How to Manage Recovery and Strain during a Grand Tour with WHOOP

EF Education-EasyPost doctor David Castol explains how Jonathan Caicedo is managing his efforts to peak for the last week of the Giro

May 19, 2022

When Jonathan Caicedo came across the finish line at the top of Blockhaus at the end of the ninth stage of the Giro d’Italia, he was spent.

After a day in the breakaway, his face was ashen, the veins in his arms swollen. He stared past the ski lift and the snow-covered summit, while a soigneur wrapped a jacket around his shoulders and handed him a bottle of cherry juice.

“I wasn’t strong enough on the climbs” he said, before he rolled down the mountain, past the cameras and crowds and finishing riders, to the bus. “Wait for the last week.”

That’s when the Ecuadorian climber wants to peak. At his best, Jonathan Caicedo is unstoppable in the mountains. He was born in the high Andes. The highest cols in the Dolomites and Alps are over a thousand metres lower than Santa Martha de Cuba, the village where he first learned to ride a bike. In 2020, Jonathan won on top of Mount Etna. This year, he wants to win another Giro d’Italia stage and help Hugh Carthy on the hardest climbs.This year’s Giro includes four brutal mountain stages in the last week.

To be at his best then, Jonathan needs to marshal his efforts. Racing a three-week grand tour is a matter of managing recovery and strain. If we look at Jonathan’s WHOOP data, we can see that he is on track.

“It’s really helpful for us to be working together with WHOOP,” says EF Education-EasyPost performance doctor David Castol. “It’s a tool which allows us to track how our riders’ bodies respond to different stresses. In a grand tour, for instance, we can see how a rider’s body responds to a hard mountain stage through different variables, such as his resting heart rate and heart-rate variability, which contribute to an overall recovery score.”

Jonathan Caicedo has had to push through several hard days during the early stages of this year’s Giro. During Friday’s difficult race through the Apennines, he registered a strain score of 20.7 out of 21. Then, on Sunday’s stage to Blokhaus, the day he was in the breakaway, he registered a strain of 20.7. However, his data shows that he is recovering very well.

The morning after Friday’s stage, his recovery was in the yellow with a score of just 39%. His resting heart rate had risen above his normal values, while his heart-rate variability was significantly depressed. Jonathan got through Saturday’s tricky stage in Napoli without any problems. His strain score was 20. By Sunday morning, his body had recuperated. His recovery score was green. At 79, his heart-rate variability had gone back up to his normal level and his resting heart-rate had remained elevated but steady at 50. He was ready to go in the break.

“It’s really helpful for us to be working together with WHOOP."

- Dr. David Castol

Sunday’s effort again put a huge amount of stress on Jonathan’s body. His strain score by the time he got to the top of the Blokhaus was 20.6. On the morning of the Monday rest-day, his heart-rate variability had fallen again, while his resting heart rate had risen. His recovery score was in the red. However, on Tuesday morning, after a day of rest and recovery, it had bounced back up to 70%. His resting heart rate had fallen to 44, which is close to his baseline and his HRV was up to 82, which is his normal average for good performance.

Jonathan now has a few relatively straightforward days of racing in the centre of Italy before the Giro reaches the northern mountains. After a relatively flat day of racing on Tuesday, Jonathan’s recovery score had risen to 89% on Wednesday morning. His resting heart rate had fallen to 42 and his HRV was up to 95.

In the coming days, Jonathan will try to keep tucked in the shelter of the peloton and sleep well and eat well so that he will arrive in the Alps and Dolomites fresh. Thanks to WHOOP, Doctor Castol is confident that he will be ready to fly.

“We’re going to take it day by day, but I’m excited for the mountains in the last week,” Jonathan says.

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