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Michal Kwiatkowski wears SunGod Team INEOS Grenadier Velans

17 July 2023

Behind the Scenes of a Tour de France Rest Day

TdF Stage 13 winner Michal Kwiatkowski talks recovery


Rest Day.

The words don't quite capture the reality is all about. In a performance environment, a rest day doesn't mean kicking back and putting your feet up. In the midst of the Tour de France, a high-pressured atmosphere where performance optimisation dominates - whoever recovers fastest and soaks up the fatigue the best will undoubtedly go into the next week of racing in a stronger position.

So what happens on a rest day? Principally - it's about taking it easy, but not taking a day off.

Yes, despite the two thousand or so kilometers in their legs, riders do go for a ride. Because resting is about keeping their bodies aware that whilst the exertion and intensity is low, riders are by no means done with their Tour.

To get a rider's perspective on these all-important markers in the progress through a Grand Tour, we spoke to INEOS Grenadiers rider and former World Champion Michal Kwiatkowski to get his take from inside the Tour de France's first rest day in Issoire.

What does it feel like to go from the high-intensity madness of the Tour de France right down to the calm of a rest day?

"After 12 Grand Tours, it feels like another day at work, to be honest. It feels a little weird that you don't start off crazy with kilometer zero and rushing to get into the breakaway. At the same time, it's part of the job - you wake up and instead of all that, you're thinking about breakfast, you're thinking about getting good sleep, and your recovery ride."

"In my eyes, it's not really a day off. It's nice to lay in bed for a couple more hours rather than sit on the team bus with a long transfer to the next hotel, but you cannot really switch off from everything happening in the race, because it isn't a holiday - it's just a short truce."

What are the most important elements of recovery on rest days, and how do you and INEOS Grenadiers help manage your individual recovery?

"Honestly, the most important thing is not doing too much; there's no need to be running around. It's about focusing on what's essential - nutrition, active recovery on the bike, trying to recover and relax."

"At the same time, I have to think ahead - I have to consider the next days, the next stage in particular, how it's going to go, how it starts or finishes. That keeps me focused, which is key because you can't just switch your body off completely."

How much time is there to relax on a rest day and how much is planned out?

"You've pretty much got the entire afternoon to yourself - between lunchtime and dinner. Obviously you will have a massage and maybe some physio treatment."

"Our team does a great job of keeping that time free actually. The media activity sits closer to the training schedule in the morning. The afternoon is the time for relaxing, but early morning too can offer some time. I was up at 6am this morning and, that was a quiet moment. Training started at 11am and, that gave me some time to relax."

What’s your favourite rest day memory? Something you did with another rider, or a somewhere that left an impression on you?

"It's not really any memory of anyone or anywhere particularly, but at the Tour de France, there's one problem with rest days. France is great at making pastries. It's amazing at making baguettes, but, it's not so good with coffees."

"French rest days, doing a recovery ride and trying to find a good coffee shop can be really difficult. Today was actually one of the days where all of a sudden the guys said 'there is a good one' in the town we were in, Issoire. It was a specialty coffee place, and today we all had, pretty much, decaff coffee. I don't know why - we ordered like three decaff americanos and three decaff flat whites which is crazy. But yeah - for me it's one of the best things during the recovery days - to enjoy a coffee shop."

[Sic. The name of that shop? - Wake Up Coffee.]

People recover at different speeds - how does that affect how you feel on the start line the next day? How do you help make sure you rest to your best? 

"I think it's all in the head. Some people believe it's just about doing the efforts in training, or about sweating this much, or nutrition or this and that, but really, it's a combination of all those things."

"As long as you're ready for the effort tomorrow, you're ready for a hard start, if you can focus and implement that in your mind, that's already a win. You can't just switch off and think, tomorrow will be relaxed, it'll be easy. That's when your body just closes down."

"Personally, I try and do as much recovery as I can. I minimise the number of hard efforts on the bike, but I believe how I set up my mind, is the most powerful thing. That's why I mention focus. It's just so important in how you approach everything else." 

Well - whatever Michal did, it certainly worked. Just four days later, on the Grand Colombier, he spearheaded a breakaway, riding free from the leading group to time-trial his way to a summit win. It was a show of the sheer grit and determination that has been the chief marker in his world-class riding career.

Thanks once more to INEOS Grenadiers and Michal Kwiatkowski for taking time to talk to us on his rest day and de-mystifying the process behind on-race recovery at the Tour de France.

Whilst we keep our fingers crossed for the next week of racing at the Tour, you can shop and show your support at the same time, as we celebrate the Tour de France by giving away a free Bio-Racer Team Cap with every pair of SunGod Team INEOS Grenadiers Edition Sunglasses.

Shop the INEOS Grenadiers eyewear collection.