Monday, March 21, 2011

Assessing your Winter Training Program?

The warm mid 70 degree temps last Friday should tell you that Spring/Summer is near.  In fact, today is the first day of Spring..yeah.  Too bad it doesn't feel that way...especially if you woke up to the brief sleet/snow shower like I did this morning.  Regardless, Spring is here..and Summer is right around the corner..and that means..RACE SEASON is ON!  If you're not eyeing up your first should be.  Because, regardless of how well (or hard) you trained this Winter the tell-tale sign of a good/successful Winter Training Program is your first race result.  If you already raced, how did you do?  Did you place well?  Did you get dropped?  How was your endurance?  How was your power?  How was your speed/accelerations?  Your first race is a good time to assess your strengths and weaknesses.  You want to continue working on your weaknesses.  If you're like most racers..your power will be adequate but your speed and endurance will be lacking.  That's ok.  The endurance will come when the weather gets nicer and there is more daylight to train after work and you get those longer rides in on the weekend.  And, if you have a good training should be starting to work on developing your Anaerobic Capacity (AC)..that is your sprint speed, accelerations and power.   For AC work, I like to find a hill in a residential neighborhood that is approximately a 1/4 mile long with an 8% grade.  I like to do my 30s intervals on the hill and use the remaining 3/4 mile of a loop to recover.  For increasing my Power, I like to find a longer hill that will take me approximately 3-5 minutes long to climb.  I do hill repeats until I can no longer maintain my VO2max power.  Each week, or other week, I like to see if I can add one more climb.  On theweekends, I like to get a "hilly" 3-4 hr. ride in..and include some sprints along the way.

If one of your goals was to lose weight over the Winter (like mine), you should be nearing that goal.  You do NOT want to be losing weight during the racing season...because usually with that weight're going to lose some power. I already observed that this Winter.  I lost 11 lbs. from November and dipped below the 170 lb. mark for the first time since High School.  Yes, High School.  I feel much better..especially climbing.  But, I do know I lost some of my power..which is evident by my last FTP test.  However, I didn't lose much..maybe 5-10 watts or so.  That is an acceptable trade-off in my opinion..especially since a 12 lb. weight loss equates to nearly a 10% power gain when climbing.  That is, if I required 300 watts to climb a given hill in 3's only going to take 270 watts to climb the same hill in 3 minutes.  So, the net effect is about a 20-25 watt power increase over last year.  I can already tell I'm climbing better than I did last year.  I don't feel like I'm as gassed after reaching the top of familiar climbs. 

So, get out there and race.  If you don't race, join a fast group ride.  Who cares if you think you are ready or not.  Don't worry about your placing or getting dropped in a race or group ride.  Just use the race/ride to assess your Winter Training Program.  Start working on your weaknesses BEFORE your 'A' priority races.  There's a long warm/hot summer ahead of us with plenty of time to get stronger/faster.  Your training should also start mirroring your races and becoming more "race specific".  That is, if you're signing up for a Crit...start working on your sprint/acceleration training.  If you're signing up for a longer Road Race..make sure you get out on the longer rides on the weekend and upping the pace/effort. 

Good Luck this year!  Power ON! Rob

2011 USA Cycling Rulebook

Here's the link for the 2011 Rulebook.  Please read it.  Knowing the rules will work to your advantage.  Trust me.   Here is a rule you should know, especially if you race Criteriums that relates to the Free Lap Rule, Rule 3D5 (d): A rider granted a free lap must re-enter the race before the final 8km of the race.

So, lets say your Crit is advertised as 60 min. long instead of laps (like the Collegiate races).  After a few laps of the race, the officials will average the time per lap.  That's why you'll see the lap counter at 00 for the first few laps of your race- the officials are computing the number of laps remaining.  If your average time per lap is 3 min. long you will most likely be doing 20 laps +/- 1 lap.  If the Crit loop is 1.1 miles long, that means you'll be racing a total of 22 miles.  22 miles x 5280 ft./mile= 116,160 ft  Divide that by 3.28 ft/meter= 35,414 meters  Divide this number by 8000 meters (8km) and you get 4.4 laps.  That will be the cut-off for a free lap.  I believe the officials will round that off to either 4 or 5 laps.

If your average time per lap for the first few laps is 2.5 min (for the same race) that's 24 laps instead of 20 laps you'll be racing.  24 laps times 1.1 miles per lap = 26.4 miles.  That translates to 5.3 laps.  Therefore, your cutoff for a free lap will be either 5 or 6 laps.  Oh, and that's 5 or 6 laps left in the race that the "leaders" see.  So, if you're 1/2 mile behind the leaders and you flat out and see 5 or 6 on the lap counter (which is clearly displayed just past the finish line) then there are no more free laps.  Hope this makes sense.  If not, email me:  So, in general, for a 60 min. race with a 1.1 mile loop and an average speed of 2.5 to 3 min. per lap you're looking at anywhere from 4-6 laps remaining until you no longer get a free lap for a mishap.  BTW, "mishap" is defined as a mechanical or crash.  See your rulebook for definitions.

If you race mostly USAC Crits the races are advertised by laps. i.e. Cat 1/2/3 race is 27 laps long regardless of how long it takes to complete a lap.  For that, you just multiply the number of laps times the distance per lap.  If it's a 1 mile lap, that's 27 miles...or 5.4 laps until no more Free Lap is granted.

Also, if you're a Crit racer and there is a pit area in the race- USE IT!  I can't tell you how many riders flat and don't have a spare wheel in the pit area.  You get a Free Lap for a flat.  It's ok to use a "team wheel" that's in the pit area.  Just make sure your team is aware of this.  You don't want to steal a wheel that your teammate thinks is earmarked for them.  Mark your wheels with a piece of paper, or tag, or anything identifying it as yours.  The pit area gets crowded with wheels.  After a while they all look the same.  It would help to put your name and telephone number on the tag that you can easily pull off.  Some teams put a label/sticker on the wheels.  I can't tell you how many wheels are left in the pit area after a race.  I could start a business selling them on eBay..I'm serious.  And, be sure you know how to quickly change a wheel in the pit area.  The Official in the pit area is NOT a mechanic and does NOT have any obligation to help you change a wheel.  Yes, they may hold your bike for you while you change a wheel but they are NOT going to do it for you.  And, you don't have all day to change a wheel..just one lap.  If you don't know how to change a rear wheel..or don't think you can change it quickly can always put a spare bike in the pit area.  A rear wheel change should NOT take any longer than 30s..if it does, practice at home.  The pit Official will hold your bike or spare wheel while you change your flat.  When changing a rear wheel remember to shift your gears to the lowest gear and open your brake pads to make it easier to remove the old wheel and install the new wheel.  Not only is it easier to change the wheel it's easier to get back into the race and up to speed in a lower gear.   

The last thing you want to make sure of is the placement of your bib number BEFORE the race.  PLEASE make sure it's on the correct side and is shown clearly to the Officials.  If they can't see your number you won't get placed correctly.  And PLEASE do NOT crinkle or fold your bib number.  If you do, it makes it harder for the Officials to see it.  And trust me, you don't want to make it hard on the Official or you could be misplaced.  Besides, crinkling the number will not make you more aero.  If you want to cut down on a flapping bib number, put more pins in it. 

Know the may save your race one of these days.  Power ON! Coach Rob 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Another reason to get outside and ride!

You may think I'm nuts after you take a look at the photo I attached to this blog and read the title.  Doesn't make sense..does it?  Get outside and ride so you can encounter flooded roads like the one pictured here?  (BTW, that was River Rd. on Saturday less than 1/2 mile East of Ferry Rd. near Lumberville, PA.  I'm sure there are a lot of other places like it along the Delaware River after the recent hard rains.)

The reason I think it's important to get outside and ride when conditions are like this is because you never know if/when you have to race in conditions where there is a lot of crap in the roads and the roads are still wet.  (Granted, you won't have to ride through 4 ft. of water on a flooded road like the one pictured..ha)  Race organizers/promotors do the best they can to ensure the course is clean/clear..but I've encountered races where there was STILL "junk" in the road leftover from a storm that wasn't removed. 

The last stage of todays Paris-Nice race also made me think about riding in wet conditions.  Is that the reason why Thomas Voekler won the last stage today?  Did he have more experience riding in wet conditions than the rest of the peloton- which allowed him to descend FASTER than anyone else? Bob Roll seemed to suggest that.   (Or possibly because the peloton let him win since he's French..ha)

Do you know how your bike handles on high speed descents when the roads are wet- not to mention your brake pads and rims?  That could be the difference between winning a race and finishing in the pack.

Here's another reason to get outside and ride- regardless of the conditions.  Today I rode for 3 hrs. in the cold and wind.  How do I know that some of my races this year won't be in the same conditions?  I don't.  Some will be cold..windy!  I think riding in cold windy conditions makes you more conscience of your bike position.  How keeping an aero position can help cheat the wind.  And, how wearing the proper clothing will keep you at the correct temperature.  Dress too warm..and you're going to overheat and lose power.  Dress too light..and besides freezing your a$$ off- your body is going to burn too much energy trying to stay warm.

The racing season has officially get off that indoor trainer and make each training ride count outside.  You never know if you're going to have to race under less than ideal conditions.  Besides, riding in crappy weather (including the rain) will give you confidence to ride under any condition come race will give you an edge over riders that never ride in such conditions.  Trust me!

Power ON!  Coach Rob

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Get outside and RIDE!

I don't have to tell you the days are getting longer and the fact that it's Daylight Savings Time (DST) this weekend.  So, don't forget to set your clocks 1 hour ahead before you go to bed on Saturday Night.  (Oops, I just told you.)  More importantly, if you want to be competitive this racing MUST get outside and RIDE! 

Trust me, there is no substitute for riding outside.  There are things that you just can't replicate on an indoor trainer such as: handling skills, balance (unless you train on rollers), environmental factors (wind, rain, temperature, humidity, etc.), steep ascents/descents, drafting, dodging traffic/animals, etc.  Plus, I don't know about you...but after 1 hour of riding on an indoor trainer- I'm DONE!  I couldn't even imagine riding 2 hrs. on a trainer.  I'd rather ride 2 hrs. outside in 30 deg F temps then ride over an hour inside at 70 deg F on my trainer. 

If/when you do go out and ride, remember to do it slowly/progressively.  It does NO GOOD to go out and ride HARD for 3+ hours on your first ride.  Build up to your long rides.  I normally start with 2 hour rides on the weekend and up the time 1/4 of an hour each week. (10% volume increase each week)  So, in four weeks I'll be up to 3 hours for my long ride.  I also start to increase the intensity of the rides as well.  I may start out with a pure Tempo/Endurance ride for the first two weeks followed by more Sweetspot pace rides.  I don't normally ride more than 3 hours because none of my races are longer than 3 hours.  I see no benefit of riding 4-5 hours if my races are only 3.  And, I like to ride at the intensity/pace that I know my races will be...which is why I always ride solo on my long rides or with stronger riders that are ALWAYS pushing the pace. 

If you're a Criterium racer/rider, relax, there is still time to improve your VO2max and Anaerobic Capacity Energy Systems. i.e. Sprint and acceleration workouts.  That's because those systems develop more quickly than the Aerobic/Endurance Systems..which take months if not years for some to develop properly.  BTW, if you're a strict Criterium racer...there's no need in my opinion to be riding 3+ hours on the weekend.  You'd be better off going out HARDER for an hour on your training rides.  If you race both longer road races and the shorter have to mix it up and do both.  And, if you do Time Trials as well..guess what?  You better be putting some time in on your Time Trial bike.  If you want to get better at Time Trialing..then you have to spend time time trialing..simple as that.

What it basically boils down to is the "Principle of Specificity".  The Specificity Principle simply states that training must go from highly general training to highly specific training. The Principle of Specificity also implies that to become better at a particular exercise or skill, you must perform that exercise or skill. So, put down your XC Skis, Mountain Bike, etc.  And, start reducing your sessions in the gym lifting weights, doing lunges, squats, etc.  To be a good cyclist outdoors, you must cycle outdoors.  And more specificly, if you're a road racer you have to start training like one.  If you're a Criterium racer, you have to start training like one.  Time trialist..same deal.  If you do it all, then you have to train for it all.  That's why, up until this date, I haven't bought a Time Trial bike yet.  Because, I know if you/I want to be good at Time Trialing you have to ride your Time Trial bike..NOT your road bike.  Yes, there is a difference- primarily the position on the bike. 

So, get out and ride.  In addition to the days getting longer, they're also going to be warming up.  Besides, if you continue to ride'll never see beautiful looking female riders like the photo above..ha  (Sorry ladies, I'll make it up to you with a good-looking male rider on a future blog).

Power ON! Coach Rob

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tour of the Battenkill 2011...are you ready?

I can't believe it's only a month away- the Tour of the Battenkill.  For me, it's been a long time training for this event.  I actually started training the end of November...FAT and OUT OF SHAPE.  I'm serious, I weighed 181 lbs. and my FTP was probably a paltry 220w.  I was too embarrassed to even attempt an FTP test at the time..let alone physically do one.  With 33 days to go, my weight is now down to 172 lbs and my FTP is a respectable 255w.  (Well, respectable for me anyway.)  My goal weight on April 10 will be 167 lbs. and my goal FTP is 270w.  I think I can get there.

With 4 weeks remaining until Battenkill, my next two weeks are going to be "hell weeks".  They will be weeks of hi-intensity interval training at Threshold and VO2max.  I won't be doing any Sprint workouts, in preparation for Battenkill, because the race is an endurance race- not a Sprint.  I won't have to worry about Sprinting.  My race goal is to finish as close to 3 hrs. as I can averaging 20 mph.  I really don't care how I do in my Masters 50+ category.  I race against myself...not others.  Sure, it would be nice to podium in my age group..but as long as it's Cat 1-4 in the Masters 50+..I really can't count on even being close to the podium.  All I'm going to do is try to pedal as hard/fast as I can for 3 hrs. and hope I see a Finish Line...ha.  After 2 weeks of grueling training, I'm going to start my I'm in form by Battenkill.

Although I'm a member of Pure Energy Cycling Team, I will be travelling with my wife to Battenkill- instead of the team.  We're going to be staying in Bennington, Vermont and making a long mini-vacation weekend out of it.  I won't be travelling back home until the Monday after the race...and after the traffic.  It will be more comfortable and enjoyable- for me anyway.  I'm looking forward to a fun relaxing weekend.  Not to mention the big a$$ steak dinner AND dessert I'm going to have AFTER the race.

If you're racing Battenkill yourself, and you're on schedule (with your goals)- kudos to you.  It's been a tough Winter to ride (outside) and I'm sure anyone competing at Battenkill this year from the Northeast will be in the same boat.  That is, they will be behind schedule a bit.  No despair, it's early.  Besides, you don't want to be peaking in April anyway- with the road race season just starting up.

Good luck to everyone competing in this years race.  Hope to see you at the start line on April 10th in New York.  And, hope you meet your goals.  Actually, hope to see you at the finish line..with a beer in my hand.

Power ON! Coach Rob

The road racing season has you know the rules?

Yes, sports fans, the road racing season has begun for some of us. In fact, I just officiated my first race (Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference) of the season- this weekend.  As an official, I worked both the pace car and in the pit area.  What I can tell you about the College kids, other than they are a tough bunch that ride hard (and sometimes crash) in any weather, is that a lot do NOT know the rules.  Especially when it comes to the pit area and the "free lap rule".  BTW, here is the 2011 USA Cycling rulebook.  Please download the .pdf file and READ IT!

So, let me give you my 2 cents on the "free lap rule" which I believe is one of the most misunderstood and even abused rule (by some) in the book.  And, this is NOT just for the College kids's for yours.  Here is what the rulebook says about the "free lap rule":

 3D5. Free Lap Rule. Riders shall normally cover the distance of the race regardless of mishaps and must make up any distance lost on their own ability unless a free lap is granted for mishaps. A free lap may be granted for each mishap subject to the following rules unless the official race announcement states that no free laps will be allowed. On courses shorter than 1 km (.6 mile), two free laps shall be allowed for a given mishap.

(a) Bicycle inspection and repairs must be made in an official repair pit. If announced in advance by the Chief Referee, riders are permitted to cut the course to get to a pit, but only while the free lap rule is in effect. Either an official following vehicle shall transport riders to a single repair pit, normally near the start/finish line, or riders must proceed to a repair pit in accordance with Rule 3D2. If no following vehicle is  used, there should be repair pits at intervals of 1 km around the course.

(b) There must be a referee stationed in each repair pit to determine if the mishap was a legitimate one and if the rider is entitled to a free lap. The referee must keep track of all riders who are granted free laps and submit a written report to the Chief Referee at the end of the race.

(c) A rider who is granted a free lap must return to the race in the position held at the time of the mishap. A rider who was in a group shall return at the rear of the same group the next time around. A rider returning to the race after a free lap shall be ineligible for sprint prizes for one lap thereafter.

(d) A rider granted a free lap must re-enter the race before the final 8km of the race; after that point in the race a rider in the pit is losing ground on the field.
Before I discuss this rule, I have to give you the definition (from USA Cycling) of the word "mishap" which you see underlined several times above.  According to USA Cycling, a mishap is:
1A15. A mishap is a crash or a mechanical accident (tire puncture or other failure of an essential component). However, a puncture caused by the tire coming off due to inadequate gluing is not a mechanical accident, nor is a malfunction due to miss-assembly or insufficient tightening of any component. A recognized mishap is a stoppage that meets the above conditions. An unrecognized mishap is a stoppage where the above conditions are not met.

A broken toe strap or cleat is a mishap. A worn or misadjusted cleat or toe strap is not a mishap. If more than one toe strap is used on a pedal, breakage of one is considered a mishap. Any mishap not immediately inspected by an official is unrecognized.
Ok, so you're asking: "how's this affect me?".  Well, if you race in Criteriums that have a wheel pit area (and an official) you'll have a free lap rule in affect.  Therefore, if you're smart, you'll want to put an extra set of wheels in the pit area in case you flat.  If you do flat, which is the most common use of the pit area, either ride in a forward direction or dismount and walk/run backwards to the pit area.  Do NOT ride backwards on the course. If you create a dangerous situation in doing so, you will be DQ'd.  Yes, you can cut the course to get back to the pit area in some situations.  But, regardless of where you are on the course..the officials will see you if you have a me.  We have radios and EVERYTHING is seen and communicated.  When you enter the pit area the pit official will assess your mishap to determine whether you get a free lap.  You just don't show up, pop a new wheel on and go.  Once your tire/wheel is changed (by you..remember the officials aren't mechanics), and the official grants you a "free lap", the official will then insert you back into the race in the position you held prior to your mishap.  Yes, the officials know where you were in the race..they know where EVERYONE is on every lap of the race.  Trust me on that.  For you tubular tire guys/gals, if you show up to the pit area with a flat due to your poor gluing will NOT be granted a "free lap" (at least not by me).  You can, however, change your wheel and chase once your wheel is changed. 
One last thing...PLEASE make sure your bike is in "good mechanical" condition prior to any race.  That's for your safety and the safety of others.  Just this weekend a water bottle came flying off a bike in a race- in its bottle cage.  Nothing happened to any of the riders- luckily.  My advice is to have your bike checked by your local bike shop BEFORE the race.  And, be careful when transporting your bike to the race that you don't bang anything (like a derailer) out of adjustment.  (Been there done that).  Required mechanical adjustments don't constitute a "free lap" during a race. 
In fact, what I would do is wash/clean your bike at home before the race season starts.  Get rid of all that Winter dirt, salt, grime, etc.  Inspect your bike for cracks, scratches, loose parts, etc.  Then, take it to your LBS for an adjustment and further inspection.  While it's there, have the mechanic clean/lube your chain if you haven't already done it.  (Your LBS mechanic will appreciate working on a clean bike.)  Ride on your bike for a day or two BEFORE your race to ensure it shifts smoothly etc. and the tires are seated properly (if you put new tires on).  Race day is NOT the time to realize your bike is not shifting right or to discover a pinch flat or unglued tubuler tire.
Good luck this racing season.  If you have any questions re: the rules, email me.  I don't have all the answers but I am in contact (weekly) with folks that will have the answer.  Be safe and HAVE FUN!  Coach Rob