The GMBN Podcast Ep. 13 | Tour De France Special – Is Road Cycling Easier Than Mountain Biking?

The GMBN Podcast Ep. 13 | Tour De France Special – Is Road Cycling Easier Than Mountain Biking?

– Right GMBN Podcast
number 13 and ’cause we’re in the thick of the Tour De France thought let’s talk about road bikes. We got Si Richardson. – Hello. – Si from GCN but obviously a, well I was going to say
a former mountain biker but you still ride don’t ya? – I see, yeah yeah I’m on my
mountain bike all the time at the minute, but I don’t get paid to ride my mountain bike anymore. (laughs) That finished a number of years ago. – So what you raced, you
raced junior to high level. You raced world champs
junior and then turned elite? – Yeah so, so yeah I raced
as a full-time bike rider. I was paid by the national
team for five years. I rode for Subaru-Gary Fisher
if anyone remembers them from back in the day and my
last official mountain bike race was the Fort William World Champs in 2007. – All right – So, cross country, do
I need to stress that? Yeah cross country rider
through and through. – Well I thought it’d
be a good opportunity to talk about the Tour, road
racing, how it crosses over for mountain biking because we
have seen a bit in the past. And there’s a lot of
mountain bikers like myself who are sort of casual road bike fans so I ride a road bike, fair
amount, but also I like to keep track of the
big races like the Tour. We’re into, is it the last week now? – Yeah that’s right and if
anyone has a passing interest in the Tour De France, this
is the year to get involved ’cause it’s widely being seen as one of the best Tour De Frances
we’ve had in decades. It’s brilliant, it’s absolutely
poised on a knife edge. – And why is that, just
because it’s not as predictable as the Sky years of knowing
what was going to happen? – Well, there is a little
bit of that, I mean, you can if you’ve got the best
team and the best riders, you can pretty much ensure
that you’re going to win. There’s always, like pitfalls
and potential disasters waiting around every corner,
like mountain bikers jumping over the peloton. That kind
of recipe for disaster. – I was going to talk about
that, I don’t like it. It winds me up, it feels like
we’re like the younger brother and like look at me, look at me every year and like it’s kind of pointless. – Well I think it’s kind
of cool, my worry is that like one year it’s going to go wrong. – It will though yeah. – Because, at the moment it seems like it’s pretty good riders doing it and you’re like yeah okay
and then at some point there’s going to be some
complete chopper who jumps it and then lands in the
pro peloton, so you know, yeah it’s one of those things, like let’s stop it now before
it goes disastrously wrong. – Yeah, makes me think the road
riders are probably cringing thinking oh here we go, this is the guy this
year who’s it (laughs). – Yeah, basically. – Oh well. But what about
sort of in the past, cross country races moving on to the road, I know you did it. Why did you
do it? Let’s start with that. – Well, two reasons really. The first one, the unavoidable
one, is that my time on the British cycling
team is coming to an end. I clearly wasn’t going to be
as good as they needed me to be in order to keep funding me. I was never going to win an Olympic medal and that was becoming clear
at the age of like 22, 23. I wasn’t improving enough.
And then, and so I, yeah basically I needed to
find a job and so pro peloton on the roads was a
pretty good place to go. But actually as a mountain biker, I’ve been buying road
cycling magazines for years, you know I always looked up to
roadies. It looked, you know, looked good fun, it was kind of glamorous, didn’t have to clean my bike as much. So yeah, I’d always wanted
to do it and I dabbled a bit for training so when
I was mountain biking, I’d do the odd road race and I loved it. Partly ’cause it was a break, you know, it wasn’t what I was getting paid to do, so it felt like it was just fun, as well as being good training really. – And there must be for the
really high level riders, people like Cadel Evans have done it, there must be the draw of money ’cause obviously road
cycling is just bigger so there’s going to be a bigger paycheck if you’re at the top end of that race. So that must draw some of the mountain bikers as well I suppose. – Yeah big time, and
actually funny enough, you go way back in time
when mountain biking, cross country mountain
biking was in its heyday and there was some big, big paychecks, you had an influx of roadies came over, so any old people out there might remember people like Christophe
Depot, Jerome Chiotti, infamously they brought doping
with them actually for a time but they came over because
they were okay road riders and then they came over
to mountain biking, and funny enough when you take an EPO and you’re a good roadie, they
were absolutely killing it. – Yeah, there was some of those years, who were we talking right
before, was it Rasmussen? Those sort of early, was
that 2000s, late ’90s? – Well yeah, so Rasmussen
was kind of overlapped with those guys, and then, but he was a mountain
biker first and foremost. Did he win the World’s in ’99 maybe? – I think he did, yeah. – Yeah, and then he
transitioned over to the roads so he was one of those mountain
bikers that did really well on the road and he ultimately
was looking like he was going to win the Tour De
France and then he got embroiled in a doping scandal all of his own. – But it doesn’t seem
to happen so much now, the sort of cross over of
mountain bikers getting to the highest level and
then going to the roads. Cross country’s changed, it’s gone from those two
hours plus races down to an hour and a half
now and you see the shape of the riders now, like
Nino Schurter and you know, even Sam Gaze is a big, muscly dude. You look at them compared to road riders and think maybe it isn’t so easy for them to just swap over. I know Nino
did do some racing I think for ORICA-GreenEdge, maybe
the Swiss, the Tour De Swiss? – He did, yeah, 2014 and
didn’t do all that well. No, I mean he did, you know, he was fine but no it wasn’t like, if you go back to Cadel Evans, who was never world
cross country champion, nor even Olympic champ, he won World Cups for a couple years, you know, one of the best mountain
bikers of his generation and he transitioned
straight over onto the road and nearly won the Tour of
Italy at his first attempt. He then took nearly a decade
to win the Tour De France, but he was, you know, his ability as a mountain biker
transitioned straight across. And then we’ve seen it
subsequently with guys like Jakob Fuglsang,
who’s currently loitering around the top 10 of the Tour De France, really successful roadie, was under 23 mountain bike world champ, so it definitely, it
used to be, you’re right, that cross country mountain
biking was a great predictor of road form, whereas now, as you say, like cross country
mountain biking’s changed, it’s shorter, it’s punchier, I don’t think those guys are focusing on their kind of threshold, so the speed, the intensity they can ride for an hour, and so they, although they’re
still amazing athletes, like Van Der Poel being a
prime example, you know, winning road, cross and mountain bike, and so, so yeah, I think
they probably would struggle to at least win the Tour
De France, you know, they could definitely do it, but. – So I’m literally still aching from a training session I did on Friday, so that was four days ago now. Nino Schurter, myself and
Blake we’re lucky enough to be invited over to Switzerland and take part, really watch
what he does on one of his days in the gym and take part. And it was really impressive
and very inspiring, but yeah is it kind of, you
look at the road riders do now and it, I don’t expect many
of them spend as much time in the gym as Nino does, but his morning session that
we did was a circuit session that was really, really difficult, actually sort of skills-wise
to do what he was doing, nevermind the physicality of it. You’re sort of standing on
balance balls with kettle bells and moving around and doing squats. And it was all, see how
it was all really related to riding mountain bikes, so lots of sort of asymmetrical movements and his recovery in between
those circuits calls it cognitive recovery, I think,
was standing on a balance ball and juggling or basically
different sort of balancing things so you see how it was really
related to riding bikes, and then we did max squats, so five reps of three
max squats in the gym, followed by jumps so
really explosive movements, and then the afternoon was
VO2 max intervals on the bike so it was like five minute
up a hill at, you know, virtually your threshold,
and then a minute on a really technical downhill
track, three minutes off, and then doing that over
again, so six of those. So it was a big day out on the bike. – That does sound brutal. – Literally all my muscles are aching and it definitely wasn’t
just my legs, like you know, my triceps, my core is
killing after doing that. So it was quite interesting
that he was really open with it as well, willing
to show us what he does, but it was such a whole body workout that I can’t imagine many road riders doing that sort of workout. – No, I can’t imagine many mountain bikers doing that sort of workout either and I don’t know whether
it’s because, you know, it’s that it’s just, it
works specifically for Nino. It looks from Instagram like
Kate Courtney’s teammate and fellow World Champ that she does that kind of stuff a lot. – I think so. – But, no, you know I’d be interested to know how many other cross
country mountain bikers either do it or start to do it. But no, you certainly
wouldn’t get the impression that that would help as
a road rider, no way. Sagan does quite a lot of
funky stuff in the gym, again you see that on his
Instagram every now and then. But I think it’s very much
tailored in the off-season, you know, it’s not like the morning before Tour De France stage you’re going to be doing
like cognitive recovery or whatever or anything like that. – Yeah, so if Schurter were
to decide to go to road, could he compete a Tour?
Where would he sit in a Tour? – Well, the funny thing about road racing, for mountain bikes you maybe
don’t know that much about it, is that you can, there are
so many different jobs to do, so many different roles as a
pro cyclist, pro road cyclist. So you’ve obviously got
the kind of 15 or so riders that are trying to win the race overall, but then there’s 180
other riders in the race, so some of those other riders
are literally going to be supporting the people
that are trying to win, so that, we call them domestiques. So they’ll be getting everything from fetching the water from the team cars to sheltering from the wind,
all that kind of stuff. But then, you’ve also got riders that can win or perform well
in other aspects of the Tour. So you’ve got the sprinters,
and so you maybe got like 15 of those who could potentially
win a flat stage at the Tour. So all they have to do
is hide from the wind, save as much energy as possible
until the last 200 meters of a stage when they absolutely gun it. – So they’re your Peter
Sagan’s, your Cavendish’s. – There, exactly and Mark
Cavendish, Peter Sagan are prime examples. So they, you know, they’re very good at going up hills, they don’t look like it
all the time compared to the guys that are
amazing at going up hills, but you know they’d leave any one of us for dead any day of the week. And then you’ve also got
these kind of other stages that aren’t mountain stages,
they’re not sprint stages, they’re kind of like
hilly stages if you like. And that’s the kind of stage
where you think a rider like Nino might immediately
fit in because you’ve got to be quite explosive
to get in the breakaway, you’ve got to be explosive
to get up the hills, and then you’ve got to be
able to win the stage as well. But yeah, I can’t imagine him riding up outdoors at Col du
Tourmalet and, you know, winning that stage. I
just don’t think he’s got the engine at the minute for that. – So your sprinters, going back a step, they’d use the domestiques
as well would they? – Yeah, so you rarely see a team with an out-and-out sprinter and a GC guy, so for an example Team
Ineos, formerly Team Sky, they have once had a sprinter
at the Tour De France, Cavendish, but it didn’t work that well. So their team is entirely
built around riders who are good on the flat
and can shelter their team, but then they’ve also
got climbing domestiques, they’re riders that
could probably win stages of their own and finishing the top 10. And they’re paid to look after the guys that are going to win the race, whereas a team that’s
built around a sprinter will have more bigger dudes who are good at riding at
65 K’s an hour on the flat. And you know, it’s not completely
clear-cut, there are teams that have got both and
are doing well at both, but generally if you’re
going to put all your eggs in one basket, it’s either or. – So where would Nino sit? He would potentially be a domestique that could win a hilly stage, so he’d have to work for someone
else the rest of the Tour, but could be one of those
riders that jumped away on an unusual stage. – Yeah I think so, like you wouldn’t, he’s not a big enough rider to sort of like be a domestique on a flat and he’s also too good for that. I don’t think you can go from being one of the greatest (laughter
drowns out speaker) of all time to just being this guy that carries water
bottles, but yeah, I don’t, I couldn’t see him performing on an out-and-out mountain stage. Although, that said, you know, if we’d had this
conversation three weeks ago, I’d had said, there’s a rider
called Julian Alaphilippe who’s currently the yellow jersey. And I’d have said Nino has a kind of similar characteristic to him, really punchy, explosive,
you know amazing top end, but then I’d said you know no real chance of winning the race overall, but Alaphilippe currently looks like he might win the Tour De France overall, so it’s not to say that
Nino couldn’t win the Tour, it’s just that he wouldn’t at the moment. – So what we’ve got probably six days left of the Tour is it? – Tuesday to Sunday, yeah
is that six days you said? – One more rest day I think haven’t we? – That’s today. – Oh it’s today. So,
we’re going into the Alps, so does it look likely
that Alaphilippe could win? – Well, so he, like I
said, at the beginning of the tour, there’s no way. But, he has shown that he’s
definitely taken a big step on, so he’s able to now climb
with the best riders. He has however, had a really
tough start to the Tour. He’s a really explosive, aggressive rider so you wouldn’t normally
see someone that was looking to take the yellow jersey to Paris attacking off
the front of the bunch as he did on stage 3 where
he ended up winning a stage, ’cause you use a lot of energy that way without actually getting that much back and it’s energy that you
would then be relying on in the final week. You’ve kind of got, we
talk about the analogy, it’s like you’ve got like a box of matches and if you start burning them
all too early in the Tour, then you get to the final week
where you need some matches and you haven’t got any left. So Alaphilippe did have
a slight wobble yesterday where he lost some time for the
first time this year’s race, and so now everyone’s just trying to weigh out well can he
recovery on the rest day and then be okay in this
final week of the Tour? But it’s a big week, you know, we’ve got like epic mountains. The race goes higher
than it’s gone for years. – So it’s all to play for. – It is all to play for and
he’s got his work cut out. – It’s funny how I raced only one day of the BC bike race last week or a couple weeks ago now actually, and I just did it for a video, but I was hoping to do the whole race and couldn’t work out my schedules, but I sort of jumped in
mid packs of 600 riders, I jumped in probably by the
300s and finished 150th. So obviously those riders have a four day, you know four days fatigued, so I’m jumping in where
I’m feeling pretty fresh, and did okay, obviously not
brilliantly, but did okay, but also I’m riding against people who are really tired
and the next day we went to shoot some more videos
and my legs were killing me where I felt like, you know,
doing that back to back, I burnt too many matches on that one day. So it’s such a hard
thing to be able to do, and I can’t imagine a grand
tour where you’re doing it for three weeks. – No, I mean one thing that I will never forget from my mountain bike days is how much easier it
felt racing on the road, which isn’t to say that I
stopped mountain biking, I suddenly won every race
going, I certainly didn’t, but to actually complete a road race, is easier than completing a cross country mountain bike race. Because cross country mountain bike, you’re always going full gas, 100 percent, whereas on the road, there are, you know, parts of stages or entire days
even when you’re chillin’. Now, the Tour De France is different, it’s the pinnacle of
the sport, it’s brutal, completing that is a
massive achievement itself, but as a road rider,
you can race a lot more because it doesn’t take
as much out of you, I don’t think your muscles
are as beaten up at the end of a stage, and mentally as well because, there’s not always the
pressure to do your best. You’re either there
collecting water bottles for your team, or you know, you can do a job as I said and not actually have that job be ultimately
getting a result for yourself. So it’s definitely not comparable, I think a mountain bike
stage race is harder, there’s no way you could
do a 21 stage Cape Epic, for example, I don’t think. – What’s been great from the
mountain bikes perspective I think is to see Mathieu
Van Der Poel jump over and be one of the biggest
stars of cycling in total and jumping over and looking like he’s really enjoying
it and winning races, short track especially,
he’s doing really well. It’s cool to see someone sort of be so honest to really show their hand in everything they do and you don’t see that so much anymore, but
also I actually asked Nino, well I asked Nino if he
was friends with Mathieu and he said well, not
friends but we, you know, we’re friendly and I asked
him about his, you know, what he’s doing basically.
Nino seemed to think that it was brilliant,
but sort of unsustainable, ’cause he races so much, you know, cross is obviously massive for him and he, did he win the Amstel Gold? – Yeah he did, yeah. – And then jumped straight
into racing cross country and I think he’s missed
one or two World Cups, but other than that he’s
been flat out racing. Very impressive to see,
but what do you think that his intentions in the future, where do you see him going? – I think he’ll probably end up going to the Tour De France be
full-time on the road, like I say, or like Nino said, I don’t think you can juggle that much, especially not when
you’re doing grand tours to these three week stage races. They just take it out of you
too much, you’re going to, you can’t go from that
to a mountain bike race. But I totally agree with you, I think it’s fantastic what he’s doing. He looks, just looks like
he loves riding his bike no matter what it is. And I also thought how cool it was that the Amstel Gold
road race that he won, it was possibly one of
the most dominant displays of road riding I’ve seen
ever and then pretty much, was it a week later where he didn’t win the
Mountain Bike World Cup, and I remember thinking like that makes mountain biking look so hard that he’s just made the best road riders in the world look average,
and then suddenly, you know, he hasn’t managed to just completely dominate
the Mountain Bike World Cup, so on the one hand you can
see how different it is, on the other hand you can see how competitive cross country
mountain biking still is. And I, but I do think
that with Van Der Poel, he will have to specialize in road if he wants to kind of
fulfill his talent there. – At some point. – In stage races at least, yeah. – I think it’s looking like he’s doing Tokyo
2020 mountain biking, so Nino’s going to have a fight
on his hands for that one, for sure. And then, yeah, we kind of presume he’ll be
going straight from there to racing road. – Yeah, but I mean he’s
a talent like no other, I mean you’ve kind of, he’s
a once in a generation, if not, you know, more than that. – Because he’s really good as well. You look at the photos of him
doing jumps and motocross, all sorts of stuff, really good. And again, after following
Nino down the downhill track, you know, last week, you have to be such a good technical rider to be winning these
races. And what amazed me, we did those intervals going up the hill, and then our sort of
recovery was riding back down a really steep, gnarly downhill track. But then to try and think
about racing down there and potentially overtaking people, I couldn’t get my head
around that part of it when, you know, it’s such a, an
all-around sort of physical and technical thing to be
able to do, that, you know, I think Van Der Poel and Nino
are the best at doing that. – Yeah, yeah absolutely. One of the things that we’ve been talking
about on GCN a little bit is how cool it would be if there was like an overall title for the world’s best all round cyclist, so you have like your cyclo-cross, you have your road race, and then you have your mountain bike in there as well ’cause we’ve
seen it on the women’s side, Ferrand Prevot, she was
concurrent world champ in all three disciplines
and then, you know, you’ve got guys like Sagan that has been a world
junior mountain bike champ, I think he was up there in the world junior
cyclocross champs as well. You know, but how good would it be if you could somehow
incentivize these riders to do a Mathieu Van Der
Poel, take a bit of time out of the sport that they’re
paid, you know, properly for. – I don’t know how you’d do it. The only way I can think of is like, the paycheck and you can
imagine Van Der Poel’s must be the canyon top rider,
because they’re paying him to ride everything. But yeah, it would be a really
cool thing to be able to see. – Wouldn’t it just. I mean, you just need a
rider with the confidence of a Van Der Poel or a Sagan. He’s just like, you know
what I’m going to do this mountain bike race, I’m
going to do this road race. Yeah, I just, it’d be
fantastic wouldn’t it. Because that’s the debate, is like, how do they transfer across. – What about the technical
skills on the road? You do see it in descending, but does that make a big enough difference in these grand tours to, you know, if you’re really good
at sending it will make the difference? – It can do, you wouldn’t say, like, the tour is always one on downhills but. – What about that Froome
thing where he dropped onto the top tube, didn’t he? – Oh man, well that’s insane. Well actually, Froome’s
an interesting example ’cause Froome used to be
a rubbish bike handler. Froome was awful, but he’s
obviously worked on it, and now is really quite
strong at descending. Thibaut Pinot’s another
one, he was rubbish and now he’s top five and potentially going
to win this year’s race. For me, the mountain bike skills come out when you see a rider
who is about to crash. You know, when you see like
the whole peloton go down is how a rider responds. So
Sagan’s really good at that. He never just grabs his
brakes and closes his eyes, you know, he’ll always
look for the way out, whether it’s bunny hopping someone’s bike, or you know going into a
field and riding around it. He’s always, his first thought is not just to grab onto the brakes,
it’s to do something else. And that’s a mountain bike thing isn’t it, like in times of peril, actually having your
brakes full on isn’t always the best answer, sometimes
you got to let them go and ride it out. Whereas someone like
Geraint Thomas the other day got caught up in a crash and you can see from this photograph that
he’s sending it over the bars and he hasn’t hit anything, like there’s nothing in front of him, he’s literally just
launching over the bars, ’cause he’s obviously panicked and, you know, no disrespect to Geraint at all, ’cause he’s a brilliant bike rider, as well as a really lovely bloke, but he does sometimes seem to fall off more than his fair share. And I looked at that photo and I just wonder whether or not that was an explanation
of why he falls off a lot, is ’cause instead of
looking for the way around, and you know, taking the
mountain bike option, bunny hopping on the curb wherever, he’s literally just gone,
oh God and brakes on, sends it over the bars. And fortunately there was
a Pinarello to land on and actually he escaped unhurt. – Well we saw it with Blake
riding with Jeremy Powers, obviously a brilliant bike rider, I think obviously riding a drop bar bike around a muddy field does
make you a good bike handler. Unfortunately, we saw
Van Aert hit the barriers and have a really nasty injury from that. And he’s obviously a very good rider, but it was on the time
trial wasn’t it so blowing, you’d expect. – Yeah, I think with that one, he, like there was a dodgy barrier basically that was kind of sticking
out and he was so committed, and going so fast, I just think it was one of those things where the barrier stuck
out, he wasn’t expecting it and I think it just took him out. – Yeah, shame to see him not
make the end of the race. – Oh awful, awful to see, yeah. Especially when you hear
about, like, you know, surgery to his upper thigh. – I could empathize with that (laughs). – Yeah, I bet you can. But yeah, he’s another
one where you’d think, oh actually how he said that
in Pau Bay he just fell off on a corner as well, not to say that his bike
handling skills are lacking, but. – Well we saw Lancie boy
ride through a cornfield. – That’s right, and you
know, former top five in North American mountain
bike cross country races. – Races, is it level 100 I think he races? – Yeah he does yeah. Yeah I
think he’s actually just like, he’s an example of someone
that used to be a triathlete and can actually ride a
bike. Which is, you know, there are not many of
them knocking around, but yeah I think he spent a lot of time riding mountain
bikes and that helps. It might just be like
an instinctive thing, but you can’t help but think well actually yeah being able to get your way out of
situations is pretty important. – Get some of these roadies on a mountain bike boot camp
then, maybe in the off-season. – Well they do try, some of the pro teams will
do like an off-road boot camp and it’s quite funny ’cause – [Neil] I’d like to see it. – Some guys are rubbish,
absolutely rubbish. But then there are more people
that have spent, you know, spent their like formative
years mountain biking than you’d think. There’s a big ol’ list, yeah, of top roadies that have mountain biked. If I was going to say
to someone, you know, how to get into road racing, 100 percent I’d say, do
everything when you’re a kid, mountain bike, cyclocross,
road, the whole lot. – Yeah, absolutely. Right, thanks Si, good chat and I’m looking forward to
the last week of the Tour so. – Yeah absolutely, yeah do
make sure you check it out. Can I just, can I give a quick plug? – Yeah go for it. – We’ve got highlights everyday on the GCN Racing YouTube channel. – Excellent. – So, yeah. You only have
to watch five minutes a day and you know everything there is to know about the Tour De France. – Great, cheers Si. – Alright man, no worries

13 thoughts on “The GMBN Podcast Ep. 13 | Tour De France Special – Is Road Cycling Easier Than Mountain Biking?

  1. 01:41 – Mountain Bikers jumping the peloton.
    04:00 – Doping and the changes in XC racing
    06:28 – Nino's brutal training session
    08:48 – Could Nino Schurter compete at a grand tour? How does road racing work?
    13:50 – Neil talks BC Bike race
    14:45 – Is Road easier than MTB?
    15:40 – Mathieu van der Poel
    19:47 – Do roadies have technical downhill skills?
    23:50 – Si plugs the new GCN Racing channel

  2. Great show. I often mention to people about the skill of minimising brake use in cycling and motorbiking and car driving. MTB such brill way of increasing flow, elegance and all bike-handling skills. I did most of my Fred Whitton trg on MTB also..
    Perhaps a multi-event over weekend involving GCN and GMTBN? Thanks

  3. I think trials would be good to really improve bike handling skills. Much like you hear about footballers learning ballet to improve balance

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