Damage Control

21 10 2008
Landis Cracks on Stage 16

Landis Cracks on Stage 16

This past weekend proved to be a goldmine for cycling tips. Both introspectively and by observing others.

We can all ride like a pro with our friends on good days but it’s how you handle those inevitable bad days that shows your true character. Haven’t had any bad days? Well either you aren’t human or haven’t been in this sport long enough!

I had a BAD day on the bike this past Sunday. 250km of BAD.  I didn’t eat or drink enough, my legs were heavy, and I wasn’t feeling well (on the verge of a cold). On top of that, my riding mates were all on fire. Not a great day to be riding poorly…

How do you handle those bad days? Here’s what I keep in mind and try to do:

1. FORCE yourself to eat and drink. One probable reason for the poor form on the day is because you aren’t properly fueled. It’s amazing what a can of Coke can do in the short term.

2. Don’t be too proud to sit in and do as little work as possible. Save your energy for getting you home. Let your riding partners know what’s going on and that you’ll be sitting in. They just may have mercy on you.

3. If you’re feeling horrible then listen to your body and don’t fight it. It’s just one bad day. Accept it and keep a positive attitude. This will make the ride easier on you and your riding mates.

4. There can be a massive difference between how you feel when you’re heart rate is at 165bpm vs 160bpm (for example). Ask your mates to slow it up a bit until you’re more comfortable and hopefully you’ll find a pace that will get you home while everyone else still has a good ride.

5. Save your legs, not your gears! Spin, spin, spin. Spinning does a lot less damage to the muscles than big gear riding. Also, every chance you get, stop pedaling, duck down into the slipstream and go for the free ride. Conserve every ounce of energy you have.

6. Break the ride into 30min pieces and don’t think about the rest. Set yourself small goals to reach. The daunting task of dragging yourself 3 more hours can be overwhelming if you’re feeling really bad.

Remember: A bad day’s riding beats a good day’s work…..


‘Faux Form’ and Big Bunch Rides

17 10 2008

We’re fortunate that here in Melbourne there’s a selection of bunch rides to choose from every day of the week.  These rides are great as they are motivating, safer when riding in traffic, and they can really push your limits if you’re up for it.  However, bunch rides can be a real waste of time if you are content getting pulled along in the middle of the pack. Riding in a bunch will never improve your form!  Here’s a couple good tips from Danny Cohen on how to help maximize your time spent on these rides. Thanks Danny…

note: Once again, there is no substitute for a well planned out, “periodized” training plan.

Next time you’re in a large super fast bunch, move all the way to the back and let a gap of 5m open between you and the last rider. Now observe the back half of the pack closely. Notice how most riders are hardly turning the pedals? They seem to just get sucked along most of the time, pedalling intermittently for a few seconds just to maintain/increase speed, then backing off as the pace settles.

It’s only when the bunch hits a hill or when it gets really strung out at 50+km/h, that everyone’s heart rate rises. But how much time out of the total ride does this intensity account for?  If you still enjoy your local fast bunch ride but want to ensure you get the most out of the time you have set aside to train and want to avoid “faux form” , try the following:(you might even preserve those brake pads a bit longer!)

(1) Ride a low gear at high cadence and hang 5 meters off the last rider. Be sure to concentrate as some of the backmarkers will drop wheels due to exertion, opening up gaps…not necessarily a bad thing as this will force you to ride harder for a few seconds to get back on while you’re already nearing the red zone! If you feel you’re going to pop, get closer and take a bit more shelter till you recover. The overall amount of time your legs won’t be pedalling will be negligible.  This is good simulation for for motorpacing and your overall speed.

(3) Put it in a massive gear like the 53×11 or 12 and work on your strength endurance in the back of the bunch. Try doing this for 2×10 minute intervals with 5 mins rest in-between. Careful…the accelerations will be difficult to keep up with using this big gear.

(2) Ride in the top 10 wheels and get as much time at the pointy front end as possible! Obviously get into the rotation if there are turns being rolled up front.  This is great for your tempo and lactate threshold work (great race simulation)

Enjoy the increased form!

Back From Behind

2 10 2008

I hear this all too often: “Once I get in shape I’ll start riding the big rides with you guys”. It’s like saying “I’m not going to the gym until I have biceps like Arnold”. Let me tell you, it’s not going to happen. If you’re not at the level that you want to be then the best way to get there is to start riding with people who are fitter and more motivated than yourself. They will push your limits and help you ride for longer, more difficult periods of time. You’ll learn from them and they’ll motivate you to continue to push yourself to be a better rider. Warning: You will hurt like hell for the first couple of months BUT little by little you’ll start keeping up with these guys and possibly riding away from them at some point. The process will include much winging, dead legs, laying on the sofa all afternoon, and not being able to string a sentence together. But I assure you the end result is worth it with an overall improved quality and enjoyment of riding.

The only caveat I have to this suggestion is to pick these rides carefully. This isn’t necessarily long term, sound training advice. Instead, it will help get you on the right track with your riding habits and motivation. It’ll make you realize how much work you have to do and how hard you need to train to become a fitter rider.

I’ll comment on “sound training advice” and “periodization” with the help of an expert next blog entry.

Reasons vs. Excuses

30 09 2008

It is important to distinguish between a “reason” and an “excuse.” The difference is easy to recognize:

When you have a reason for not training, if we remove the cause, the effect should vanish. On the other hand, if one thing is an excuse for another, then taking away the excuse will change nothing — the effect will remain.

Excuses are a justification for giving up or giving in. You didn’t explore all your options, ignored or denied your options, didn’t plan ahead, didn’t ask for help, or didn’t accept help offered. Excuses are reasons that rely on being dishonest with yourself.

If you didn’t train today because your boss made you stay late at work, then you have a good “reason”.

If you didn’t do your training today because it was raining out, you probably didn’t want to train all that much anyway. You could have used the trainer in front of the TV, gone for a run, taken a spin class, or even rode in the rain!

My point?  Quit making reasons or excuses?!


14 09 2008

Sure is nice cruising down your favorite road at 50km/hr with the wind at your back and barely breaking a sweat. This is what I did this morning with a gusty northerly. After an easy hour of riding, I realized that I was 50km away! I still had to turn around…

Its Times like these when you’re pushing into a 35 knott headwind that make you contemplate your choice in sports. What to do? Change your perception. Pushing against the wind is great for the strength, but unfortunately the harder you push, the harder it gets. It’s easy to get frustrated while pushing as hard as you can and feeling like you’re getting nowhere. What I do is give up all expectations of 50km/hr speeds and try to work on a different aspect of cycling. You will never be satisfied at the end of a headwind ride if your only focus is pushing harder. I usually concentrate on my pedal stroke efficiency, making sure that it’s completely smooth with a fairly high cadence of 100rpm.

Headwinds also provide a good opportunity to play around with your body position. Watch your computer and notice how small positional changes affect your speed. Get aero and tweak your riding position and see what is optimal. A power meter is particularly effective for this purpose. You can look at your speed (when the road is flat and wind constant) vs power and check when your speed increases while power remains constant.

You can’t do anything about the wind until the road turns, so welcome the wind as an aid to becoming a better rider.

Pick A Goal

13 09 2008

Most of us put a lot of effort into this sport. It’s just the nature of it. Unfortunately natural talent in cycling doesn’t tend to shine until you have your bases covered on fitness.

If you’re going to put this much time into being out on the road, you may as well try to do well at it. I see many people doing the same training regime every week without really knowing what they’re preparing for. That’s fine for some people, but if you want to start having some results or PB’s you need to have some concrete goals to shoot for. “Get strong” is not a concrete goal. It needs to be tangible, realistic, have a timeline, and very specific. “Win the club champs in March” is a good example. Make yourself accountable to that goal. With a goal it will help motivate you to get out there every morning and do the best training ride that you can.

Pick an event that suits your abilities about 3 months in advance. There’s your goal. Now how are you going to accomplish that goal? You need a path to that goal. Is it going to be accomplished by doing the same old training rides that you’ve done before and never brought you results? Or maybe it is the right formula?! Pick some races along the way that you rate as low priority that suits as good preparation. Put no expectations on those races but have some small goals within those races that are helping you achieve your end goal. Maybe it’s getting in a breakaway, getting a good position in the bunch sprint, riding near the front the whole race, practicing cornering, etc.

I could go on forever about the training needed to bring you to your end goal, but there’s lots of good qualified coaches out there that can individualize a training program for you. I’m just here to perhaps make you realize that if you want some success in cycling, you need to start making goals and a pathway to achieving them. The same old training routine that you’ve always done may not be the right path if it hasn’t worked for you before.

Excel At One Thing

12 09 2008

If you’re going to do something, why try to be good at everything? For most of us, all that will happen is that we’ll end up being mediocre a wide range of things which will put us in the middle of the pack nearly all the time.

If you see some promise in one area of your cycling, I say focus on it, fine tune it and make it the best you possibly can. Then move on to working on the parts of cycling that you’re weaker on so that you can create the opportunities that let you use your strengths.

For example, a big and heavy like me is never going to win a race that has big steep climbs and hilltop finishes. The beautiful thing about cycling though is that there are equalizers that make it possible for most body types and varied abilities to excel at one thing or another. There aren’t too many true all-rounders out there. Even an all-rounder like Cadel only got second place at the TdF. He was beaten by a guy who was good at one thing and one thing only – climbing!

If you’re a good sprinter, work on your bunch sprint positioning, practice your sprint intervals, do some time on the track, and pick races that will end up in group sprints! I guarantee you that you’ll start winning.

If you have a high lactate threshold, then get in breakaways. Learn when breaks happen on a certain course, know who to follow and who to let sink out there, know when to go (you can tell when something is going to stick or not).

If you’re not good at anything in particular, then figure out what body type you have, what terrain suits your natural abilities, and concentrate on getting good at what you enjoy. If you’re 60kg and enjoy climbing then you know what you should be practicing and enter those types of events. However, if you’re 80kg, hate the thought of getting in a breakaway or don’t have the guts to play in a group sprint, you have to assess your goals and adjust your expectations. That may mean switching grades, or giving it your all out effort in order to support someone on your team. There’s a lot of satisfaction helping out a teammate achieve his goals.

Train your weaknesses, make stuff that you’re good at razor sharp, pick races that suit your strengths, and you will be successful in the sport of bike racing.