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Archive for August, 2012

Fall is the time where I see the most interest in new clients and it is the perfect time to begin interviewing candidates.  I usually start my conversations with clients around both of our expectations and characteristics.  After coaching over 70 athletes in the past decade, I have a good sense of whether I will be a good fit for their needs.  Every coach has their own way of doing things and some specialties within the vast sport of cycling. (Or they should!)  The questions to ask your coach should include:

  1. What is your philosophy for coaching?
  2. How do you create a plan specifically tailored to my needs?
  3. How do you know what is the right training for me?
  4. What is your experience in (mountain biking, track, cross, etc.)?
  5. How do you incorporate HR/Power in your programs?
  6. How do you communicate with me and how often?
  7. How much do you know about diet and nutrition?  How do you incorporate this part of training into my workout programs?
  8. What type of clients do you currently coach?
  9. How do you measure success as a coach?
  10. How do you set your fees for coaching? 
  11. Can I have some references?

As a coach, I have my own set of questions that I use to get a good feel for whether I am a good fit.  The last thing I would want is an unsatisfied athlete due to differing expectations.

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This last week Colorado was graced with one of the biggest pro stage races in North America.  My brother, dad and I went out for Friday’s race finish in Colorado Springs and Saturday’s race finish in Boulder. 

The plan was to ride the course ahead of the race and get a feel for what the riders experience during the race.  Friday we only could get up a bit into the course, but Saturday we completed 90% of the course the morning before the race.

We are all fairly fit.  My pop stays in decent shape riding and staying active, my brother rides most days (although 1-2 hours, not 5) and I try to race my bike.  I was just coming off of a trip to China and only 10 days into my broken arm that is actually doing pretty well.  We found out that fairly fit for the average man is barely fit for the pro levels of cycling.

My brother and I averaged 18 mph for Saturday’s stage.  We didn’t go all out, but we didn’t take it easy either.  It was just the two of us most of the time until we finished the last bit with my father.  I can tell you that I was pretty worn out.  We ended up with 100 miles and a lot of climbing.  (8000 feet or so if I had to guess since we didn’t do the last 2 miles of Flag or the connection from Golden)

Would I have liked to been racing this last week with the likes of Levi, VDV, and Phinney?  Sure, if I was younger, fitter, faster, etc.  I am always in awe of what the human body is capable of and I was uber impressed by these guys.  Look at the times on Flagstaff from the riders in the break after racing hard for so many days and then crushing it in the break all day.  They crushed most local records and those are usually set on perfect days on the first ascent, not after racing 100+ miles. Amazing. 

The cool thing is that pro racing is so accessible.  You can’t catch passes from Peyton Manning or play one-on-one with Jordan, but you can go out and ride the same bikes and roads as the pros.  You can essentially have the same experience and, as we did, watch the racers as they have the experience.  I have raced against or ridden with 10 different riders from the race this weekend in this last year.  There is such a different relationship with bike racing for the fans.  It is a participation sport.  Even if you don’t race, most fans ride.  They know what it is like to bonk.  They know what it is like to climb at threshold for 20 minutes.  They know how it feels to wreck.  And it gives us all a greater respect for those that do it day in and day out. 

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Being Prepared

I have said a zillion times, cycling is much more mental than physical.  Sure you have to have decent legs, but at a certain point everyone has the legs and it is the folks with real mental strength that persevere. 

Being prepared is critical in bike racing.  Showing up to the race with your race kit together, food etc.  will save so much energy.  Cylocross is even more intense.  The conditions can change from the time you drive out there and when you race.  Many of the pro racers I know have set kit prepared at all times with a variety of gloves, skin suites, embrocation, sun glasses, gels, and tights.  Many change their setup between warm up and the race.  Most of the triathlets I know have their race kit packed a week in advance so that they show up to their big day without any additional stress.

Bike racing is measured in small percentages.  Trying to find that 1% is the difference between 1st and 20th.   This sense of being prepared can give you that calm before the storm that is so helpful in having a good race.  Lining up at the start with a calm focus about the task ahead will give you that 1% edge over the guy pinning his number on in the start line.

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Cyclocross Training

 

Cyclocross is starting very soon in Colorado and if you haven’t started training you are all ready behind. I love cross. I have often said that if I could pick any one bike racing to be good at it would be cross. I combines all the things I like about bike racing into an hour or less. The amount of suffering in cross is just beyond any other bike event (at least for me) and I have so much respect for those that do it well. I have coached several athletes that race cross over the years. I remember not that long ago that it was more of a way to stay fit in the fall than a focus. Now so many people race cross only and really have it down to a science.

 

There are several training elements that are very specific to cyclocross for bike racers. 

 

  • Technical Skills
  • Running
  • Short/Intense racing

 

Many people have referred to cross as being like criterium racing and that the training is similar.  Well it isn’t.  If there is any type of racing that is similar it is mountain bike.  The bike handling skills and the accelerations are much more like a mountain bike course than any criterium.  Most mountain bike racers can transition to cross pretty seamlessly, while a ton of good crit racers struggle. (me included)  So let’s break down the new skills required:

 

Technical Skills

 

Cross requires  phenomenal bike handling.  Unlike a mountain bike, a cross bike has no suspension.  Therefore the room for error is much smaller.  I’ve always used ALL of the give my suspension allowed for due to average bike handling, but on a cross bike one miss step and you are on your can.  Getting out and riding single track will pave dividends for roadies making the transition.  It will also strengthen those core muscles that are totally weak from sitting on your bike and just pushing with minimal lateral control needed on a  road bike. 

 

Mount and dismount. Cross is all about efficiency.  The races are just to short to make up lost seconds  due to poor dismounts followed up by poor mounting of the bike.  For the riders who make a living racing cross, getting on and off the bike is just like clipping into your pedals for a roadie.  Watching the real pros do this is amazing.  The only solution to this is simple:  PRACTICE.  You have to practice this maneuver thousands of times to get that smooth efficiency you see when a pro dismounts and runs barriers just as fast as the guys riding them. 

 

Running

 

Let’s face it.  Cyclist can’t run.  Just like triathletes have poor bike handling and folks from Iowa “warsh” their clothes, cyclists aren’t runners.  Generally running during your season has a negative affect on bike racing.  But now is the time to start.  Good thing is it isn’t really running anyway.  Getting out a couple of times a week for a short run/walk is even good enough to get the legs used to impact and the effort.  Start out super slow to prevent soreness from screwing up your other training.  I mean 5 minute jogging, adding 5 minutes a week.  Run the uphills and walk the downhills at first.  Eventually work up to hill run sprints to get the legs used to the efforts in races. 

 

Short/Intense Racing

 

This area is similar to criteriums, but rather than roll around and have accelerations from 20mph to 30mph and hitting sweeping corners, you are stopping and starting at intervals in the seconds for turns, barriers and run areas.  Changing speeds so many times in a race is exceedingly taxing on the system.  The key is to have a very high Lactate Threshold   There is no time for recovery in cross and keeping below the red line is important.  You will notice that the best cross racers are the best criterium racers (sprinters) but are usually good at time trialing.  (which mtb bike racing is in essence)  So work on a combination of things.  First work on raising that Lactate Threshold so that you can hold this intense effort for up to an hour.  Then work on short all out efforts followed up by even shorter recovery. 

 

Good luck.  I hope to be out there at some point, but as I mentioned in my transitions post a while back I always seem to have bad luck in the fall.  Sure enough I broke my arm again right as I would be getting ready for cross.  My fitness is pretty good right now, so hopefully I can hang onto some of it and get out there soon.

 

 

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Had my website not completed disintegrated last year, I would just be able to reference this post back to July 2010.  But since it did die, I have to add this new post. 

I went down to Golden for my last road race of the year, the Raising Hope Criterium.  This race is on a course that suits me perfectly and I won 3 of the weekly races there last year.  I just got back from China Wednesday night, but I was still feeling pretty confident.  I did the Thursday night Bus Stop ride and felt great. 

The race went perfectly for our team (the two of us, Colby and I).  We both followed early moves and eventually Colby got in a move that stuck.  He has been riding like a beast this year and I was confident in his chances of success.  I sat on the front and followed moves to bridge up.  I was thinking that it was likely that a move would make it to the brake since we had several very strong riders in the group –Allen Krughoff, 2 Garmin riders, 2 Juwi riders, and 2 Groove/Subaru riders all have strong legs and no teammates up the road, so I was looking to hitch a ride.  The wind picked up substantially during the race and it become much harder to make attacks.  I sat in and the group worked together extremely well.  Since there were a number of strong riders, the group dropped a ton in the cross winds and began to close the gap to the break.  The break looked to have some infighting with about 30 minutes to go and it ended up being the demise of the break.  As we worked our way closer, a small group attacked out of the break to get away.  I didn’t see when this happened, but when we caught the break I noticed Colby wasn’t there.  I looked ahead and saw him in the elite group that made it out.  Perfect for me and him.  Thanks Colby for making the race.  I was able to sit in as the group chased.  When we hit 3 laps to go it was looking like the break would stick and it would be a sprint for 6th.  2 laps to go I moved up into the top 10.  The trick was to sit close to the front for position, but not be stuck in the strong wind pulling in the last few laps.   As we went single file in a cross wind I sat on Krughoff’s wheel.   He is a strong rider and I was confident that he would have a good position for the finish.  I was very surprised when he veered slightly left and ended up in the gravel adjacent to the road.  I began to break and he tried to get back on course.  Which resulted in a wash out of his wheel and my going ass over tea kettle.  I rode over his bike (crunch, sorry Allen but I was trying stay up) and hit him (sorry again) and then landed on my hands into a roll.  It was a pretty vertical crash, which always seems to be the worst.  No sliding to take away the force, just slammed down on my hands. 

As soon as I got up I knew that I was pretty hurt, but I didn’t think anything was broken.  As the post crash adrenaline wore off I began to wonder since my left elbow and forearm were tightening up.  By the end of the night I was sure it was broken, again.

Allen was very apologetic for the crash and I appreciate his owning up to it.  No hard feeling bro, that is part of bike racing.  Hope you heel up soon as well and have the usual awesome cross season.

 As you can see here I have a fracture on my radial head.  The upside is that it is much better than when I had this same injury 2 years ago.

You can see here that my last injury had a bit of displacement and was broken clear off.  This time it is a fracture that doesn’t go all the way though. 

I am feeling much better than I felt a week in last time, so I am hopeful for a quick recovery.  Not the way I wanted to end the season and not good for my plan to actually have a real cross season.  However, I can’t complain.  Injuries happen in bike racing and it could have been much worse.

BTW Colby placed 5th in the race.  Good showing bro.

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