How to Cue Riding on Cobblestones: Visualization at its Finest!

If you have been watching or reading about the Tour de France this year, you would know that Stage 4 had a section over the cobblestones of Northern France. Last year as well there were nine segments of brutal cobbles in Stage 5. Prior to that, there were just a few in 2010, and before that, the last time they appeared was in 2004. Before that, there was a twenty-year gap without cobbles. In fact, their inclusion is a hotly contested debate amongst some pro riders who claim that cobblestones have no place in a three-week stage race. Well, the smaller-build climbing specialists are the ones to complain, because they get tossed around like popcorn on these bumpy roads, whereas the bigger, burly riders who specialize in time trials and the one-day classics revel in these stages—it gives them a chance to shine!

Whatever the case, these cobblestone segments, known as pavé, certainly can throw a rock in the race results!

It should go without saying that when simulating a cobbled section in an indoor class, you’re not going to bounce around on the bike, even as a joke. But, your coaching and descriptions can turn your profile into a melodramatic and exciting event that has your riders hanging on to every word. As they picture the cobblestones in front of them, the narrow roadways lined with cheering fans, and the mass of bikes around them, their adrenaline will be pumping, along with their legs.

If you are able to project videos and images in your cycling studio, these can go a long way in helping your riders understand the nature of riding over cobblestones and the incredible challenge they present both physically and mentally. This post gives you some good video suggestions to use, and below are a few more. You can also go to YouTube and type in “Paris Roubaix cobblestones,” “Stage 4 Tour de France 2015,” or “Stage 5 Tour de France 2014” for more clips.

Even if you can’t project videos, you can print out some images of the pavé so your riders can get a sense of the drama. Google the terms above under Google Images.

How do you put together a profile with cobblestones?

If you let us help you out, you’d save hours and hours of time! ICA members can download the Paris–Roubaix profile, which was an instant hit when we posted it last year. In the 2014 ICA Tour de France package, we have a dramatic and exciting profile for Stage 4 that describes an epic battle over the pavé. Several instructors emailed us that their members raved about it, and for some, it was one of their most favorite profiles ever. That same profile can very easily be used for Stage 4 of the 2015 Tour de France, so it gives you even more bang for your buck. (Note: You do not have to be an ICA member to purchase the Tour de France package, but members get a 20% discount.)

If you still want to take the hours to create your own profile, study the videos and articles I listed above and below, and download the stage profile from the Tour de France website. Here are some coaching cues to use in your class over the cobbles:

  • The easiest way to ride the cobbles in real life is to use a larger gear and a lower cadence. This allows the riders to “float” a little more over the cobbles. Inside, this is tough to replicate, but what we are going to do is to add gear (resistance) and pick up our cadence in the cobbled sections to simulate the tiring nature of the pavé.
  • The pavé here are from Napoleonic times! They are jagged and rough, the better to give cart horses traction, but not friendly for a modern bike!
  • Rain on these cobbles can turn the race into trench warfare!
  • You want to ride at the front to avoid the chaos of the pack, ready to take you down at any moment.
  • “The cobbles are my friends, the cobbles are my friends, the cobbles are my friends”…say it enough times and you may start believing it!
  • Riders are painted in the dust of the pavé.
  • The cobbles favor the heavier riders with raw power over the rail-thin climbing specialists. What is your specialty?
  • Cobbles take grit; they take determination. You’ve got a 5-minute sector ahead with brutal cobbles…put your head down, push a big gear at 75–80 rpm, and stay seated the whole time so you don’t slip out. Picture yourself grimacing, the mud hitting you in the face. Can you do it?

Here are some more resources to read up or view on the pavé:



Isn’t it time to join ICA?

Are you ready to stop spending hours and hours creating profiles, searching for powerful songs, or perusing the forums wondering which of the advice posted is correct and which is leading you down the wrong path?

We don’t just teach you how to be a more empowering and inspirational coach so that your riders hear your voice in their heads every time they encounter a challenge.

We don’t just suggest some of the best songs for indoor cycling and tell you how to use them in an impactful way.

We don’t just give you exciting drills that will keep your students talking about you long after the class is over.

We don’t just educate you about the science behind cycling, or proper technique so that you know more about your craft than possibly any other instructor at your facility.

We don’t just teach you how to be a better communicator and presenter, and give you tips on creating a tribe in your classes, so that your riders want to be with you every week.

Yeah, we do all that…

…but most importantly, we do all the work so you can take all the glory!

Being a member of ICA can fill all the gaps in your understanding, but it also can help you fill your classes like never before. It can save you hours, and hours (and hours!) of your time, so you can spend more time doing what you love.

How much is your time worth to you?

At only $10/month (for yearly memberships), what is holding you back?

NOT being a member is costing you money! 



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