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The Team That Wasn’t

My Doppleganger?

“I want to get on a really good team next year!”

Race bikes long enough and you’ve heard, or more likely said these exact words. Cycling is great because it’s aspirational – we all aim to ride better, faster, longer, and against better and better competition. That process is one of the main reasons, in my opinion, “roadies” are so elitist. Move up a category or two and suddenly, somewhat deservedly, you feel just a bit better than the rif raf in the category you just left. Then again the skills and speed required to “do-what-we-do” is also a legit reason to NOT want to spend too much time in close proximity to folks with less skill, experience, and awareness. There I said it – I’m roadie scum!

Ok, back to the point..

I started slow in racing. My first summer as a 16 or 17 year old I think I entered maybe two or three races (?). The only one I remember was a Junior Stage Race that included the Colorado contingent of the 7-11 Junior Team (the LUX of the time), home to Pete Stubenrach, Troy Miller, Clark Sheehan, and a bunch of other little badasses. I got my butt kicked, every stage.

Wannabe fast

Fast forward to 1989, all of 19 then, and in February I had moved to Tucson, Arizona to “get serious”. Six months of riding and training with the fine folks on the Gilmour Cycles team and I’d won my first race, podiumed a few others, and was on my way. Got my Cat 3 upgrade in July at the Longmont Criterium and then got my Cat 2 upgrade the next year at the same race (so technically from 4 to 2 in a year! lol… 🙂 )

In the fall of ’90 me and a couple of friends heard about a “legit” team being set up by the friend of a friend and he was having a try-out. Ding ding! Our big chance. The try out consisted of a time trial and road race on the famous Morgul-Bismark course outside Boulder. I don’t recall all those in attendance but for sure it was other up-and-comers like my buddy Chris Teufel and quasi nemesis Bill Ossofsky (he was always super strong, so naturally he sucks right? He’s actually a pretty good guy). I made the cut, I think there were 6 or 8 of us total. Next up we had a team meeting at the guys house – pretty sure his name was Bill and it sounded awesome. We’d have team bikes from Serotta – he had a gorgeous Purple and Evergreen painted one that was our “team edition”. We had some great training rides, including one night ride crit practice near Wash Park that was actually super productive and fun. We were all pretty new Cat 2’s and ambitious to put our mark on the Colorado scene so this was a really great opportunity.

Only it wasn’t

It was all an egotistical fuck you by this guy Bill. Why he thought putting together an imaginary team was a good idea I’ll never know – to our best efforts at finding them, there were NO potential sponsors, dollars, or any commitment to actually having a team. It seems he just wanted to blow smoke up a bunch of guys butts for some reason. The thing is it was a REALLY good group of riders that would have been an awesome and talented team. Nearly all of the guys on the squad went on to success in P1/2 races over the next couple of years, albeit on different teams of marginal awesomeness.

There is an amusing/horrifying anecdote to the story. We were on a training ride together a week or so after the final roster had been picked, headed up a Colorado classic, Lookout Mountain. The thing is, Bill was in the follow car and took that to the top. Then he decided to ride downhill with us. Now we were Cat 2 level racers and pretty decent on our bikes, whereas Bill was a prety hefty guy who didn’t really seem that comfortable on a bike. The top few turns are kinda tight and then it opens up into a fast section before a hard left. Well sure enough we get below the switchbacks and onto the fast section and here comes Bill, flying by full tuck, big ‘ol ass in the air, hauling!

All of us could see it coming. He was going way way too fast and the left turn was RIGHT THERE. Sure enough up pops his little head and the bike starts to wobble as he struggles to slow it down. Failing that he just lays the bike down at full flight and SLAMS, I mean SLAMS into the guardrail.

Lookout Mountain

I thought he was dead.

We all thought he was dead. It took a bit to slow down and turn around, during which all of us were of the opinion “I don’t wanna go back”! We did, of course, but he was a mangled mess of road rash and destroyed equipment. I remember putting him in the car for the drive to the hospital and thinking how f’ing crazy it was. I don’t recall the long term outcome, but doubtltess it had lots of pain and oozing. I don’t think the idea of comeuppance is too far from what I feel about it now, and even in the weeks after the truth came out and we were screwed.

I’d like to juxtapose this situation with another “Team That Wasn’t”…

In 2007 I was about 6-8 months into working with a tech company that had jumped into supporting cycling in a big way. Indeed the company had put thousands into supporting 2 or 3 local clubs (including the one I rode for at the time), a couple of races, and was even developing a race series during the preceding season. So when they decided to up the ante and fund a race team for the coming year I was really excited! It was basically a dream come true for me. I can remember putting together the pitch deck and coming away from the meeting with nearly $100k in commitments to fund and support the team.

We dived in full force and set up a weekend try-out camp in September. The camp had 2 or 3 “stages”, overnight accommodations for riders and staff at a hotel near their offices, a fully developed assessment process and a group of probably 12-15 bad ass Cat 1/2’s from the NorCal scene. We held the camp, had Olympian and uber-pro Eric Wolhlberg on board as a likely DS, and he even came out to ride the “Heart of Darkness” route with us. It looked to be a totally pro set up! You can imagine how stoked I was.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. For whatever reason the CEO flipped completely. I recall several disagreements with him, devolving into shouting at least once. He was downright inappropriate and absurdly overwrought several times. Behavior I later learned was the norm. I recall one of them was over ownership of team equipment. He asserted that it was his and I disagreed as the agreement was for the sponsorship to come thru my company, as is the norm in cycling. That was a big one, but as I understand it the bigger deal was him spending all that money without any board oversight. They were pissed.

I pulled out of the deal when it became apparent that he had no intention of acting with integrity, even refusing to pay me for agreed upon work and expenses, among other generally dick behavior. I sent an email to everyone in November saying that I wasn’t going to be part of the program, but that it was intended to continue, per his words, “better than ever.” Indeed, they hired a different guy to run the show after me. Did it go? Of course it didn’t! He pulled the plug (or was forced to) on the whole shebang a month or so later.

I was dumbstruck and heartbroken for a long time. I’d dreamed of building a “pro” team for years and there it was only to slip from my fingers. I pulled out after long discussions with my wife about the right thing to do and acting with integrity, but the damage was done. Riders were caught off guard and eventually left in the lurch and I could do nothing for them. I have no doubt that many of them still bear a grudge towards me.

Was I any better than the first scenario? To me, yeah, of course I was. I didn’t lie or make things up, I just got caught in someone else’s deceit, but I wonder. Was I blind to reality? Was I part of the problem? I don’t doubt that I acted a dick on my own – I can be a bit of a hot head when pissed and remember ranting about “my team” to the director of marketing, who was my main point of contact. The comeuppance? Over the first few months of 2008 nearly all of the executive team, including the marketing director, left the company for greener pastures amid a “mysterious exodus” and in early 2009 the CEO left “to pursue other opportunities.” Rumors of his bad, and possibly criminal, behavior floated about, but nothing concrete that I ever saw came of any of it. Last I heard he was still rich and still an asshole.

FtG!


A Bizzare and Great Season

I wouldn’t choose to re-live it nor repeat it, but the racing this year was truly spectacular. From Milan San Remo to Liege, Strade Bianche to Flanders, and the three Grand Tours, each week seemed to keep raising the bar on the next generation. There are some fine questions floating about, and doubtless many detractors, not all of their arguments wrong, but that’s not this post.

This is about fun, smart and hard racing. Some great tactics were played out across the non stop flurry of a shortened season. Fortunately there are lots of video summaries and analysis. I’m not here to do all that (I think), but rather to reflect

Those young guys – Read some interesting notes on relative power and the ascent of insane velocities and power on climbs. Things like Geoganhart in Italy, heck Rohan Dennis in Italy! Tadez Pogacar and Primose Roglic, and who can forget Sepp Kuss, EF’s Squadra of speedsters, you could go on and on. That’s not even touching Alaphillippe, Van der Poel, Wout van Aert, or Remco Evenepoel omg…it’s seems a pretty amazing time. Sagan, Nibali, and the like aren’t going away yet either, which makes the racing a dramatic mix of breaks and chases, opportunity and error. And so much fun.

I want the normal back. The World seems tossed upside down in so many ways, and yet we strive for those moments when people do amazing things, for the performance…because it’s really about the performance on a given day. Watching them pull it off…

A few favorites…

Milan San Remo is the traditional kickoff to the Monuments…except this year it was in AUGUST! That didn’t diminish the thrill in any way however as it was a typically aggressive race from over the Cipressa and Poggio. Julien Alaphillippe escapes with Wout VanAert and they hold on to sprint it out with the field hot on their heels. A two up sprint to a photo finish! Hold on, this seems a pattern for WvA this year (see below)

Tour de France Stage 14 – Sunweb executed perfect tactics over and over to eventually pop Soren Kragh Andersen off the front for the win. Of course it’s nice when you have such heavy hitters like stage 12 winner Marc Hirschi and Casper Pedersen to act as feints and foils, but to pull it off so textbook perfect was fun to watch. Putting 3 in the top 10 is also pretty cool. Stage Summary Video

Alaphillippe Setting Things Off Again!

De Ronde van Vlanderen – Superlatives have followed VdP and WvA since they were juniors. Wout seemed to (mostly) have the measure of Matthieu when it came to Cyclocross World Championships (again, and again, and again, and again) with VdP taking his revenge just about everywhere else when they went head to head. So to see the Flanders Moiiste come down to these two stars was both predictable and awesome. It all blew apart at about 45Km to go as the crested the Koppenberg climb at full charge. Over those last kilometers there was tension and non-stop action. That it came down to a two-up sprint, both riders fighting it out together all the way to the line (vs their negative approach to Gent Wevelgem) and it harkens back to the glory days of Cancellara vs Boonen, and looks to be the next matchup for the ages! Race Summary Video

Then we jump to Italy and the rides that made the race. Filipo Gana crushing 58KMH in the opening TT! Then backing it up in the stage 14 TT – but really, it’s the win on Stage 5 – attacking from the break, over the last climb, that leaves you stunned! How does he do that? The guy is huge and yet he crushed ’em all that day!

Tao Geogan Hart has long been considered a star in the making, receiving huge accolades as far back as his Axeon Hagens Berman days, but to see him rise to the occasion in Italy was pretty cool! “But XY and Z weren’t there” says the argument. Bollocks, that was brutal racing day after day. To survive and thrive on the talents that he has, to come out and win not just the day, but the 21 days, was impressive. Jai Hindley was impressive as well….I mean the depth of talent on display, wow!

We fast forward, well not really, it was just a few days actually, to the Vuelta and once again quality racing was on offer at almost every turn, much of it at the hands of the young guys! Davide Gaudu, all of 24 years old, on Stage 17 (his 2nd stage win) – man, that kid can climb! Or what about Richard Carapaz’ final charge to try and steal the win from Roglic? It’s hard to believe that he and Hugh Carthy are only 27 and 26 years old respectively – Carapaz already a Grand Tour winner!

I could go on and on, but….Whew, that’s a lot of race action for, basically, three months! Truly a once in a lifetime kind of year, at least we hope so (wear your masks!)…


2021 Development Program

Juniors and U23 riders ARE the future of the sport. This is most clearly in evidence as we peruse the results of World Tour races from this season. Rider after rider under the age of 25 keeps knocking it out of the park!

DOWNLOAD THE APPLICATION

I want to help young riders get their development on track and am offering a pilot program to support up to 10 Junior and U23 riders with a heavily discounted coaching program for the coming season. Commitment, diversity, and financial need are cornerstones of the program and athletes from varied backgrounds are encouraged to apply.

Applications will be taken via email through December 20th, with final selection slated to be announced on December 26th. Interested riders, parents and friends are encouraged to download the application form HERE and send it along. The program costs $100/mo, a substantial discount from regular coaching programs. There are several **Full Ride** scholarships available as well…so don’t hesitate to get in touch!

A view of the action during Stage 5 of the Scott Junior Tour 2017 at Gallows Hill, Co Clare. Photo by Stephen McMahon/Sportsfile

Ultimately, we hope to continue the traditions of the USA Cycling Talent Identification Camps and put together a team for the 2021 Junior Tour of Ireland – likely the best run and most fun Junior stage race in the World.

DOWNLOAD THE APPLICATION

Questions? Drop me a note (sterlingspeed@gmail.com) or give me a call (1.408.892.3462).


The Run To Thanksgiving

November came quick! The run to Thanksgiving and Christmas will likley come quicker! These weeks are ususally condensed as much by “things to do” as by the marketing and hype machines that push ever earlier for our expected embrace of the giving season.

This one is probably gonna be different. Doesn’t have to mean bad, just different. With COVID’s rapid return to a long discussed winter surge the desire to just push it all away, to be done with 2020 and it’s maladies, grows stronger at each intrusion and yet we must embrace the challenge to be our best representatives of our community, our country, and our species by making good choices that serve well being.

Fortunately, even with a concerted effort at doing good ,there is still plenty of ways to engage with the fun as well! To get started on the path, let’s outline some approaches, maybe one of ’em will resonate…

  • Pick Up A Pre- Holiday Challenge! I have athletes taking on any number of “fun” fall projects like a 300W avg power century, a solo version of the Belgian Waffle Ride, various climbing challenges, and of course some Zwift racing too!
  • Focus! Pick something you are not particularly good at. Fast pedaling, slow pedaling, long rides, high IF training rides, anaerobic development, aerobic development – whatever it is, pick it and give it 6 weeks of attention! Maybe you want to ride all the roads in Zwift? Great, six weeks sounds ambitious, but a great project if you’re focused and have the time! Don’t pick something outlandish and well beyong your time, attention, of prowess – it’s not a “born to fail” knda challenge!
  • Let someone else focus for you! Pre built training plans get a bit of a hard time! I know, I’m often on the doling out side – but pre built training plans ARE great for getting you out of the rut of self coached training. Most coaches are like me, always ready to mix something new into the program in the quest for an epiphany. I can say that each program available in the store is a labor of love and critical thinking. There is not one Base 1 program, there are myriad Base 1 programs – where we make the goals is teh embrace of the work that gets us there.

June First

June 1st has been quite a day lots of times. From visiting with deer to visiting thin air, i’ve had some fun on June number one. This year was no different – and spontaneous to boot.

I’d ridden quite a bit the day before, so the idea of another big up wasn’t my starting point, but I also wanted to do something to honor June 1st. That meant Montebello for a first pass at a full 3peat. I’ve done variations on 3peat to the school for over a decade, but not the full climb. As I’m slow you gotta figure 40-45 minutes per up, so it takes a while.

Strava File Linked

Anyway, I ended up doing it and felt pretty good. The last lap included some spectacular fruit and a surprise cold beer part way up from a great friend.

The hot is coming off and on, so it could be great fun the next few weeks. What sort of adventures can you come up with? Still working up what projects to do over the next 3 months. I haven’t ridden 200mi yet. I have a couple of projects in the Works, but don’t wanna give too much away…


Five For Twenty Project

Goals are important, I’m sure I’ve said it to every rider I’ve ever coached. Personally though, I’ve lacked any definitive ones save “riding my bike” since I crashed Nov 9th and spent 6 or 7 weeks off the bike. Ok, that’s maybe a bit of an overstatement…Initially my goal was to be riding by January first. Made that. Next up was to climb Montbello road, then to climb it under 40min, both of which I’ve done.

Today I tackled my 3rd ever Alpe du Zwift climb. As I rode I watched Vegan Cyclists’ video on climbing Mauna Kea and it helped drive me up the AdZ a bit harder. Part way up I decided to invent the Five for Twenty Challenge – 5.0W/Kg for 20min. I gotta say, this one is a stretch goal for me, since the advent of power meters I’ve not been at 5W/Kg that I know of. I’m almost always at 75Kg’ish, so I know it’s about 375W effort for 20min. My power file ‘best’ is 361W for 20min, though I’ve gone better. How do I know?

1.26 IF! Guess my FTP was set a bit low!

This is my 20min file where I hit the 361W/364Wnorm. It was on Montebello and I know where I ended up (hey, good excuse to pop a favorite pic in!). I was doing an intentional 20min and hit the button just before the crux what I call the upper switchback at 3.4miles. Of course I didn’t have my Strava enabled head unit on at the time, just an old school power tap head unit.

20min was just below the first white stake – both times!

The “better” effort was a few years later in prep for the Taiwan KOM. The Low Key Hill Climb series was set to climb Montebello, so I figured I’d give it a whirl – I’d never broken 30min for the full climb and REALLY wanted to! I rolled to the “start” area, waited for probably 10-15min (guess they take the “low key” part seriously) when myself and another guy decided we didn’t have time to wait around so we’d just go for it. He was a big guy – and super strong! We traded efforts on the way up notching a 2nd best ever climb to the school at 13:44 along the way! That continued the rest of the way up the climb -me mostly hanging on for dear life in the last 8min or so. In the end he beat me by maybe 100yds. I did a 31:51, seems so very far from 29:59 cause I went hard!

I know it was my highest power output b/c I hit 20min point at almost exactly the same point (see below) but I was lighter, closer to 160lbs at that time. Higher faster and lighter means better W/Kg right? Taking the 361W effort at the lighter weight of 73.6Kg jumps (haha, “jumps”) me to 4.90 W/Kg. Again, so close and yet so far!

I don’t have a formal plan yet, but I do like the idea…especially as a 50 year old! It also gives me pause to wonder how much I squandered my youth! In college I tested at 74ml/Kg/min – a pretty decent number, but I didn’t ever really follow a highly structured training plan…just sorta rode hard. I won’t go down the “what if” road too far, but it does provide a bit of fodder for the imagination and motivation for my old body!


Wandering / Wondering

How do you write something other than CV-19?

I went on a nice ride yesterday. Saw some gorgeous orange poppies blowing up all over, saw the sun. Felt the chill in the air and sweat. Ate some lunch and felt fortunate that I have food and $$ to get more when I run out. It was a good ride. My legs were tired from doing double days a couple times, one ride outside and one Zwift “Meetup” ride with my Pen Velo crew. Still the days wander by.

Today was MTB day. Low intensity fun, mostly dodging hikers, horses and bikes. “Social Distancing” together! Weird that everyone comes out when they’re supposed to be in. I’ve never seen trails this busy, and I’ve ridden these trails for over 20 years. I really do understand that being cooped up is irritating, that the World is turned upside down and that I’m no better for having ventured out. Except…

Except I’m riding mostly alone. I’m not out with my family slowly walking up a crowded trail with a bunch of other families. I”m not coagulating at the vista points for 5-10 minutes chatting with family and passers by about the upheaval to our lives. I haven’t ventured to the store in a few days…but I have stopped to get a snickers at a local store in Portola valley. Everyone looks scared, tentative, anxious – yet they largely don’t practice the 6ft rule. Some still look to be hoarding supplies that they probably don’t need, and for what? For the idea that “I’ll get mine and FU and yours”. I’ll probably go tomorrow early to get some veggies and a few items for the week. A half dozen eggs, some fruit, maybe some chicken. Not much because I don’t need much. As I said above I”m lucky…I have some $$ and my family is in near constant contact with each other. It’s a strange time. I guess I’m glad people get out and see our beautiful parks finally, glad also that they can get some exercise to purge a bit of the staleness from indoors. It seems to alternate between being very kind – lots of waves and “good mornings” along the way, and blanket stupidity about common sense. Everyone wants “their” preferred avenue of life to be discounted, bailed out, or given away for free, not realizing perhaps that doing so would imperil yet more people likely on the brink. I’ve heard time and again that most folks can’t manage a $400 emergency expense! That is shocking and sad. What have we opted for these last decades as a society? It’s like eveyone has been living the stock market, corporate America meme of the next quarterly profit report, or sticking their heads in the collective sand of shitty media. The Apprentice, Cops, the real housewives – we are essentially idiots who’ve brought about our own demise.

Tomorrow I’m gonna go ride again – far far away from the crowds and early in the morning so I’m well and truly alone on the trails. I’m gonna do what I’ve done for 35 years – ride and revel in it. Then I’ll come home and hunker down to another week of presidential lies served boastfully, fear in peoples eyes, and uncertainty as the number of infected really starts to take off, as the death toll climb steadily. When will it land on my doorstep I don’t know. I’ve heard conservative estimates that 40% will get sick across this country, but I wonder just how deep will the consequences cut for all of us…


Training and Motivation During Covid-19

The Iron Cross
Keep Things In Perspective

“Shelter in place” “Avoid crowds” “Wash your hands”…

The new nomenclature of our (currently) pandemic World. For athletes used to targeted workouts and racing to look forward to this can be a trying time! Nearly all my athletes have had to adjust their training and expectations based on the new normal and it has proven challenging in most every case. Let’s look at some ways to handle, and even excel during this novel time…

#1 – Set Some Goals!

“But coach, I already had a seasons worth of goals that are worthless now!”

Yep, you did and now, like water under a bridge, they are swept into history. That isn’t to say dismissed though. Likely those goals were set with specific performance or physiological targets in mind and those still matter! No, your “A” race may not happen on schedule, or at all if we’re honest, but that doesn’t mean the training and development isn’t still worthwhile. I tend to look at my athletes on a longitudinal schedule, where do we want you to be this year, next year and the year beyond?

In this case we likely need to define new targets that are less results driven than performance based. If you were on the cusp of a ‘racing’ block, continue that development path with some modifications. You may end up cutting volume given more indoor workouts. Most racing blocks are in the 4-6 week range, so you’re not going to derail future fitness by continuing to train hard now.

Then again, if you felt “behind” in your fitness, now is a great time to revisit that base? You may have read that I’m a big fan of highly structured zone 2 riding to improve your mitochondrial efficiency – why not undertake that goal over the next few weeks?

Perhaps you are riding inside more – great, very effective! Just be careful about trying to maintain the volume of training, and the volume of intensity, indoors compared to out. It’s a much harder workout indoors… Power will probably be 5-8% lower indoors, heat stress will be higher – meaning total training stress will be higher, so tread lightly! Most of you train by hours I’m guessing. Good! It’s a better metric than miles as it better reflects training load targets. Think about it…I can do 50 miles in 3 hours with a modest tail wind or it can take upwards of 4+ hours on a hilly and challenging route. Very different workouts!

#2 Maintain Good Habits!

Perhaps you’re off work or school, or working from home. It’s easy to see that as a vacation from your day to day! Stay up late, eat whatever, who cares we’re all gonna get Covid 19 anyway right?

Nope – maintaining your healthy lifestyle is essential if you are serious (or even semi serious) about your cycling. Indeed more sleep will keep you primed for the onslaught and allow you to maintain training effectiveness. The same goes for nutrition – don’t default to delivery based meals rife with processed ingredients and questionable nutrition. Instead use some of that extra time to plan and cook better meals! It goes hand in hand with being prepared for long stays at home or alone and gives you something to look forward to each day. Making healthy food is not a chore, it’s a gift to yourself and who doesn’t love gifts!

Good time for yummy food!

#3 – Find Friends

Now this one may seem odd in a “shelter in place” World, but really it’s totally viable! Many riders use Zwift for their indoor fix. On my team we’ve started using “meet ups” to connect with teammates on a given course. They are great because you can choose the “keep everyone together” option which allows everyone to stay in proximity so long as they keep pedaling.

We’ve taken it a couple of steps farther by connecting online via Discord, a gaming app that allows you to talk real time over the internet. Last night we knocked off the first hour of our group ride just jabbering away. The real key was when the climb got hard though – the verbal encouragement of teammates is a great motivator! Frankly, I talked more to my riders online than I do on any given team ride – and better still I can communicate workout specifics to EVERYONE at the same time. No more yelling over the wind hoping to be heard. We’ve also added structured workouts to the mix – I can build a workout in an erg or .zwo file and riders can load said file while waiting for the ride to start and voila, we’re all doing the same workout at our correct intensities!

Next up we’re going to un-tether the riders in the meet up and try some tactical and structured interval workouts. Things like hill repeats, time trials, and leadouts lend themselves to an online environment well – or so it seems so far

#4 – Stay Positive

I’ve seen many of my FB friends and athletes express a bit of angst given the rapid and substantial changes in their day-to-day. It is tough, no doubt…but attitude paves the way! If you are reading this you are likely one of the more fortunate folks dealing with what everyone is dealing with. You’re active, passionate about something, and likely in a stable and comfortable environment. Embrace your fortunes and reach out to those you know to be less so. In the end exercise is our lifestyle choice and provides innumerable benefits – the more so now when the endorphins and positive outcomes of exercise help keep you on the upswing!

Be safe, make good choices and….Keep at it!


Training Talk – Mitochondria

After wandering around my brain a bit at the end of the year, I’m back on the coaching track with this one…

I loved every physiology class I took, but I really loved the Exercise Physiology! Dr Seals and Dr Byrnes are the two that come to mind from my University days. Ex Phys and Special Topics in Ex Phys were both hugely formative for me. We used Brooks and Fahey, but the thing I recall is the expansion on topics that came up. Other studies that might be done, possible graduate work, tying together theories in hope of an answer.

That said, I’ve also been fortunate to see and hear presentations from a wide variety of thought leaders and experts across the intervening decades since graduation and I have to say that the recent podcast with Dr Attia interviewing Dr Inigo San Milan was a real bit of fun!

It’s long – about 3 hours, and it covers a wide swath of the fundamentals of exercise physiology and energy production – but I found a couple of the approaches offered to be novel and uniquely informative. Specifically when Dr San Milan delves into his thinking on training zones. The crux of the podcast is built around research conducted by Dr San Milan and the aforementioned Dr Brooks looking at the role of mitochondria in elite athletes, recreational athletes, and those with Type II diabetes. Interesting enough that I had to dig out the research and read it myself – so here we go!

We’ve all riffed on lactate threshold, debated the validity of FTP, and pushed polarization, sweet spot, HIT workouts for appropriate audiences, etc. All of those are based off of the idea of lactate threshold to some degree. Brooks and San Milan wanted to look at carbohydrate and fat oxidation as a means of assessing intracellular flexibility across energy systems for ATP production; for example by lactate reabsorption, shown viaFAT oxidation (FATox) rates, as very efficient, limiting residual lactate to reach bloodstream/LT2 onset.

The Type II diabetes patients provided the counter point. Among the limitations of the Type II (T2DM) group are theorized lower mitochondrial electron chain capacity and less adapted sarcolemma, possibly weakening the overall ability to grow, but not eliminating it as seen by their improvement in FATox over the course of the workload when moving thru the sub 2mmol concentration, eg.. they too show might show improvement with structured sdtraining.

One interesting thing was the amplitude of the professional riders efficiency and capacity compared to the recreational and type II participants. especially with regard to FAT oxidation rates (via RER) at higher workloads. They were just levels higher. Amateur and unwell showed similar improvements trending across the test, but the Pro’s just do it way better!

The key thing to me was the establishment that the work done just under the commonly referenced 2mmol threshold for move to a curvelinear relationship – ergo at the time of maximal lactate reabsorption, in a primarily aerobic environment – just before you get to threshold. The trick is to find that work load that gets you that result without going over because CHO starts to build quickly as an energy source

We maximize mitochondrial development via demand and subsequent adaptation the body naturally resets towards homeostasis. Once you’ve reached “lactate threshold” – or LT2 as defined here, and proximal to MLSS, OBLA, FTP, and like terminology, etc. you’re already somewhat heavily into non-robic energy systems like CHO and PCr – not really your FATmax point anymore, so we gotta dial it down a bit more.

Average Athlete – about 50VO2max,

Again the trick is finding that value. Lactate testers allow easy sampling of blood for La values during a graded execise test. While the most common graded test is 20-30W/min ramp rate, It seems that longer run times for stages, 35W increase every 10 minutes, allows for more stabilization of the systems and easier interpretation of cross over points via RER as we are likely looking for La concentrations in the 1.5 – 1.9m/mol range ideally for establishing FATmax, although we can estimate moderately well if we get a good 2m/mol point – but that’s where the nuance is. Athletes tend to run hard into lactate overload, often dramatically over the course of a 20W stage increase – eg 3 minutes in the typical case – so nailing it down acurately seems a good idea, necessitating longer stages with smaller increases.

So then we plug in the muscles. Doubltess you’ve heard of Type I and Type II – slow and fast twitch muscle fibers. Often they are thought of as speed of contraction of the muscle – “I have no fast twitch so I can’t sprint” – but really they are talking about rates of fatigue. Slow twitch doesn’t get tired as fast because it is using FAToxidation – that low blue flame – but we want to get maximum blue flame – which means maximum slow twitch – and no fast twitch…which is where “CHO use = lactate production” – but we already know that the body has moved from baseline of 1.0mmol towards 2mmol because the workload has increased, heart rate has increased, RPE has increased if only slightly, and respiration has increased. Sounds like things are churning away in there trying to move the chain. Adaptation is a great gift and I’m hopeful that this research is validated not just for the return of zone 2 as a part of training, but for the populations across groups improvements from doing it!


My Decade…

Bikes Rule!

It occurred to me in the last couple of days that we are at the dawning of a new decade. Will it be a return to the “Roaring 20’s” of the last century or are we simply one step closer to our own demise?

I recently wrote a bit about some of the changes in training theory over the last decade, so instead I am opting to look back at the decade that was from a slightly more personal narrative.

As luck would have it, or more accurately as my parents deigned it, I was born at the end of a decade, so I get to simultaneously turn the page on my own decade at the same time the World does. That didn’t really occur to me in any “important” way until a few days ago either…

I blew out of the decade with aplomb, well the exact opposite actually. Spending days in the hospital and weeks on the mend is not how I thought my decade would end, but I aim to use the crash as a period mark on the very idea of injurious accidents! Yep, that’s my last big ouchie crash. Get it all out of my system before age and infirmity settle in, I say. Why wouldn’t I make that pledge…crashing sucks and I’ll admit a wariness at doing it again.

But let’s not dwell in the present…


The 10’s started with racing, much the same as the one before and the one before that as well. This iteration was cyclocross, more specifically “Sterling ‘Cross” my race team that in 2010 was entering it’s third season of railing around NorCal and having fun!

Mike Sayers Racing Some ‘Cross!

I think it was Murphy Mack who said I was mostly really good at marketing, but the reality is that I was also good at getting good riders to come out and play in the dirt with me. World Cup winner Megan Guarnier, former BMC pro Mike Sayers, 3x Olympian Eric Wolhberg, Ironman winner and Pro Cyclist Liza Rachetto, International Pro Adam Carr, Single Speed sensation Patrick Kitto and many many others toed the line in the Sterling kit over the years and I am fortunate to also call them friends.

One of my favorite shots from one of my favorite races!

The team raced so well, always in contention across multiple categories. Bill Strachan winning the BASP overall was a high point, watching a young Matthew Valencia hauling a bike that was nearly as big as he was over barriers, Liza taking the Idaho State Championship, Our Nationals experiences, all come together to create so many fun memories.

Matt V Pre National Championship 😉

Every year the culmination wasn’t districts, no for us it was the BASP night race! We used it as an excuse to put on a party – and boy did we! One year we made everything from scratch at home, including a “Sterling” cake (see previous post!), custom burrito makings, and a ton of chips and dip. The last few years we hired a caterer and threw a real party. I’m talking fabulous tacos and burritos, more homemade desserts, a “kid zone” for all the little ones to watch movies and play. in 2012 one of my neighbors even made us some home brew! 5 gallons of “Fat Tire” replica and 5 gallons of “Belgian Triple” that had me sleeping in the car for a few hours by absolute necessity. Running a CX team was always a labor of love, but we also had some great sponsors who made it much easier. Sponsors over the years included: TRP Brakes, Challenge Tires, Leopard Bikes, Fusion IO, Sendmail, and others really stepped up for us.

Night Race Team Pit
Patrick Kitto at BASP (nearly) Night Race
State Champion Liza Rachetto

The 10’s were also the decade I discovered that International travel did NOT have to be out of reach for a middle class coach like myself. Indeed the 2nd half of the decade was when travel really settled into my bones as a necessity. As a bike racer, I’ve always travelled – one of the fringe benefits of cycling and racing is the chance to go places not previously considered. Yet, the experiences I’ve managed since 2015 really raised the bar.

Deep In The Suffering at 2015 Taiwan KOM

It started in Taiwan really. Richard Pestes, publisher and owner of PezCyclingNews.com asked me if I’d be able to go and ride the Taiwan KOM and write some articles about the experience. I jumped at the chance – wouldn’t you? A tough race in a far off land? What could be more enticing to a bike racer nerd? Such an experience it was too! From access to the Eva Air VIP lounge, to my first ride up YanMingShan with a host of other journalists and guest riders, to dining at the World famous Din Thai Phun restaurant at Taipei 101, all the way to the exhausting and exhilarating KOM ride itself, Taiwan was a revolution for me. People came from all over the World to do that ride, all of them excited and happy to be there. Motivated to give their best and enjoy the experience of both the ride and the culture. The night market, the secret and perfect little roads everywhere, the scooters.

That I was invited back to Taiwan the following year to circumnavigate half the island with Giant and their tour company was indeed the pleasure you would expect. Once again thrust into the heart of an utterly foreign culture I tried to absorb all that I could. From hot pot chicken to indigenous customs and tiny little roads that were effectively the highway of the region, Southern Taiwan was amazing in ways I never could have imagined.

Next up was China for UCI Cyclocross, literally the next week. A friend, Christine V, invited me to be on her team for the event as they needed to fill a roster spot – luck of the Irish I guess! I was way out of my class..I’m an average regional masters cx racer going up against the riders like Rob Peeters and Jens Adams, Swiss ace Marcel Wildhaber, and Australian National Champ Chris Jongewaard. On the women’s side now superstar Ceylin Alvarado and Emily Kachorek traded victories in each of the races. My race was to not get lapped. I failed. In both races. But I did accidentally send my clothing out to be laundered by the hotel for like $100US – which is a MASSIVE fortune in rural China. I felt pretty dumb for that one…

We were staying in Yanqing, set to be one of the sites for the 2022 Winter Olympics, and home to a Chinese military air base. So what’s the natural thing to do? Duh, go find it!

Chinese Jet Fighter -A Chengdu J7 I Think…

Big loud jets taking off every few minutes gave me a clue as to where to go and after a few minutes I found it. Total trip…but I went one better when we got to Beijing…

We had another race on the outskirts of Beijing in Fengtai – I got hammered again, but it was fun and such an honor to be part of the spectacle. Maybe the 400 kilometers in Taiwan the week before weren’t the best “race” choice, but well worth it. As were the extra miles I rode in China between races. Exploring is the primary reason to go anyplace anyway, so why not go exploring!? Sitting in my hotel room looking for a place to go ride and I spy a trail, looks fun, let’s go! Into Beijing traffic and working my way towards a point on Strava, turn left, guy with a big BIG gun at a gate right where I need to go. Ride up and through the gate, give Mr Gun one of those “can I go this way?” hand signals and he nods, so I go, wander around a Chinese Military base for 10-15 minutes.

WANDER AROUND A CHINESE MILITARY BASE…

Start to leave and the guard on the way out was not nearly as accommodating as the one on the way in, so they stop me and detain me. I wait for 10-15 minutes while they find someone who speaks english – and she is not very happy that I’m on the base, so she calls the next in command. Hey, this is novel I’m gonna take a picture!

Don’t do that. They don’t like that. I don’t have a picture of how much they don’t like that anymore. I did, but I don’t, but I’m not in a Chinese prison so there’s that.

I’ve been back to China for the UCI CX Race twice more in 2017 and 2018, the last time as team manager for a couple of my Pen Velo teammates. 2018 was a tough, yet rewarding, year as we rode on busses for the better part of 30 hours over the course of the week – but we got to see the amazing beauty of Inner Mongolia and the legendary smog of Handan.

If Taiwan got me started and China further whet my appetite then I surely owe USA Cycling a word or two for dropping Ireland on me not once, but twice! In 2017 and 2019 I had the distinct pleasure of leading Team USA at the Junior Tour of Ireland – a six day stage race that has played host to such cycling super stars as Geraint Thomas, Mark Cavendish, and a wide array of World Tour and Euro Pro’s since it started in the mid 1970’s.

Talent Camp Skills!

In 2017 USAC decided to send 5-rider teams from the East and West Regional Talent ID Camps (TID) to this legendary race and I was fortunate to play a part. The TID camps have been around for over 12 years and I think I’ve worked most of the West Coast ones. First as a “day” presenter working on the high and low speed skills elements with Coach Larry Nolan. In the last 10 years I’ve been at the camp all week working alongside coaches like Dan Smith, Joe Strandell and my boss at USAC Kevin Dessart. It is one of the most fun weeks of the year. After hosting the camps in Walnut Creek and Davis, California, the last three years have been held in Southern California at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. Riders from all over the U.S. come to these camps to get their feet wet with USAC and to work on testing and skills over the course of the week. We usually have 20-30 riders, boys and girls, and put a huge emphasis on skills and development. To get to work with the other camp coaches to select five rider to join me in Ireland was a total blast and both times we’ve had the good fortune of finishing all five riders and, perhaps most importantly, escaping with nary an accident amongst the lot. Trust me, that’s saying something when you put over 130 crazy fast juniors on the start line for 100 kilometer stages that are more akin to spring classics than what our U.S contingent is used to stateside. Speeds average north of 40kmh every day and the racing is ON from the drop of the flag.

Flying Across The Burren

This is true “Euro” racing with full race caravans for support and riders from around the World vying for a result. This years race featured soon-to-be-Junior Worlds bronze medalist Magnus Sheffield among the starters, as but one example.

The Paterberg On Raceday!

Finally, and thanks if you’ve made it this far, we come to mainland Europe. I’ve only been a couple of times so far, but each was memorable in its own right. It all kicked off in 2016 with a trip to the Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix Spring Classics. They are on every cycling fans “to do” list and I got to go! Such a thrill to ride the roads – I did the both Flanders Classic and Paris Roubaix Classics the day before the Pro races – to feel the cobbles under my wheels and to come to know the legendary sections; The Kapplemuur, The Paterberg, The Arenberg Forrest and the Carrefour de L’Arbre. Then to watch Peter Sagan dance to the title in Flanders in his overpowering style – I was sitting on the Paterberg, mere meters from where he launched the winning move. The next week I was at the last corner of the Carrefour de L’Arbe when Matt Haymen rolled through with a small lead only to be caught and then outsprint Boonen! Exactly where you’d want to be.

So memorable in fact, that in 2017 we came back – about a dozen of the Pen Velo crew and I. We dropped some big miles – over 500 of them – we drank a lot of beer, we got a private tour of Delerium brewery, we rode many of the famous climbs of the Ardennes classics including the Mur de Huy and La Redoute. We rode the full Roubaix classic – all 28 sectors of pave and just over 100 miles. We watched Gilbert storm for over 40 Kilometers, then we watched Van Avermat pull out his victory amongst a tough group of hardmen

This doesn’t cover all the adventures I’ve had, but it’s a good start. Perhaps I’ll get to my run in with the Deer, my Everesting attempt(s), and my fun with Pen Velo – probably I will, good stories to tell in there!

I’ve previously written about my 2018 adventure in France, so drop in and check it out…but like you I’m already asking myself “what’s next?” A few ideas include: Columbia, China CX again, and perhaps the Italy trip I postponed last year.

But my real focus is on doing the John Muir Trail with my 15 year old in July. We don’t have permits yet -hope hope – but we’ve talked about it for years now and she thought it would make a great 50th Bday present for me, so that’s what she put up! 200+ miles of hiking over three weeks and nearly 50,000 feet of climbing – yep, right up my alley!


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