As winter sets in, the discussion on training progress and strategic goal-setting takes center stage, offering a critical perspective on our riders' development during this transformative season. The harsh conditions and challenges of winter provide a unique testing ground, making this juncture pivotal in our pursuit of peak performance.
Winter Training: A Test of Adaptability
As temperatures drop and trails become frosty, winter training becomes a crucible for developing physical resilience and mental toughness. Evaluating training progress at this stage allows us to assess not only physical fitness but also the riders' ability to adapt dynamically to the unpredictable nature of winter conditions.
Winter becomes a litmus test for our riders' adaptability to factors like cold weather, slippery surfaces, and reduced daylight. This assessment is more than a snapshot of fitness; it is an exploration of how well riders can navigate these challenges. This adaptability will prove crucial when facing the unpredictable terrains of future races.
Motivation During Winter Months
The winter landscape, though stark, offers an opportunity for a renewed sense of motivation. The discussion on training progress and goals becomes a means to reignite motivation that may waver in the cold. Each virtual meeting allows us to understand the individual motivations that drive our team members through winter base training.
Acknowledging and nurturing these motivations is more than a coaching strategy; it is an exploration of the intrinsic desires that fuel each athlete. Some find motivation in conquering technical challenges, while others seek the thrill of descending through snow-covered landscapes. By understanding these motivations, we tailor our coaching approach, ensuring that the winter training aligns with the riders' intrinsic desires.
Strategic Goals: Mapping the Winter Road to Success
Winter is not a hiatus but a strategic phase in our annual plan for success. Discussing Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (S.M.A.R.T) goals recognizes winter as the canvas for our strategic roadmap. Specific goals ensure each rider's trajectory aligns with their unique strengths and weaknesses.
Winter becomes a measurement tool, quantifying progress in power output, endurance, and technical proficiency. Achievable goals inspire growth while remaining realistic. The relevance of each goal is evaluated against the challenges and opportunities of winter. Time-bound goals instill urgency, guiding our riders to channel their efforts purposefully during this critical phase.
Cultivating a Growth Mindset
In the face of winter challenges, a growth mindset becomes crucial. Nurturing this mindset guides riders to approach challenges as lessons and setbacks as opportunities for improvement. Winter is not just a test of physical endurance but an environment for riders to learn and grow.
The growth mindset cultivated during winter training becomes a compass, guiding riders through challenges. As we discuss training progress and goal-setting, we foster an environment where setbacks are viewed as opportunities for improvement.
In conclusion, the discussion on training progress and strategic goal-setting is particularly significant during winter. This juncture is not just a pause but a strategic pivot—a time to evaluate adaptability, rekindle motivation, set strategic goals, and cultivate a growth mindset. As winter beckons, the dialogue on training progress and goals becomes the roadmap guiding riders through the season and beyond.
With 16yrs of racing experience, and another 7 as a cycling coach, I've witnessed the transformative impact of strength training on cyclists, propelling them towards peak performance during the race season. In this article, we'll explore the significance of incorporating strength training into a cyclist's build-up to race season, shedding light on how to seamlessly integrate these workouts, what aspects to focus on, and the most compelling reasons for their inclusion.
Understanding the Role of Strength Training for Cyclists:
While the essence of cycling lies in endurance and aerobic capacity, overlooking the benefits of strength training would be a disservice to the ambitious cyclist. Strength training serves as the secret weapon in the arsenal, offering a myriad of advantages that directly translate to improved performance on the bike.
Why Strength Training Matters:
The incorporation of strength training into a cyclist's build-up to race season is not merely a supplement; it's a strategic investment in enhanced performance and overall well-being. By understanding the profound impact on power output, endurance, injury prevention, core stability, and energy transfer, cyclists can embrace strength training as an integral component of their training regimen. Balancing periodization, consistency, and personalized programming is the key to unlocking the full potential of strength training for cyclists and paving the way to success on the racecourse.
Whether in bringing my athletes National Championship titles or PRs, or just in my own training, I understand the critical role that a well-structured base training program plays in a cyclist's overall performance. The base phase is the cornerstone of any training regimen, laying the foundation for strength, endurance, and resilience that will be crucial during the competitive season. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of a base training program, outlining what athletes should focus on, why it's essential, and offering tips for optimizing success during your base build.
Understanding the Base Training Phase:
The base training phase typically marks the beginning of an annual training cycle, lasting several weeks - or even months. Its primary objective is to build an aerobic foundation, enhancing an athlete's endurance capacity and overall fitness. This phase is characterized by longer, lower-intensity rides that form the base upon which more specific and intense training can be later added.
What Athletes Should Focus On:
Tips for Success During the Base Training Phase:
Base training phase is the cornerstone of a successful cycling training program. By focusing on endurance, aerobic capacity, strength, and mental toughness, athletes can lay a robust foundation for the competitive season. Understanding the importance of this phase and implementing smart training practices will contribute significantly to long-term success on the bike. Navigating this foundational period with a well-crafted and individualized plan is key to unlocking an athlete's full potential.
As a professional mountain biker who has ventured into the world of coaching, I've had the privilege of witnessing the transformative power of structured training. Cycling, whether you're a road warrior, a gravel grinder, or a mountain biking enthusiast, demands dedication and strategy. In this article, I'll share the fundamental principles of training for cyclists, derived from my own experiences as an athlete and coach.
1. Set Clear Goals:
Every training journey should start with a destination in mind. Defining clear, achievable goals is the cornerstone of effective training. Whether your aim is to complete your first century ride, conquer a technical mountain bike trail, or podium in a race, having specific objectives provides direction and motivation.
2. Establish a Training Plan:
Once you've identified your goals, it's time to create a structured training plan. This plan should encompass several key elements:
- Periodization: Divide your training into phases, such as base, build, and peak periods. Each phase serves a distinct purpose, from building a strong foundation to sharpening your performance for your target event.
- Progressive Overload: Gradually increase the volume and intensity of your workouts to challenge your body and promote adaptation. This is the essence of improvement in cycling.
- Rest and Recovery: Adequate recovery is as important as training itself. Incorporate rest days and easy rides into your plan to allow your body to repair and grow stronger.
- Specificity: Tailor your training to match the demands of your chosen cycling discipline. For example, road cyclists may focus on endurance and speed, while mountain bikers might emphasize technical skills and power.
3. Consistency Is Key:
Consistency is the bedrock of progress in cycling. Whether you're a seasoned pro or a novice, sticking to your training plan is paramount. Make cycling a part of your daily routine, even if it means short rides during busy weeks. Over time, these consistent efforts will yield substantial improvements.
4. Mix Up Your Training:
Variety is the spice of cycling training. Incorporate a mix of workouts to target different aspects of your fitness. Depending on the time of year, you'll focus more on one type than the others, but include:
- Endurance Rides: Long, steady rides build the aerobic foundation needed for endurance events.
- Interval Training: High-intensity intervals improve power, speed, and cardiovascular fitness.
- Strength and Core Work: Include off-bike strength training to enhance muscle balance and stability.
- Skills Practice: For mountain bikers, CX riders, crit racers, and others, regular skill sessions are essential to tackle technical terrain with confidence.
-- See the image below for an example of a low-commitment week with a mix of workouts suited well for base season. --
5. Listen to Your Body:
One of the most important lessons I've learned in my cycling journey is the importance of listening to your body. Pay attention to signs of fatigue, overtraining, or injury. If you're feeling excessively tired or experiencing pain, it's okay to adjust your training plan or take extra rest days. Your body knows best...
6. Nutrition Matters:
Fueling your body properly is essential for performance and recovery. Maintain a balanced diet rich in carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. Stay hydrated, especially on long rides. Consider consulting your coach or a sports nutritionist for personalized guidance.
7. Monitor Progress:
Regularly assess your progress to ensure you're on track to meet your goals. Use metrics such as power output, heart rate, or perceived exertion to gauge your effort levels. Keep a training log to track your workouts, nutrition, and how you felt during each session.
8. Seek Guidance:
Consider working with a coach or joining a cycling club. Coaches can provide personalized guidance and accountability, while club memberships offer camaraderie and opportunities to learn from experienced riders.
9. Mental Toughness:
Cycling isn't just a physical endeavor; it's a mental one too. Cultivate mental toughness through visualization, positive self-talk, and strategies to stay motivated during challenging moments.
10. Embrace Recovery:
Recovery is an integral part of training. It's during rest and sleep that your body adapts and grows stronger. Prioritize sleep, incorporate stretching and mobility work, and consider practices like yoga or meditation to promote recovery.
11. Patience and Longevity:
Remember that cycling can be a lifelong journey. Be patient with yourself, celebrate small victories along the way, and adapt your goals as your cycling journey evolves. The joy of cycling comes not just from the destination but from the journey itself, too, so enjoy the process!
Training for cyclists is a multifaceted endeavor that blends physical conditioning, mental resilience, and strategic planning. Whether you're a professional athlete or a recreational rider, these fundamental principles will serve as your compass on your cycling journey. Stay committed, stay curious, and embrace the beauty of progress one pedal stroke at a time.
In years past, 'off season' has taken a variety of meanings. In 2015, my off-season consisted of sporadic CX racing and the occasional run. In 2016, off-season was about being a college student for 3-4 fleeting weeks. Wednesday night beer specials and college football let me reset mentally and take much needed time off the bike.
My off-season in this year has been nothing like either. Running has become my new outlet for the time being (until I get back on the bike for base training). My focus has been on preparing for an 8k running race on the 23rd this month. It's been refreshing in two ways -
1) Running is different. After a long season of pedaling day in and day out, different is good.
2) Running isn't my favorite. Of course, I like running enough to do it for a month, but by the end (right about now), I'm ready to start riding again.
The fact of the matter is that off-season can come in a lot of different shapes and forms. One year, you may feel ready to charge right from one season into the next, and another year you may feel like you need a full 2 months away from riding. While going to these extremes really isn't advisable in most circumstances, it's important to tailor your off-season to your physical and mental wellbeing.
In my case, running has struck a good balance between maintaining fitness and taking time off the bike. While I don't think I'll become a full fledged runner anytime soon, it's been satisfying to switch it up.
Great write-up from Brice Shirbach on riding in Virginia. Happy to have such a wealth of riding and terrain only a state away. As Jeremiah (Bishop) likes to remind me, I need to visit more often!
I had a great time riding and exploring some new (to me) trails in the area, and meeting some of the VA mountain bike community's most active members.
Check out the full writeup on PinkBike's home page here:
After a whirlwind couple of weeks, I’m finally (thoroughly) enjoying a week of unstructured training. Worlds were a fantastic experience. Racing in the Red, White, and Blue is always an honor, and this last trip was no exception.
The trip started out with a testing itinerary; just over 26 hours of travel time (22 hours of actual flying) took an early toll on my sanity more than anything. Flying is notoriously hard on a rider’s body, but on the 14 hr leg from LAX to Brisbane, an aisle seat (which reclined surprisingly far) made for some of the best sleep I’ve ever gotten on a flight. To the chagrin of the aisle seat behind me, I ended up reclined for the majority of the flight.
Once on the ground in Carins, Australia, I was happy to find that my bike had arrived promptly and in one piece. The process of getting to our lodging began as Julien Petit (friend and mechanic) and I waited for a few other riders to arrive. I fought off jet lag with a “Long Black Coffee,” which turned out to be a very quality Americano. Apparently that’s the Australian form of regular coffee; you’ll be hard pressed to find drip filter coffee! After arriving at the resort (Paradise Palms), Chris, Cole, and I went out for a quick ride to shake out the travel legs, then it was off to bed early to restore some of our lost sleep.
Most of the week followed a similar format. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were all catered by the resort. USA Cycling had specific time slots for meals, and we were to show up as a team at roughly the same time in our casual team gear. We would ride mid-morning, usually in 3-4 groups, and then reconvene for lunch at the resort. Afternoons were for relaxing, massages, and occasionally mini golf! Happy racers go fast… or something like that.
The course was dry and very dusty all week, but as the traffic of hundreds of XC racers burned in laps, the conditions deteriorated heavily towards the end of the week. The dust became a thick layer on track, especially in areas where riders were slowing and/or cornering aggressively. By the end of the week, even riding behind only a rider or two, the dust would become airborne and very invasive; both bikes and bodies were feeling the effects. The course in Carins was well done; the course had one main singletrack climb, a subsequent descent with two main rock gardens, a fast and flowy jump section, and a twisty, flat section linking through the start/finish. With a solid variety of terrain, the track was a lot of fun to ride.
The racing, however, wasn’t so easy on the course. The dust made the start loop a hair-raising experience; it was extremely difficult to see (seriously, it was tough to see the riders directly ahead) and breathe, and I wasn’t aggressive enough to maintain position in the scrum. After moving back and a touch of bad luck, I learned that it was a tall order to make passes on the tight, singletrack climb. I was able to move up, but it was too little, too late. Ultimately, though, it was my lack of aggression on the start loop that set me back the furthest, and my inability to make passes quickly enough on the climb that saw me ride to 39th instead of a better result. Frustrated and disappointed with the result, I’m more resolved than ever to put in the work and refine my approach. I know I have more than that result within my ability, and especially potential, and plan on bringing that to fruition in the coming years.
In the words of Nelson Mandela, “...I either win or I learn.” This World Champs has been a phenomenal experience, and while my result was mediocre, the trip was top-notch! I’m already looking forward to the next time around.
For now, I’ll take this trip and use it to start preparing for 2018. With the prospect of my biggest season to yet, I’m motivated and working hard to make racing and riding my livelihood in 2018. But first, a bit of R&R, some time with friends and family, and a lot of footwork for next season.
I'd like to thank Kenny Wehn for the fantastic camera work - he worked double-time as a team mechanic and as a volunteer photographer. Thank you Kenny!
Staying low on the rhythm section towards the bottom of the descent. I would ride this section with a flat on lap 5.
Racing in a cloud of dust: This was on the beginning of lap 1. The worst of the dust, on the start lap, had already passed.
The aftermath of a difficult race; dusty, tired, and with the race sinking in. The end of the race and my biggest season to date.
After MSA, the Bear Dev Squad geared up for the drive to Windham, NY. We took off early on Monday morning, and made it to our host's (Steven van der Zwan) house in the evening. Luckily for us, Steve was kind enough to host us for the entire week leading up to the race. Thanks Steve!
With the week to kill, we focused on keeping our training ticking on time for one more week; Windham was the last ProXCT of the series, and the last race of the season for many of us!
With no short track, our full focus was set on Saturday's XC. The course featured a long (roughly 10min) climb, followed by a descent that took us all the way back to the start. This style of course, with the climb punctuated only by a very short descent, is akin to older XC courses. For us, this course was a change in pace from the short, steep climbing of more modern XC courses. We enjoyed the course nonetheless!
On race day, we enjoyed much cooler temperatures from the year before. Even though temps were still in the mid 80s, it felt wonderful in comparison to last years triple digit affair. The start went well for me; a good call-up, and great legs for the first lap found me in a great position. However, as the second lap rolled around, I started losing steam. Unfortunately, I had hit a 'wall', so to speak, and that lapse cost me time and positioning. Doing what I could, my legs slowly started coming around again, and I was able to finish on a good note, and grab a top 10 finish. With a UCI ranking of HC, my 9th place finish secured me quite a few UCI points. Overall, I was happy with the way I had persisted through fatigue in the early laps, and was glad to get a few more points towards my ranking.
To that point, I'll be lucky enough to use those points at World Championships in September! With my results this year, I'm excited to say that I have made the selection for the US Team, and will be racing one more time this season. I leave on September 1st for Carins, Australia, where I'll spend the week with USAC and the rest of the team preparing for my race on the 8th. Wish me luck!
Photo: Dinner after the race, courtesy of Steven van der Zwan!
The Bear Dev. team left straight from Boston to end up in Canada on Monday evening. A bit of a haul with an 8 person group, we took a majority of the day to make the drive and were ready to hit the sack upon our evening arrival.
With only air mattresses to sleep on, it was a little tough to get quality sleep (especially since Jerry Dufour and I were on the same 'queen' air mattress). Our 3 night stay in Quebec City was punctuated with day trips over to the course at Mont-Sainte-Anne (MSA), where we sussed out the course and got a feel for the venue. Thursday evening marked the start of our housing with the USA Cycling Federation - all of us were lucky enough to receive support from USAC for the race.
With proper beds and a sweet (and tough) course, the week was going well. However, with the promise of rain on race day, we were a little apprehensive to race the already demanding track in even more difficult conditions... Sure enough, the rain started Friday evening and continued until Sunday morning, making course conditions slick. The notorious 'Le Beatrice' was a great spot for spectators to watch the worlds best slide around on greasy, rocky, switchbacks (and occasionally eat dirt).
The race on Sunday morning started with a furious pace, and I quickly made a mess of my call-up. Starting on the second row had held the promise of a good start, but my legs didn't show up for the first 5min of the race, and as such I went backwards from the gun... I found some rhythm as the race progressed, however, and made my way back up into the top 15 (apparently within spitting distance of the top 10 according to spectators) before fading slightly back into 16th on the day.
Overall, happy with the result! I managed to snag some good UCI points on the weekend, further improving my start position in later races. On top of that, we rode top notch trails all week, and even made an appearance at the infamous MSA after-party.
Next, we'll be back in the States for the Windham ProXCT (UCI HC), a great opportunity to put in a last dig and secure some more UCI points before the end of the season.
Photo Credit: Juergen Gruenwidl
After Nationals, the Bear Development U23 squad went straight up to Boston for the last round of the US Cup circuit, the Boston Rebellion. The race was ranked a UCI HC, so there were a lot of points on the line. Additionally, with both the XC and STXC events attracting talented pro fields, the racing was sure to be good!
The weekend kicked off with the XC on Saturday, however, while pre-riding on Friday, I went down and hit my head pretty hard. Of course, I was wearing a helmet, but the hit left me feeling out of it and with a headache. I cut the pre-ride short, kept a close eye out for symptoms of a concussion, and decided to make the final call on whether I'd race Saturday morning. My head felt normal the morning of the race, so I decided I'd go ahead and race.
The race was flat and twisty with plenty of exposed roots; passing was difficult for most of the lap. This meant the start was especially crucial... Ultimately, the start was chaotic as usual and I was stuck behind quite a bit of traffic in the woods. Most of the day was spent fighting back to the front, with only the last couple laps being more tactical racing. I ended up 5th on the day, snagging some good UCI points.
Short track was a lot more open, but still flat, meaning that the race was far more tactical. From my experience last year, I knew that the one separating feature was a mid-lap, flat rock garden, so I worked to stay at the front of the race to ensure I'd be clear of trouble in the rocks. This worked well, but I ended up lacking the last lap punch to make it higher than 5th on the day - where I would finish again.
Overall, it was a good weekend and served much needed redemption after last years race there. Happy to have a few more UCI points, too!
Luke Vrouwenvelder - Head coach at lukeVcoaching and pro cyclist based in Charlottesville, VA