PEZ Talk: Chris Carmichael’s New Book!
As if coaching the biggest comeback in modern cycling isn’t enough to fill your plate, Chris Carmichael just launched a tour to support his new book “The Time Crunched Cyclist”. But he still found time to talk about it all with PEZ…
PEZ: You joined the 7-11 team in 1985, and rode the Giro that year. 7-11 placed two riders in the top 35 – Andy Hampsten and Jonathan Boyer. Tell us a story about one of your experiences during that Giro…
Chris: We won two stages too; Andy won a stage and Ron Kiefel won a stage. We had no idea what we were doing. It was me, Ron Kiefel, Andy Hampsten, Davis Phinney, primarily guys from America and then we had Jock Boyer. Jock has supplied a lot of leadership, he knew the area, he knew the European peloton, he knew all of the directors, and he had raced the Giro. And the Director of the team was Mike Neel. Mike spent a lot of his career racing in Italy, he spoke Italian and he knew a lot of directors as well.
But we came in and we kind of just did it our way. We really didn’t have anyone telling us to do it another way. And if you look at what we achieved: Won two stages, for a first year team, that was pretty incredible. Murray was the name on the bikes, but Ben Serotta made our bikes and they were all great bikes. I think the one story that I’ve got is I remember there was a stage that was a really good stage for Ron Kiefel. It was a short uphill finish, and the plan was to get us all in line and pull as hard as we could for Ron to get a kilometer up the hill, when he would attack the last two kilometers… and we said he will just win the stage. His nickname was “Wookie”, and we said “Wookie” will win the stage. So, we got out there and we started doing it and we did exactly what we said we were going to do! It was crazy!
“It was holy shit! Something is going on.”
PEZ: I have spoken to Bob Roll about his training with Lance Armstrong in North Carolina. Bob said about that experience “It gave Lance and I a chance to talk about what cycling meant and about some of the psychic wounds from racing in Europe. It gave Lance a chance to focus on what he would like to do…. what his legacy was going to be.” Can you share a story about that long wet week of training in North Carolina with Bob and Lance?
(At this point in the interview loud – I mean ear shattering surf music – begins from the Clif Bar area next door. Chris to his credit carried on with the interview without missing a beat.)
Chris: I Flew down to Austin, Lance had already quit bike racing, quit Paris/Nice and he decided he would do one more race – The US Pro Championships. So we were looking for a place to go to train, and he had already spent that winter training is Santa Barbara. And I said “what about Boone?”
We had spent time in Boone training for the Tour DuPont early in his career. We really dug that town. It was a really kind of cool – hippie’s kind of town and had a really good feel to it. We were driving from the airport from Charlotte to Boone it was like perfect Spring weather, it was like 75 degrees, the flowers were out, and we are heading up into the mountains. It was just me and Lance, Bob Roll was flying in the next day. We were both saying “Hey this is going to be a really cool camp.” And we get to this cabin, I mean a cabin – and the next day we wake up and it is pouring rain, kind of rain-snow mix and it was cold and it was like that the entire ten days.
Bob joined us and it was this kind of perfect storm. You know Bob was still racing. He was riding for I think Team Z…mountain bike racing and his career was winding down. Bob, Lance and I kind of grew up racing together. I worked with Lance through his career, when he was with the national team, with Motorola and then his cancer. It was this perfect storm of just three guys that had a long history together. Nothing else around, we were working on bikes, cooking the meals at night and just a great camaraderie. Getting over those roads where Lance kind of ruled The Tour DuPont in that time period and kind of reconnecting in a way, and with Bob sort of working his magic on it so to speak. Just hanging out telling bullshit stories and doing everything – nothing. There was no thought of going to win the Tour de France or anything. It was just getting back to one more race.
There was one day that it all changed. It was on Beach Mountain, about a week into the training camp and this day was about one hundred and twenty miles and we would climb up Beech Mountain. And then I would load the bikes onto the car and we would drive 30 miles back to the cabin. That day, Bob and Lance hit Beech Mountain and Bob got dropped immediately and I was following Lance and it turned from this rain to this snow mix and he kept getting out of the saddle attacking. He’d sit down and attack again and go for it and then sit back down and then attack again. I’m like what the hell is he doing, you know? I was watching him and he was just driving it. I pulled up beside him and rolled down the window and he was just pouring with sweat. There was nobody around, there was a cow over here, and a big rock over here, and Bob Roll twenty minutes back. I started honking the horn leaning out of the window of the car and yelling Allez, Allez! It was like he was in a race. He just kept driving it to the top. At the top I will always remember what he said. All he said was “Give me my rain jacket, I am riding back.” So, I gave him his rain jacket and it was holy shit! Something is going on.
We start coming back down the hill. Here is Bob about half way up saying “What the fuck!?” I roll down the window, and I say “Lance is riding back.” And Bob goes, “Well I want to get in the car.” And I go “No, you gotta ride back.” But it was that day that it all changed. On that day, on that mountain. Because Lance said, “Hey there is this race called the First Union Grand Prix…I want to do that race.” It was in three days in Atlanta. It was a cool week. Something I will remember for the rest of my life. Lance’s victories were great and everything. But it was just a really intimate time with two guys that I had very long relationships. Bob – racing together as an athlete, racing together in Northern California. And Lance, coaching him since he was 17.
Time Crunched Training Program
PEZ: During Lance Armstrong’s comeback this year, Lance used multiple high altitude exposures- specifically at Aspen, Colorado to increase the intensity of his interval training at sea level. Can you give us an overview of the role that specifically intensity plays in new book?
In the past we looked at training programs for pro cyclists and stripped some of the volume from them and tried to fit them in into someone’s life. But that really doesn’t work for somebody that has three kids, a career and is trying to train on 45 minutes to an hour and a half and getting in six to seven hours a week. So for the Time Crunched Cyclist we really looked at how could we have the biggest impact and get the greatest quality in the training and make sure they got the things that were necessary for getting good adaptation. So, it really centered around improving the rate at which you delivered oxygen to your muscles. So, very high intensity training in efforts of about three to four minutes in length with proper recovery and making sure you got the nutrition that supports a program like that.
Chris’s newest bookThe Time Crunched Cyclist is worth a look for anyone with a ‘real’ life.
So we created a new paradigm to train an athlete really around training six to seven hours a week. That’s what we did also with the understanding that for a lot of people…..its dynamic – meaning people may be able to put in some training…they may be able to take a Thursday to Sunday and put in some high volume training with the understanding that you can put in periods like that. And for the Time Crunched Cyclist, when they go on Spring break, they’re bringing their bike. They may have their wife and kids with them but they are going to try and do three to four hours a day for six days. So how do you structure all of this in and make it so that it really fits for that Time Crunched Cyclist. So we developed this new training paradigm and we have seen great results.
PEZ: If my goal is to ride a century or become a competitive Cat III cyclist, tell me about the Time Crunched Periodization Plan and how this plan will help me attain my goal?
The standard periodization model is built around an elite athlete that has all of the time in the world to train. So foundation miles are very important. I am definitely not saying that an elite athlete needs to be doing this type of training. But the periodization model for a Time Crunched Cyclist – putting in twenty hours a week of foundation miles just doesn’t happen. So they were trying to put in ten hours a week of two hours a day of foundation miles at very low intensity…that gives you no adaptation. The volume is too small to create any serious positive adaptation. So, we ended up throwing that out of the model and focused on preparation specialization to shorten up the periodization model and focus on how you are going to get the greatest adaptation. So we cycle in through the course of the year very high intense training periods throughout. Whether it is December or November or February when typically it would be taboo because that’s when you would be doing some base miles and lower intensity miles. But a Time Crunched Cyclist isn’t getting enough time to get the adaptation. So there is no reason to do it.
PEZ: Everyone has seen that Lance’s cadence can be 10 – 20 revolutions higher than other riders in the peloton. Talk about the importance of a high cadence range and sub-threshold interval work on a targeted training program.
Lance has focused on sub-threshold and higher cadence ranges and that really changed how people approached training. The use of power meters became very pervasive. And the fact that you could lower the power per pedal stroke and do it at a higher cadence became really well known. That’s one of the things we spent working on with Lance. We do a lot of very high cadence work to get these types of adaptations.
One thing we do with the Time Crunched Cyclist is to be able to also do similar high cadence work, but it may be sub threshold, but because of all of that rapid muscle movement, they are much more aerobically active, so consequently we are still working on oxygen delivery. The load is still on oxygen delivery, which is where you get the greatest adaptation.
PEZ: In a Tour de France report for PEZ this year you wrote: “the edge that is needed to attack and win the Tour – the one that Lance had so many times….may be the only thing that hasn’t completely returned from his pre-retirement days.” Name a few riders in the peloton today that you think might have that potential “edge to attack and win the Tour.”
Alberto was clearly the strongest rider in the tour. His ability to attack, his ability to accelerate…nobody could match. I think next year we’ll be surprised with Lance being able to match if not exceed that. But that’s next year. But I think a guy like Bradley Wiggins. That’s ultimately an area that he’s going to need to look at to be able to create that type of acceleration. I don’t think a guy like Wiggins needs to necessarily…..he may not have that ability to accelerate like that. He may have a different mix in order to win the Tour. If you looked at Miguel Indurain, he never had that type of acceleration. Probably Wiggins is a similar type of rider. He’s probably going to try and be most deadly during the time trials. Gain his time in the time trials and hold his own in the mountains. Eliminating loss from a guy like Alberto. So with Wiggins, you don’t want to change the nature of the rider too much. If he focused on his time trialing is where he gains his time in order to win the Tour, would fit in his nature and would be taking a card from the Indurain play book.
Bradley Wiggins: his own mix of TT domination and climbing confidence could be a Tour winning combo.
I think that Andy Schleck definitely is a guy who falls in that category after his performance this year. His ability to accelerate has been shown, but his weakness is his time trialing. What he is going to have to do is clearly gain his time on a guy like Wiggins and be able to stay with Contador and see where an opportunity can present itself. What he has to do is limit his losses in the time trial. That’s a huge achilles heel. And to be honest that is a bigger, more difficult problem to solve.
PEZ: We have touched on just a few of your training philosophies described in this book. Is there anything else you want to mention that you believe is important to your Time Crunched Training Program?
A school of thought is that if you only have six hours a week, every workout that you do has to be maximal…. as hard as you can go…….cause you don’t have much time to train. The thought is that you can’t over train on six hours….that’s not really true; you really can.
After a while there is no progression, there is no specificity, there is no periodization and so it is easy to over train. But I see that a lot in the Time Crunched Cyclist. Cyclists say they don’t have enough time to over train, so every ride they do they go as hard as they can. There is no focus on what the goal is they want to improve with that work out. And the fundamental principals of training always apply. Overload to recovery. You need to make sure you recover from your workout. Make sure that your training has a focus and a discipline to it.
Thank you to Dave Trendler of VeloPress for organizing this interview with Chris!
• Get a copy of Chris new book The Time Crunched Cyclist – US$19.95 from Velopress.com
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