January 29, 2010

Training Update #2 - The Athletes

We are lucky here in Nor Cal - despite a 10-day block of rain last week'ish, we generally enjoy easy and frequent riding conditions that most would envy. So, what does that have to do with a training update? Simple..good weather = more stuff for the coach to look at. Rather than ramble on haphazard about a group of athletes you've never met, I thought I might profile five of my current athletes and provide some insight into their training and development this year. Sort of a small, written reality show. So here we go....

#1 AC - my pro, my proxy in the peloton(except I never trained quite as hard as he does), my learning curve. Five hour ride - check. Hill repeats at 350-375W - check. Pro contract, check. Now we've begun the 'real' work - mostly because he's finally on a power system - yay me, er him!

#2 FK - I've worked with him for over 3 years now and each one we get better at the process of improvement. He's one of my most consistent workout achievers - hits 'em on the head nearly all the time. Best part - he really put it toether for CX Nationals and had a GREAT ride.

#3 CE - Recently back under a program I have high expectations for CE this year. She's a long time talent returning to top level racing and I can't wait to see what happens when the hard stuff starts. Lots of focus brings lot of speed we hope!

#4 JK - Every coach needs an ultra-distance guy. Those who do 200 miles as a start to the day. I've never been one of those guys, but I'm glad I've got one. It certainly helps that JK is quickly establishing himself as a real force in the discipline. We'll have some fun with this one

#5 KMH - Well, if you need an ultra guy, you probably need a duathlete too right? How about a potential top finisher at Masters Worlds? Ok, it's a new realm - what with the whole 'running' thing..but we've done well so far. First race of 2010 is coming up in a couple of weeks..we'll see how it's going now.

This is a sampling of my current athletes - they each represent a different challenge and a different demand. It's one of the great things about coaching, the chance to assist athletes and tap into all the elements (physiology, psychology, power theory, workout creation, researhc, etc) to try and bring it together at the right time. We'll see. Come on along...

January 28, 2010

2010 Training Update #1 - The Coach

In typical fashion I've started to be able to focus on my training a bit later than I'd planned. I don't know why it is a suprise to me when it happens...it's been this way more often than not. Case in point:

January Hours/Miles By Year:
2002: 20hr / 253mi
2003: 56hr / 921mi - that was awesome!
2004: ?? / ??
2005: 43hr / 670mi
2006: 29hr / 505mi
2007: 23hr / 390mi
2008: 27hr / 424mi
2009: 19hr / 365mi
2010: 19hr / 313mi so far

So, overall January has not been a growth month for me. This year started off with a small, very small actually, flurry of rides in the first 10 days. I was 7 for 10 I think. Then the month got busy, time slipped by and here we are at the end and I'll be topping out at about 25hours and 400 miles yet again. So, what are your 'best' and 'worst' training months? Take a moment to look back and see what you've done for volume over the past several years if you can. It's a very enlightening process. I know that fitness will come back pretty quickly, so I try not to let it stress me out too much - but it's tough knowing that friends and competitors are racking up big miles while I am not. This week has been decent so far... 3 rides of Tempo/Threhsold intensity. Tue/Wed I did 3x10minutes at 90% of FTP within a 60min ride and today I knocked off another hour at the same - 270Watts - with a series of 7 loops of 6-7minute circuit completed at 100-110% of FTP (short enough that 110% was sustainable). My legs are a little tired - which is nice. Tomorrow I'll try to do another ride, and this weekend I'm mentoring on Sunday so i should end up with my target of 500TSS for the week. A good 'kickoff' to Februarry, which is usually a pretty good month for me - guilt I guess...

January 21, 2010

rain rides make you tough

January 17, 2010

Archive #3 - Race Tactics 101

There have been some great racing articles in Toolbox recently with Bruce Hendler setting up a race routine and Josh Horowitz taking you inside the overall dynamics of a race. While we wait to read the second installment from Josh, let’s take a few minutes to talk about your racing. Specifically how you develop and execute race tactics.

Most of us can recite some standard tactical acumen like putting your team on the front and driving to the finish for a big sprint victory, or getting in the break and then attacking out of it for a prestigious solo victory. What if you don’t have a team? What if you are new to racing and still figuring out how to apex a corner? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Do Your Homework
The first step in creating a realistic race plan is to understand just what it is that you are facing. Don’t roll up to your next event blind. Race reconnaissance can be broken into a couple of categories: strategic knowledge and tactical knowledge. Strategic knowledge includes things like your start time, race distance, and course layout.

With the internet and a variety of cool software and hardware options, there is no reason not to know the important details of the course. Strategic knowledge requires some work before the event, but can really pay off once you are at the race site. Ask teammates for information in the weeks ahead of your event. Take their advice with a grain of salt, however; a hill that may be a monster and absolutely needing a 34x25 for them may be OK for you with a 39x23, or vice versa! Search the internet for race reports or GPS files of the race course.

The next step in your strategic pre-race recon is to know the competition. Who won the race last year? Who is riding well in the other races so far this season? Are there any particular teams to watch or follow? Do breaks stay away or always get caught? Try to imagine different scenarios that might come up and have a plan for each. Have you raced the event before? If so, how did it go? What did you do right?

Once you get an idea of the competition, the course profile and the demands of each it’s time to take a deeper look at the course.

Pre Riding!
Pre Ride the course! This simple baseline is all too often ignored by stressed-out racers rushing to get ready in time. One of the easiest ways to derail your race is to miss the pre-ride. Ideally you can do a ride or two on the course before the main event. This is especially true for “A” level events where you have higher goals and expectations. Though this is tough to do for road races, it is well worth the effort if you have never done the race before. Where is the climb? How fast or technical is the descent? Are there areas where you can take advantage?

For criteriums pre-riding is a necessity. Get on the course between categories if possible and give the course a good once over. This is often banned by the organizers, but at the very least walk the course along the sidelines. Look for obstacles or potential hazards. Is there a seam down one side? Bumpy pavement or holes to avoid? Look for the fastest line into or out of corners. If you have the time, watch other categories. Is it faster to ride an inside or outside line into the final corner? During the pre-ride take a few moments to steel yourself to the task at hand. It’s a race, a fight. Be a warrior. Put yourself in the mindset to do well.

The Race
The first race is the one to the line. In most events being on the start line is not THE make or break for the race, but it is the first chance you have to establish yourself in the field and observe. It is very important to feel a part of the race. Your adrenaline will be pumping anyway so you might as well expend a little at the front rather than fighting from the back through all the corners. Normally I like to set up on the outside line for the first few corners. It’s a bit easier to keep your speed up and you can move around a bit easier.

Riding outside through the first corners may force you to ride farther, but it can help to avoid the squirrels on the inside and avoid the start/stop sprints that sap energy. After the first few laps and the pack thins out and maintains a steadier rhythm, it’s usually much easier and more efficient hitting the inside of the pack through corners

Once you’ve established at the front it’s time to do some work to help keep the pace high. This will drop the weaker riders and also force strong riders stuck at the back to expend a lot of energy to get back to the front. A few weekends ago I mentored the Category 5’s at the Menlo Park GP. It was a fast course with a couple of tricky corners, but I was pleasantly surprised that the racers continued to rotate through and keep the speed high all the way to the finish. Rotating through in the pace-line is one of the most fundamental skills, but one which requires many hours to master. How hard you pull through and the transitions off the pull are subtle arts. You’ve likely seen a derivative of this before, but in the interest of awareness, here is the rotation:

The on/off paceline featuring constant rotation as soon as the lead rider’s (upper left) bottom bracket clears the front wheel of the “off” rider (upper right) is tremendously hard in effort but the fastest in speed. Especially in big fields, make sure you get back into the “on” or left line again before falling too far back, or else you’ll get trapped.

Tactically you can use the rotation to your advantage. If you are a solo rider don’t feel obligated to take monster pulls trying to keep the pace high. Instead start floating just off the paceline and watch the other riders. Who looks strong, who looks squirrely? Of course the caveat is that you gotta do your work! Don’t get a reputation as someone who won’t work at the front. Considering the fact that most criteriums are less than 45 – 60 minutes long, If you’ve done the training then you will have the fitness to contribute and still finish well.

Riding Corners
Without a doubt corners represent the biggest challenge to racers, all racers. Even if you’ve done hundreds of races every corner is its own experience. There are a myriad of lines in any corner and, unfortunately, the fastest line is sometimes elusive so you have to be flexible every time. That said let’s look at a couple of stereotypes – the inside and outside lines.

Inside lines are coveted. They are fast and seem to allow you to maintain position easily. Simply set your wheels inside the rider in front of you and stay smooth. Unfortunately, the ugly cousin to the inside line is diving the corner.

Diving the corner is usually a result of the field slowing and riders surging to get a better position. Said ‘Diver’ will run up the inside line and try to slot back into the field in the nick of time. Sounds easy, except that most riders simply charge to the corner, grab a handful of brakes, and then have to re-accelerate to maintain the hard fought positions. First, this will almost surely require more energy expenditure to maintain than simply staying smooth. Second, and perhaps more importantly, you will endanger and probably impede the riders around you with that technique.

Instead work on only taking the positions that are safe and open to you. You shouldn’t have to slow down much at all, and a big handful of brake lever is a clear indication that you’ve mis-judged the line.

Once you have taken that inside line you have to do something with it. Lots of times the inside line will open up on the exit and give you a straight shot at advancing or sprinting for the finish. Try different approaches to each corner on the course. Instead of trying to pass ten racers in a single corner take a more measured approach and pick off a rider or two each corner. Lay back, let some space open and accelerate into and through the corner. This will give you a nice head of steam coming out of the corner. The graphic below illustrates how to gain tactical advantage from the inside.

If done properly (and safely!), taking the inside line through a corner is the shortest distance and can let you keep the most momentum. Also, riders tend to naturally drift outside, adding to the gap you can create.

Then again, the outside line is also a place to make time. Outside lines usually close down if the course runs back to the outside curb, but not before you can pick up a place or two. Again, just lay back a little and carry more speed into and out of the corner. You have to set these things up throughout the race. Each time is a trial run for the last lap craziness that will surely come.

Racing is fun because there’s never only one template for success. Here a well-timed attack on the outside can be ideal, especially if the rider in front of you (white body with blue sleeves) can be used as a drafting slingshot.

Finishing It Off
Now that you’ve learned how to get and maintain position in the corners it’s time to put together your finishing push. As a solo rider you have ultimate responsibility for how you approach the finish. You have to be ‘in’ the race and willing to push yourself. You have to be willing to take the chances necessary to win, be that a late break of positioning for the field sprint. You have to be, pardon the phrase, master of your own domain. The rush is coming, you know the rush is coming. Instead of waiting and hoping to take charge someday, take the extra pull that keeps the pace high and the hounds at bay. Ride the outsides. Don’t get caught in the middle. Keep rotating forward. Look for riders going to the front and get a free ride. It’s easy. If you’ve been practicing moving around during the race it’s even easier! The great thing about racing is that there is always another one, another chance to perfect the art, another course that suits, another chance to grab the right wheel, or be the right wheel.


Today was the third installment of the Early Bird series. If you're from NorCal you know the series, and hopefully you know how lucky you are to to have such a great 'starter' series each year. The first couple of weeks there were over 400 'new' racers in attendance, so it's certainly got a following.

This weeks race was under 'threat' of rain - which cut the numbers, but not the enthusiasm. This week we were working on moving in the field, and I was very proud of my group. They listened and learned during our drills, and I hope brought that same attention to their races. Of course, I was less impressed with my own attack of ego-centrism...

While working with my group I took the 'initiative' to insert myself in another group that looked to be struggling at the skill - which of course they weren't - and then to take all the 'foundational' elements of the mentoring process (positive approach, empathy, deference to the lead mentor, etc etc etc) throw them out the window and act like a mildly crazed drill sargeant. Rightly so this irritated a couple of the gals in the group. I heard about it - felt defensive for a couple of minutes - and then made my apologies from a place of sincerity. In looking back I would've been annoyed by me! I really enjoy the mentoring gig..it's fun and I don't want to be anything but professional and deferential to those who put so much into the Early Birds - Laurel Green, Laurie Fenech, Alan Altha, and Larry Nolan. So, my apologies for not representing....

Ok, back at it....

January 12, 2010

Road Team - Inaugural Ride This Weekend

This season I've got a small group of Masters Cat 4's that are racing under the Sterling banner. I'm jazzed about this project because it puts me out on the road with the athletes working on those crux skills that win races. This weekend is our first group ride and I'm really looking forward to it. I'll take my camera/helmet cam and see if I can put together a small introduction next week. The team roster is:

Mark Davis (actually W Mark Davis, or just WMD to me)
Jim Werle - owner of Bay Area Mobile Bike Repair
Shane Greenwood - claims he won't race much, but we'll see
Matt Payne - he's a Matt and into pain, what else needs to be said?
Paul Calandrella - wonder if he'll be our climber?

New Years Resolutions

Yea, it took me an extra 12 days to get around to posting what was originally set out to be a nearly-daily update, but here I am at long last. This year I vow to post more often and to keep relevant things like clinics, camps, webinars, team information, etc current. Why, well...honestly it's part of a global domination strategy of sorts. I'm curious to see if I can develop a 'loyal following' over the course of the year. From what I read the way to do that is to add lots of content that appeals. Since this is a cycling blog, and there are lots of cycling blogs, the challenge is to post stuff that is both appealing and somewhat central to the core of what this space is - a communication tool for my company. As to the intended scope of this 'loyal following' well....is it fair to aim for a 100 fold increase in weekly site traffic? Last week, my busiest since adding the tracking code in November, I had 47 visitors. 4700 may be a stretch - but what the heck....let's see what we can do TOGETHER!

That is the key you know - a team effort. I can write all the content I want, but if those twenty of you who visit the site regularly will both come back, and suggest the site to a friend or two then we'll be on our way. Of course that presumes that you find something of interest here. So tell me what interests you.

For the twenty five of you who visited the site for the first time this week - I hope you'll drop back by again. Yea, you can't read this, but I figure good karma is good karma - so come on back....ohhhmmmm, ooohhhmmmm, ok...off to the races we go!