Saturday, October 10, 2015

Why Take an End of Season Break?

     As the 2015 racing season comes to a close it is good time to start thinking about preparations for the next season. A common misconception is intense training is the most beneficial part of training. It could be argued that recovery is the single most important part of a training program. I have already had most of my athletes take at least 1 week off the bike. At minimum one week to 10 days off is necessary for all athletes. Elite cyclists (cat 2s to professionals) need a good 2-3 weeks off the bike before they can begin building for the next season. Some racers take up to one month off, but I have found 2-3 weeks works best for me. It is a long enough amount of time off without totally losing all fitness.
     It's common for athletes to question why they need to take this time off before building for the next season. Cyclists are a competitive breed by nature. Their reasoning is, they have built up so much fitness, and do not want to see it all go away by taking time off. It is somewhat true that taking a few weeks off will make that preciously built up fitness fade. Getting back on the bike after time off may feel a little strange and uncomfortable. You huff and puff to make it up some tiny hills that you may only see as a bumps in the road when fitness is good. A snails pace may feel like trees are whizzing by at a Formula 1 pace. Sit bones become super sore from being back on the saddle. Then, after a couple days the bike no longer feels foreign, and after a week or two to you begin to feel physically fit again. It may take a month or six weeks for fitness is back to where it was before the break.
      Still why would you want to take time off to only be back at your current good fitness six weeks later? At the end of a season riders struggle with being broken down, tired, inconsistent, and mentally spent. After some time off, motivation is a lot higher than it was at the end of the year. Motivation helps you to train more consistently and to push deeper through your hard workouts during winter training. During time off your body completely recovers, making you able to manage consistent and hard work. Without that recovery the already long road season, will seem much longer. If you are tired in December, just imagine how you will feel when you do more intense work in March. The peaks in fitness for your goal events will also be at a lower level if you forgo taking an offseason break. Taking one to three weeks off mid-September to early-October will eliminate fatigue and allow you to be mentally fresh, at a time when your fitness does not matter. Only after taking these breaks, can you achieve a higher level of fitness the following year. If taking a few weeks easy right now and being faster the next year is appealing to you, then I would suggest taking an offseason break. You will be glad you did it, and so will your family and friends. Year round, cyclists can seem neurotic, obsessive, and a little selfish with their time. This is a perfect time to make it up to your loved ones and remind them why they allow you in their lives. Trust me on this one!

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Tour of Tobago

Today we raced the Tour of Tobago. This is the toughest one-day race I have ever done in my life. It is super hot and humid, and there is about 9500 feet of climbing in a 120km race. The climbs are super steep. The roads are narrow and twisty. Sometimes you go around a turn and half the road may be missing or there is mud all the way across the road or loose animals. First of all we did lose the points jersey in the classic yesterday. Matthieu took second after a ton of great teamwork. Like I said we did our best and worked super as a team. The first 20km of the Tour of Tobago are flat, so we sat in the field and did nothing. Matthieu put me perfectly into position on the first climb of the day and lead me up that climb in second wheel. I felt good and wanted to have a good race. I lost a couple positions and focused on spinning a fast cadence when I could to save my legs. I know this race is long and hard, and you have to do it at a relatively conservative pace if you do not want to blow up. We hit the first descent, and I felt great. There was a car in the middle of the road after the first turn of that descent though. I squeezed through unscathed. I am not sure anyone crashed there. I felt great on the descent and whizzed by guys. I was really confident in my ability today. We rode over a few more climbs, and I was still feeling good. Then my legs started to fall apart. I would lose time on the climbs and catch the front group again on the descents. I totally cracked at about 50km into the race. I knew with that much left to race I would not likely finish, so I abandoned at the feed zone. It was really tough to do, but I was being super positive in the head and pacing myself well. Sometimes at the end of a long year your legs just totally leave you, and that has been the case for me over the last few weeks. I thought with how I was riding in the crits the past couple days my legs would have been there, but it was just not to be. Maybe what we did in the crits took a lot out of our legs for today. I am really thankful that Matthieu put me into that first climb in great position. Oliver, Emile, and Andy stuck out a long day to finish 16th, 19th, and 21st respectively. I had a great time here in Tobago, even though my results were far from where they were last year. We worked really well as a team here and had a super time! It has been another great year with the Lupus Racing Team, and I look forward to an even better year with them next year. For now though it is time to take some time off the bike and rest, so I can have that better year in 2016.