What's Cool In Road Cycling

Real Rider: Background and Goals

In our 2006 Real Rider series, our Toolbox Editor and Brian Walton from Cadence Cycling will be using Stephen as a guinea pig to illustrate the merging of sport science and sound coaching principles. Today, we lay out Stephen’s background and goals…

Welcome to 2006! Now that turkeys around the world can breathe a sigh of relief for another ten months or so, it’s time to get back to our training.

One of the limitations with training writing is that the concepts can appear very general and esoteric unless we see them applied in real life. Therefore, to kick off the New Year, we will be re-launching our “Real Rider” series, with the goal of illustrating and actually applying the training and sport science principles we have been discussing over the past few years of Toolbox.

Over the course of 2006, we will be using me as a case study, working through most of the principles and steps of designing and implementing an individualized annual training plan. This will be done primarily in collaboration with Brian Walton and Cadence Performance Cycling Center.

We’re all Individuals!
As we have always emphasized on Toolbox, there is no single best training program for everybody. We all have our own physiology, body type, and genetics (e.g., fast or slow twitch muscle dominance) that may steer us towards a preference or higher potential in one cycling discipline (e.g., crits, hills, road races, track, etc.). At the same time, we all have our own history in the sport, which will in turn affect things like volume/intensity load and technical needs (e.g., cadence, bike handling). Then there is the simple fact that we all have our own work, family, and community involvement that we need to fit our training around.

Honesty is my Middle Name
Actually, this is true, as my Chinese name means ‘always honest.’ But even if you can’t make the same claim, the first and most important principle in planning your training is to be completely honest with yourself. There is no point in setting unrealistic targets that simply set you up for failure and frustration. The most frustrating thing in any partnership is miscommunication, so this need for complete honesty also extends to your relationship with your coach.

Tell Me About Your Childhood
So with honesty in mind, here are the basics about my background in the sport. In the next Real Rider article, we will plan distinct goals through different parts of the season. At the same time, we will go through developing workouts that fit into a workable training schedule.

• 38 in 2006, full-time job as university professor, wife and 2 young children (helping to home school the oldest one).
• Began cycling and competing in 1986. Raced heavily (Cat. 3) to 1991, with sporadic racing (ranging from 0-12 races/y) since. Specifically, 3 granfondo rides in 2005 but no races.
• Currently in Masters A group in Nova Scotia (~30 of varying ability in pack). Generally competitive in main group but 2-3 other riders are distinct level above in ability.
• Average 300 h training a year. Most of this is done as cycling. Cross-training during winter primarily squash, resistance/stability ball training, and swimming.
• Preference for long (~80 km) road races.
• Self-described lousy time trialist throughout entire career (that doesn’t even include getting passed by Brian for 5 min in a 15 km TT in 1989!). Good in sprint (relative to peers), OK to weak in climbing relative to peers.
• Generally a slow-responder to training stimulus.
• 64.5 kg, 177 cm, 7-8% body fat. Pretty skinny (ectomorphic) body type that doesn’t change weight much or quickly.
• No medical issues except for mild hay fever that mainly flare up briefly in summer and especially with travel to new places. No history of biomechanical problems (knee, back) on the bike.

Current Status
In addition to knowing what the athlete has done before, it is also important to know the “state of the union” concerning the athlete. This can help us to determine if there are particular issues that need to be addressed, and help us in planning workouts too. What are some current data that needs to be considered or might be relevant in my case?

• Diet generally pretty moderate and balanced in general (look for upcoming dietary analysis). Could certainly be improved but time and family constraints an obstacle. No food allergies.
• Shoulder injury from fall 2005 generally recovered and doesn’t affect cycling. Does affect ability to cross-train (swim, racquet sports, and some resistance training exercises).
• My lab is within the university athletic complex, so I have ready access to a pool, full weight room, showers, etc. I have a set of rollers in the office, and will have a CompuTrainer by the end of January there.
• At home, I have a set of rollers (with 2 optional fans for resistance) and an older magnetic trainer, along with a stability ball and some weights.

Brian’s Analysis
Stephen hit the nail on the head when he said “be completely honest with yourself.” All this bike riding is about YOU and what YOU are trying to achieve. The coach is your tool to help YOU achieve your goals. Miscommunication should not be an issue when dealing with training because the game plan should be set out well in advance between the coach and athlete and the discussions regarding goals and the broad brush approach (annual plan) regarding how to get there should already be in place.

The 2006 schedule for racing is not out yet, and races also tend to move around quite a bit, making hard scheduling of goals a little bit difficult. However, there typically tends to be a concentration of road races in May and June, then the scene tends to die down a bit until late summer (mid-August through September), when there are a few more races. Most of the races in NS are similar: ~80 km rolling road races for Masters A, with two crits (~40 min) in the May/June period. There is a Best All Around title up for grabs in addition.

So my goals:

• Podium in a road race and also a crit during the May/June racing block.
• Given the fact I’ll be traveling for two weeks during the main racing block, the BAR title may or may not be realistic. Therefore, I would rather focus on individual races.
• In July, I will likely travel with my family to visit out west for a month. During that time, I will be doing an 8 day (~100 km/d) supported bike tour with my wife and brother.
• I have historically tapered off training intensity, volume, and overall dedication as the summer progresses, due to family holidays and activities. Depending on the second half racing calendar, I will target either a specific race or a top 3 BAR if that is still viable.

Brian’s Analysis
So the game plan has been put in motion, the goals are set and we have created our initial heart rate/power (baseline) numbers from the beginning of October in the lab at Cadence (see our next article for baseline tests and analysis). At the end of January after Steve spends a little more time on the bike and further into general preparation phase of his training I’ll retest Steve using an indoor test to see how we are progressing.

Testing and retesting serves many purposes but the two most important reasons for testing are (1) to determine an athlete’s current zones (benchmark) and (2) to see how an athlete is adapting (improving) to the training plan. I frequently find myself telling athletes that having low numbers does not indicate a test is bad but is simply a stepping stone to future improvements. In other words, don’t get caught up in the numbers. Use the test results for what they are, an indication of your current fitness level and assurance that you are training zones are up to date. Next month we’ll see how Stephen is coming along!

About Stephen and Brian:

Brian Walton has a uniquely well-rounded perspective on training and coaching. He was one of the top Canadian riders of the 80s and 90s, riding as a pro with 7-Eleven, Motorola, and Saturn, and winning the 1989 Milk Race and silver in the 1996 Olympic Points Race. He then became the DS and coach for Team Snow Valley, turning it into the top Elite Men’s team in the USA. He is currently the Director of Performance for Cadence Cycling in Philadelphia, and can be reached for comments or coaching inquiries at [email protected].

Stephen Cheung is an Associate Professor of Kinesiology at Dalhousie University, with a research specialty in the effects of thermal stress on human physiology and performance. Stephen’s company, Podium Performance, also provides elite sport science and training support to provincial and national-level athletes in a number of sports. He can be reached for comments at [email protected].

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