Training tips for road cycling from FasCat Coaches

The Effect of Racing at Altitude

by Jake Rytlewski, Associate FasCat Coach

Throughout the summer, the western United States plays hosts some of cycling’s hardest races and events. The Leadville 100, FireCracker 50,  Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, the now-defunct USA Pro Challenge, and the newly created Haute Route all come to mind.

These races are all decided by the rider’s ability to maintain high outputs for over 30 minutes at high altitude. To put it into perspective, the high point in the Tour De France is frequently between 7,000 and 9,000 feet, whereas the Leadville 100 never goes below 10,000 feet!

Needless to say – if you’re racing at elevations above 8,000-9,000 feet, you had better understand how to modify your race strategy.

The Effect of Racing at Altitude

As you gain altitude there is a reduced amount of pO2 (partial oxygen pressure) meaning that there is less oxygen for your blood to carry to your muscles. The USA Pro Challenge takes place mostly above 7,000 ft and at that altitude, the body will take in at least 25 percent less oxygen per breath because of the reduced amount of pO2 in the air when compared to sea level. With less oxygen available to deliver to the muscles, riders will see a decrease in performance when compared to lower altitudes.

The effects to your body when racing at altitude are higher heart rate and lower power output. Since you are getting less oxygen to your muscles your body increases its heart rate to help bring in more oxygen which means you reach your max output quicker. This leads to a lower Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and also makes it harder to recover from maximal efforts.

Acclimating

In preparation for these events, many racers have arrived in Utah and Colorado well in advance to help acclimate to the altitude. Since there is less oxygen being delivered to the muscles the body will produce more red blood cells which deliver the oxygen to the muscles. By spending this extra time at altitude the racers will have more red blood cells and become more acclimated which will lead to a lower drop-off rate in power at higher altitudes.

Many riders will take this approach when preparing for any race. They will have specific altitude training camps. By spending more time at higher altitudes they can increase their red blood cells, allowing them to make longer and harder sustainable efforts at lower altitudes. But they will only want to stay up for three to four weeks. Any longer than that and they will begin to lose muscle from riding at the lower power outputs. There are other methods as well such as training low sleeping high and training high sleeping low.

Want to make riding at altitude easier this year? Check out our Haute Route Colorado 6-week Plan!

Available Aerobic Power

These equations from Bassett et al.1 were generated from four groups of highly trained or elite runners, so they are population-specific to that group, but they can be used to estimate aerobic power at a given altitude as a percentage y of what is normally available at sea level, where x = elevation above sea level in km:

for acclimatized athletes (several weeks at altitude): y = -1.12×2 – 1.90x + 99.9 (R2 = 0.973)

non-acclimatized athletes (1-7 days at altitude): y = 0.178×3 – 1.43×2 – 4.07x + 100 (R2 = 0.974)

Whereas Peronnet et al.2 found

y = -0.003×3 + 0.0081×2 – 0.0381x + 1

Here is a table derived from these equations:

Applying to the Race

Racers competing at altitude will no doubt feel the effects of racing at altitude whether they are acclimatized or not.  All power numbers will be reduced across the board because altitude throws out every number they have used all year. They now have to readjust their FTP, pacing strategies and be careful not to attack too often or dig too deep to stay with riders surging on the climbs. With the reduced amount of oxygen being delivered to the muscles, it becomes harder to catch your breath and recover.  Honestly, feel becomes as important if not more so than watts.

For example, take an athlete who at sea level has a 380-watt Functional Threshold Power. If they want to use their power meter to set a pace for the Vail TT they could be looking at trying to average only 335 watts. This is taking in a drop of their FTP by 16 percent because of the altitude while being able to race at 105 percent since the effort will only last around 25 minutes. Another example is when they are climbing up the 11,000 foot Monarch Pass they may be riding full gas at 310 watts because of the altitude.

Altitude creates yet another variable in the already complex world of bike racing. The reduction in available oxygen creates a series of physiological issues. While riders can do some work to prepare for racing in thin air, much of it comes down to proper pacing and knowing the limits.

  1. Bassett, D.R. Jr., C.R. Kyle, L. Passfield, J.P. Broker, and E.R. Burke. Comparing cycling world hour records, 1967-1996: modeling with empirical data. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 31:1665-76, 1999.
  2. Peronnet, F., G. Thibault, and D.L. Cousineau. A theoretical analysis of the effect of altitude on running performance. Journal of Applied Physiology 70(1):399-404, 1991.

Copyright 2017, FasCat Coaching

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Coach Jake is an Associate Coach with FasCat Coaching, a boutique brand coaching company  in Boulder, CO. Jake and his fellow FasCat Coaches have been training at altitude since 2003. To talk with Jake or another FasCat Coach about your race at altitude, call 720.406.7444, or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire for a free coaching consultation.  Additionally check out our $49 six week training plans here.

Healthy Food Choices

Top 10 Go Fast Foods

I just completed the 14 Day Conscious Cleanse and want to share what I learned with regard to optimal nutrition for training and weight loss. My perspective is a continuation of what I’ve been preaching to athletes for over ten years so I’ll try to keep this concise and to the point. I’ll break my thoughts into 2 parts:

  1. Go Fast and Go Slow Food Choices
  2. Healthy Eating Habits for Weight Loss

First, is the food we choose to eat. There are two types: Go Fast and Go Slow. Let’s start with some Go Faster Food Choices

  • High Quality complex carbohydrate like sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice
  • The post race/ride burrito! (with rice, veggies and protein)
  • Fruit apples, oranges, mangoes, bananas (bananas can replace energy bars)
  • Rice cakes – to use on the bike
  • Raw vegetables like carrots, broccoli, edamame, green and red pepper slices
  • Have a salad for dinner with chicken or fish
  • Kale & Spinach – antioxidant rich

Eat more vegetables. One of the most popular requests that I get from cyclists is “I’d like to lose some weight.” And of course, I am happy to help; I’ve done it myself (losing 12lbs to go from Cat 4 to Cat 1). Weight loss for cyclists makes an enormous impact to any cyclist’s performance. To start with, there are several simple dietary suggestions that I’d like to make before plunging into a caloric deficit (diet). Often times these simple lifestyle changes will result in a leaner, happier, and faster athlete. So here goes, these are ‘go slow‘ foods:

  • Avoid all foods and beverages with high fructose corn syrup (this includes convenience store gatorade and soft drinks)
  • Try to stay away from processed foods with partially hydrogenated fats
  • Avoid sugary foods like cookies (sorry, Phil), cakes, and low-fat foods (that’s code for high in sugar)
  • Avoid added sugar altogether, its evil
  • Try to stay away from saturated fats found in red meat, cheese, butter, and fried foods
  • Avoid alcohol

For weight loss, athletes should also start paying attention to the back label of foods where ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated fats, and sugars are displayed. You have to be an ingredient detective! Grocery shop in the perimeter of the store, not down the aisles where food is in boxes. Here are some healthy ‘go fast‘ food choices you can make:

Try switching to go fast food choices for a month and see where your weight goes.  My favorite recipe book is Skratch Labs “The Feed Zone Cookbook” which has over 150 easy meals for you to try. Dial in two or three of these meals (my favorite is the Chicken Fried Rice) to improve your performance and diet.

If you are already eating sensible portions of go fast foods try using these two tools to take a harder look at your diet and food consumption:

  1. MyFitnessPal: Complete a 3 day dietary recall . Download the app and start logging in everything you put in your mouth for 3 days.  Not just what, but how much.  Be detailed. Your coach can analyze your ‘food diary’ but often times in the exercise itself, the athlete will realize all the empty calories they are consuming.
  2. Your PowerMeter: 1 kiloJoule on the bike equals 1 calorie of food. Ride 1,000kJ’s and that’s equivalent to a burrito. Ride 2,000 kJ’s and it’s easy to see why you can lose some weight as long as you don’t eat everything that isn’t nailed down in the kitchen when you get home.

OK, that’s all good but you still need to hit your “climbing” weight. Well, as Eddy Merckx rather eloquently said, “Eat Less, Ride More.” Don’t we all wish. Basically it all comes down to taking in fewer calories than your daily caloric requirements, otherwise known as a caloric deficit. Some athletes can successfully ‘diet by math‘ to lose weight and if you want to try, I recommend a 500 calorie caloric deficit per day.  Over 1 week that is 1 lb.  10 weeks = 10 lbs.  Don’t diet more than that because your power on the bike and recovery off the bike will decrease.

Before I go any further there are times in an athlete’s training schedule when it is OK and not OK to lose weight. After the season is over and during your base phase are great opportunities to trim the fat.  During your weight program or once you start your intensity and begin racing are not. Instead back up and try modifying your diet with the go fast and go slow foods described above. If it’s the right time of year to cut calories try some of these tricks I’ve successfully used in the past:

  1. Try eating several small meals over the course of the day rather than three large ones
  2. Drink lots of water – a liter before every meal – it fills you up
  3. Pay attention to the glycemic index of foods and try to avoid HIGH GI foods
  4. Eat bulky foods that are not calorically dense like salads and vegetables
  5. Speaking of vegetables – include them with every meal.  Kale ‘n eggs!
  6. Make a habit of snacking on fruit and vegetables instead of your usual quick fixes
  7. On the bike, teach your body to burn fat by riding slow enough that it is using your body’s fat stores as the primary source of energy (~70% HR MAX or FAT MAX).  You can determine your “FAT MAX” with metabolic testing in the lab.
  8. Practice your “Push Aways” – push yourself away from the dinner table before you are full.
  9. Brush your teeth right after dinner to avoid snacking at night

Remember to consume plenty of carbohydrates once you start your intervals and begin racing. Dieting during the season is risky business and could hurt your cycling with decreased power output by way of reduced recovery, muscle immunosuppression and a reduction in performance.

Disclaimer: if the recommendations above are not working for you, I suggest working with a nutritionist: one that can look at your training plan, use metabolic laboratory data (FAT MAX) plus your powermeter data (kJ’s = calories) AND design a meal plan for long term sustainability. Because after all, we are talking about lifestyle changes, not diets. Above all, congratulations on the commitment you made to your health and to your power to weight ratio! Chris Froome here you come.

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

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Frank wrote this training tip 14 years ago but still coaches athletes to this day about making better food choices to achieve healthy sustainable weight loss and ultimately a change in the athlete’s lifestyle. Recently Frank completed the 14 Day Conscious Cleanse.  Stay tuned for what he learned.  To talk with Frank about your cycling and losing weight, please call 720.406.7444 or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation.  Otherwise you can find him riding and eating healthy in Boulder, CO.

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4 minute VO2 Power Data

How to Perform VO2 Max Intervals with your PowerMeter

By Frank Overton, Owner & Founder at FasCat Coaching  (originally  written for VeloNews)

When the hammer drops on your next group ride it is likely a VO2 effort. I see it all the time in reviewing my athlete power data: the crux of getting into the break, making the selection, or the race winning move lasts between 3 – 6 minutes.  This is raw VO2 power and requires that you ride full gas.  We can mimic the physiological demands of those moments in our training with VO2 Max Intervals.

Here is a simple VO2 workout to improve your explosive power and ability to deliver in those make or break moments in your group ride or race:

VO2 Max Intervals: Zone 5 (105 – 120% of Threshold Wattage): 2 sets of 2 x 4 min ON 4 min OFF; 8 min in-between sets.

  • Warm Up easy for 15 – 30 minutes
  • Perform these Intervals on a climb (if available)
  • Begin each interval by modulating your wattage between 105% and 120% of your FTP power

With an accurately set FTP, 105-120% should be as hard as you can go for 4 minutes (and any 3-6 minute VO2 interval).

  • Hold your wattage in Zone 5 for 4 minutes
  • After the first 4 minute interval turn around and coast back down the hill (or pedal in Zone 2 if on flat terrain).
  • Turn around again and reposition yourself to begin the next interval from the same spot after 4 minutes of recovery.
  • A properly paced interval should feel moderately hard at first, difficult in the middle and a max effort at the end.
  • Tip: use your PowerMeter’s readout as motivation to hold the effort between your Zone 5 wattages for the full four minutes.
  • Don’t let your wattage dip below your Zone 5 wattage!
  • Try to maintain your power output above 105% but not above 120% (that is too hard and physiologically unrealistic).
  • After two intervals, take an 8 minute set break to spin around, recover and prepare for the final set.
  • After you complete both sets ride around in zone 2 or cool down.
  • Upload your data to TrainingPeaks and analyze your average interval wattages!

Find the perfect six-week interval plan: Click here to browse our $49 plans!

Technique

“Make the power” any which way you can; it does not have to be pretty. Dance on the pedals out of the saddle or try spinning seated. Be aggressive, get after it! I recommend alternating between sitting and standing. Position your hands out on the hoods for maximum leverage to rock the bike back and forth as you pump up and down on the pedals. With the real time wattage feedback from your power meter, you’ll quickly see which climbing technique enables you to make the power.

Motivation

These are difficult intervals (some of the toughest) so come into the workout rested, motivated, fueled and ready to suffer. The payoff is that you will be a more powerful, faster bike rider. Imagine you are charging up the race’s climbs with the taste of blood in your mouth and the podium is within your grasp! If you have snot coming out of your nose, or drool coming out of your mouth at the end of the last few intervals you are doing them correctly. For the goal-oriented athlete, there can be a tremendous amount of satisfaction in the successful completion of such a difficult workout within the prescribed zone 5 wattages.

Power Data Analysis

The graph below is an athlete’s power data from the VO2 Intervals described above (Zone 5: 4 x 4 min ON 4 min OFF, FULL GAS. This particular athlete is training for a road race with 3 climbs that last approximately 4 minutes each. Not only is this VO2 workout great for his fitness and power output, but it is specific to the power demands of his race course.

Notice the distinct plateau shaped power vs. time graph for each interval and the relative steady wattage output.   Theses intervals were well paced with averages of 340, 331, 331 and 332 watts, respectively.

Pacing

Since you are motivated and hungry like the wolf, don’t go out too hard for the first 1-2 intervals.  You want your last interval to be as good as your first.  There’s the Right Way and the Wrong Way to perform intervals.   In other words don’t start each interval at 150% of your FTP only to struggle to hold 95% in the 2nd half.  Use your powermeter to also not go too hard.  By modulating your effort in real time with a powermeter, you can execute your intervals much better than you can by heart rate.  Use the display to pedal harder into your zone 5 but not above.  In that case back off so that the watts fall in your zone 5 wattage.  Not too hard, not too easy, just right like Goldilocks.

Pro Power Analysis Tip

Calculate your average 4 minute VO2 Interval power by adding up the average of each interval and divide by 4 (or # of intervals).  Use this number to measure improvement against future 4 minute VO2 workouts.  For example if you averaged 283 watts April 16th, 2014 for this VO2 workout, repeat the intervals in 2 weeks under the same rested conditions and analyze your average interval power to see if you eclipsed the 283 watts from April 16th.

Advanced VO2 Workout

If 2 sets of 2 intervals for 4 total VO2 intervals is not enough for you, try 2 sets of 3 [2 sets of 3 x 4 min ON 4 min OFF]. However, remember to focus on the quality and amplitude of the power first before moving onto the quantity. Finally, if 24 minutes of VO2 work is not enough for you, try the grand-daddy VO2 workout off all time: 2 sets of 3 x 5 min ON 5 min OFF with 10 minutes in-between each set!

Progression from introductory VO2 intervals to more advanced and more challenging interval workouts may be found in our six week $49 interval training plans.

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

Frank is the founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO. Frank and the FasCat Coaches have been prescribing VO2 intervals to athletes for over 15 years.  To get VO2’s prescribed into your training, you can email frank@fascatcoaching.com , call 720.406.7444, or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to schedule a Coaching Consultation.  Or you may buy FasCat’s six-week interval training plans for $49 here.  Either way, look forward to increasing your VO2 Max Power at crunch time!

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Criss Cross Threshold > Zone 6 3 x 15 min

Criss-Cross Intervals for Road and Mountain Bikers

Criss-Cross intervals mimic the power demands* of road and mountain bike races. In this training tip, we’ll describe the how, what, where, and why of criss cross intervals and give you some example workouts plus a 4 week interval progression to follow.

*surges in the peloton, steeper pitches up climbs, switchbacks, and technical singletrack

Criss-Cross  intervals are structured tempo intervals with a “cross” up to harder intensities for 60-180 seconds, every 2-5 minutes during the tempo interval. After the “cross” the athlete returns to tempo wattage until the next “cross.” Here is an example Criss-Cross workout:

Criss-Cross, Tempo > Sweet Spot: 3 x 10 minutes ON 10 minutes OFF  with a 1 minute “cross” at 4 & 9 minutes

As the athlete and training progress, one can increase both the length of the interval and the intensity of the “cross” from Sweet Spot to Threshold > VO2 > Zone 6/Anaerobic. Here’s the same 3 x 10 Criss-Cross interval workout as above except the “cross” is now at FTP watts:

Criss-Cross, Tempo > Threshold: 3 x 10 minutes ON 10 minutes OFF  with a 1 minute “cross” at 4 & 9 minutes

Criss-Cross, Tempo > VO2: 3 x 10 minutes ON 10 minutes OFF  with a 1 minute “cross” at 4 & 9 minutes

Criss-Cross, Tempo > Zone 6/Anaerobic: 3 x 10 minutes ON 10 minutes OFF  with a 1 minute “cross” at 4 & 9 minutes

I like to take athletes through the above Criss-Cross workouts once a week as they progress and are finishing up their base and CTL build. The intensity from the “crosses” is just enough to bridge the gap from base training to full on, full gas high intensity interval training. Criss-Cross intervals are also great for:

  • bridging the gap from base training to high intensity interval training (the crosses)
  • generating larger TSS’s than traditional Sweet Spot and Tempo advance aerobic endurance training, and thus raise CTL even higher
  • help the time pass quicker during indoor training sessions!

Additionally, Criss-Cross workouts may be ‘enhanced’ by increasing the length of the “criss” interval, number and intensities of the “crosses. For example, progressing to a sweet spot interval that crosses up into Zone 5 and even Zone 6.  There are so many possibilities I encourage you to customize & diversify your Criss-Cross intervals.

The most diabolical Criss-Cross Interval workout I’ve ever prescribed is the following:

Threshold > Zone 6, 3 x 15 with three 1 minute “crosses” in Zone 6 at minute 4, 9 and 14 minutes. Note how the 3rd “cross” of each interval is full gas (150% of FTP!) to mimic a race winning move.

If you’d like to buy a $49 training plan with the 4 week Cris-Cross interval progression I detailed out above, we’d love for you to give them a go and crush your goals!

SUMMARY

Copyright 2017, FasCat Coaching

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To talk with a FasCat Coach about Criss-Cross intervals for your training and racing, please fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a complimentary coaching consultation. Additionally nearly all of our road and mountain bike $49 training plans have criss cross intervals designed in an easy to follow weekly training calendar.

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Cheetah Demonstrating Proper Recovery Techniques

Taking a “Proper” Post Season Break

by Frank Overton, August 2016

A proper post season break is 100% individual and should be a collaboration between the coach and athlete.  At the very least, the topic of not following a training plan (yes, I wrote that) warrants a discussion.  A good coach will know the athlete and be able to read what is going to be the best form of break for them.   Similarly, a good athlete is going to trust his or her coach and honor what they are being told (which is converse to riding/training/following a training plan).  Because when a post season break is ‘done’ properly, the athlete will be able to draw upon the break and perform better next season.

Cheetahs are Fast because they know how to take proper breaks from going fast!

Sports Psychologist, Dr. Kristin Keim, Ph.D, describes a post season break as the transition season where the athlete and coach work on objectives outside of training and competition.  Aka the athlete’s mental game.

Not following a training plan for a period of time is actually a better description than ‘no bike’ when it comes to customizing a proper post season break. Getting out of one’s daily training routine is actually the best ‘training’ athletes can do following a long season of training and racing and sacrifice.   Why? Because following a training plan is stressful and full of sacrifice.  A proper post season break removes that stress and sacrifice to bring the athlete back in balance with life: family, work, kids, relationships, friends, plus other hobbies and interest.  Most importantly, a proper post season break brings the athlete’s motivation back for the next season.  Therefore a proper post season break is not to quote Dr. Keim “not about stopping all physical activity, but more about not have a strict regime of training, diet, traveling, and racing. The transition season is more about adding balance, working on other aspects of one’s life and identity (outside of sport), and slowly starting to work on the blue print and goals for the upcoming season. I like to look at it as hitting the “Reset Button” on life.”

3 Parameters of a Proper Post Season Break:
  1. 2 – 3 weeks:  Professional athletes may need up to 4 weeks. of not following a training plan.  Generally the length of your break is determined by how long you’ve been in the sport and how much time you have to train when it’s time to train.  If you are a time-crunched athlete, take 2 weeks off. If you are a pro take a month.
  2. Re-establish “Life Balance“: be a normal person that doesn’t get up at the crack of dawn to train, rush to work or get cranky.  Focus on other areas of your life like the ones that matter more than sport.  Be present in your relationships at work and at home.
  3. Soul Rides**: I define these as whatever ride makes the athlete happy.  Perhaps you’ve heard of hashtag, ‘happiness watts’.  A soul ride is the athlete’s favorite route with their favorite training partner.  Its whatever they want for however long or short, hard or easy the athlete wants. It can also not be riding at all; that’s the beauty of not following a training plan.  A total mental break from the pressure and stress that a training plan creates.

Above all, a proper post season break is a total mental and physiological break from the pressure and stress that a training plan and racing creates.  A proper post season break brings the athlete back to a better space for training and racing than he or she was before the break.

What Should Athletes and Coaches ‘do’ beyond not following a plan during a Proper Post Season Break:

Athletes First:

#1 Relax. There’s no pressure to complete 3 x 10 min of x,y, & z watts. Seriously, relax.

#2 Fix the nagging injury or heal from the one that ended your season

#3 Reconnect with you enjoyment of the bike (see Soul Rides**). Just reconnect with all aspect of life.

# 4 Meditate.  This can be thru Yoga which has additional benefits.  Read Dr. Keim’s 4 reason athletes should meditate here

A post season break is the time to address the complicated injuries that require time off from training.  Back and knee pain are common for us endurance athletes but its whatever is an area of opportunity for when you ‘fix’ it.  By taking a physical break from training, you will lay the foundation to start building upon for next season. Without being completely mentally and physically refreshed before beginning your training again for next season you will likely run into motivational or physical problems later on when it’s ‘go time’ for training and racing.

Racing takes so much mental energy that it’s nice to simply take a step back, sleep late, relax, and recharge.  For those of us that have jobs, families, and relationships, it’s nice for once to not have to sacrifice time and energy at their expense. Now would be a good time to try to impress the boss at work and make up for all those Monday mornings you were spent from a weekend of racing. Equally as important would be the fact that you, for the first time in many months, have a weekend to do whatever you want with your family or girlfriend/boyfriend. Stay out late, take the kid to a ball game, or plan on a romantic weekend getaway with your significant other as a way of saying “thanks for putting up with me this season”.

Additional Considerations for Athletes:

Take a break from being a geeky regimented cyclist and/or endurance athlete. If you were following a strict performance diet, stop. Eat cookies, order the steak, whatever you want. If you were trying to get 8-9 hours of sleep a night, stay up late, don’t worry about it. Forget about your resting heart rate, staying off your feet, and your power to weight ratio. But remember all good things come to an end. The purpose of a break enables you to resume and hold all the components that go into being a performance cyclist. So whatever you fancy, do it now so that you can get back to full on training and racing for next season.

** One caveat to the soul ride is for the type A athletes who tend to overdo ‘it’.  Coaches will recognize this and actually prescribed complete time off as opposed to the option for riding.  We all love the bike and some more than others.  It’s those athletes that may not benefit from a proper break and get 8-12 weeks into their annual training plan and need a break.

Coaches:

#1 Read the athlete’s motivation before and after the break. If there’s no improvement, the break wasn’t long enough.  Wait for cues from the athlete.

#2 Advance Planning.  This is the time to start working on the athletes Annual Training Plan (ATP).   You won’t finish it (not even close) but when the athlete comes back from a break refreshed, motivated and ready to charge ahead, the coach needs to have the 10,000 ft aerial view plan.  A blueprint for how the athlete is going to achieve his/her goals.

#3 Talk about Goals. I call this the ‘goal setting talk’.  Like the ATP, you cannot have this talk at the beginning of the break because the athlete is not ready.  You’ll know when they are ready when they start talking about their goals for next season. And you the coach need to have put some thought into how to shape that into a plan for them to achieve those goals.

As a coach, I enjoy this time of year as much as when its game on for an athlete’s goal events. This time is a terrific time and opportunity to work with the athlete on their mental game.  I love to see an athlete go from worn out and unmotivated to talking about a podium and such and such race next summer.  All in 2-4 weeks time.  Having the time to step back and identify what happened in the past season and ways to improve for next are absolutely critical for the coach and athlete.  I used to be a black and white “no bike for 2 whole weeks” type of coach.  Nowadays, I find toeing a ‘gray’ line in collaboration with the athlete enables them to complete their break ready for the next season in the best way possible.

For some athletes, it takes a great deal of discipline to say goodbye to a training plan for 2 – 4 weeks.  For others, it’s completely easy.  In either case, the post season break is a different mindset than what’s been ingrained into an athlete’s daily routine for the past 11 months. But rest assured when the break is part of a greater annual training plan the athlete will benefit enormously.

Copyright 2016 , FasCat Coaching

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Frank is the head coach, founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO.  To talk with Frank and/or a FasCat Coach about your post season break (and goals after) please fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire or call 720.406.7444 to set up a Coaching Consultation.  Otherwise take yo’ proper post season break!

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sweet spot training

How to Sweet Spot

by Frank Overton

Buongiorno! It has been over 10 years since I wrote the original sweet spot article and it is nice to hear how many athletes have added it to their training and benefited. I have lurked around on the message boards and the following “part deux” is how I have been integrating sweet spot into the training I prescribe for athletes.

First, what is Sweet Spot?

Technically, the sweet spot is located between high zone 3 and low zone 4: between 84% to 97% of your FTP (power at threshold). For the non-powermeter user I would call it “medium hard” – below your 40k time trial race pace, but harder than a traditional tempo workout.

Buy a $49 Sweet Spot Training Plan HERE.  Designed for the athlete that has 4 – 8 hours to train per week with periodization. Or choose an intermediate or advanced plan if you have 8+ hours/week to train.

Buy our $49 Six Weeks to the Sweet Spot Training Plan

Figure courtesy of Dr. Andy Coggan, Ph.D

Sweet Spot training forces the physiological adaptations that were written about in this article and shown in the graph below:

The underlying principle of sweet spot training is a balanced amount of intensity and volume. From the table above, sweet spot elicits more adaptations than tempo but less than threshold work. The trade off is the key element because day to day an athlete can achieve more positive physiological adaptations by sweet spotting than with threshold or tempo work. The balance lies in the athlete’s ability to recover and therefore repeat and achieve similar wattages day after day with more frequency than full on threshold workouts. The end result is mo’ better training, more TSS, greater CTL, greater TSB and ultimately a higher power at threshold.

The balance lies in the athlete’s ability to recover and therefore repeat and achieve similar wattages day after day with more frequency than full on threshold workouts. The end result is mo’ better training, more TSS, greater CTL, greater TSB and ultimately a higher power at threshold.

How to Sweet Spot
Conceptually sweet spot training can be applied in a variety of ways. Here is my original favorite:

Example 1: “Sweet Spot: __ hrs” I prescribe this “free form” workout for ultra motivated athletes with a kiloJoule target that’s based on previous data. Suffice it to say, this 0.5 to 3-4 hour workout is not popular (because of the degree of difficulty). Most of the following examples below have originated from creative ways to sweet spot that’s easy on the “head”. In other words, not mentally taxing.

The duration is dependent on the athlete, their training load, and their state of fatigue; Read How Much Sweet Spot to dive deeper.  For example, I’ll prescribe more sweet spot following a block of rest than I would following a more difficult workout.

Instructions:  Go out and ride hard. Start off the ride just below your threshold wattage around 90 – 95% of your threshold power. Get after it and as you fatigue let your wattage fall between tempo wattages. Then after further fatigue sets in, high zone 2 finishes off the workout. Basically – get after it and accept the fatigue that comes with riding hard. You are also looking to achieve a lot of kiloJoules and a large TSS once the day is done.

It is important to note that you are not trying to hold one certain wattage or range during the ride. However, once the workout is downloaded and analyzed you do want to see specific sweet spot wattage for the duration(s) that you were “sweet spotting”. In these files the longer the athlete continuously sweet spots the more close the normalized power will be to high zone 2. The shorter the sweet spot, the more I’d like to see normalized power come in at a high tempo/low threshold range.

Example 2: “Group Ride Sweet Spot” ride on the front in the wind, take longer more frequent pulls. Do more work, be aggressive. While all this is going on, use your powermeter to confirm that you are indeed sweet spottin’. Or participate in a group ride with stronger riders that force you to ride harder just to stay with the group. Also, see example 4.

Example 3: “45 minutes of Sweet Spot climbing during a 3-hour ride” For those athletes in hilly or mountainous regions, I like to prescribe this ride a lot. Athletes are encouraged to choose the route he or she wants and ride in sweet spot from the bottom to the top of any climb they want. The athlete must keep track of their total time spent climbing. It offers a lot more freedom and motivation than structured intervals say 3 x 15 min On. A good example is an 18-minute climb followed by a 10-minute climb and finished off with a 15-minute climb. 45 minutes of solid work in a stimulating format.

Example 4: “Ride with stronger riders, sweet spot” Girls ride with the boys. Cat 3’s ride with the 1/2’s. Masters with the young guns. Pros motor pace. ‘Nuff said. Riding with stronger riders makes you stronger – and often times it is because you are pushing sweet spot watts. Download and double check your power file to be sure.

Example 5: “Race Sweet Spot” & even better “Stage Race Sweet Spot. Perhaps you are using a race for training and aren’t interested in the usual strategy of “sitting in and waiting for the move”. Make the race hard and go off the front early. Ride the break at sweet spot wattages.  The longer the break, the bigger the training effect. Work for your teammate sweet spot.  So what if you get caught or dropped! Nothing risked, nothing gained and maybe you will be so good at sweet spotting that you’ll take yourself all the way to line for the “w”. You never know till you try.

For stage race sweet spotting – it’s the cumulative effect of 3 to 5 days or more of “hard racing”. A stage race like the Tour of the Gila or Mt Hood with plenty of climbing is a great example.  Even 7 days of Superweek racing will bring your form up because most of the criteriums come in at sweet spot wattage for the race as a whole.  In 2012 Timmy Duggan rode the front of the Tour of California sweet spottin’ nearly every stage for Peter Sagan and won USPRO 7 days later.   #NationalChampionshipsSweetSpottin’

Example 6: “Mountain bike Sweet Spot” — Choose challenging terrain and focus on having fun but going fast and working hard. I do not have any mountain bike races files, but I would venture to guess that the normalized power for a 2hr mountain bike race is at the upper end of the athlete’s sweet spot wattage.

Example 7: “Motorpacing Sweet Spot” – the ultimate in my opinion. Try it – you’ll go fast. One hour once a week at sweet spot wattages (normalized for 1 hour) over rolling terrain will turn you into an animal! Note that this is not a steady state workout — juice it on the hills and recover on the downhills. When you download your file the normalized power for a super hard motorpacing session should come in at quality sweet spot wattages.

Example 8: “Structured Sweet Spot” For those athletes looking for more structure or are targeting a race with a key climb or time trial duration, a sweet spot workout can be written similar to traditional threshold workouts. Sometimes having the duration and wattage to target is reassuring for athletes. For example:

“Sweet Spot: 4 x 15 min On 10 min Off between 84 – 97% threshold power”.
Total work = 60 minutes

“Sweet Spot: 2 x 20 min On 5 min Off between 84-97% threshold power”.
Total work = 40 minutes

Sweet Spot Metrics: TSS, kJ’s, CTL & wattage
Back in front of the ‘ol computer you’ll want to measure, track, and quantify your work. This subject is a whole other article but briefly here’s what to look for until I can write “Sweet Spot Metrics”.

Wattage is the easiest way to analyze a specific sweet spot duration in a power file. Select the duration you were sweet spotting and verify the normalized power was in fact @ sweet spot wattages.

Training Stress Score (TSS) is the ultimate way to measure the benefit of sweet spot aside from directly measuring/testing your power at threshold. By sweet spotting you are looking to achieve a large TSS at the end of the day. kJ’s are good for the non-WKO user, but TSS is better.

For tracking your TSS from day to day, use the Performance Manager Chart (aka TSTWKT) to watch your Chronic Training Load (CTL) rise. During a build phase where the goal is to raise your CTL, there’s nothing better than sweet spot. You can’t go sweet spotting 24/7 but you can lead off a block with plenty of sweet spot.

Finally, sweet spot training and the workouts above are a fantastic way to build a huge aerobic engine at any point in the year. In my experience as an athlete and a coach, a large aerobic foundation should be your number one priority over the winter and in the season building towards an A race. There are several areas of your training you’ll need to address afterward but starting with the “big base” will increase your performance. The bigger base you can build, the faster you will be.

Buy a Sweet Spot Training Plan here for $49.  We have three different plans based on a number of hours you have to train per week. You may raise your threshold power as much as 5-20% (depending on several factors).

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

Frank Overton is the owner, founder and head coach at FasCat Coaching, a cycling coaching company  in Boulder, CO.  To talk with Frank or a FasCat Coach about the how much sweet spot training will make you faster, please call 720.406.7444, or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation.  Additionally, check out the Sweet Spot Plans for only $49 that Frank designed!

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Video Tactics of a Crit

Teaching Criterium Tactics Using On Board Cameras

by Isaiah Newkirk, July 2016

In cycling, it’s not always the strongest person that wins; it’s the smartest. Conserving energy, exploiting your opponents weaknesses, reading the competition in front of you, and using the race course to your advantage are all things that are required to get to win. In bike racing, we call this “Race Smarts,” and it comes easier to some than others. But that doesn’t have to be the case anymore. With on board cameras becoming more widespread, race tactics doesn’t have to be such a grey area. Now what would normally take years to master can be focused on, and result in winning races.

Here are two examples of athletes that attended local races with an on-board camera (in this situation a VIRB camera) and the feedback we were able to give based on its contents. As you watch these short clips, see if you can spot anything that may help your own racing.

Tour of Nevada: Jeremy Stitt, FTP= 325 watts; Threshold Heart Rate = 177 bpm
Overall Takeaways from this race:

This was overall a solid performance where Jeremy mixed it up and played his cards for the win. To get closer to the win, I recommended a 3 ways to improve:
First, find a groove within the course and get to the front quickly. This will help save energy and be in the right moves early. Staging and pre-riding the course will help with this.

Second, Make sure you are doing your best to tuck in and save energy when you can.

Finally, Commit during your attacks, check behind you for followers, and if you don’t let the situation sit up and try again later. Maximizing your efforts, conserving your energy, and playing those around you is crucial.  Jeremy got 21st in this crit but since then has improved his criterium tactics and won the Truman Cup July 25th, 2016!

Tuesday Night Training Crit: David Gray, FTP = 307 watts, Threshold Heart Rate = 170 bpm
Overall Takeaways from this race:

The biggest takeaway from this race is to simply always ask questions during a race. Why is that rider doing that? If I attack here would I be wasting energy, what am I to gain? Am I pulling the field around with me? How do I save energy here? These questions will save you a lot of effort and likely put you ahead of your competitors. This was a Tuesday night training crit for Dave who has gone from middle of the pack to getting into breakaways and contesting sprint finishes. Way to go Dave!

As a coach, teaching an athlete how to read a race can be just as important as building up their motor. Teaching techniques were limited to x & Y since it’s rare for a coach to be able to race alongside their athlete for the entirety of a race. Two years ago, I had a different idea. An athlete of mine who lived 850 miles away would affix his new Go-Pro to his bike during the race. We established a DropBox link for him to share the race files, and during our next consultation, we’d walk through the race move by move. We spotted bad habits, places he was wasting energy, paces he was conserving, and even the moment when he lost the race.  Thru the use of an on board camera eventually we could even spot his race winning move(s).

Since then, multiple other FasCat athletes have signed on to On-Board Camera Tactic Analysis. We combine the video with standard metrics (Power, Heart Rate, Speed & Cadence) from their TrainingPeaks account, giving the coach an almost complete understanding of how the race played out the moment the file is uploaded.

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Coach Isaiah Newkirk is an Associate Coach with FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO.  To learn more about bike racing tactics and how Isaiah can teach you,  please call 720.406.7444 or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation.

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Chicken Fried Rice

Weight Loss for Cyclists

by Frank Overton, February 2003, revised 2016

One of the most popular requests that I get from cyclists is “I’d like to lose some weight”. And of course, I am happy to help; I’ve done it myself (losing 12lbs to go from Cat 4 to Cat 1). Weight loss for cyclists makes an enormous impact to any cyclist’s performance. To start with, there are several simple dietary suggestions that I’d like to make before plunging into a caloric deficit (diet). Often times these simple lifestyle changes will result in a leaner, happier, and faster athlete. So here goes, these are ‘go slow‘ foods:

  • Avoid all foods and beverages with high fructose corn syrup (this includes convenience store gatorade and soft drinks)
  • Try to stay away from processed foods with partially hydrogenated fats
  • Avoid sugary foods like cookies (sorry, Phil), cakes, and low-fat foods (that’s code for high in sugar)
  • Avoid added sugar altogether, its evil
  • Try to stay away from saturated fats found in red meat, cheese, butter, and fried foods
  • Avoid alcohol

For weight loss, athletes should also start paying attention to the back label of foods where ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated fats, and sugars are displayed. You have to be an ingredient detective! Grocery shop in the perimeter of the store, not down the aisles where food is in boxes. Here are some healthy ‘go fast‘ food choices you can make:

  • Complex carbohydrate (just exercise portion control): sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice
  • The post race/ride burrito! (with rice, veggies and protein)
  • Fruit like apples, oranges, mangoes, bananas (bananas can replace energy bars)
  • Rice cakes – to use on the bike
  • Snack on fruit or raw vegetables like carrots, broccoli, edamame, green and red pepper slices
  • Eat more vegetables
  • Have a salad for dinner with chicken or fish
  • Kale & Spinach – antioxidant rich

Try switching to go fast food choices for a month and see where your weight goes.  My favorite recipe book is Skratch Labs “The Feed Zone Cookbook” which has over 150 easy meals for you to try. Dial in two or three of these meals (my favorite is the Chicken Fried Rice) to improve your performance and diet.

If you are already eating sensible portions of go fast foods try using these two tools to take a harder look at your diet and food consumption:

  1. MyFitnessPal: Complete a 3 day dietary recall . Download the app and start logging in everything you put in your mouth for 3 days.  Not just what, but how much.  Be detailed. Your coach can analyze your ‘food diary’ but often times in the exercise itself, the athlete will realize all the empty calories they are consuming.
  2. Your PowerMeter:  1 kiloJoule on the bike equals 1 calorie of food. Ride 1,000kJ’s and that’s equivalent to a burrito. Ride 2,000 kJ’s and it’s easy to see why you can lose some weight as long as you don’t eat everything that isn’t nailed down in the kitchen when you get home.

OK, that’s all good but you still need to hit your “climbing” weight. Well, as Eddy Merckx rather eloquently said, “Eat Less, Ride More”. Don’t we all wish. Basically it all comes down to taking in fewer calories than your daily caloric requirements, otherwise known as a caloric deficit. Some athletes can successfully ‘diet by math‘ to lose weight and if you want to try, I recommend a 500 calorie caloric deficit per day.  Over 1 week that is 1 lb.  10 weeks = 10 lbs.  Don’t diet more than that because your power on the bike and recovery off the bike will decrease.

Before I go any further there are times in an athlete’s training schedule when it is OK and not OK to lose weight. After the season is over and during your base phase are great opportunities to trim the fat.  During your weight program or once you start your intensity and begin racing are not. Instead back up and try modifying your diet with the go fast and go slow foods described above. If it’s the right time of year to cut calories try some of these tricks I’ve successfully used in the past:

  1. Try eating several small meals over the course of the day rather than three large ones
  2. Drink lots of water – a liter before every meal – it fills you up
  3. Pay attention to the glycemic index of foods and try to avoid HIGH GI foods
  4. Eat bulky foods that are not calorically dense like salads and vegetables
  5. Speaking of vegetables – include them with every meal.  Kale ‘n eggs!
  6. Make a habit of snacking on fruit and vegetables instead of your usual quick fixes
  7. On the bike, teach your body to burn fat by riding slow enough that it is using your body’s fat stores as the primary source of energy (~70% HR MAX or FAT MAX).  You can determine your “FAT MAX” with metabolic testing in the lab.
  8. Practice your “Push Aways” – push yourself away from the dinner table before you are full.
  9. Brush your teeth right after dinner to avoid snacking at night

Remember to consume plenty of carbohydrates once you start your intervals and begin racing. Dieting during the season is risky business and could hurt your cycling decreased power output by way of reduced recovery, muscle immunosuppression and a reduction in performance.

Disclaimer: if the recommendations above are not working for you, I suggest working with a nutritionist: one that can look at your training plan, use metabolic laboratory data (FAT MAX) plus your powermeter data (kJ’s = calories) AND design a meal plan for long term sustainability.  Because after all, we are talking about lifestyle changes, not diets.  Above all, congratulations on the commitment you made to your health and to your power to weight ratio!  Chris Froome here you come.

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

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Frank wrote this training tip 14 years ago but still coaches athletes to this day about making better food choices to achieve healthy sustainable weight loss and ultimately a change in the athlete’s lifestyle. Recently Frank completed the 14 Day Conscious Cleanse.  Stay tuned for what he learned.  To talk with Frank about your cycling and losing weight, please call 720.406.7444 or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation.  Otherwise you can find him riding and eating healthy in Boulder, CO.

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Phil Gaimon FasCat Athlete Interview

Interview by the FasCat Coaches,  February 2016

FasCat Athlete and Team Cannondale Rider, Phil Gaimon is back in the European peloton for 2016 and off to a good start having just finished Provence and Haut Var.  We asked Phil for his take on the racing in San Luis and Europe so far this season plus his winter training, weight loss, jet lag, motivation and of course cookies.

Coach Frank:

How was San Luis & your first set of euro races and have you bought stock in 3M, yet?

San Luis was long, hot and much more Tegadermy than expected. I’d hoped for a shot at one of the stages where I’d ridden well in 2014, but the lack of skin and sleep derailed that. I was pleasantly surprised just to be able to help the team and finish.  The French races last week were good to get reacquainted with the roads and European racing style. I dodged some road furniture, ripped some roundabouts, attacked on some climbs, and enjoyed a croissant and steak tartare.

You tested with Inigo again at CU Sports Med this winter, what else did you do different these off season that you feel has helped you for next year?

With input from Vaughters and the team, Frank and I put together a good gym routine this year. It was complete, but it didn’t have me in there for a million hours, and I was able to do some good endurance in between. A goal for this season will be to stay fit year-round and be useful at every race, rather than big peaks and valleys, so we put in a good foundation.

Coach Isaiah:

Any races on tap for you this year that you are most amped for?

Any of the races in Europe are a great experience. There’s an energy here and real fans that can’t be beat, but of course the Tour of California is a home race for me, so that’s always the favorite.

Have a particular playlist or ritual that helps you get amped up on the way to those races?

I mostly just listen to podcasts. I don’t need help getting amped. I use the iPod to be distracted and stay relaxed.

Coach Jake:

Pro Cycling is very demanding with little reward for most. What keeps you motivated through the difficult times such as being in a foreign country with half your skin gone?

You’re right. I quit.

No, that’s a tough question for here, because I’m writing a second book to try and answer that. The very short version is that bike racing is in me, and I sort of have to do it. I find that the teamwork and competition and work is a metaphor for everything in life, and I’ve grown and learned so much since I started, I’ll keep going as long as I can.

What is your favorite training ride / workout?

Please, don’t make me do sprints anymore, Frank. Every time I sprint, an angel sees me and laughs, and then falls to hell.

Coach Carson:

Any tips for beating the “Jet Lag” on Trans-Oceanic flights?

I wish I knew. Melatonin when it gets dark (not right before bed), and then set an alarm for the time you want to wake up and use a Philips GoLITE or similar. Those are supposed to help your body adjust, but it’s always a struggle in my experience.

Favorite cookie in Europe? Or non-cookie treat, if that’s possible?
Cookies are hard to find in Spain. I’m thinking about a weekly cookie party in Girona, but I don’t know how to bake. They do great chocolate muffins here, which might get me by for a few weeks.

Coach Nadia:

You’ve leaned up a lot for this season. What’s your strategy for staying on top of  caloric intake for the big stage races?

I’ve actually weighed about the same for my whole racing career. My diet these days is lots of veggies and protein and good fats, and then we adjust the carbs for how much I’m riding. So the basic eggs for breakfast, chicken at lunch, fish or steak at dinner, and then during a stage race, I’ll up the oatmeal and rice.

Favorite balm for road rash?

It’s all Tegaderm, keeping it covered until it’s ready for air. Someone at 3M read my book and sends me a box whenever I need it. I’m not proud of that, but it beats the Saran Wrap I was using back in the day.

 Read the 2014 FasCat Phil Interview HERE.

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No cookies were harmed nor eaten during this interview.  Phil’s a professional athlete, don’t try this at home.  He’s also a FasCat Athlete but you can be too.  To inquire, please call 720.406.7444 or email info@fascatcoaching.com for a New Athlete Questionnaire.  Otherwise you can buy Phil’s book, Pro Cycling on $10 a Day.  Available worldwide.

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power file from a criterium

Criterium Racing: Watts Up?

by Frank Overton

Beep, beep…beep, beep: We interrupt the regularly scheduled Tour de France coverage for an in depth close to home analysis of US criterium racing. What?! We can’t all enter races like the Tour. Some racers love criteriums, others hate it but many spectators and sponsors find it exciting. Plus its what we got so I’ll get into a few ways you can embrace criterium racing and train specifically for crits. Woohoo! A good criterium racer needs experience. Being fast and fit is only a part of the equation. Strategy, patience, pack positioning, bike handling and luck are just a few strengths a crafty crit racer possess. SKILLS!  But while you are working on becoming that crafty crit racer (read about criterium race tactics HERE), you can tailor your training to mimic a criterium.

Power Graph of Pro 1/2 Downer Avenue Criterium, Superweek July 26, 2008

First, it is important to define what actually happens in a criterium in terms of power in order to replicate that power in your training. Without getting into a detailed description, power in watts is to a cyclist, as horsepower is to a Ferrari. At first glance, the graphical power output of a cyclist racing a criterium looks like a bunch of goobly-gook. A typical SRM or PowerTap file from a criterium spikes up and down several times per lap creating a complicated maze of peaks to the untrained eye. However these short sharp peaks, anywhere from 300-1000 watts or even greater, represent the cyclist sprinting out of corners, accelerating, attacking, counterattacking, and finally the big spike: the field sprint.

Drops in power to zero (a.k.a. Zero Time) represent time spent coasting, setting up for a corner, cornering, or just getting sucked along in the peloton’s draft. Further analysis shows how much time was spent in certain power zones and also how much time was spent at zero power.

The wattage bins below indicate that this racer spent 50% of the race soft pedaling.  This athlete ALSO spent  20% of race > 120% of his threshold power aka Zone 6, aka Anaerobia.

There are two power zones critical to successful criterium racing that are often overlooked in a traditional training plan: power above your threshold and zero time (if that is even a zone). Often times comparison of files between the winner and a pack finisher in the same crit reveals that the winner spent more time at zero! However, when it really counted such as making “the break” or the sprint finish, the winner’s power output dwarfed the pack finisher. Why? Because the winner spent more time at zero, was more rested, and metered his efforts better than the pack finisher. This also goes back to that crafty crit racer thing.

Now this may not always be the case (or possible) so in addition to increasing your zero time in a crit, you might also want to consider training at the type of power outputs you’ll need to chase and drop your competitors. For starters, entering more crits is an ideal way to train which, again, goes back to the crafty crit racing experience thing.  In addition, short intervals 5-20 seconds in length at power levels WAY above your threshold mimic criteriums the best. Looking at an SRM file from a typical crit reveals anywhere from 10 – 80 spikes depending on the course, category, length, level, intensity, and terrain. Break that down into an interval workout and start with a workout of ten to thirty 5 second sprints (depending on your fitness level). Now further break up those sprints into sets of 4-6 sprints each. Once again start slowly and work your way up in intensity and number of sets. But you can do it; its just all out for five seconds followed by 15-30 seconds of rest and repeat. Break up the sets with 5 minutes of rest and you have yourself a great criterium specific mid-week workout. In total a typical workout may be only 2.5 minutes of intensity but its at an intensity much much greater than your power at threshold. We’re talking 300 -1000 watts! The idea is to stimulate your body to be able to handle power outputs of this magnitude on a regular repeated basis. Just what occurs in a criterium.  Here are some other great goto criterium interval workouts: that will increase your anaerobic capacity:

Zone 6: 2 sets of 4 x 30 secs ON 30 sec OFF, FULL GAS, >125% of your FTP, 5 minutes inbetween sets
Tabatas! 3 sets of 8 x 20 secs ON 10 secs OFF, FULL GAS, > 150% of your FTP, 5 minutes inbetween sets

As your training progresses, increase the duration of each interval eventually working your way up to 45 and 60 seconds. Similarly, increase the total volume of intensity of the workout up to 10 or 20 more total minutes depending on your fitness level.  Before long you’ll be that crafty crit racer coasting along, breathing easy and racking up zero time just waiting to make your move.

For a complete criterium training plan, check out our six week, $49 Criterium Interval Training Plan

Now don’t forget to recover by taking your recovery days! And we return you to your regular scheduled reading and watching of the Tour de France…

Copyright 2016 , FasCat Coaching

Frank is the owner of FasCat Coaching and its Performance Center in Boulder, CO.  He is a full time professional USA cycling certified Elite level coach, former category 1 road racer; semi-pro mountain biker. If you’d like to talk with a FasCat Coach about your criterium racing, please call 720.406.7444, or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation.

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cheetah stalking prey

Road Racing Tactics and Strategies

by the FasCat Coaches

Here are our core road racing tactics for the Category 3/4/5, Collegiate and Masters racer.

Allen:  If you have never been fed in a feed zone before, practice how to do it. Make sure your feeder also knows what to do and plan ahead with them before the race where in the feed zone they will be (For Ex. at the top of the hill at the end). Also, use bars, gels, drinks, etc. that you have used in training. Gagging on your food in the middle of a road race is not fun.

Nadia: Be sure you have researched the course map! Check Strava, look for Garmin files, etc. These days there no reason not to know what you’ll be racing over. Keep moving forward in the pack or else you might find yourself yo-yoing at the back without realizing it. On a rolling course, try to move up toward the front at the bottom of climbs to let the pack help suck you up the climb and put you in position to counter any attacks. If you fall off from the pack, look for other riders behind you to help you bridge back again before you commit yourself to a costly TT effort.

Jake:  Always know where the winds are coming from! The wind can be harder than any hill. Know the course so you can plan ahead for corners and know when you’ll have a head, tail or the dreaded crosswind.  Before you make a right hand turn into a left to right crosswind, position yourself on the right side of the peloton so you have a nice draft and buffer from the crosswind.

Know your ability and style of racing. If there is a hard climb you know you cannot get over with the leaders, look for a breakaway to start the climb early, or at least make sure you are positioned at the front for the start of it. Just don’t waste your energy riding 10 seconds in front of the field, if you’re in a break make sure it’s worth the effort.

Hydration and Nutrition During the Race: Use the easy nature of a road race to make sure you stay on top of hydration and fuel. Know the course – if there’s a hill at mile 15 and then again at mile 30 but flat & straight in-between, plan to eat and drink on the flat section after the first climb and before the 2nd.  A 50-60 mile road race still requires proper nutrition. Drink and eat every 15-30 minutes and even go so far as to use a Garmin alarm as a reminder to eat and drink!

Isaiah: Be towards the front for ALL expected difficult or power sections like gravel, hard hills, crosswinds, or anything of that nature. When it comes to taking a feed, make sure to think far in advance for these longer races. If you are going to need someone to be in the feed zone, make sure they know what to feed you and how to do it well in advance. Make sure you check the race bible on this as there can be restrictions on when and where feeding can occur.

Frank:  If the course is hard, the cream will rise to the top. One tactic for a hard race like that is to draft in the pack, conserve energy and don’t let large groups > 5 riders get up the road.  Don’t chase down every move that gets 50 meters on a hill, let the peloton bring groups less than three or four riders back. Conserve your energy, let the difficult nature of the course do its damage to the peloton and get ready for the final crunch time to get a result!  If the course is easy, then crit tactics apply with about 500m to go!  But watch out for large breakaways to escape with all the major teams represented.

Be a student of the sport and know the history of the race – how its won (sprint or breakaway), what type of rider historically wins and like Coach Nadia said above, know the profile of the course.  Every hill, crosswind section, etc… Study the results from previous years and talk with your coach and/or teammates about the game plan going into the race.  Afterwards review with them what happened and learn from that – for the next weekend’s race and the very same race next year.  Learn from mistakes and turn them into experience you can capitalize on moving forward.

We also like to review the athlete’s power data with them after the race to identify ‘matches’ that they burned asking “why, was it necessary – what did you gain from that effort?” or “here’s where you it got hard for x minutes and then this happened”.  Power data tells a lot about what happened in the race and is extremely helpful to learn from.

In summary, do your homework: know the course. Also plan and talk to your feeder about the feed zone, beware of crosswinds, be at the front for critical sections of the race, don’t forget to eat and drink, and use your power data.

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

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To talk with one of the FasCat Coaches about outsmarting the competition in your next road race, please call 720.406.7444 or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation. Otherwise use these tips above to race smart and check out our $49 six week interval training plans!

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Criterium Race Tactics and Strategies

by the FasCat Coaches, March 2016

Every week the FasCat Coaches get together to discuss and share ways to help out our athletes.  We cover a variety of topics like off season and resistance training, indoor trainer workouts, TSS, the Performance Manager Chart, intervals, sweet spot training and weight loss to name a few.  Last week with the race season upon us, we put our heads together to talk about race tactics and strategies. Right away we broke our tips up into Criteriums, Road Races and Time Trials for the Category 3/4/5 and Masters racer.  Stay tuned for our road and time trial tactics tip and until then here are our criterium race tactics and strategies:

Allen: Learn how to “surf” the riders in the front but never actually be the rider in the front. It takes some work but it is a whole lot easier than trying to ride in the back of the pack and eventually getting gapped.  If you do find yourself on the front, take a short pull and let someone else come around.

Nadia: Ride a gear lower than you think you need and accelerate with your cadence – this will save you tons of energy. Get the rhythm of the course- when the attacks happen, where the pack rests. Use that to plan your attacks! Primes are there to make the race more interesting, be careful about getting suckered by them, save your matches.

Jake: If you are not passing a rider moving up, chances are you are being passed and moving backwards. Follow wheels up (see ‘surf’ above) and don’t use your own energy.  Use an early prime or mid race sprint to gage the finish and how to take the last couple of corners. You don’t need to give it your all to show everyone, but feel it out. Don’t wait for others to start the sprint. If you wait someone else will get the jump. Know how far the sprint is from the last corner. Think about how long the effort will be and when YOU should go. You won’t be able to come around more than 1 or 2 riders in a sprint.

Carson: Rather sitting in the middle of the pack, try to draft on the outside of the bunch. This allows you to slot in behind riders as they pass you (see Coach Jake and Allen above ‘surf’) to move up and prevents you from being boxed in so you can follow attacks if they happen. You also have a safe place to ride in the event there’s a crash in front of you.  However, beware if you are on the inside of a turn, because you’ll be more likely forced to brake which sets you up to accelerate hard out of the corner.

Isaiah: Play your strengths. If your kick(sprint) is your weakest link, then don’t wait for the sprint on the last lap. Follow wheels and/or attack when the field takes a breather to try to get away solo or with a group. Remember though, once you are out there you have to be able to hold it.  If you find that you don’t think you can do the work to stay away, there is no shame to sitting up (or not working if in a break) and going back to the field.   With enough practice, experience and attempts, eventually you’ll have the strength to hold a breakaway all the way to the line provided you commit to the effort.  If the course is ‘fast’ or the peloton’s average speed is high be aware that a breakaway attempt may take 4-5 strong motivated riders all sharing the work.

Frank:  The race begins on the last lap. Until then, sit in.  With 5 laps to go, ‘get to the front’ – aka not on the front but at the front. Use wheels coming by you to jump on and take you up to the front. Ideally you are in top 3, top 5 at least with 1 to go and the 2 riders in front of you are going for it.  If they aren’t, plan on riders from behind coming up and you hoping on their wheel. Don’t get swarmed. Whoever exits the last corner first usually wins.  Also race with a teammate or friend: one teammate sells out for the other chasing down attacks and on the last lap leads you out.  Then the next race swap team work roles and you lead him/her out!

And there you have it: learn how to surf wheels to stay positioned at the front of the race. Wait for the last lap if you are a sprinter and don’t if you aren’t and implement team work. Oh and cornering skills are a must so be sure to practice at home!

Copyright 2016 , FasCat Coaching

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For more information about criterium training, check out this “Watts UP” training tip. Or to talk with one of the FasCat Coaches about your upcoming criterium and training, please call 720.406.7444 or email frank@fascatcoaching.com for a New Athlete Questionnaire.  Otherwise use these tips above to race smart in your next criterium!

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How to Perform an Indoor Field Test

by Carson Christen, January 6, 2014

Welcome to FasCat Coaching’s Indoor Cycling Class Program! During the first class, you will complete an indoor field test for 20 minutes.  This test will determine your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) Test in order to set your wattage and heart rate zones for precise training in the remaining classes. We will test again during the final week of class to measure your improvement! This training tip will give some advice for what you can do to prepare for your first class. Here are some tips to help you prepare for your test!

Goals: to determine your Power-Based Wattage Training Zones

1.      The purpose of this test is to have the highest average power for 20 minutes. By testing and going as hard as you can in order to get accurate training zones, you will be able to train and achieve precise physiological adaptations over the course of the 9 weeks.

2.       Power-Based Pacing: Now, this doesn’t mean start off as hard as you possibly can so your power drops over the course of the test. Most athletes will test in the 200-300 watt range. So starting your test at 400 watts would be going too hard!  Use your Week 1 average power to pace off of.  You can also complete this test by going by feel. “Try going as hard as you feel you can sustain for 20 minutes” without going above 300 watts (for example).  A FasCat coach will be present, so ask your coach what a good starting point will be.

3. Power-Based Training: Once you have completed your 20-minute test, your coach will upload your power data into TrainingPeaks, analyze your power, and determine your FTP number. You will receive a lanyard with your training zones to bring to class to training in the correct zones for each workout.

4.      Nutrition: If you are registered for a morning class, don’t worry about getting up early to eat; your body will have enough stored energy to complete the test!  For those evening classes, eat a good meal 3-4 hours before the test. It is important to have your glycogen stores topped off before attempting this workout! There will be water and Skratch electrolyte mix available when you arrive for your class.

5.      Arrive to class and be ready to go when class begins! Make sure to have your cycling outfit, towel, water bottle, shoes, and of course, your bike! We have a warm-up built in to the class, so come ready to ride and take the warm-up seriously!

6.     Be motivated for your test! A 20-minute Full Gas effort is a mentally challenging task. Come prepared to give you best effort and know that it is “just a test.” We will be on hand to motivate you! You will also complete a second 20-minute test during the final class. This test is under repeatable conditions to maximize accuracy! Once the spring and summer come around, you can re-test your fitness with 20-minute tests up the local climbs such as Flagstaff, Sunshine, or Lookout with a powermeter. We recommend testing again in late April – June as your fitness is ever changing and power-based training captures this change.

7. Use your average power to calculate your wattage zones.
We look forward to working with you and helping you reach your fitness goals! If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to call, email or visit FasCat.

Copyright 2015 , FasCat Coaching

FasCat Coaching, a cycling coaching company with a Performance Center in Boulder, CO.  To talk with a FasCat Coach about their Indoor Cycling Curriculum please call 720.406.7444, email info@fascatcoaching.com for a New Athlete Questionnaire or stop in our Performance Center at 4550 North Broadway Street in Boulder, CO.

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Three Ways to Improve Functional Threshold Power

by Nate Wilson

Last month at the Tour of California, the name of the game for Sir Bradley Wiggins was Functional Threshold Power (FTP). FTP is the maximum wattage an athlete can sustain for 60 minutes and according to Dr. Andrew Coggan, “the single greatest determinant of cycling performance”1. During the Tour of California there were three major stages where Wiggins was able to distance himself from his rivals for the overall victory. In those stages he leaned on his high power to weight ratio, or watts per kilogram (w/kg), of his FTP. Watching him tick out a strong steady pace on the summit finishes, Wiggins was riding at or around his FTP. Essentially, he knows that by riding at his FTP he can set a very hard pace, one he can sustain and will not blow up.

Not many people in the world have an FTP power to weight ratio close to Wiggins, but the utility behind it is the same. Long climbs, solo breakaways, and time trials all rely very directly on an athlete’s FTP, but improving it can help an athlete in all aspects of riding and racing. It might not seem like FTP has much bearing on ability to sprint, but it very much does. FTP almost can be thought of as a sponge. The higher this number is, the bigger their sponge is, and the more efforts they can absorb. Every time a race goes hard, it will take less out of the athlete with the higher FTP, and in return they will have more energy left in the tank for a big selection or for the sprint at the end. Training FTP is important for all cyclists.

Determining Your FTP

So now that you know how important FTP is you’re probably running out the door to improve it as fast as possible. Before you go out and start hammering away, you should perform a field test to learn what your current FTP is.

There are a couple ways to establish your FTP: a blood lactate test, a sustained 60 minute effort, or a 20 minute field test. The most common and easily accessible is the 20 minute field test. There are a few different procedures, but the one I recommend goes as follows:

First, warm up for 20 to 30 minutes starting with easy pedaling and progressively building to more zone 2 endurance pressure on the pedals. Then, on a stretch of road with no interruptions (most often this is a sustained climb) go for 20 minutes at your maximum pace. From this 20 minute test take 7.5 percent off of the average power and use that as your FTP.

How to Train Your FTP

1. Sub-Threshold/Sweet Spot Work

“Sweet Spot” occurs at 83 to 97 percent of your FTP and riding here can help improve the aerobic, steady state efforts that characterize FTP. Sweet Spot gets it’s name because it is a balanced amount of intensity and volume. You can achieve more positive physiological adaptations than if you were to ride harder at zone 4/threshold. By riding below your FTP it is a more repeatable workout and won’t take quite as much out of you. Do these efforts on a stretch of road without interruptions, and focus on maintaining a steady effort. A steady grade 3 to 5 percent hill works very well.

Start with 3×8 minutes at “sweet spot” with 4 minutes easy spinning in between. Build up to 3×10 minute with 5 minutes easy spinning in between.

2. Threshold Climbing Work

To improve performance on long climbs, do efforts at 100-110 percent of FTP on a sustained climb. Ideally, the power for the efforts should be the maximum power that can be sustained for each interval in the set, without dropping power from the first effort to the last. These training days are difficult and are most effective if done at quality power, so do them on days when you are fresh and can afford to dig deep. A good session of threshold work should not include more than 60 minutes spent at threshold, so piece out the intervals to stay under this limit.

Start with 3×10 minute efforts at 100-110 percent of FTP with 5 minutes of easy spinning between efforts.

Build up to 3×15 minute efforts at 100-105 percent of FTP with 8 minutes of easy spinning between efforts. The “gold standard” FTP workout is 2×20 minute efforts at 100-105 percent of FTP with 10 minutes of easy spinning between efforts.

As a bonus workout, to train for longer road events and being able to perform strongly at your FTP at the end of a hard race, rather than doing FTP efforts as a set, do them spaced throughout a long endurance ride. For example do 3×15 minute climbing efforts over the course of 5 hour ride, 1 hour into the ride, 2.5 hours into the ride, and 4 hours into the ride. The goal is to get to the point where you can do the third effort at 4 hours into the ride at the same power as the first effort 1 hour into the ride.

3. Flat Land FTP Work

A lot of riders fall into the trap of only doing threshold work on a climb. Climbing threshold work is great, but it is easy to get to a point where you can only put out your best FTP numbers on a steep gradient and are floundering on the flats. To prevent this, all the same climbing FTP workouts can and should be done on flats at 95+ rpm as well. If the terrain allows it, when doing FTP sets, I recommend doing one of the three efforts on a flat road and two on a climb. The flat land FTP work is also a good place to get in time on the time trial bike.

Now that you know how to best improve your FTP, review your power files for the improvements. You can look at peak 20 minute average power from hard rides and races, as well as peak 60 minute Normalized Power®. You may see yourself breaking these records on climbs, group rides, time trials, breakaways, or the end of a race. Also, a few months after your initial field test, do another identical field test to track the improvement and reset your FTP.

E.F. Coyle, A.R. Coggan, M.K. Hopper and T.J. Walters, “Determinants of endurance in well-trained cyclists.” J Appl. Physiol 64:2622-2630, 1988

Copyright 2015 , FasCat Coaching

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Nate is an Associate Coach at FasCat Coaching’s Performance Center in Boulder, CO.  He is a full time professional USA cycling and TrainingPeaks certified coach, former LiveStrong Professional rider and consultant with USA Cycling’s U23 Team.  To talk with  Nate about increasing your threshold power please call 720.406.7444, email nate@fascatcoaching.com for a New Athlete Questionnaire or stop in their Performance Center at 4550 North Broadway Street in Boulder, CO.

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How to Improve Power Output on the Bike

by Jake Rytlewski,  April 2014

After planning your season and setting up your A race the next step is to create a training plan to improve your power output. This should include knowing the course and knowing your strengths and weaknesses. For instance, cyclists should know if the course is hilly or flat, does it typically end in a sprint or do breakaways succeed? Similarly, triathletes would want to know if they will face a major climb or rolling hills.

Once you’ve determined the demands of the course, you should reference that with your current fitness abilities for what will be required during your race. If your race ends in a bunch sprint, how strong is your sprint? If you need to put out tempo wattage for four hours, how strong is your aerobic fitness? Building your capabilities around the needs of your race is the basis of race specificity.

Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses

After collecting training and racing data or completing a power profile test you can determine your strengths and weaknesses. Without formal testing data, racing data can be the best way to create a power profile chart. Racing data is often times better because it is more relative than formal test data. So be sure to race with your power meter!

Once you set your baseline numbers up you can track your improvements and progression. What demands do you need to be good at for your goal event? Do you need to be focusing on your 5 second, 1 minute, 5 minute, or threshold power? This will help you or your coach set up your training plan by focusing on maximizing your strengths and addressing your weaknesses. While it is a good idea to work on weaknesses it is also important to keep up what you are good at. Set goals around your strengths and then use your strengths to reach those goals.

Here are a few workouts that may help you improve your race specific 5 second, 1 minute, 5 minute and 20 minute power outputs. All efforts are done at an all out effort for the time period stated.

5 Second Power Workout:

3 sets of 4 x 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off. Rest for 5 minutes between sets.

1 Minute Power Workout:

2 sets of 5 x 1 minute on, 1 minute off. Rest for 5 minutes between sets.

5 Minute Power Workout:

2 sets of 3 x 3 minutes on, 3 minutes off. Rest for 6 minutes between sets.

20 Minute Power Workout:

3 x 10 minutes. Rest for 5 minutes between.

Be sure to spend 2 to 4 weeks working on a particular weakness and track your progress

Tracking Improvements

While you can simply look to see if your numbers are going up, you can also track your improvements with the Power Profile Chart. In TrainingPeaks you can have it show any range of dates such as your current season and then have it display peak power to weight for any giving smaller period as in weekly or monthly peaks.

The Power Profile Chart

This Power Profile Chart is over the first half of a season and each bar represents peak power to weight ratios in a 4 week period.

The first thing we can view from this chart is that this athletes 5 minute and 20 minute power is their strength, while they don’t have a great 5 second or 1 minute power. This rider will find it hard, if not nearly impossible, to win a short track race or a race that ends in a sprint. Their goal race should be road races, particularly one with the demands of 5 – 20 minute efforts or climbs. Or they should know that to win a race they need to be in a breakaway or try to go solo.

This Power Profile Chart also makes it easy to see improvements over the season. Throughout the first half of the season this rider gets stronger in all areas. Even though this riders 5 minute and 20 minute power are his strengths his 5 second and 1 minute power also improve throughout the year. A good training plan will incorporate all physiological aspects even though the focus maybe in one particular area. You can watch your progression on the Power Profile Chart throughout the year to keep track of your improvements.

To be fully prepared for your A race of the season you should spend some time first determining the demands of your event, then tailor your efforts to those demands. When you know those demands and how they relate to your strengths and weaknesses in neuromuscular power, anaerobic power, Vo2 max, and Functional Threshold Power you or your coach can set up a training plan that focuses on maximizing your strengths and addresses your weaknesses by using workouts that help improve each.

Copyright 2016 , FasCat Coaching

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Jake is an Associate Coach at FasCat Coaching.  He is a full time professional USA cycling and TrainingPeaks certified coach..  To talk with Jake about building power on the bike, please call 720.406.7444 or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation with him

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6 Elements of “A” Race Preparation

Cycling season is in full swing and many riders are lining for a crit or road race almost every weekend. But every rider should pick one or two races to key on and make their season priority. Typically called the A race, these are the races you train for specifically and build your fitness to it’s peak to have a maximum result. There are six key training components when preparing for an A race. They are:

  1. Rest
  2. Race Specific Intensity
  3. Familiarity with the A race course
  4. Group Rides
  5. Training Races
  6. Openers

Here’s how to implement these six training elements into your training on a day-to-day and weekly basis.

1. Rest

First and foremost, recovering from hard workouts is paramount to giving your body the time it needs to adapt to training stimuli. Training is like planting a garden: plant the seed with the workout, but give the seed water (food) and time (rest days) in order to grow. Over time the seed will grow just like your power output will increase.

I like to prescribe at least two rest days per week when athletes are performing hard mid-week workouts and training hard on the weekend. Mondays and Fridays make the most sense for athletes working a standard Monday through Friday 9-5 job. Resting on Monday helps the athlete recover from the weekend and prepare for mid-week training and taking it easy on Friday give athletes the ability to throw down on the weekend.

2. Race Specific Intensity

Identify the power demands of your A race and train specifically for that race. If your training for a crit, incorporate crit specific training like sprints, anaerobic capacity intervals and motorpacing to name a few. If you are training for a time trial, threshold intervals are the name of the game. You can even design full gas threshold intervals specific to the projected winning time. For example if the expected winning time is 20 minutes, do 2 x 10 minutes on, as hard as you can go, with 5 minutes off in order to train specifically for that time trial.

3. Familiarity With the Race Course

I like to call this course recon and it is very important to know the race course you will be competing on. To know where a hard climb ends or where the finish line is crucial for athletes to implement tactics and strategy during the race. Furthermore by knowing how hard they have to go and when they’ll be able to stop or finish the effort helps athletes give a maximal racing winning and personal best effort.

Pro Tip:

Here in Colorado we have a road race that has 2 key climbs. We’ll have athletes combine # 2 and 3 into one workout by performing VO2 Max Intervals from the bottom to the top of the 2 climbs (which we know are 2-4 minutes in length) on the race course. It’s a 2 for 1 training workout because they get to know the course and are training specifically.

4. Group Rides

Group rides are great for training especially if you can analyze the power output of the spirited sections and evaluate how specific the group ride is for preparing an athlete for an upcoming race. Even better is if the group ride uses some of the race course! In any case, group rides tend to round out an athletes’ training for the many scenarios that may play out on race day: breakaways, splits, crosswinds, counterattacks and sprints to name a few.

5. Training Races

This is a chance for the athlete to test themselves out and identify strengths and weakness to work on before the A race. It is also a chance to train specifically (# 2). For Time Trials, look for a mid-week time trial series or a B race weekend time trial. Monitor your average and normalized power outputs for these TT’s. For criterium preparation make sure you get at least one or two training crits under your belt not only for training (#2) but also for skills practice like cornering, accelerating and pack riding not to mention race strategy.

6. Openers

This is the preparatory workout that follows a rest day and is performed the day before your race. An example opener workout is 4 x 45 seconds on, as hard as possible, 90 seconds off during a 1 hour ride. If possible, I recommend that the athlete incorporate the 2nd and 3rd element and perform the opener workout on the course or similar terrain. For hill climbs and time trials I like for the athlete to get specific (#2) and perform 2 x 3 min on 6 min off at their pre-discussed race pace wattage.

Overall there are many many ways to incorporate these six training techniques into your training plan. While every athlete has to consider their individual needs and situation, almost universal is an off day on Monday followed by another rest day 2 days prior and openers the day before the race. What happens in-between is good quality coaching through careful planning, day to day monitoring and most importantly of all, communication between the athlete and coach.

Looking for a plan to get you ready for your A race? Download this free 4 week training plan from FasCat Coaching.

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3 Indoor Cycling Workouts for the Winter

Riding on the trainer during the winter may not be your ideal way to spend an hour or two, but the truth is that training indoors can be highly productive when done properly. At FasCat, we have a couple rules of thumb when prescribing indoor training workouts for our athletes. They are:

  1. Limit the ride time to 60-75 minutes during the week and 90 minutes on the weekend.
  2. Add structure to the workout.
  3. Work on Advanced Aerobic Endurance.
  4. Never “just ride” in zone 2.

In January we like to add advanced aerobic endurance intervals to our athletes’ trainer workouts primarily in the form of Tempo and Sweet Spot workouts. By riding at higher intensities than traditional wintertime “base miles”, the athlete will achieve more physiological adaptations and make better use of his or her time.

Here are three indoor cycling workouts that will make the most of your winter trainer time:

1. Tempo Intervals

Tempo intervals are a great place to get started. Ride at 76-90% of your threshold (FTP or Functional Threshold Power). One example of a tempo workout for a 1-hour trainer ride:

  • Warm up for 10-15 minutes
  • 3 x 8 minutes on at 76-90% of FTP
  • 4-minute recoveries (“off”)
  • Cool-down/ride easy for remainer

2. Sweet Spot Intervals

Once you’ve done a few Tempo workouts, up the ante with Sweet Spot intervals which are slightly harder at 83-97% of one’s FTP. Again, do intervals in the 5 – 20 minute length repeating 2-5 times as appropriate. For example:

  • Warm-up 10-15 minutes
  • 3 x 10 minutes on at 83-97% of FTP
  • 5 minutes off (recoveries) in between each interval
  • Cool-down/ride easy for remainder

The 2:1 work-to-rest ratio (for example, 10 minutes on, 5 minutes off)  is more productive when training indoors.

3. Tempo Bursts

Tempo and Sweet Spot intervals are as hard as we have athletes go on the trainer in the winter. To continue the progression and to help the time pass quicker, we add bursts to the tempo and sweet spot intervals. For example, during workout #1 above we’d add a 5-second burst greater than 450 watts every 2 minutes during the 8 minute tempo interval. Not only is this specific to races that many of our athletes compete in, by having a burst to do every 2 minutes it actually helps the time pass by quicker!

An example Tempo Burst workout:

  • Warm-up 10-15 minutes
  • 3 x 8 minutes on at 76-90% of FTP, with a 5-second burst every 2 minutes that is > 450 watts
  • 4 minute recoveries in between intervals
  • Cool down

Overall the number of intervals and their length can be widely varied. Most athletes should start with a total of 20-30 minutes of tempo work during the workout, and increase the total load as they go along the season. Lastly, even though you are indoors don’t forgot to use a fan and drink plenty.

Enjoy!

Looking for more indoor cycling workouts? Check out FasCat’s cycling training plans on TrainingPeaks.

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Ardennes Classic Training: VO2 Max Intervals to Improve Your Climbing

In mid April the cobbled classics are history and Ardennes week has arrived: Amstel Gold race Sunday, La Fleche Wallonne  Wednesday and Liege Bastogne Liege Sunday. These races feature narrow roads littered with numerous short, steep climbs, 30 seconds to 5 minutes in length. A race like the Fleche Wallonne is a completely different animal than the Tour of Flanders and as such favors a much different style of rider.

By short, steep climbs, we are talking about punchy 1-4 kilometer climbs with average grades between 5–12% and maximum gradients approaching 20%. These climbs are get-up-and-go out-of-the-saddle efforts, 100% power climbs. Whereas big powerful “roleurs” like Boonen, Sagan and Cancellera dominate on the cobbles, explosive power climbers like Dan Martin, Andrew Talansky, Valverde and Rodriguez stomp up these climbs for the finish line.

When the hammer drops up the Mur de Huy Wednesday and the Côte de Saint-Nicolas Sunday, the contenders will be producing in excess of 7 watts per kilogram in an all-out, full-gas effort while going for the “w”. Those kind of power-to-weight ratios earn them the big bucks and just aren’t attainable (for that long) by us mere mortals. However, we can mimic the physiological demands of those climbs in our training with VO2 Max Intervals. Because after all, everybody has a local climb where braggin’ rights are at stake.

The Ardenne climbs take the athletes anywhere from three to six minutes at 105–120 % of their threshold power. These durations are straight up VO2 efforts and very difficult. Here is a simple climbing workout to improve your explosive power climbing up your very own Mur de Huy or La Redoute:

VO2 Max Intervals: Zone 5 (105 – 120% of Threshold Wattage): 2 sets of 2 x 4 min ON 4 min OFF; 8 min in-between sets

  • Warm up easy for 15 – 30 minutes
  • Perform these intervals on a climb (if available)
  • Begin the each interval by modulating your wattage between 105% and 120% of your threshold power.

With an accurately set threshold wattage, 105-120% is pretty much as hard as one can go for 4 minutes

 

  • Hold your wattage in “zone 5” for 4 minutes.
  • After the first 4 minute interval turn around and coast back down the hill, turn around again and reposition yourself to begin the next interval from the same spot after 4 minutes of recovery.
  • A properly paced interval should feel moderately hard at first, difficult in the middle and like a maximal effort at the end
  • Tip: use your PowerMeters readout as motivation to hold the effort between your zone 5 wattages for the full four minutes. Don’t let your wattage dip below!
  • Use the real time feedback from your PowerMeter to go hard enough but not too hard. Try to maintain your power output above 105% but not above 120% (this is too hard and physiologically unrealistic)
  • After two intervals, take an 8 minute set break to spin around and recover.
  • After you complete both sets ride around in zone 2 or cool down.
  • Download your power file and see how many watts you were able to achieve for each interval!

Technique:

“Make the power” any which way you can; it does not have to be pretty. Dance on the pedals out of the saddle or try spinning seated. Be aggressive, get after it! I recommend alternating between sitting and standing. Position your hands out on the hoods for maximum leverage to rock the bike back and forth as you pump up and down on the pedals. With the real time wattage feedback from your PowerMeter you’ll quickly see which climbing technique enables you to make the power.

Motivation:

These are difficult intervals (some of the toughest) so come into the workout motivated and ready to suffer. The payoff is that you will be a more powerful, faster bike rider. Imagine you are the one racing up the Mur de Huy with the taste of blood in your mouth and the podium is within your grasp! If you have snot coming out of your nose, or drool coming out of your mouth at the end of the last few intervals you are doing them correctly. For the goal-oriented athlete, there can be a tremendous amount of satisfaction in the successful completion of such a difficult workout within the prescribed zone 5 wattages.

Power Data Analysis:

The graph below is an athlete’s power data from the Ardennes Classic VO2 Intervals described above (Zone 5: 2 sets of 2 x 4 min ON 4 min OFF with 8 minutes in-between each set). This particular athlete is training for a road race with 3 climbs that last approximately 4 minutes each. Not only is this VO2 workout great for his fitness and power output, but it is specific to the power demands of his race course.

Notice the distinct plateau shaped power vs. time graph for each interval and the relative steady wattage output. The first three intervals were very strong with averages of 319, 315, and 311 watts, respectively. For the fourth and final interval, the athlete started out strong but faded and only achieved an average of 282 watts.

 

Conclusions:

Since the athlete’s technique was good for the first three intervals, the decrease in power on the 4th interval tells me that he was fatigued and a fourth interval was one too much. Three successful intervals also provide a point of reference for how much VO2 work this athlete can handle in one workout or more importantly a race. Coincidentally this athlete’s A race has 3 four minute climbs so as it stands now, he can handle the power demands of the course. For future training we will continue to work on his endurance as well as his explosive VO2 climbing power.

 

Advanced VO2 workout: If 2 sets of 2 intervals for 4 total VO2 intervals is not enough for you, try 2 sets of 3 [2 sets of 3 x 4 min ON 4 min OFF]. However, remember to focus on the quality and amplitude of the power first before moving onto the quantity. Finally, if 24 minutes of VO2 work is not enough for you, try the grand-daddy VO2 workout off all time: 2 sets of 3 x 5 min ON 5 min OFF with 10 minutes in-between each set!

And if that is not enough for you (!) try racing 261 kilometers over 12 climbs that are between 1–4 kilometers long with average gradients between 6–11%! Oh yeah, and the finish line is at the top of one these climbs. Such is the course and power demands for this Sunday’s World Cup race: Liege-Bastogne-Liege. There’ll be 12 VO2 efforts at world class power to weight ratios providing more than enough evidence why the pros race their bikes for a livin’.

Frank Overton is the head coach and owner of FasCat Coaching, a cycling coaching company in Boulder, CO. Frank is an advocate of power based training for professional and amateur athletes. For more information about Frank, FasCat Coaching and their coaching services please email

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Tapering in Cycling for Peak Performance

by Frank Overton

Have you ever heard of the expression “All the hay is in the barn” ? To many cyclists and farmers alike it has great meaning: the hard work is over and now it is time to reap the benefits of a job well done.

With summer winding down and the racing season nearly over, it’s time for all good little cyclists to cut back on their training and begin tapering into peak form. Its not complicated if you consider decreasing your training volume while maintaining your intensity. That’s code for adding more recovery days into your training and doing 2 sets of intervals instead of three.

Dr, Inigo Mujika Ph.D renowned sports physiologist, summarizes optimal tapering* as the following:

  • Minimize fatigue AND IMPROVE fitness via increased power output
  • Maintain training intensity
  • Reduce training volume by 60-90%
  • Maintain training frequency at > 80%
  • Individualize taper duration between 4 – 28 days
  • Use progressive, nonlinear tapering designs
  • Expect performance improvements of ~3% (range of 0.5% – 6%)

At this point in the year any further fitness gains are unlikely to be realized in the time that’s left with the season, i.e. the barn is full. The temptation to train more should be met with firm resistance. Instead, consider training smarter (Hasn’t someone else already said that?)

By now you’ve done countless intervals in all lengths and amounts. You’re in the best shape of your life and your ready to do whatever it takes to get that big result at the end of the season. But remember the hay–you put it in the barn and it was difficult. Let’s rest for a bit. Don’t stop training, but gradually decrease you training load by 10-20% each week leading up to your final rendezvous with the podium. Along with the decrease in load, increase your number of rest days. The length of your taper will depend on your age and the size of your build (as measured by your CTL).  Most cyclists can will benefit from 4 – 28 days (2 weeks on average) of tapering for peak cycling performance measured by their power output.

Instead of going out and hammering your usual 15 minute climb, consider doing 2 sets of five 1 minute hill repeats. Taper further down the next week by just doing one set. Instead of spending 3 hours in Zone 2, try 90 minutes the first week and just 1 hour the next. The idea is to stimulate the body just enough to remain fit and fast but to allow enough time for your body to adapt, overcompensate and turn you into the supa’ fast cyclist that you were born to be!

*Mujika & Padilla, Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 35:1182-1187, 2003

Copyright 2015 , FasCat Coaching

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Frank is the founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO.  To talk with Frank or a FasCat Coach call 720.406.7444 or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation. Otherwise, ‘rest is best’ because ‘all the hay is in the barn’.

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Expected Physiological Adaptations in Sweet Spot

Tempo Training

by Frank Overton, January 25th, 2005

I made it out the door with about 90 min to spare before darkness and black ice would set in. What type of ride did I do? How do you go about achieving aerobic adaptations and adding some variety with limited time in the winter?

I did my first slushy sports drink ride the other day. For a short window of time that day the cycling god(s) shined down on me and work, weather, wife and baby all cooperated. A rare occurrence, indeed. No doubt with the way winter is going here in Colorado there’ll be more slushy rides. Don’t get me wrong, it was exhilarating – a thousand times better than the trainer.

The exhilarating part comes when you ride as far as possible away from home calculating exactly when you have to turn around in order to make it home in time. I just love hustling back and stopping at red lights with steam coming off my legs and shoulders.

Jailbreak from Trainer Hell

With 90 minutes to ride you might wonder what type of ride I did? I design training plans and think about training all day so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that I put a lot of thought into each and every minute I spend on the bike. At this time of year I’d venture to guess that a large majority of us are well into our “base” phases, myself included. And I’m pretty sure we are all riding as much as we can within the grander scheme of life. Hey, we’d all like to be out there doing 5 hours rides day in and day out but that just simply isn’t realistic.

Additionally, I’d also venture to guess that, like me, you are getting pretty sick of riding the stationary trainer. I mean who can do more than 90 minutes back to back to back like an aerobic endurance phase calls for? I know I can’t.

And so what do you do to achieve those aerobic adaptations? Back to my slushy ride, you ride harder! Bring an ever so slight bit of intensity into your shorter time crunched rides and indoor trainer sessions. Take it up a notch! Not all out, eye popping interval intensity but nice, steady, sweat factory tempo training: Zone 3 intensity as seen from this table.

Tempo Training

Notice how more adaptations occur from riding in zone 3 than in zone 2 alone – more bang for your buck! If you’re using a powermeter, riding tempo (aka zone 3) will be represented by a greater total workload measured in kilojoules. If you are using WKO+, you’ll notice a greater Training Stress Score or TSS. If you’re using a heart rate monitor or RPE, well, it’s just a notch higher. All represent greater training adaptations than zone 2 alone.

Riding tempo is what I like to call “fun fast”, because tempo doesn’t elicit the pain like threshold training does unless it’s for an extended period of time. Plus, tempo is more technically stimulating than the mind numbing point and shoot zone 2 training.  For even more adaptations there is sweet spot training which we describe here.

Not So Fast, Buckaroo!

Now it would be really easy to take this recommendation out of context because it is based on several assumptions. First would be that you’ve already put in plenty of level 2 aerobic endurance training. Secondly, in the classical model of periodization you are ready and in need for an even greater training load in order to stimulate further adaptations. And finally it is based on athletes who are limited in their time: (i.e., not carrying a training load as high as they could if they had more time to train). Or in other words, athlete’s not even close to overtraining. That’s not to say that athletes carrying a greater training load can’t also benefit from riding tempo, they can; however it becomes a more slippery slope of optimizing just the right balance between the dose of training and the amount of recovery. Tempo delivers a greater training load and that’s why it’s beneficial for cyclists training with a limited amount of time.

For the weekend warriors, group rides are another great way to incorporate tempo into your training. Then you’ll really get your money’s worth out of your day. It’s a great transition between lower intensity zone 2 training and full tilt racing. When professional riders go off to training camp this is precisely what they are doing. Can you imagine one of the new Discovery recruits raising his hand saying, “errrr Mr. Armstrong, I’m only supposed to ride in Zone 2 today”? Hah! Did you read Armstrong’s quote the other week, “Some teams go off to camp to fish, I like to get together and suffer with the boys”? Fun for Armstrong, and I bet down right suffer city for some of the others!

Example Tempo Workouts

Zone 3: 3 reps of 10 minutes ON 5 minutes OFF  (Tempo performed between 76 – 90% of FTP)

Zone 3: 3 x 15 min ON 7.5 min OFF

Zone 3: 2 x 20 min ON 5 min OFF

Zone 3: 4 x 15 min ON 7.5 min OFF

As with all phases and cycles of your training, start off gradually – incorporate a few zone/level 3 tempo intervals into your mid week 90 minute trainer ride. Start conservatively with two or three 6 – 10 minute tempo intervals and work your way up. It is totally feasible to be able to work your way up to twenty or thirty minute tempo intervals for 60 minutes total tempo . After that point you may want to forget the structure and simply get out there and just throw down. And that my friends, is exactly what I did on my slushy ride!

Copyright 2017, FasCat Coaching

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Frank is the founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO. To talk with a FasCat Coach about incorporating Tempo into your training please  720.406.7444 or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation. Or buy one of our six week, $49 training plans that have plenty of tempo training.

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Expected Physiological Adaptations in Sweet Spot

Interval Training for Cycling

by Frank Overton, 2004

Let’s talk about getting faster! If there was a nutritional supplement out there guaranteed to make you a faster cyclist (there’s not), you’d take it right? Heck, if I thought writing “I will be a faster bike racer” on the blackboard and thousand bizzillion times I’d be all all over it. What I’d like to present to you here, today, is a way that will transform you into a supa’ fast cyclist!

Intervals are your ticket. Work hard on a consistent basis and intervals will be the cheapest most effective way for you to get the results you want. Forget the gizmazoo wheels, supplements, doo-hick this new-fangled that. Get out there, find you favorite hill and go up and down it as hard as you can! And suffer! Don’t just do it once, work at it on a consistent basis, every week. Custom tailor the types of intervals you perform based on the events you race and want to do well in.

So how do you get started? Gradually! How long and for what reasons? Well first let’s run down exercise intensity in order to rationalize this plan of attack. After all, these intervals are gonna hurt a little bit, it’d be nice to know they work! Uhummm, they do, guaranteed.

How do you set your zones? Well, that is a great question for another training tip! (See the FasCat preferred method, the Field Test) There are as many ways to find your threshold as there are definitions for threshold. If you have a powermeter you can identify virtually the same number a physiological laboratory would.

Back to the table, you can see there are more checks under some training zones than others. And the most check falls under the zone that (gulp!) is the hardest. But that’s not to say that aerobic endurance work is not important; it is! However, with the race season upon us, your training, presuming you have some aerobic work under “the hood”, would be best spent at intensities you will encounter in your races.

Now a further refinement: specializing your interval training to your types of events. Say you are a time trialist. Well then your “money” zone is going to be your threshold power. Therefore it would be prudent (insert Dana Carvey George Bush SNL imitation) to spend a lot of time working on raising your threshold power, i.e Zone 4 and Zone 5. Threshold intervals of 8-20 minutes in length or more and VO2MAX efforts of 3-6 minutes. Additionally, sweet spot workouts, as you can see from the table above force many of the same physiological adaptations as threshold workouts, and are therefore a nice alternative on days following threshold intervals or VO2 workouts.

Example Workouts:

Sweet Spot: 3 x 15 min ON 10 min OFF  – excellent for building aerobic endurance

Zone 4/ Threshold: 2 x 20 min ON (FULL GAS) 5 min OFF – specific for time trialing or hill climbing

Zone 5/ VO2: 2 sets of 2 x 4 min ON (FULL GAS) 4 min OFF; 8 min inbetween sets

Zone 6/ Anaerobic Capacity: 2 sets of 3 x 1 min ON (FULL GAS) 1 min OFF; 5 min inbetween sets

Conversely, say you are an ace sprinter and criteriums are your thing. The power dynamics of your race are much more variable and therefore should be addressed in your training. Lots of anaerobic capacity and neuromuscular work. Short sprint intervals 5-30 seconds in length and 60 second anaerobic capacity work. Additionally you’ll still need to throw in some VO2 work and advanced aerobic endurance work. After all, you gotta get in the break first before you can sprint for the win. Ahhh, lactic acid, your new best friend!

Copyright 2016 , FasCat Coaching

Frank is the owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO.  He is a full time professional USA cycling certified Elite level coach, former category 1 road racer and semi-pro mountain biker. FasCat prescribes intervals for athletes all over North America and Europe. To talk with a FasCat Coach about interval training described above, please call 720.406.7444, email frank@fascatcoaching.com or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire for a coaching consultation.

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Tour of the Gila: A brief how to Guide 2.04.04

For most amateur racers, the Tour of the Gila is arguably the closest thing they will ever come to the Tour de France. Held in the beautiful south west Gila National Forest in New Mexico, the race courses offer up 5 stages of high altitude terrain and long sustained climbing including 2 mountain top finishes. Many riders make this race a number one priority in their season, much like Lance makes Le Tour numero uno in his books. Therefore, it pays to understand the specific demands of the course and adapt your training appropriately. Of note, tactics are virtually erased in the amateur categories by the 15.6 mile individual time trial and nearly 22,000 ft. of climbing in the 4 following stages. Therefore the winner in all categories including the pro race, possess superior time trialing and climbing ability. In technical terms that translates into having a high sustained power output relative to body weight and frontal drag (aerodynamics), watts/kg and watts/CdA respectively.

I connected with 2 time overall winner and quadruple stage winner, Burke Swindlehurst (winner previously of 3 of the 5 stages) of the Navigators Insurance cycling team to get the “low down” on the Gila’s 5 brutal stages.

Stage 1, 15.7 mile Individual Time Trial, 1070 ft. climbing

If you plan on contesting the general classification the opening stage will set the GC for the remainder of the race. Therefore, you will need to be able to produce your maximum sustained power output for 35 to 45 minutes depending on your ability level. During this time trial it is important to be able to climb well and go fast downhill. According to Burke “gearing is crucial….you need a small enough gear to handle the climbs and also a big gear so as not to lose too much time on the decent back into Tyrone.”

Experienced racer tip: A 53t ring does not cut it. Consider a 55 or 56 front chain ring for the fast downhill finish!

Obvious training for this stage and all time trials includes working on your power at threshold. Intervals of 10 to 30 minutes in length as fast as you can address this adaptation. But don’t forget your aerobic & anaerobic capacity and VO2max! Additionally, dial in your optimal time trial setup and compete in a few training or race TTs on a flat then hilly course to nail down your positioning and get an idea of pacing.

Stage 2, Moggollon, 70 miles Cat 3 & Women, 92 miles Pro/1 and 2 Men, 5640 ft. climbing

This stage is tactically simple: ride a moderately flat course conserving as much energy as possible for 95% of the race. Then slam it up a ~4000 ft. 5.5 mile narrow alpine road for the first of two mountain top finishes. Plan on being able to lay the power down for 15-25 minutes of climbing. However, Burke astutely pointed out “once you start the climb there’s about a mile stretch of flat road in the middle before it gets really steep.” So if you can hang on until this flat section you can save yourself a few minutes. Also, “heat can be a huge factor.” You will need to come up with a hydration strategy because two or three bottles just isn’t enough. At the start of this stage network as much as possible to have friends or acquaintances in the feed zone.

If Lance shows up, expect him to use his teammates to control the race with a vicious tempo. Obvious prediction: Lance will use the final climb up to Moggollon as practice for such TdF climbs as La Mongie and Plateau de Beille. Previous winners are a who’s who of top US climbers including no other than PEZ diarist and contributor to this article Burke Swindlehurst along with Scott Moninger, Chris Wherry, Kevin Livingston, and working man hero Drew Miller.

Been there done that tip: This race is point to point; arrange to have a car parked at the finish full of recovery drinks, food & a change of clothes. You don’t want to have to wait hours and hours in your chamois for the race organization school bus to take you home!

Once again power to weight ratio is crucial in maintaining or extending one’s position on the general classification. Trainable aspects of this stage include your climbing power at threshold (similar to the TT), aerobic capacity, and oh yeah, more climbing.

Stage 3, Inner Loop: 73 miles, 3690-5150 ft. climbing

Burke’s Take: By now the GC is sorted out and the amateur race categories generally stay together for a survival of the fittest bunch finish. The Pro race according to Burke “can be tricky; usually the team containing the GC leader will allow a small break to go up the road and begin doing a strong tempo to contain the rest of the field. The descent off of Pinos Altos can also be very intense… with some very sharp turns. After that you hit a long valley which can be very windy and often the field will split here. To top it off, you have about 5 huge rollers of about a mile each going into the finish. A lot of times the breakaway will be caught and another small group will counter attack and go into the finish alone which features a long downhill drag to the line.” If Lance and other strong men want to light up the initial climb and work together for the remainder of the stage a group of GC contenders could leave the pack behind groveling to minimize their time losses.

Been there done that tip: Warm up for this stage and the initial first climb! Stay near the front (if possible) on the descents. Watch out during the descent down from Pinos Altos and be safe. Conserve energy if you’re going for the GC, but if you’re already out of contention or looking to make up time, today might be the stage to get in a breakaway.

Stage 4, Criterium 15-40 laps, 60 ft of climbing per lap

This downtown criterium is generally used as a rest day for the GC guys and gals in order to conserve their energy for the fifth upcoming “Gila Monster.” The course does feature one climb per lap but as long as you carry your momentum it is a “big ring” affair.

Coach’s tip: You will have a lot of free time today so use the day to prepare yourself and your bike for tomorrow’s grueling stage. Eat and drink well for tomorrow’s huge day!

Stage 5, The Gila monster, 100 miles (66 miles Cat 3 & Women, 9220ft. of climbing

There are six categorized climbs in this epic road race. The cream will rise to the top in this race and those already atop the GC just need to sort it out. The start is rather inconspicuous but two Category 1 climbs starting at mile marker 50 shatter the field. From there on out it’s all about your power to weight ratio and your will to survive. Feeds are crucial and water intake can not be emphasized enough.

Been there done that tip: Burke: “Stay hydrated and on top of your calories. The two times that I’ve won this stage has been by attacking on the steep pitch out of the dwellings and creating a small group over the top. Pacing yourself once you’ve hit the final Pinos Altos climb is critical. Too hard and you’re going to blow and lose huge time….not hard enough and you’ll be caught.”

After you’re done congratulate yourself for racing 220 miles (give or take a few per category) and climbing 23,600 total feet in 5 days. Compare your results to Lance Armstrong’s early season form if he shows up. Now take those 5 days add approximately 50 miles to each stage, multiply by four and you have a somewhat inaccurate idea of what its like to ride the Tour de France!

Frank Overton 2/4/04 Frank is a USA cycling certified coach, former Mountain Bike NORBA NCS racer, and current category 1 road racer. Frank has raced the Gila three times and in 2001 finished sixth in the Stage 2 Moggollon mountain top stage! Since then he has coached athletes to stage wins and top 5 GC places at the Gila.  Please contact him if you have Tour of the Gila aspirations!

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Interview with Dr. Asker Jeukendrup 2.28.05

Whether you are a beginning time trialist or a world class competitor there are several ways to use aerodynamics to your advantage. Some are relatively inexpensive while others are prohibitively expensive. We got the inside scoop from noted exercise physiologist Dr. Asker Jeukendrup…

Dr. Asker Jeukendrup is one of the top exercise physiologist investigating the metabolic responses to exercise. He has served as the scientific adviser to the Rabobank professional cycling team, and edited High Performance Cycling, a book compiled to translate cutting edge scientific research into recommendations for cyclists of all abilities.

You Can’t Be Fast if You Can’t Pedal!
First and foremost you should invest the greatest amount of time, energy, and financial resources into your training. With a 7-8 min improvement from training, it’s a cold hard fact that if you can’t pedal hard enough no amount of wind cheating aerodynamic equipment will make much of a difference.

Secondly, roughly 70% of the drag numbers seen in a wind tunnel are rider and position related. Therefore you will cheat the clock the greatest by dialing in your best possible aerodynamic position on the bike. The model predicts a 2-2.5 min improvement from optimizing your position. From a cost/speed ratio this is the cheapest and most effective way to improve your time trialing under the same power output.

However, it is important that you are able to sustain power in an aerodynamic position. As always, specificity is the key and it is critical that you practice on your TT bike or aero position to adapt to it.

Asking Asker
FO: Training aside, how should amateur cyclists spend their time and money to improve their time trial performance?

Dr. AJ: These estimations are for a 70 kg rider with a VO2max of 55 ml/kg/min, and a peak power of 300W.

FO: As you can see you’ll be able to sustain a higher speed by improving your engine first and your machine second)

FO: How about this: On a rolling 40 km time trial (no change in altitude from start to finish), how much difference does it makes to change the weight of your bicycle by 3 kg (6.6 lbs) versus losing 3 kg of body weight ?

Dr. AJ:  For our simulations we use a standard course. The time trial (TT) course that our imaginary cyclists are going to ride is exactly 40 km and is an out and back course. The out stretch has a constant tailwind of 2 m/s and one hill with a 5 km long constant 1 % gradient followed by a 5 km 1% downhill. The hill is followed by a 10 km flat section to the turn around. We assume that the riders do not have to brake or accelerate to make it round the turn before returning along the flat and over the hill with a 2 m.s-1 headwind.

The riders do not sprint or fatigue and cycle with a constant power output for the entire duration. In the baseline condition riders have 10 kg bikes and a standard aero position, they use aero wheels and only drink water. In these conditions the riders would record times of 1:12:56 (h:min:s). It is interesting that, compared with the 10 kg bicycle used in the baseline calculations, the 3 kg lighter bicycle would increase average speed by only 0.1 km/h for all our riders. This is despite the simulated course involving 10 km of climbing up a 1% gradient! If these improvements are compared to those achieved with aerodynamic wheels then the importance of bicycle weight on performance over a relatively flat course can be put in perspective.

FO: As a recent purchaser of a time trial frame I have to admit I was confused about the difference between a time trial specific frame with one seat tube angle and the seat tube angle on my road bike. Would you break it down for the amateur cyclist who spends the majority of his time riding his road bike?

Dr. AJ: It is very important to note that we can get riders in incredibly aerodynamic positions but they are not able to produce any power in those extreme positions. Riders often comment on this when going from their road bike to a time trial bike with different seat tube angles. The reason for the different seat tube angles is to rotate the cyclist forward in order to reduce frontal area and aerodynamic drag. However, this usually means a position that is less comfortable and in some situations may compromise power. If the benefits of being more aerodynamic outweigh the disadvantages (back pain, reduced power) it is worth doing. In the wind tunnel tests we did we sometimes made changes to the rider’s positions that did not make them more aerodynamic but enabled them to produce more power for longer.

FO: The balance between a light and aerodynamic bike is a very complex relationship. When should cyclists give priority to aero wheels over lighter, climbing wheels?

Dr. AJ: If a course is flat there is no doubt that the advantages of aero wheels far outweigh the effects of ultralight wheels. If 3 kg is not going to make a big difference, 100 grams certainly isn’t. When going uphill this becomes a slightly different story although as long as speeds of 15 mile/h can be maintained aero wheels will still have an advantage. When speeds go down to very low numbers, usually when the hills are getting very steep, that is where a lighter bike or lighter wheels may outweigh the advantages of aero wheels. On a 7% grade many riders can still ride fast enough to take advantage of aero wheels.

FO: Thank you very much for your time and your expertise. Is there any parting advice you would like to give to the time trialists in all of us?

Dr. AJ: Before spending loads of money, sort out your body position. Wind tunnel testing is expensive but there are cheap alternatives on offer. The cheapest way is to find a hill with good road surface. Start at the top in position A, do not pedal and time how long it takes to get to the bottom. Then climb back up, make a change to your position and do it again. If you do this often enough you will get a reasonable idea of what is aero and what isn’t.

FO: Finally, for fun, would you care to comment on Lance and the hour record?

Dr. AJ: If Lance is going to ride, the record will be trashed. If Lance is going to do this he will only do this with optimal preparation, he will get the best possible team together to make him as aerodynamic as he can possibly be and he will be in optimal shape, having the optimal nutrition and psychological preparation. Such an Armstrong is unbeatable. And it will be a pleasure for us to watch!

References
1. Jeukendrup, A. E. and J. Martin. Improving cycling performance: how should we spend our time and money. Sports Med. 31:559-569, 2001.Whether you are a beginning time trialist or a world class competitor there are several ways to use aerodynamics to your advantage. Some are relatively inexpensive while others are prohibitively expensive. We got the inside scoop from noted exercise physiologist Dr. Asker Jeukendrup…

Frank Overton
Copyright © 2008 FasCat Coaching – all rights reserved.

Frank is a USA cycling certified Expert coach, category 1 road racer, and bronze medal winner in the 2004 &5 Colorado State Time Trial. To find out how you can time trial at your best visit his website FasCatCoaching.com     

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F One Aerodynamics: How Lance’s wind tunnel tests can improve your time trialing 7.05.04

For several years now, Scott Daubert has been the US Postal team’s go-to guy for anything Trek bike related and more. If you’ve seen OLN’s Lance Chronicles you’ve seen Scott in the thick of things in the University of Washington’s Kirsten Wind Tunnel or roadside with Steve Hed dialing in Lance’s time trial bike.

Scotty’s bike racing roots go way back. In fact, he and I have duked it out on several occasions with him getting the better of me over the final barrier in a cyclocross race the last time we raced. I was fortunate to catch up with Scott with a few time trial related questions before he left Colorado for the Tour de France.

MAKING LANCE FASTER
FO: You’ve been part of arguably one of the most cutting edge projects ever undertaken in cycling science: to make Lance “go faster”. What have you learned from the F1 project that the average cyclist can use to turn in faster time trials?

SD – One thing we learned was that aerodynamically fast parts alone do not necessarily make an aerodynamically fast whole. For instance, you can’t put a fast wheel in a fast fork and automatically come up with the fastest combination. Unfortunately, finding the fastest set up takes money, time and experience.

Another lesson learned is that the aerodynamic difference between good and better is very hard to perceive. Often the difference is so subtle you wouldn’t know one is better than the other without seeing comparative data. This being said, often the best set up is what feels best, not what the numbers say is best.

Frank “Fascat” Overton on his way to a bronze medal at the 2004 Colorado State TT Champs.

FO: You yourself are an incredibly accomplished racer and have been spotted this year at the Cherry Creek time trial series in Denver and also at the Tour of the Gila. Tell us about your time trial setup and special aerodynamic considerations you yourself applied in those time trials.

SD – Every TT I did this year was in windy conditions. At the start of most of those races I heard comments about how much the wind was affecting either the control of the bike or how slow the riders felt. I tried to put what we learned in the tunnel to work for me. I used all the high profile gear I had to try and maximize the sail affect. Sometimes the 3 spoke front and disc were a handful in crosswind gusts but I felt like those higher profile components gave me an extra push from time to time. Those pushes gave me good morale and I think having a good head is the best way to have satisfying results.

FO: You obviously have an armada of equipment to choose from for time trialing. Are there certain “givens” that one should try to adhere to for their TT bike set up?

SD – I think hand, forearm and shoulder positions are critical so a good TT bar is important. I also believe a 3 spoke front and disc rear is fastest in nearly every situation, regardless of crosswinds. Equipment aside, comfort is pretty important but time trial events hurt no matter how much you prepare. I found I had to give up some comfort to maintain an aero position and I had to give up some aerodynamics to be comfy. It takes time to find a happy medium.

FO: Along those same lines there are many, many choices out there for aerodynamic equipment each with their own marketing claims: aero helmet (or not), forks, frames, wheels, bars, clothing, etc… Now that you’ve spent time in the University of Washington’s Aeronautical Laboratory can you help us make sense of it all?

SD – Roughly 70% of the drag numbers we saw in the tunnel are rider and position related. The remaining 30% is the bike. How you sit on the bike, where your hands are and how much time you spend optimizing your aero position is where you make speed. If you fidget or stand up a bunch, you lose time and speed, so being as comfy and fast when seated is important. As for helmet, shoe covers and clothing, I hope Giro and Nike release some of that technology to consumers. We measured less drag with aerodynamically designed pieces so I know it makes a difference.

FO: Tell us about some of the “aerodynamic trends” that the average Joe should take to the start line.

SD – We termed trends differently than you ask but I think I can answer that. We worked on putting thumbs on top of the TT extensions and parallel to the ground, forearms parallel to the ground, elbows should be in front of your knees, keep your shoulders low, head up and be still.

FO: One often overlooked aerodynamic consideration is a rider’s clothing and the type of fabric it’s made from. Most time trialists know to use a skinsuit but beyond that can you tell us about the technology the F1 project is using for Lance and the Postal team?

SD – Exactly how Nike’s Swift technology works is best found on their website but I can explain what we did with it in the tunnel. For the most part you want air to remain as close to the subject as possible. By varying types of textures or the orientation of textures you can start to control some of how the air flows over the subject. We wanted air to remain attached to as much of Lance’s body as possible, especially on the trailing side of his hips. To do this Nike used certain fabrics in that area and even went as far as developing a new way to “hide” seams joining two pieces of fabric. Most skinsuit fabric is faster than shaved skin, believe it or not, so if you can stand to be hot, cover as much of your body as possible. Unfortunately, the UCI won’t allow some of the stuff Nike developed but we still have a fast package.

FO: What about a rider’s aerodynamic position? Knowing what you know from wind tunnel testing how can he or she optimize their position without going into a wind tunnel?

SD – Simple rules still apply. Low shoulders, parallel forearms, flat back and remaining still top the list. We found putting Lance’s elbows in front of his knees provided adequate aerodynamics without discomfort so we opted for that position. Lance’s seat position is no more than a few millimeters farther forward on his TT bike than his road race bike so I don’t have an opinion on the traditional triathlete seat-forward approach.

One way to find trends is to do roll down tests. Steve Hed is a big fan of this. You’ll need a calm day, a friend on his bike to be the control and a gradual hill 1-2 minutes long. Coast top to bottom next to your friend and make a note or time the difference between the two of you at the bottom. Make one change to your position or equipment and do it again. Make sure your friend doesn’t change anything – he’s the control.

Well, there you have it! From the man who helps Lance go as fast as he can. I want to give a special thanks to Scott Daubert for taking time out of his busy Tour de France lead up schedule to talk with FasCat Coaching.

Copyright © 2004 FasCat Coaching – all rights reserved.

Frank Overton 7/6/04 Frank is a USA cycling Expert certified coach, Category 1 road racer, and bronze medalist in the 2004 & 2005 Colorado State Time Trial. To find out how you can shave precise seconds off your time trials with technology and power contact Frank at FasCatCoaching.com        

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Estes Park Stage Race: an SRM analysis of Will Frischkorn’s GC and stage wins 8.31.04

Four years later, Frischkorn was in a similar race winning breakaway during stage stage 3 of the 2008 Tour de France.   He nearly won the stage, finishing 2nd.  The long breakaway at Estes Park is a good example of the developement and progression cyclists can make by putting themselves out there in races and going for it.

What does it take to win a 5 day National Road Calendar Professional Stage Race? 8,815 kiloJoules, a training stress score of 762 over the course of the 3 main road stages, and some serious VO2 MAX power.

Double stage and overall general classification winner Will Frischkorn of the composite Ofoto-Colavita team used an SRM powermeter during 3 days of the Colorado Cyclist Classic and here’s the low down.

Stage 1: Glen Haven Road Race, 87 miles, altitude: 7522 feet; total climbing 6000 feet

At the start of this road race, the racers faced a 10 mile 1500 foot climb followed by a looong downhill into flat terrain before finishing with 17 miles of climbing and 12% grade switchbacks at the top!

Will rolled off the front from the gun with Danny Pate (Health Net-Maxxis) and Dan Bowman (TIAA-CREF/5280) into what would be THE GC move of the week. Over the next 31 minutes Will maintained a power output of 4.65 watts per kilogram of body weight. Not a huge effort for Will, but one that the peloton was not interested in so early in a long race and the first of 3 tough road stages. With a gap of 5-6 minutes at the top of the climb the three breakaway companions got down to business of working together. Over the course of the next three hours Will rode tempo with a normalized power output of 264 watts or 3.8 watts/kg.

As the three approached the finish line, Will told me Danny started increasing the tempo and he did the final 14 minutes at 4.9 w/kg. On the steep switchback Frischkorn made his winning move and sustained 5.7 w/kg over the final 4 minutes. Keep in mind that power output was at nearly 8,000 feet and it came after an 86 mile breakaway. Both of which lead to a reduced power output and make these numbers all the more impressive. The 23 year old’s ability to produce a peak power output at the end of a race and edge out Pate by 5 seconds made all the difference. Oh yeah, 4th place rolled in over 6 minutes later!

Stage 2: Devil’s Gulch Road Race, 80 miles, altitude: 7480-7910 feet, 6850 total climbing

With a 6 minute GC cushion over 4th place, the overall was down to Will, Danny and Dan. But Prologue winner Chris Baldwin (Navigator’s) wasn’t having any of that. Baldwin aka “Scooter” threw down the gauntlet at the beginning of this tough tough circuit in what Frischkorn described as super fast, “he attacked like 50 times”. Analysis of Will’s SRM files confirms the difficulty of the initial few laps that completely shredded the main field.

Will maintained 5.1 w/kg for 20 minutes during Baldwin’s ballistic onslaught and 6.1 w/kg for 4 minutes over the most difficult portions of the course during Balwin’s viscious attacks. That’s what it takes to win an NRC stage race! Or in this case, to sucessfully defend a GC lead. Needless to say Scooter, who won the prolouge by 59 seconds from 23rd placed Frischkorn, is “going good”.

Stage 3: Horsetooth Reservoir, 84 miles; altitude ~5000 ft; 5400 feet of climbing

With only 5 seconds and 1 stage remaining for Danny to take the GC, this was the make or break day before the 4th and final stage criterium. After Will matched Danny’s mid race attack with another 5.1 w/kg 20 minute effort, Health Net’s team tactics shifted into setting Danny up for win and the 20 second time bonus. In the final kilometer’s as the Health Net team erased an all day breakaway, Will played it cool as a cucumber and set up shop right behind Pate and Health Net’s leadout train. With one peak effort of 16.8 w/kg in the final 100 meters, Will pimped Pate on the line for the win and a virtual lock on the overall.


* photo courtesy of Beth Seliga of 3catsphoto ; Thanks Beth!!

Frischkorn’s numbers are even more impressive if you consider that this data was collected between 5,000 and 9000 feet. Granted, Frischkorn lives at 5,563 feet in Boulder but even acclimatized athletes can expect roughly an 8% decrease in their power by the equations of Basset et. al between 5 and 8 thousand feet.

Besides the thin air, this was a stage race with 5 back to back races where cumulative fatigue clearly played a role. On the decisive GC move, stage 1, Will racked up a training stress score of 243 followed by 253 and 266. Scores between 150 and 300 represent a moderate effort where some residual fatigue may carry over into the next day. Based on Will’s extensive stage racing this season these numbers and races were not that difficult for him to recover from as illustrated by his consistent ability to reproduce similar peak power outputs on stage 3 as stage 1. For reference, Will was in an all day breakaway during the Olympic Trials race cranking out 5150 kilojoules over 5 hrs and 15 minutes with an average power output of 297 watts. In hindsight, an incredible day of training!

In summary Frischkorn’s overall win came down to the final 4 minutes and 45 seconds of stage 1 and the final 100 meter sprint on stage 3. Of course he displayed a cadre of skills up until those points but for those critical moments he was the MAN. Something to think about the next you’re out doing intervals!

** does not include data from the Prologue and Stage 4 criterium

Final General Classification
1. Will Frischkorn (Ofoto-Colavita) 11.34.33
2. Danny Pate (Health Net/Maxxis) 0.25
3. Dan Bowman (TIAA-CREF/5280) 2.16

FasCat Coaching would like to give a special shout out to the fine folks at CyclingPeaks Software whose excellent powermeter software package made this analysis possible. And of course to the Colavita-Bollo professional and all around nice guy, Will Frischkorn for sharing his SRM files. Best of luck at the T-Mobile Grand Prix in San Francisco!!

Reference:
Bassett, D.R. Jr., C.R. Kyle, L. Passfield, J.P. Broker, and E.R. Burke. Comparing cycling world hour records, 1967-1996: modeling with empirical data. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 31:1665-76, 1999.

Copyright © 2004 FasCat Coaching – all rights reserved.

Frank Overton 8/31/04 Frank is a full time USA Cycling Expert certified coach who specializes in training athletes with power. If you need help analyzing your training and race power files, contact Frank at FasCatCoaching.com           

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The Performance Manager Chart

The Performance Manager Chart in WKO and TrainingPeaks

Development and Beta Testing of “TSTWKT”, Introduction:
Back in the Fall of 2004, I attended USA Cycling’s Coaches Summit where I had the pleasure of seeing Dr. Andy Coggan, Ph.D present on training with power. I had seen Andy present before but during his talk he began to present on a impulse-response model he was working on.

At the end of Andy’s talk, I asked how I could use the model and hours later a complicated spreadsheet showed up in my inbox. I scratched my head and poured over it. A week later I joined a group of 12 or so athletes, coaches and sports scientists as beta testers for this 3rd generation power-based impulse-response model.

As a beta tester, I figured the best way to understand the complexities of the model was to use my own data. Everyday I returned home with great enthusiasm to download my training file and analyze how each day’s TSS affected the model, my power output & performance plus how it felt.

It wasn’t long before the beta testers all got together online and began discussing every aspect of their training and their subsequent all time best performances. Soon I began planning out my training using a TSS for each day of training and using the model to peak for the Colorado State Time Trial. The end result was a performance of a lifetime which I am very proud of to this day.

The following month in July I gave PEZCyclingNews the first look at the model in an article entitled “Finding Form: A Power-Based Performance Model“. At the time, the model was not available to the public and rather than try to tiptoe around what it was and how it worked, I decided to hype the model a tad while describing the broader purpose – – the how and why of what “good form” was.

Also during this time, I was reading Daniel Coyle’s “Lance Armstrong’s War“. Since I was a time trial enthusiast, I liked the way Armstrong called his F One equipment “The Shit that Will Kill Them”.

And so when I was writing about the model for my monthly PEZ training article it came to me, this model is The Shit that Will Kill Them. It truly is our secret weapon that we (mostly Andy) have/has developed which we are using to our competitive advantage. In the aftermath of the article someone, somewhere in one of the online power based web forums began using the acronym TSTWKT. And for the short period of time the name stuck I quietly enjoyed how it caught on.

These days (Summer 2006) the model is called the Performance Manager Chart or PMC.  I am proud of the work I did as a beta tester. What I learned from the model (and continue to do so) forms the foundation of my philosophy as a coach. Not all of it, but a large large portion. If you are serious about training and going big for a particular event start using the PMC.

If you would like to learn more about the model, below is a good start. The best way to learn how to use the model in my opinion is with your own training data perhaps your athlete’s training data.  There are three aspects to understand while you are using it:

1. CTL/ATL/ and your “Form” aka TSB

2. Fatigue and its relationship to power output and that relationship to CTL/ATL/TSB

3. How you or your athlete ‘feels’, also in relation to # ‘s 1 & 2 above.

Below is what started out as a FAQ and then turned into a Glossary which as of now doesn’t even cover everything. I don’t know if it ever will. For further reading I suggest starting with Tim Taha’s graduate thesis review linked below on Systems Modelling of the Relationship between Training and Performance. Enjoy!

Philosophy
The relationship between an athlete’s training load (or CTL, see below) and his or her athletic performance is one of the most basic principles of training. Without enough training, the athlete will under perform. However, after too much training, the athlete will also under perform. I like to compare this to an anesthesiologist and their job in the surgical room. I was originally turned on to this relationship way back in the day by a graduate student by the name of Allen Lim. You may have seen his microwave popcorn slide. I understood the principle but until the PMC came along, I never grasped how to put the principle into practice.

Peak athletic performance is a slippery slope and occurs with the optimal amount of training load. Prescribing just the right “dose” of training, like Goldilocks, is the key to peak athletic performance and the holy grail for athletes, coaches and sports scientists.

TSTWKT helps the user figure out exactly what that Goldilocks dose of training is. Furthermore, the model helps plan for peaks performances.

TRIMPS
Acronym for TRaining IMPulseS originally described by Dr. Eric Banister in his 1975 publication titled “A systems model of training for athletic performance”. Banister’s heart rate based model was popularized by multisport athletes for years adding further evidence to the robust-ness of the model’s prediction of performance.

TRIMPS = exercise duration x average heart rate

Banister’s model describes the use of TRIMPS to quantify an athlete’s training load and measure the impulse:

Thierry Busso et. al
In 1990, the French physiologist Thierry Busso began publishing his work on a system model of training responses. Seven years later, Busso published data validating the systems model with time varying parameters “for describing the responses of physical performance to training”.

Of particular interest is the way in which Busso and his colleagues quantified the training load or impulse used in their study:

number of intervals performed x weighted intensity effort (power output / P lim 5′ x 100) For example, four 5 minute intervals performed at 85% of P lim 5′ was calculated by 4 x 85 = 340 training units.

Compared to TSS, you’ll notice that Busso’s method for quantifying the training load is rather rudimentary.

Power Based Impulse Response Model
Using TSS (Training Stress Score, see below) rather than heart rate data or training units as Busso did, Dr. Andy Coggan and the Training Manager beta testers have developed a third generation power based impulse response model.

Training Manager users will now be able to model their training and track their performance by using their daily TSS as the “impulse” to quantify their overall training load. The training manager and model takes the impulse and uses the algorithms previously described in the literature to predict performance in terms of the metric TSB (see below) or the response.

It is important to recognize that the Training Manager is a mathematical model which does not account for specificity of training adaptations. Just like meteorologists use models to predict the path of hurricanes we are using this model to predict peak performance. But with all models there is a certain “art” to go along with the science.

Part of the so called “art” lies in how to interpret and apply the model to the data and race results being produced. It is up to the athlete, coach, or sports scientist to correlate that prediction of performance, TSB, with actual race performance along with various length peak power outputs

Ultimately the model may be used to control the athlete’s periodization. Or more simply to plan and guide the user for peak performances on or around a specific date or event.

Chronic Training Load (CTL)
How much an athlete has been training historically. Also known as an athlete’s “training load”. CTL represents the positive gain “ascribed to training adaptations”. Since CTL is the stating point of the IR model it is often compared to an athlete’s fitness. For example, an athlete who has achieved a CTL of 110 will be able to achieve greater TSB.

In terms of power output, “fitness” and race performance, the larger an athlete’s CTL (** see CTL range below), the better poised the athlete will be to achieve a greater TSB. “Poised” being the key word because there’s a slew of disclaimer’s.

Acute Training Load (ATL)
How much an athlete has been training recently. ATL represents the negative gain in the systems model that is associated with exercise fatigue.

Training Stress Balance (TSB)
Synonym to the popularized term “form”. TSB is calculated by subtracting ATL from CTL.. TSB is the “response” from the impulse-response model. Athletes may correlate race performance and specific length power outputs to their TSB.


Training Stress Score (TSS) = exercise duration x normalized power x Intensity Factor^2

TSS is the “impulse” in the I-R model.

A superior measure of overall training load. Compare TSS to heart rate data and its known limitations; then compare TSS to Busso’s method of quantifying training load.

Time Constant

42 days.  In other words the half life of training is 42 days.  If you have a CTL of 100 and don’t train at all, in 42 days your CTL will be 50.

**Optimal CTL Range
An athlete’s optimal CTL range is going to be highly dependent on the athlete plus the amount of time he or she has to train! At the moment we believe an optimal CTL range to fall between 75 and 125. Further refinement is encouraged on an athlete by athlete basis.

TSB Event Specificity
This is a developing art like the rest of the model. The current thinking is that shorter events like criteriums and track events may warrant higher TSB whereas longer events such as road races or even ultra endurance events may favor a lower TSB in exchange of “retaining” CTL.

Sweet Spot
Originally described by Frank Overton in the Pez Cycling News training tip, sweet spot training is an effective training method to raise an athlete’s CTL.

Adjusting & customizing time constants for athletes relative to their total training load
This area of the model is also a developing art. However we are implementing varying time constants based on the athlete’s total training load as defined by CTL. We are suggesting that your ATL time constant may be shorter for lower CTL’s and longer for greater CTL’s. Individuals will vary but a good starting point is a 5d or 7d TC.

CTL Reload or “Reload”
After an athlete has managed his training to peak, he or she will have given up CTL. In order to build for a second peak in the second half of the season, that athlete will need to “reload” his CTL. That period, build, or phase is known as a CTL reload.

CTL Composition
It is important to recognize that the fundamentals of endurance training have not changed. A CTL of 120 composed of entirely level 2 rides will not result in the same performance as a CTL of 120 obtained with a well thought out scientifically designed training plan consisting of various levels of intensity.

CTL Maintenance
When the goal of an athlete’s training is to increase their CTL (in a build, for example) there are days when you too fatigued to train hard but not fatigue enough to warrant laying on the couch. A prime example of a “CTL maintenance” ride is going out for a couple of hours in Zones 1 & 2. The end results is a CTL that neither drops nor increases but is poised to continue the upward build when the athlete is recovered the following day.

The Shit that will Kill Them (TSTWKT)*
Lance Armstrong’s description of his one of a kind high tech equipment developed by the F-One project. When it comes to training with power, the “Training Manager” is the Shit that will Kill Them”.

“Coming up for air”
A term related to an athlete’s TSB becoming positive after a prolonged period of training and consequently negative values. An athlete will “come up for air” by taking the appropriate amount of rest & recovery following an hard training block. As the model predicts the athlete will experience good legs and similarly higher power outputs that validate his or her TSB.

References & Recommended Reading:
Avalos M, Hellard P, Chatard JC. Modeling the training-performance relationship using a mixed model in elite swimmers. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2003; 35: 838-846.

Banister, E.W.; Calvert, T.W.; Savage, M.V.; and Bach, T.M. A systems model of training for athletic performance. Aust. J. Sports Med 7:57-61, 1975

Banister EW, Calvert TW. Planning for future performance: implications for long term training. Can J Appl Sport Sci 1980; 5: 170-176.

Banister EW, Hamilton CL. Variations in iron status with fatigue modeled from training in female distance runners. Eur J Appl Physiol 1985; 54: 16-23.

Banister EW. Modeling elite athletic performance. In: MacDougall JD, Wenger HA, Green HJ, eds. Physiological Testing of the high-performance athlete, 2nd ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1991; 403-424.

Banister EW, Morton RH, Fitz-Clarke J. Dose-response effects of exercise modeled from training: physical and biochemical measures. Ann Physiol Anthropol 1992; 11: 345-356.

Banister EW, Carter JB, Zarkadas PC. Training theory and taper: validation in triathlon athletes. Eur J Appl Physiol 1999; 79: 182-191.

Busso T, Hakkinen K, Pakarinen A, et al. A systems model of training responses and its relationship to hormonal responses in elite weight-lifters. Eur J Appl Physiol 1990; 61: 48-54.

Busso T, Carasso C, Lacour JR. Adequacy of a systems structure in the modeling of training effects on performance. J Appl Physiol 1991; 71: 2044-2049.

Busso T, Hakkinen K, Pakarinen A, et al. Hormonal adaptations and modelled responses in elite weightlifters during 6 weeks of training. Eur J Appl Physiol 1992; 64: 381-386.

Busso T, Candau R, Lacour JR. Fatigue and fitness modelled from the effects of training on performance. Eur J Appl Physiol 1994; 69: 50-54.

Busso, T.; Benoit, H.; Bonnefoy, R.; Feasson, L.; and Lacour, J.R. Effects of training frequency on the dynamics of performance response to a single training bout. J Appl Physiol 92: 572-580, 2002

Busso, T.; Denis D.; Bonnefoy, R.; Geyssant, A.; and Lacour, J.R. Modeling of adaptations to physical training by using a recursive least squares algorithm. J Appl Physiol 82: 1685-1693, 1997

Calvert TW, Banister EW, Savage MV, et al. A systems model of the effects of training on physical performance. IEEE Trans Syst Man Cybern 1976; 6: 94-102.

Chatard, J.C., & Mujika, I.T. (1999). Training load and performance in swimming. In K.L. Keskinen, P.V. Komi, & A.P. Hollander (Eds.), Biomechanics and Medicine in Swimming VIII (pp. 429-434). Jyväskylä: University Press (Gummerus Printing).

Fitz-Clarke JR, Morton RH, Banister EW. Optimizing athletic performance by influence curves. J Appl Physiol 1991; 71: 1151-1158.

Hellard P, Avalos M, Millet G, et al. Modeling the residual effects and threshold saturation of training: a case study of Olympic swimmers. J Strength Cond Res 2005; 19: 67-75.

Hooper, S.L.; Mackinnon, L.T. (1999). Monitoring regeneration in elite swimmers. In M. Lehmann, C. Foster, U. Gastmann, H. Kaizer, & J.M. Steinacker (Eds.), Overload, Performance, Incompetence and Regeneration in Sport (pp. 139-148). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.

Millet GP, Candau RB, Barbier B, et al. Modelling the transfers of training effects on performance in elite triathletes. Int J Sports Med 2002; 23: 55-63.

Morton RH, Fitz-Clarke JR, Banister EW. Modeling human performance in runners. J Appl Physiol 1990; 69: 1171-1177.

Morton RH. Modeling training and overtraining. J Sport Sci 1997; 15: 335-340.

Mujika I, Busso T, Lacoste L, et al. Modeled responses to training and taper in competitive swimmers. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1996; 28: 251-258.

Mujika, I. T.; Busso, T.; Geyssant, A.; Chatard, J. C.; Lacoste, L. and Barale, F. (1996). Modeling the effects of training in competitive swimming. In: J.P. Troup, A.P. Hollander, D. Strasse, S.W. Trappe, J.M. Cappaert, & T.A. Trappe (Eds.), Biomechanics and Medicine in Swimming VII (pp. 221-228). London: E&F Spon.

Taha T, Thomas SG. Systems modeling of the relationship between training and performance. Sports Med 2003; 33: 1061-1073.

Zarkadas PC, Carter JB, Banister EW. Modelling the effects of taper on performance, maximal oxygen uptake, and the anaerobic threshold in endurance triathletes. Adv Exp Med Biol. 1995; 393:179-186.

* from Daniel Coyle’s “Lance Armstrong’s War“, Harper Collins, 2005

Copyright © 2016 FasCat Coaching – all rights reserved.

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Frank is a full time USA Cycling Expert certified coach, owner, and founder of FasCat Coaching, a cycling coaching company in Boulder, CO.  To talk with a FasCat Coach about implementing the TSTWKT into your performance, please call 720.406.7444 or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to st up a Coaching Consultation.

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Power Based Impulse-Response Performance Model 7.19.05

I hope everyone is enjoying the Tour de France and PEZ’s unique coverage as much as I am. With the Alps and Pyrenees behind us, it is quite evident which riders had form, lost their form, or found their form. Let’s take a closer look at what the commonly used cycling term “form” exactly is.

Daniel Coyle describes “form” in “Lance Armstrong’s War” as “one of the more mysterious elements of bike racing, possessing an otherness that is revealed in its preposition… referring to the elusive moment when all systems are working at optimum efficiency”.

The etymology of “form” goes back to eighteenth century horse racing where sheets would be passed out to the betters detailing the past performances of each horse. Doesn’t that sound familiar to the media speculation from the race results of the Dauphine and Tour de Suisse? I think so.

For the athletes, coaches and directeur sportifs “in the know” Tour de France form is a known quantity and not mysterious at all. In fact, it is a closely guarded secret from the competition and consequently the media. Form is the result of a strategically selected race schedule, and a carefully managed training plan leading into the Tour*.

What is “Form”?
In cycling the word “form” describes a combination of physiological & psychological qualities that enable peak athletic performance(s). Form is power output. Form is “going good” when you want to go good. Form is having a ton of matches to burn in a race. Form is feeling like you can rip the cranks off the bike. For those athletes racing** with their powermeter, form may be measured with an all time high peak power output. Or simply, it may be setting a PR up your favorite climb.

It is important to recognize that cyclists will not always be on form or may even ever have it. Athletes must first “go big” with their training before they have the chance to decrease their volume and elicit form. Scientifically, form is just the right balance between exercise induced physiological adaptations and the time required to optimize those changes. An even geekier definition is a positive impulse-response relationship: a value calculated by the amount of training you’ve done and the recovery you’ve taken.

A Predictive Performance Model
You may be familiar with the heart-rate based (TRIMPS) model developed by Dr. Eric Bannister in the mid 1970’s and popularized by triathletes in the nineties. Bannister’s model uses raw heart rate data to understand how training affects athletic performance. In essence, how much to train and when to rest in order to achieve the ultimate form.

In the 1990’s French physiologists, Thierry Busso and his colleagues took Bannister’s TRIMPS model a step further. They developed an impulse-response algorithm to show the relationship between the positive gains from training adaptations and the negative gains from fatigue. Busso’s lab crudely calculated the training impulse by multiplying the number of intervals performed by their intensity. These training units were entered into the algorithm to calculate the response. To validate the model, laboratory based performance tests were shown to match the response predicted by the model.

Since Busso’s work, the raw data accumulated from downloading daily powermeter files has become the ultimate measure of an athlete’s daily training impulse. Dr. Andy Coggan’s metric, training stress score (TSS), enables us capitalize on Bannister’s and Busso’s original work with a power-based performance model. When it comes to training with power, this separates the men from the boys. As Lance likes to describe his F-One equipment, this is the “Shit That Will Kill Them”***.

Lance, bro, when you are done with number seven, send me your files leading up to the Tour and we’ll model out your performance. Have your people contact my people.

Proof of Concept
In the meantime, here is how my training looks in the model. Over the past 8 months I successfully used the model to predict and plan my peak performances for my top goal events in June. Suffice it to say I was on form and this model helped me prepare, plan, and taper into my events. During this time I got the results I wanted and generated all time high peak power outputs during my events. And, it felt like I could rip the cranks off the bike.

In the figure above, the positive gain from training is defined as Chronic Training Load or CTL. Acute Training Load or ATL reflects short term fatigue. Form, a.k.a. Training Stress Balance a.k.a. the response is calculated in the algorithm from CTL & ATL.

The number one take home point from the graphic above is that the yellow trace (TSB) was at its highest for my goal events. I used the model to manage my training for the greatest TSB and consequently my best race results in the month of June.

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousands words and I couldn’t agree more and then some. In my next Toolbox I’ll elaborate on this model further and discuss the principles of training behind it.

Until then, good luck with your form and enjoy the rest of the Tour de France!

References
Banister, E.W.; Calvert, T.W.; Savage, M.V.; and Bach, T.M. “A systems model of training for athletic performance.” Aust. J. Sports Med 7:57-61, 1975

Busso, T.; Benoit, H.; Bonnefoy, R.; Feasson, L.; and Lacour, J.R. “Effects of training frequency on the dynamics of performance response to a single training bout.” J Appl Physiol 92: 572-580, 2002

Busso, T.; Denis D.; Bonnefoy, R.; Geyssant, A.; and Lacour, J.R. “Modeling of adaptations to physical training by using a recursive least squares algorithm.” J Appl Physiol 82: 1685-1693, 1997

* Sprinters will adjust their form to be optimal for the first part of the Tour while the GC contenders will use the initial flat stages to taper down into their peak form for the upcoming mountains

** I distinguish between racing and training because nine times out of ten, athletes see their personal best peak power outputs in races compared to their training. The extra adrenaline and motivation associated with competition bring outs the best data. That’s not to say you won’t generate great evidence of form in your training, you will if you or your coach is tracking your training data.

***from Daniel Coyle’s “Lance Armstrong’s War“, HarperCollins, 2005

Copyright © 2005 FasCat Coaching – all rights reserved.

Frank Overton 7/19/05 Frank is a full time professional USA cycling Expert certified coach, and category 1 road racer. He earns a living eliciting peak form from his athletes around their most important races. He can be reached by email via frank@fascatcoaching.com

 

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Christian Vande Velde’s 2006 Tour de France: an analysis using TSS and the Performance Manager Chart 7.19.07

Imagine that everyday for the past 2 weeks as you head off to work you feel more tired than the day before.  Each day at work has been relentless and its only going to get worse because next week is off the hook.  You have a big project at work and each day is more stressful than the one before.  You’d like to crack but your career depends on your performance the next week.  To make the pressure even more intense, your boss is demanding more and more each day despite the fact that he sees you breaking down right before his eyes.

Senior VP’s preparing for annual board meetings may find this all too real, but it is actually a description of a professional cyclist racing in the Tour de France. The “drama” at the Tour de France is enormous and the physiological and psychological stress directly impacts performance.

How much psychological stress does an athlete experience during the Tour de France?  That is hard to tell and even more difficult to measure. However, it is possible to measure is the amount of physiological stress a rider endures in the biggest bike race in the world.  From Christian Vande Velde’s 2006 Tour de France SRM data, one may analyze and quantitate how hard each stage was, how his cumulative training load affects his performance and the way he feels while he’s going about it. This is all possible with the SRM data using the metrics Training Stress Score (TSS) & Chronic Training Load (CTL).

Using Power Based Metrics to Quantitate Tour de France stress
In the 2006 Tour de France, CSC rider Christian Vande Velde and TrainingPeaks.com made public the first nine stages of his SRM data. Training Stress Score (duration x intensity factor^2) are plotted below:

T = Time Trial
F = Flat, < 13k uphill, change in altitude < 800m, scattered hills
M = Mountainous, > 13k uphill, change in altitude > 800m, sustained climbing > 10 minutes

Sleuthing out Intensity Factor:
Once the race entered the Pyrenees on stage 10, it is assumed that the CSC mechanics took the SRM off and no more data was available. In any case, this is all that was made public.

Using Intensity Factor (IF) from CvV’s data in the first nine stages, IF was estimated for the remaining 11 stages using official finishing time, terrain, race reports & tactics. Official race time x eIF^2 = TSS used for the graph above.

For more details on Intensity Factor calculations see the Excel sheet here

Most TSS values for the flat stages fell between 125 – 225 with the exception of the initial super aggressive sprinter’s stages 2 & 3. However for the Pyrenean stages (10 & 11) and Alp stages (15-17) TSS’s increased dramatically between 300 – 350.

For those of us who have gone out for an epic ride with TSS’s close to 300, suffice it to say the Alps in 2006 were epic for all the riders in the Tour de France. Not only was each day epic but each day occurred back to back to back. And that was beginning on stage 15!

In addition to all the traditional hours, kilometers, and # of clif bars eaten, CvV racked up a total TdF TSS of 4,711. That’s more in 3 weeks than most amateur cyclists use to call their off season “base”.

Using the Performance Manager Chart to understand the cumulative training load during the Tour de France
While the chart above details the individual stages, what really is happening to CvV and all the other Tour riders? Simply put they are getting tired! Real tired. Like if their job did not depend on finishing the race, they wouldn’t be doing this tired. Can’t sleep tired, irritable type of tired and ready to crack kind of tired.

Using a power based impulse-response performance model developed by Dr. Andy Coggan, Ph.D and others, it is possible to measure the cumulative training load and athlete incurs day after day after day with the metric CTL. CTL is calculated using TSS and is described in the previous link. One may also find a description of the Performance Manager originally described in the PEZCyclingNews article here.

Finally for further reading from the inventor hizownself click here.

If you are reading this, chances are that you are familiar with TSTWKT or the more official title the Performance Manger Chart. Using the PMC and TSS from Christian’s TdF SRM data it is possible to plot his CTL during the Tour and as well as his ATL and TSB.

Hypothetically speaking
The majority of Christian’s 2006 training load prior to the TdF came from his racing program: Paris-Nice, Tour of Luxembourg (which he won), and the Tour de Suisse. In-between I assumed that he rested appropriately and trained accordingly. In other words I creatively filled in TSS values for what I would have done as a rider or as CvV’s trainer/coach/directeur.

In the graph above one may see how the Tour carries the largest, most continuous training load of any race or training block all year. CvV’s CTL rises from 110 at the start of the Tour to 150 (!) in the Alps before the peloton reaches the Champs-Elysees. Furthermore his acute training load (aka how whacked he feels) rises dramatically in the Pyrenees and then off the charts for the 3 days in the Alps. Yee-ouch!

Perspective
To put racing the Tour into perspective for any PMC user, how many of you out there have trained meaningfully when your ATL was > 130? I for one have on only a few super motivated training blocks and few and far between stage races. For that matter, who out there has even achieved a CTL of 120 let alone 150? Not only does it take an incredible amount of time but the chances that you will be forced to rest before you come close are high.

Most cat 1’s are lucky to hit a CTL of 110 – 130. Some domestic pro’s may hit the 140’s but aside from the ultra endurance crowd, you’d be hard pressed to find anybody outside of a Pro Tour rider hitting such numbers. And not only hitting but putting out high quality, Tour de France level, power outputs while carrying such a large training load. Athletes cannot simply roll out their door and bang out training volume like this.

Notice in the chart above, how the Tour of Luxembourg prepares Vande Velde for the Tour de Suisse, and the Tour de Suisse prepares him for the Tour de France. This is a parallel path to many TdF riders that race the Dauphine — it is virtually impossible to prepare for the Tour without either of the two well timed “baby tours”. There’s just not enough motivation in the most determined athlete to go out day after day to flog yourself at such high quality power outputs. Therefore, the best way to prepare and train for the Tour de France is to race the Dauphine or the Td Suisse.

That says alot about using races to prepare for races at the elite level but the same principle holds for amateur cyclists. Do you want to do well in a certain stage race? Try finding a slightly shorter or equivalent length preparatory stage race to use for training, ideally one to three weeks beforehand

With such a large dose of racing and stress to bear, the model gives meaning to why it takes years to perform well in the Tour. One can even see why just finishing is a huge accomplishment.

The exercise of quantitating Christian Vande Velde’s 2006 Tour de France, even hypothetically, gives meaning to the upper limits of the human body. The TdF’s training load should put your own training volume into perspective as you try to reach your own performance goals.

While you are thinking about that here we go into the 3rd week of the Tour, and the all important time trial is looming ahead. We know from CvV’s model in 2006 that the riders are already under a huge amount of stress and there is no way around the Pyrenees.

Copyright © 2007 FasCat Coaching – all rights reserved.

Frank Overton 7/19/07. Frank is a full time USA Cycling Elite (Level 1) certified coach and assistant directeur sportif to the US National Women’s Team. If you need help analyzing your training and race power files or want to take your performance to the next level, contact Frank at FasCatCoaching.com

 

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Post Tour of California Interview with Tom Zirbel 2.26.08

Congrats on your time trial at the Tour of California. Was that your best TT ever? If so, could you describe why?
If ‘best tt ever’ means: took corners perfect, effort doled out perfectly so that I was even paced and completely smashed by the finish, then…yeah it was up there. I was definitely pleased with my ride even before I knew my time or placing. It was surely my biggest tt result ever. I think it was a function of feeling great the last two weeks and finding that elusive ‘top form’, not catching the bug that everyone and their mechanic caught, being on great equipment and having my position dialed, and being ultra-motivated for a good result after a disappointing year with health problems in ’07.

You have a lot of nicknames out there, which one would you like your fans to go by?
I’ve learned that a person usually has no control over his/her nickname so I’m not going to try. “Thor” seems popular and Bob Hughes of Advantage Benefits insists on “The Mullet Missile” even though I’ve cut my hair. You can just call me “Handsome” if you like.

You went in the wind tunnel this winter – what did you learn and put to use that helped you in Stage 5?
Actually, I learned that fundamentally my position is about as good as it can get by the UCI rules. There are some small tweaks here and there that helped slightly, and the only thing that I employed for ToC was a custom made Easton bar that allowed a slightly wider arm position.

Have long have you trained with Power?
Since March ’05

What’s your power at threshold?
at 5500′ elevation, my 25 minute power is around 460W

How important are your SRM files to your performance?
I use power files as an indicator to let me know where I’m at in training and sometimes to keep me in desired zones but I am also using PE (perceived exertion) for particular zone riding more and more. Power training is important to me but I try not to let it “make or break” my ride.

When did you first know you were good at time trialing?
I think the CO State TT Champs in 2005 is where I thought I could be pretty good if I worked at it. Although, it was pretty demoralizing to be beaten by my coach on that particular day who was a “part-time rider.” But I recovered.

Coach ed.: Well you did go on to kick my ass 3 weeks later @ TT Nationals
What’s your favorite workout?
I love to do 5-6 hr rides in the mountains w/ “gas on” the entire time. Always pressure on the pedals and trying to free wheel as little as possible.

OK, what’s you favorite “business” workout?
I would say sweet spot is my bread and butter. However, 4 minute VO2s are like nasty tasting medicine for me. I loathe them but usually respond quite well in the weeks to follow.

What’s the hardest workout you’ve ever done and why? Or what’s the hardest block of training you’ve ever done and describe what made it hard and how you succeeded?
I just had a six-day block at the Bissell team camp in Santa Rosa before ToC that was very intense. I also seem to recall a stretch under the Fascat tutelage that was around 25,000kJs in 5 days?

Coach ed.: 27hrs, 26,609kJ’s, 1139 TSS and I recall the composition was predominantly freestyle sweet spot. End result: 1st GC Valley of the Sun

It’s all relative – every time that you’re suffering seems like the worst you’ve ever suffered but somehow your mind recovers (forgets?) and you can do it all over again. You get thru it by taking it one step at a time, one hour at a time, one km, etc.

When I was off the front in those finishing circuits at ToC, I wasn’t trying to make it all five laps – I was trying to make it over the next hill! And when I got over that, I focused on the next hill like it was my last. The human mind is pretty amazing when you start to untap the potential for trumping the physicalities of your body. I have a long way to go.

For all the other time trailers out there, what’s the best piece of advice you can give them about TT’ing?
Pedal circles and even pacing. Focus on complete pedal strokes in training and practice even pacing (factoring in race adrenaline!), a power meter is nearly essential to nail this. Even pros screw this up all the time!

If there was one race you could do, which one would it be?
I don’t know…the Saturn Cycling Classic (Boulder to Breck) sounded epic. I know I want no part of le Tour, I’m not quite man enough for that just yet.

Now that you are a rock star pro cyclist, what advice can you give to young up and comers about training, racing, and being a pro cyclists?
Think long term and consistency. Things came very fast for me in this sport yet it still seems like it took (is taking?) ages for me to take the next step whether it be upgrading or cornering or tactics or whatever.
Be patient. Valleys not too low and peaks not too high.

Work hard on the order of years and be prepared to sacrifice a lot for this sport. To do it right at the highest level, it takes total commitment and a lot of sacrifices.

The sooner you decide if you’re willing to go there – and it’s not an easy question – the better it will be for you.

What’s next?
a month in Boulder hopefully Motorpacing with you (unless the weather acts up), then San Dimas, Redlands, Georgia, Gila, Hood, Cascade, Utah,and USPRO TT

Copyright © 2008 FasCat Coaching – all rights reserved

Frank Overton, 2/26/08 Frank is a full time USA Cycling Elite certified coach and US National Team Coach. For more information please contact Frank at FasCatCoaching.com

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Timmy Duggan’s Off Season Training Program Interview 10.9.13

FasCat Athlete Timmy Duggan spends a significant amount of time at the FasCat Performance Center talking with his coach, Jon Tarkington because communication is the foundation of a successful coach-athlete relationship.   Last week, Timmy sat down with Coach Jon to set up his off season training program and here is what he had to say about it:

What are your goals this off season and how are you training to meet those goals?

My first goal this offseason is to get my injured leg completely back to normal. I just got the metal hardware out this week that repaired my broken leg at the beginning of this season, and I already feel like a different person. Ill take this opportunity to re-focus on my leg strengthening rehab. Ill also use the winter to address my weaknesses in the explosive effort department, doing a lot of short, high intensity strength and power work.

Can you describe the ways you keep your training diverse in October?

Im doing a lot of mountain biking, hiking, & work in the gym. Plus manual labor (!); it’s productive AND and a good workout.  On the bike, I’m trying to just keep it fun. For about 330 days/year, every ride I do has a goal and a specific focus. Its rare I ride solely for the fun of it. If I want to do an easy spin on the road bike, that’s great. If I wanna do a 7 hour epic on the mountain bike, that’s great too. Its nice to re-kindle that love to ride.

We stress (& coach) year-round to our FasCat athletes about balancing their life: family, parenting, relationships, career, etc…  What do you do to enhance balance to your life in the off-season?

I’ve been learning about myself my whole career in terms of the optimal way to go through the offseason. Its a fine balance between getting the rest you need but not shutting down too much because its really hard to get that ball rolling again come December and January. Off the bike, I do those things I never have the time or energy for during season. Hanging out with family or friends at the spur of the moment, volunteering or charity events, visit wifes school, going to church.

I catch up on regular life stuff and the to do list I’ve been neglecting the last 11 months. Once I’m back on top of all that stuff, I can get back into training without it weighing down in the back of my mind.

When you met with your Coach Jon Tarkington, what sort of topics did you two cover?

We were planning out the first month of the offseason. After mapping out various commitments like weddings and trips, we figured out what I’m motivated to do and we run with it. In my case, I could mountain bike, hike with the dogs, and split firewood all day long for a while. So I’m doing a lot of that, along with a bit of structure in the weight room re-addressing my injured leg.

How are you and Jon working together to meet your goals for the 2014 season?

One of Jon’s big roles for me, as with any coach, during this first part of the offseason, is holding me accountable, checking in often with me to make sure I’m doing what I say I’m gonna do. Like I said earlier, a goal of mine this Fall is to not shut down too much, keep the ball rolling by staying active and fit and not gain much weight. We’re also designing some creative ways to train. For example, I’m doing some scree hiking…scrambling around on loose rocks on a steep slope. That type of stimulus really works my injured leg hard, getting the small control muscles back. Were also planning on combining some mountain biking with hunting…think bikes with gun racks.

This is your 10th year training full time in the off-season, can you describe some of the innovation Coach Jon is bringing to your training so you can improve upon previous seasons?

This year I’ll be working more on my explosiveness in the offseason. My injured leg really needs that type of work to get back to normal strength, and those types of efforts aren’t my strongest suit anyways. So Jon will be designing some difficult but stimulating workouts for me. You can’t keep doing the same types of intervals every year because you will simply get the same results.

 

Thanks for the interview Timmy and best wishes for a fun & productive off season.  Click here to read more about the Off Season Program that we custom design for FasCat Athletes.   To talk with a FasCat Coach about setting up your OFF Season Program call 720.406.7444, email info@fascatcoaching.com for a New Athlete Questionnaire or stop in our Performance Center at 4550 North Broadway Street in Boulder, CO.

 

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Phil Gaimon, Professional Cyclist Team Garmin, Interview

FasCat Athlete Phil Gaimon spent a rest day answering the FasCat Coaches questions on training, cookies, host housing, Frankie Andreu, beer, the suck o meter, his VO2, skinny jeans, razors, Strava, mentors and his CTL.  Read on:

Coach Nadia: How do you know when its better to turn the bike around and get some rest on a training day?

If I get out and can’t push the power or heart rate I expect after an hour or so, there’s usually a good reason, be it fatigue, oncoming illness, etc, and it’s best to go home and take a nap. It’s funny how overlooked this is. I once bailed on a ride and a friend was shocked at my lack of dedication, like it was a bad thing to listen to my body.

What’s the recommended daily allowance of cookies for optimal happiness?

I need something with sugar and fat before I go to bed, but not necessarily a cookie these days. I think one good cookie per week gets the job done. It gives me something to hunt for and look forward to, and I don’t have to settle for a mediocre excuse for a cookie.

Coach Jake: When sleeping in a gymnasium where should you not place your airmattress? NOT UNDER THE BASKETBALL HOOP. To anyone who reads this, the question is a reference to host housing that Jake and I had at a gymnasium when we were teammates at the Tour of the Gila. Teammate Jim Stemper put all of his belongings under the basket, which didn’t work out for him when we played “HORSE” all week.

Do you still eat 2 cookies every night and not share as you only brought the appropriate quantity?

Nope. I’m proud to say that I’ve got the cookies under control, at least, relative to what it was then. These days, I have a cup of applesauce with a bug lump of almond butter mixed in, so I get the sugar and fat that I’m craving, but it’s natural, and YOUR TEAMMATES DON’T TRY TO STEAL YOUR COOKIES EVERY WEEK. THAT WASN’T FUNNY, JAKE!

What did you do when your director Frankie Andreu told the team to either get rested or get fit?  How did you decide?

Always a safe bet to go for rest. Team directors rarely give you that choice, opting to race you into the ground. During the season, there’s not that much training to be done, and it’s more about damage control for your body.

Favorite Brew, besides Bud Light Lime?

I’m not really a beer guy. I kind of missed the boat on drinking, I think because I was too busy racing bikes in college to party. I’m a fan of a glass of red wine with dinner, because someone told me that’s actually good for you. My favorite is when someone else picks it out because I don’t know anything about it. Even better when they also pay for it.

How many pairs of skinny jeans do you own?

Two, but I didn’t bring any to Europe. Those are only for Los Angeles. I’ve learned that the hard way.

What brand razor do you use?

When I was 18, Gillette had a promotion that they sent out free Mach 3 razors, and that’s all I’ve ever used. I guess their investment paid off…

What’s your favorite way to sell your old bikes: Craigslist or eBay?

I think I have to give my old bikes back these days. I doubt if Garmin will forget about these Cervelos. I’ve always been a big fan of eBay, though. I survived on that for a couple years. I still send stuff to old teammates Nick Waite at Pro Tested Gear at the end of every year.

Coach Carson: What are some ways you cope with the powermeter ‘o suck training ride?
Does that just mean when your legs hurt because you have a hard ride? I just eat a lot. The more you eat, the more you have to turn.

What is your VO2?

86 ml/min/kg

Coach Melissa: What’s the hardest/most epic race you’ve ever done and why?

The Tour of San Luis probably just topped anything I’ve never done. Not because it was an incredibly hard course or anything (although it was plenty hard), but it was the first 7-day stage race where I’ve had to race for GC, meaning I can’t take a day off to recover. Every day there were crosswinds, mountaintop finishes, or heat to deal with, and there were a couple stages that I found myself collapsed in a heap after the finish, unable to get up.

What is your favorite Strava segment?

I’ve avoided Strava, because I get my competition out of my system during the races, but I love all the canyons in the Santa Monica/Malibu area, and I have looked at the segment for Decker to compare my times after an interval session there (I smashed it).

What has kept you moving forward and motivated to train & race, especially when life has gotten tough (aka living off $167/month) ?

I wrote a book with the answer to that question [ Ed: Pro Cycling on $10/Day] , so it’s hard to summarize, but bikes are a wonderful thing, and I love racing. It was a long journey, but it’s a huge privilege to be where I am today, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What’s the most food you have ever eaten in a 1 day race?

I think it was probably the first stage at San Luis. I was in the break all day with no peloton to deal with, and the car was right there, making it really eat to stay hydrated and fueled. In five hours, I probably had 8 bars, 10 gels, drank 10 bottles, and dumped 15 more bottles on my head.

Best advice for young up & comers, who want to race at a high level?

Read my book, Pro Cycling on $10 a Day. It’s pretty much all the things I wish I’d known when I started: what you’re in for if you decide to chase pro cycling, what it’s really like on the way, and why it’s worth it.

Coach Frank: What cyclists do you look up to?

Honestly, the ones that juggle bike racing with other things impresses me. I’ve focused on it and dedicated so much, that it’s always shocking to meet someone who can hang on the group ride, and then you find out they’re also a doctor or something. Like they’re 80% as good as I am, and this is all I do. My girlfriend works in TV, and she gets up at 6 AM, on the bike by 7, at work by 9, but she’s no slouch on race day.

Did you have any mentors along your way and why were they so helpful?

Too many to mention here, between all the teammates and friends I’ve had over the years. The coaches at University of Florida (a married couple, Dan and Rebecca Larson) taught me a lot when I was coming up, and we’re still close friends. Jeremy Powers has always been a big help.

What’s your CTL right now?

CTL? I don’t know. Isn’t that your department? [Coach Frank: It’s 97 and projected to go up 135 with Mallorca, training camp, and individual training before Catalunya.]

Copyright 2016 , FasCat Coaching

 

Phil’s a FasCat Athlete and you can be too! Get started by filling out a New Athlete Questionnaire to have a Coaching Consultation with a FasCat Coach. Or call 720.406.7444 or email info@fascatcoaching.com

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Timmy Duggan

Timmy Duggan’s Off Season Training Program Interview 10.9.13

FasCat Athlete Timmy Duggan spends a significant amount of time at the FasCat Performance Center talking with his coach, Jon Tarkington because communication is the foundation of a successful coach-athlete relationship. Last week, Timmy sat down with Coach Jon to set up his off season training program and here is what he had to say about it:

What are your goals this off season and how are you training to meet those goals?

My first goal this offseason is to get my injured leg completely back to normal. I just got the metal hardware out this week that repaired my broken leg at the beginning of this season, and I already feel like a different person. Ill take this opportunity to re-focus on my leg strengthening rehab. Ill also use the winter to address my weaknesses in the explosive effort department, doing a lot of short, high intensity strength and power work.

Can you describe the ways you keep your training diverse in October?

I am doing a lot of mountain biking, hiking, & work in the gym. Plus manual labor (!); it’s productive AND and a good workout. On the bike, I’m trying to just keep it fun. For about 330 days/year, every ride I do has a goal and a specific focus. Its rare I ride solely for the fun of it. If I want to do an easy spin on the

We stress (& coach) year-round to our FasCat athletes about balancing their life: family, parenting, relationships, career, etc… What do you do to enhance balance to your life in the off-season?

I’ve been learning about myself my whole career in terms of the optimal way to go through the offseason. Its a fine balance between getting the rest

you need but not shutting down too much because its really hard to get that ball rolling again come December and January. Off the bike, I do those things I never have the time or energy for during season. Hanging out with family or friends at the spur of the moment, volunteering or charity events, visit wifes school, going to church.

I catch up on regular life stuff and the to do list I’ve been neglecting the last 11 months. Once I’m back on top of all that stuff, I can get back into training without it weighing down in the back of my mind.

When you met with your Coach Jon Tarkington, what sort of topics did you two cover?

We were planning out the first month of the offseason. After mapping out various commitments like weddings and trips, we figured out what I’m motivated to do and we run with it. In my case, I could mountain bike, hike with the dogs, and split firewood all day long for a while. So I’m doing a lot of that, along with a bit of structure in the weight room re-addressing my injured leg.

How are you and Jon working together to meet your goals for the 2014 season?

One of Jon’s big roles for me, as with any coach, during this first part of the offseason, is holding me accountable, checking in often with me to make sure I’m doing what I say I’m gonna do. Like I said earlier, a goal of mine this Fall is to not shut down too much, keep the ball rolling by staying active and fit and not gain much weight. We’re also designing some creative ways to train. For example, I’m doing some scree hiking…scrambling around on loose rocks on a steep slope. That type of stimulus really works my injured leg hard, getting the small control muscles back. Were also planning on combining some mountain biking with hunting…think bikes with gun racks.

This is your 10th year training full time in the off-season, can you describe some of the innovation Coach Jon is bringing to your training so you can improve upon previous seasons?

This year I’ll be working more on my explosiveness in the offseason. My injured leg really needs that type of work to get back to normal strength, and those types of efforts aren’t my strongest suit anyways. So Jon will be designing some difficult but stimulating workouts for me. You can’t keep doing the same types of intervals every year because you will simply get the same results.

Thanks for the interview Timmy and best wishes for a fun & productive off season.

 

 

Click here to read more about the Off Season Program that we custom design for FasCat Athletes. To talk with a FasCat Coach about setting up your OFF Season Program call 720.406.7444, email info@fascatcoaching.com for a New Athlete Questionnaire or stop in our Performance Center at 4550 North Broadway Street in Boulder, CO.

Copyright 2013, all rights reserved.