- Cycling News
May 06, 2006, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:20 BST
This is my first year on a professional team. It's been a very eventful start to the 2006 season and...
This is my first year on a professional team. It's been a very eventful start to the 2006 season and I don't expect that to change - there's a pattern of chaos emerging!
Training has been great. The big easy miles and training in the gym seemed automatic, with an unconscious motivation putting me in overdrive. However, with the hours I was riding, it was not easy. It took focus to get through 5-6 hour days in the Colorado winter. Our Tucson (January) and California (Feb/March) houses made it a lot easier.
I completed my fifth year using a rigorous base training programme. After many hours doing base level work, I had to stick to a strict diet of three weeks of transition work. Transition work is painful, with lots and lots of tempo riding, which is fast. However, with every other day off during transition, I got lots of rest. With that in mind, I was ready to go to Mexico to race the Vuelta Sonora, a UCI 2.2 race.
Last year I raced solidly in the Vuelta Sonora and earned 4th in GC. With this year's preparation I felt I could do well despite not having raced yet, and it would be the first time the team raced together. The riders on our team are a great group and are also pretty good at racing their bikes; I'm happy to be their co-captain.
Back to the Vuelta Sonora. The first stage was moved to a brand new and out of control location at the last second. Despite that, our team raced aggressively out of the block. We were working it up immediately at the front, racing like a bunch of rabid dogs that hadn't eaten in days and were all genuinely excited to be there. The stage was short and fast and we all worked well together. I finished third on a hilltop finish with four of my teammates in the top twenty...ok, so my training so far didn't seem to be hurting me too much!
Fortunes turn quickly in cycling. The next stage was one on the worst racing experiences I ever had. This stage was said to be decisive for GC. Everybody was searching for that front position to watch for the key attack, and as a team, we decided to be careful until we reached the key climbing section. I was salivating for those climbs - it makes me happy. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, I didn't make it that far.
Racers went down in front and around me. My shoulder popped out when I hit the ground (a recurring injury). Five hours later, someone not too gently popped it in. The misfortunes didn't stop with me - one of my teammates (Eneas) broke his wrist and another (Dustin) was unfairly (we think) disqualified after finishing seventh in the stage (and near the top of the GC).
Who said bicycle racing is all about the training programme? There's lots more to it than that, of course.
Thank god for patient, understanding and determined teammates. Frank, Wes, Alejandro, Ryan and Dan stayed focused and stood on the podium in three of the final four stages, winning two of them and getting second in the one they didn't win. They rode a great race despite being short three riders. Training has to be backed by determination.
The team drove me to a bus with Eneas and we headed back to the US, where Eneas flew back to have surgery on his wrist. By 3:30 in the morning two days later I was back in Tucson sleeping well (ps: I love America!). The stress of travel and crashing hard is high, and I needed to rejuvenate. I had my bros from Durango down in Phoenix so we hung out and jumped into the Humboldt Road Race together. I managed to win (it's a fun, hilly race). This made all the difference in the world - good mental recovery while continuing the physical stimulation. Yeah, I felt much better.
After that oasis, I was off to Fresno and the Central Valley Classic, our official media camp and our first National Race Calendar event. This was the first time all of us were together. The race organisers were amazing and gave us two excellent host houses - thank you Central Valley! It was great and crazy, and after a freak snowstorm (first in 20 years), the promoters had to cancel the awesome uphill TT. We were all so looking forward to doing that climb. It took some wind out of my sails, and to some degree, the rest of the team. On top of that, we had a lot to get done for the media, and it was cold, wet and dreary.
In short I was bummed. I did an uninspired TT on the relocated longer flat course, where Ryan managed 8th on a TT bike he had never ridden before, which was awesome to see. But even the best training programme doesn't get you through the unexpected. The rest of the team did their best with clip-on bars and no aero wheels as we left the TT equipment back at the team house - who would've thought?
The next day we did a 120 mile road race that ended in chaos. Ok, I get it...chaos is part of racing. It doesn't get better because you are a professional - it's always there, waiting for you to be overconfident or unaware. Cold rain started to fall hard on the last lap and I realised I wasn't in a position to lead out our sprinters at the front. As I drifted back, I took a detour into a bush. I would have liked to see my face; I bet I had a very perplexed look. I collected myself and my wounded teammate Dan Greenfield and we limped our way to the finish. Alejandro and Frank finished up there. But I was told to shut down - the staff felt I needed rest and recovery. They sent me home to heal for a few days; here I come fired up for the season and I leave 0 and 2.
My coaching has emphasised to me that for me to be tough for the long haul - I can't always be tough on myself in the short term. I'm asked to be honest about how I am doing both physically and mentally, and I've been taught and shown that it's critical to recover and repair. I follow simple rules: firstly, help my teammates even when I am not going well - that makes things positive right away. Secondly, to recover well, relive simple living habits: eat, sleep and recover from stress! I see from racing at a high level for the past seven years that racing is about overcoming constant adversity. Coaching and mentoring helps me do so smartly by focusing me on achieving excellent physical and psychological levels in a clean, healthful way.
After four days off, I came back to join my teammates for a race the next weekend. Ryan Blickem won, Alejandro got third, Wes fourth and I pulled off fifth in a 30km time trial. The next day I felt like a force in the criterium, helping control the race with my teammates. Alejandro and Wes lapped the field. We won. What a great way to rejoin the team. Yeah, it's been chaotic and will continue to be so, but I think we're ready for the chaos and craziness that will find their way into TARGETRAINING's path.
- Cycling News
May 06, 2006, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:20 BST
Being a professional cyclist means living on a knifes edge. Its a constant battle to find...
Being a professional cyclist means living on a knifes edge. Its a constant battle to find equilibrium and central nervous system balance. You train yourself to your breaking point; you fine tune your diet so you get just enough calories to recover and nothing more, you do your best to honour your personal obligations...you do all of this and more but sometimes you fall off of that edge and cut yourself on the way down.
This is exactly what happened to me in what was a roller coaster of a race - the Tour of Sonora. My early season build up was brought to an abrupt end with a double broken wrist in stage two.
Having spent the winter months training in CT, I arrived at my first race of the year, Valley of the Sun. It had been a while since I'd felt the pressure of riding at full race pace; I'd focused primarily on base and tempo work outs since October, 2005, and the training paid off I felt strong and our teammate Ryan Blickem took third place on GC. Next stop, Mexico!
Arizona confirmed that I was carrying some of the best early season form that I have had in years. I went into the Tour of Sonora full of confidence and eager to get know my new teammates. Stage one went excellently; Anthony Colby got third and Dustin MacBurnie and I finished in the lead group in the hilltop finish. However, as I said earlier, balance is everything. In stage two, Colby, MacBurnie and I all crashed. I broke my wrist in the crash, although I somehow finished the 150km stage. That night, I watched Colby get his dislocated shoulder wrenched back into place while I received my x-ray results. I knew at that moment that I had fallen off the edge of the knife. In a take out of the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, it took Colby and me three days before we could make it out of Mexico and back into the good old USA to seek out modern medical treatment. By the time all was said and done, it was almost a week after the accident before I was pieced back together by my faithful chiropractor Dr. Scott Haig, who at this point has a yearly appointment with me.
Finding inspiration in my teams dedication for success, I gingerly climbed onto my trainer after wrist surgery - cast, pins and all. I admit that I needed mentoring at that point. It was very helpful that Rick Crawford was there to lessen the fall.
Like everything in this world, fighting back from injury is easier said than done. Crawford pushed me to build, yes, build! I was not exactly jumping for joy at that point. But I chose not to allow the injury to be a sentence of race deprivation; fitness degradation and central nervous system break down. I did my best to focus and stay disciplined. Perhaps I am kidding myself, but I think I have actually maintained and even built form during this wrist-in-cast period.
Along with Rick Crawfords encouragement, I happen to live close to Targetrainings indoor training facility. Its easy on the eyes and uses Velodyne equipment for power-based training. These machines are ideal for the base fundamentals of training. Ok, I felt I had a chance to make something good happen balance had started to sway back in my favour. (Picture of the facility in Westport).
Build is all about the quality and not quantity of training. It's about achieving very high levels both in power and in heart rate. I put my time trial or road bike on the Velodyne and put on my music. Usually I get to do this when no class is going on. I jump on and I go for an hour, but it's a hard hour. I do 350+ watt intervals ten minutes on, ten minutes off. It's all about the bike and I am enjoying myself. Again, maybe because I am tied into one place and cant hurt myself, I feel balanced. It helps that I did 160 hours of base and completed three full weeks of zone three riding. The long hours are over, and I get to spend 8-10 hours per week to finish my build portion. This work is all sub-VO2 max build efforts. My routine is intense; 10-15 minute blocks of just below flat out exertion followed by controlled recovery is manageable and painful. I stay right on the edge of the knife.
My cast comes off in two to three weeks. Its great and it's tough. I am glad my team has had good fortune before racing the Tour of Georgia on April 18th. We also earned our first NRC win on April 2 at the Garrett Lemire Memorial GP - my Targetraining teammates have good momentum. After doing the Southeast portion of our schedule in April and mid May, we'll have the boys based out of the Targetraining home in Westport, CT, where I hope to rejoin them on the road after they get some fresh Georgian peaches.
I just have to stay balanced on that Velodyne until then.
- Cycling News
May 06, 2006, 1:00 BST,
April 22, 2009, 20:20 BST
Since my last race in Ojai I put in HUGE miles - 2450, to be exact. No kidding. So maybe 2100 miles...
Since my last race in Ojai I put in HUGE miles - 2450, to be exact. No kidding. So maybe 2100 miles of that was driving, but still, I was really getting in the necessary volume to be ready for the Tour of Georgia. All that driving prepared me for the potential boredom of six-hour days on the bike. But are those long days really what I needed?
At this point in the season, if I dont already have the base miles put in to give me the endurance needed for a race like Georgia, I don't think a little training block two or three weeks ahead of time will magically prepare me. Stacking five, six or seven-hour days on top of each other would only crack me mentally. Some people love to do those long days on the bike all season long, seeking solace in their surroundings. I have reached my quota of long days and now would rather do short quality workouts and surround myself with the four walls of a bedroom and the television remote control or my laptop.
And that is exactly why the TargeTraining approach is a perfect fit for me. You put in the long (SLOW) days, your base, early when you have a lot of motivation going. For me that was December and January. Then gradually you decrease the volume and increase the intensity. It sounds simple and basically it is. Of course there are details to be observed, for example altering the plan when the typical early-season illness arrives. But getting ready for the season is not rocket science.
What is more complicated and what I have not fully grasped yet is what to do now, once the race season is underway. And that's what my coach helps me to understand. What to do before a big race (Georgia in my case), when I have a limited amount of time to get myself physically and mentally prepared for some hopeful success. The recipe he prescribed is short, high intensity intervals mixed into steady 3-4 hour rides. A group ride or motor-pacing would be close to perfect examples of this workout. Quality over quantity.
That doesnt mean I cannot do a long ride if Im feeling it, but it's not necessary. Too many long days at this point in the training will catch up with you and lead to a lack of motivation to get on the bike when you really need to, like in May or June when the racing is full-on for all of us. Group rides right now are great because they are such a stimulating environment. When I finish one of these workouts, I may be physically exhausted but I can tell myself truthfully (sometimes I lie to myself, but that's a different issue I dont want to get into) that it was a great workout. If I keep the training fun, my attitude stays positive, and before I know it success comes along.
For me, as a rookie at the TdG, success may be measured in small amounts, but you've got to do the right amounts to get there.
- Targetraining team
Rick Crawford is one of America's best known cycling coaches, having worked with the likes of Tom Danielson and Levi Leipheimer. His coaching business, TARGETRAINING, sponsors a team of the same name and they're lifting their racing to the next level in 2006. Follow the crew in their racing and training throughout the year on Cyclingnews Australia UK USA