What's Cool In Road Cycling

Pro Shop: The Older the Violin, the Sweeter the Music

There’s a clichй that states, “The older the violin, the sweeter the music.” continuing with our series about cycling and age, we asked our contributing professionals – Bobby Julich (CSC), Mike Sayers (Healthnet) and Scott Moninger (Healthnet) how age has, for the positive or negative, affected them as athletes that perform at the highest level of our sport. I think you might be surprised with the answers to these questions!

Pez: As you have gotten older, what has changed from a physical perspective, and how have you compensated for that change?

Bobby Julich My body has become stronger and able to take harder training and stress. I have also noticed that my body weight is more stable and my endurance is better. I believe that all of the changes that my body has gone through have been a positive and that I will get even better just like a good wine.

Mike Sayers For me most of the changes have been positive. While my weight has remained the same, give or take, my body fat has dropped significantly over the years. I can only attribute this to increase in races and their difficulty. When I was an amateur, I was much more of a sprinter. Over the years, my climbing has improved allowing my body to go from a “Ferrari” to a “Mack truck.” This has allowed me, in some cases and forced me in others, to change my racing style. I no longer can win bunch sprints so I focus on longer, harder road races. It has opened up more opportunity for me from a racing stand point. My body has matured over the years and I matured mentally to close the gap and maximize my new found abilities.

Scott Moninger What has changed most for me physically over the years is the inability to recover in a very short time from a very extreme effort. Something like the Boulder-Breckenridge race or the U.S. Pro Championship race in Philly. A very long, hard, demanding one-day race I will feel for two, sometimes three days afterwards. I don’t think this was the case for me 15 years ago. The nice thing is that I do know this about my body and I give myself an extra day or two of recovery time after big one day events.

Pez: What has improved with age? In other words, “If you knew then, what you know now…”

Bobby Julich I think that my mental strength, patience, and belief in myself have gotten me through a lot of ups and downs. The one thing that I think has gotten better with age is the experience on how to deal with the unpredictable things that pop up from time to time. I have always believed that everything happens for a reason and that you have to pay attention to signs that are put in front of you to help you along the way. Bottom line is that you have to listen to your body and give it what it needs. Sometimes it is a few more hard efforts, but sometimes it is having a big dessert or a Big Mac!

Mike Sayers Acceptance – I have learned to accept what my body can do and more importantly can’t do. I no longer beat myself up over things that physically my body has limitations on. This in turn has allowed me to relax mentally which means less stress. Stress can be the number one destructor of careers, and I have tried to do my best to eliminate it from my training and racing. I now celebrate and embrace my successes and accept my failures as learning experience.

Scott Moninger: What has gotten better for me with age is that I have so many years of data, trial/error experience, and practical knowledge, that I have a pretty good idea how my body is going to react to everything I throw at it. As a result, I can usually predict how I’m going to respond to certain types of training/racing, which has taken a lot of the guess work out of how I prepare for events like the Tour of Georgia or the Tour of the Gila. I honestly don’t know how much I or anyone could accelerate a process like experience. Even Lance was a pro for 8 years before winning his first tour. Would I trade it for youth? Maybe in ten years!

Let’s summarize:

No Regrets I think it’s interesting that all three of these successful pros never mentioned anything about “regrets” or “I wish I could do it over again”. All three have accepted growing older by using what they have learned to improve and honestly believe that it has contributed to their improvement (like a fine wine as Bobby mentioned). To me, this is sign of true champion and that they will all be successful in whatever they choose to do after competitive cycling is over.

Focus on Recovery Only Scott talks about recovery being an issue. I think Scott is a bit older than the other two, so maybe Bobby and Mike still have to get there (sorry guys!).

Improved Endurance Endurance improves over the years, as both Bobby and Mike point out. Cycling is a sport that requires an enormous amount of repetition. There are no quick secrets to success, only years and years of hard work, which do build upon each other.

Acceptance What Mike points out about “acceptance” is very important. This is a component of maturity and not trying to be all things in all situations. It’s about knowing yourself as a person and an athlete and using your strengths, while working on your weaknesses to make you an all around better rider. Remember, it’s easy to get into a comfort zone and work on what you are already good at. It’s much more difficult to work and improve on your weaknesses.

Appreciation of Age Over the years things have changed in cycling from an age perspective. Back in the mid 80’s, it seemed in general, if you were around 30 years of age, it was over! Today is such a different story, as training techniques have improved, riders are staying fitter long and using experience as a distinct advantage over younger competitors. Bike racing is a thinking person’s sport. It’s the combination of being strong AND smart that makes you successful. It’s obvious that experience has made all three of these professionals a lot smarter!

We at Pez look forward to watching and following the careers of these three. Bobby is having one of the best years of his professional career and we know the Tour is so important for him and CSC, as he attempts to get back that form that put him on the podium back in 1998. Mike continues to be one the top forces in US Cycling. He is as strong and as dedicated as any rider out there (and that I have personally ever known) and this year has been no different. As we approach the big races in June on the East Coast, look for Mike to be a major presence. Scott continues to amaze and has this year won multiple races including the Tour of the Gila. We wish continued success to these “older” athletes as they continue their remarkable careers. Yes, these three violins produce some sweet music!

Wisdom of Age 2: The Physiology of Aging.

Wisdom of Age 1: Diaries Don’t Lie!

Bruce Hendler created AthletiCamps to provide cycling specific coaching and training to athletes and cyclists of all levels. Find out more at www.athleticamps.com

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