-riding the climbs and breaking them down into sections is key, but it is just as important to know the run-in to the ascent and the technical aspects of the descent. Positioning before the climb is crucial while knowing the descent is also vital as time can be won or lost depending on how confident and comfortable a rider is in the corners.

Sean was known as one of the fastest descenders of his generation. When he was asked by a journalist why he became so good at descending he responded that he couldn’t climb so he learned to catch groups on the descents. He told us a story where he bridged a five-minute gap to the front group on a long Alpine descent. The Colombians he had dropped on the way down caught him ten kilometers up the next climb. To many of the guys on the team Sean is not only our directeur sportif but also a childhood idol. Since he retired he hasn’t gained an ounce and he still rides daily and looks the same on his bike as he did when he was winning in the Motorola colors in the early 90’s. His work ethic, and quality as a domestique, was remarkable. He is a hard man who simply loves to be on his bike.

The following video is of one of the numerous climbs we did during the camp. The climb is the Port de Balès, a beautiful ascent in the Pyrenees. The road leading into the climb cuts through gorges and winds its way through pastures before opening up to some of the most beautiful countryside I have ridden through. The descent is fairly technical and, as the stage will finish at the bottom, will influence the outcome of the race.

28 thoughts on “Up and Down in the Alps and Pyrenees

  1. Great video! It’s *really* neat for us who aren’t training for a Grand Tour to see some of the riding you get to do.

    In the videos there are occasionally abrupt cuts. Have you considered including sped up footage of the parts that are cut out? I’ve never done any video editing, so I have no idea how feasible this is.

    Thanks again for the awesome videos! Can’t wait to see more.

    1. Hi George, The track is Nucleus-Deluxe from the album Spundae by Jerry Bonham. Cheers, Michael

  2. Absolutely EPIC!!
    This has got to be the greatest job in the world. The Dogma is absolutely a dream to descend with!! Thanks for that perspective Michael!!

  3. Fantastic video, with accompanying music.
    I have always maintained that the only reason to suffer the climbs, is for the reward of a white knuckle, “balls-to-wall”l descent through amazing landscapes.
    Thanks for honoring the love of descending,

  4. Congrats with tour selection! After the Giro this must be another highlight this year. I’ll be cheering for you in my hometown Rotterdam! Till next week!


  5. Congrats on the Tour selection. Good to see more Canadians in the big race. I hope Wiggo grabs the lead so we can see you driving the Peloton for a few stages.

  6. HURRAY ! ! ! Great man, your first Tour ! I’m happy for you. I’ll try my best to see you in Rotterdam, although I know you’ll be busy preparing for the prologue. Hope to see you a lot at the head of the peleton, working for your teammates, and also in a successful escape and stage win. Rick, your fan from Holland.

  7. Congrats on selection for the tour squad. Already looking forward to your reports!!!

  8. Just saw on the Team Sky website that you are on the roster for this year’s TDF, good on ya! Glad to finally see you on a tour team you’ve been deserving of it for a long time now.


    P.S. This was a good vid, but I like the vids with the handlebar mounted cam better than the car mounted, it gives a better appreciation for the riders point of view.

  9. michael – congrats on the tour selection. long overdue. both grand tours? beautiful.

    hey what is the town you end up in at the end of this ride? what is the name of that little hotel you pull into?

    also, where was that coffee shop where you guys were hanging out in the sun during your paris-roubaix training photos? looked cool.

    love the blog. thanks for sharing. best, hueso

    1. Hi Huesco, Thanks for the note. The town at the bottom of the mountain is Luchon. The hotel is the Acta Luchon hotel. As for the coffee shop during the Roubaix training–don’t remember the name but there are dozens of great places to stop in and around Kortrijk (the Belgian town we were staying in). Best, Michael

  10. Big congratulations from foggy Halifax, NS, Michael.
    It was great to see your name on the Team Sky Tour selection list.

    Thanks for posting the video, great music choice too. What a wild ride!

    Cheers and best of luck next month,

  11. Congrats on the Tour selection! Check that one off the list…. next up STAGE WIN!

    Can’t wait for the unique insights but could it really be better than this years Giro? Let us know

    Safe journey at Le Grande Boucle

  12. Can you do somemore on bike videos please and tell us how you get the Flip HD to mount on the bike ?

    Enjoy your first TDF

  13. Hi,

    I’ve just finished Le Metiér, I enjoyed it very much. I’ve just started your book on being on the US Postal bus, quite apt considering your successful inclusion on the TdF team – congratulations.

    My claim to fame is racing against Mr Yates after he *retired*, in a local ‘fish & chipper’. I say raced, really it involved me being a starstruck fool wondering whether to say hello or not, before the start. Then trying to stay as close as possible in the neutralised section, then Mr Yates riding off into the distance, and dropping everybody foolhardy enough to try and wheelsuck. Wonderful! Enjoy Le Tour, I’m sure it will be a wonderful memory.

  14. Michael,
    We wish you the best in the tour! Hope Dede and the boys are well. See you in September.

    Chuck & Kathy

  15. Congrats on your selection to ride the Tour: it is so well-deserved. I’ve been a fan of yours since 2004 and am super excited that I’ll be seeing you in the race! Best of luck to you and your team.

  16. Marky:

    I rode that descent as part of the 2007 Etape du Tour and I can tell you that it’s very, very fast. I touched 100 KPH (62 MPH) in several sections. It’s a shame that the clouds settled in for the video – the views from the summit and on the descent on a clear day are breathtaking.


    Congrats on your long overdue debut at le Grand Boucle. Good luck to you and all of Team Sky!

  17. Hells -bells…….bigger ballz than me.I’d be sh** scared of camper-trailers or cars shooting down those roads!

  18. Beautiful video! Thanks for sharing these with us. And the accompanying soundtracks are as brilliant as the vids. I listened to your interview on CBC radio with Matt Galloway.
    ‘Passion, patience and persistence’. Mind if I adopt that as my personal mantra?
    Bonne chance at the TdF. I’m sure CDN cycling fans and especially those from Toronto area will be cheering you on.

  19. Happy (belated) Canada Day and congrats on going to the Tour. You so deserve to be on the Tour team- hope the race goes well for you.

    @Marky + Ken- no, it’s better when Michael chills out on the descents during training… we don’t want this!:

    Be careful out there!

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