Colby and Jeff reminisce about the glories of racing days in the past. With over 30 years in the sport himself, Jeff’s knowledge and deep understanding about training and racing is layered in this comprehensive conversation. Knowing your numbers, and the numbers you want, speed, heart rate, power, etc is one thing that Jeff will help you find as an athlete, but more importantly, Jeff knows the greater significance of your perceived rate of exertion. How do you feel? It’s not always just about graphs and numbers, Coach Winkler has more.
Welcome to the Cycling in Alignment podcast, an examination of cycling as a practice and dialogue about the integration of sport and right relationship to your life.
Colby Pearce 00:25
Greetings and salutations listeners, you have returned for another episode of Cycling and Alignment, and once again, I’m grateful. Today’s conversation is with Jeff Winkler. Coach Winkler is an interesting guy, he’s been around for a long time. He’s a lawyer, but he chose to work with cyclists and teach other people how to ride bikes, and this is after quite an extensive racing adventure, including a lot of time in Europe and Spain, and we unpacked that in this cycling discussion. One note, we do have a few minor technical difficulties, there are a couple of words missing here and there, I’ll let you navigate those turbulent waters with your intuition and understand what we are saying. It’s not too big of a deal. If you have comments and questions on this pod, I invite you to check out the Fast Talk Labs forum and send me a note, make sure and @ me so that I get a notification. I think “at me” is the right term, I don’t really speak internet that well. Still learning. In any case, I’ll stop prognosticating and allow you to enjoy the conversation with Coach Jeff Winkler.
Colby Pearce 01:50
We are rolling. Hello, Jeff Winkler.
Jeff Winkler 01:53
Colby Pearce 01:56
Welcome to Cycling in Alignment. How are you doing this morning?
Jeff Winkler 01:59
Doing pretty good, pretty good. How about you?
Colby Pearce 02:01
I’m well, you know, it’s Colorado, and it’s April, but it seems like it’s more January weather at the moment.
Jeff Winkler 02:11
Yeah. Nice Colorado Spring full the snow on Tuesday, 70 degrees on Sunday.
Colby Pearce 02:16
Yep. Yep. SOP, standard operating procedure, Right? Thanks for making time to come have a conversation with me today. Why don’t we start off by having you introduce yourself for our listeners if you would tell everyone a little bit about your journey?
Jeff Winkler Introduction
Jeff Winkler 02:31
So I mean, I started racing back in the late 80s, started as a junior in 86′, and had some early success and was able to sort of, you know, I went to college, raced a little bit in college, then took a break from college and raced full time, spent some time over Europe and kind of got to see a lot of the sports racing at a pretty high level. Then came back to school, finish that up, ended up getting into other things, and ultimately looped back to cycling and moved to Boulder and started coaching full time. And initially, I started at FasCat Coaching, and then left there and have been doing my own coaching business since then, probably about six or seven years or so, in that time, I also was the coach for the University of Colorado Cycling Team in all the disciplines, mountain bike, cyclocross, road. Which was a good time with a whole bunch of riders, and, you know, just kind of getting through the COVID year, which was a bit strange, but hopefully we’re back to normal here in 2021.
Colby Pearce 03:50
Normal meaning all the good parts, right?
Jeff Winkler 03:53
Well, you know, actual events things to train for other than training for training.
Colby Pearce 03:58
Right, right. Good. You kind of glossed over some stuff there. I’m gonna pick it apart. What where’d you go to school?
Jeff Winkler 04:06
I went to the University of California, San Diego.
Colby Pearce 04:09
Jeff Winkler 04:10
In La Jolla, and started in 86′, I guess the Fall of 86′. I graduated in 95′, I think. So, I had a big window of full-time racing in there.
Colby Pearce 04:26
What did you study?
Jeff Winkler 04:30
I chose to study whatever didn’t have math, which, you know, in retrospect wasn’t the greatest choice but I have an undergrad degree in political science, and then later went to law school, but much later.
Colby Pearce 04:46
Yeah, yeah. Right. So, if somebody wants to hire a coach and also lawyer up they might call you?
Jeff Winkler 04:56
Well, I don’t I haven’t. I haven’t passed the bar and Colorado. I’m not practicing, but obviously, I have worked with some pro cyclocross racers, and there was a little bit of contract review in there as well.
Colby Pearce 05:08
So, okay. Nice. Then you and I shared a shared an occupational pathway in the sense that we were both the coaches of the CU team at one point, not the same time, obviously, but it’s kind of funny.
Jeff Winkler 05:22
Yeah, a lot. Well, I guess a lot of coaches in Boulder have been the coach at CU.
Colby Pearce 05:26
I’ve done the rounds. It’s kind of true. Yeah. Yeah. I think Frank worked there as well, and I believe that Heather Fischer’s now the coach? Is she still the head coach? I’m not sure.
Jeff Winkler 05:37
Well, I mean, it’s hard to say you’re the coach when there’s no racing. So, but yes, she was the coach pre-COVID one year, and then COVID hit, and it’s really derailed collegiate cycling in a big way.
Colby Pearce 05:48
Jeff Winkler 05:49
But yeah, Jon Tarkington coached there for a while. You, me, FasCat was there for a year, and that was when I was at FasCat. So.
Colby Pearce 06:00
Colby Pearce 06:02
Yeah, it was really interesting coaching collegiate riders, I thought, because, you know, it really reminded me in so many senses, and I’d love to hear your comment on this, but I found that well, coaching across all levels, it doesn’t really matter if you’re coaching, you know, 12-year-old kids or collegiate racers, who, you know, are, of varying levels of commitment, and sort of seriousness, I’ll say, all the way up to pros, it’s like, there are certain fundamentals, you have to return to all the time, there are certain basics that we have to establish and have communication with the rider about, and for me, you know, someone has a bad day on the bike, and I always come to them and say, it’s those basic fundamentals we start with, “okay, well, you know, what do you eat for dinner last night? How much sleep? How’s your life going? How’s your work stress? How’s your family stress?” What, what are your thoughts on that stuff? Let’s get into some coaching philosophy.
Jeff Winkler 07:03
Yeah, I mean, I certainly think competitors that have a significant other part of their life, so that’d be the professional or the student, you have a lot more balancing to do and you have a lot more external causation, that that can change how your day goes on the bike. A pro probably has really one primary stressor, and that is the bike and it’s pretty consistent, and from my time, I would say, that was the case I could control or eliminate most of the other stressors, you might have had a background financial stress, but you know, kind of once you’ve chosen your path to kind of just have to accept that, you know, you’re living like a pauper, and doing what you love, and focus on doing what you love and trying to become less of a pauper while you’re doing it. But yeah, you know, the students, it’s, I mean, for a professional life can probably be a little more stable, although if you have a family, then it gets variable again. But students, external stresses are all over the map, and they swing wildly, like during exams, and midterms, and papers and everything else, you really have dramatic external stress.
Colby Pearce 08:22
Jeff Winkler 08:22
Changes that you have to accommodate.
Colby Pearce 08:25
Yep. And you’re using external as in the opposite of the bike or counterpose to the stress of sport. Is that how you mean?
Jeff Winkler 08:32
Yeah, I mean, the physiological stress of the bike is, is maybe what I’ll call the internal from, from my perspective, maybe that’s like, that seems like central.
Focusing on the Performance Management Chart
Colby Pearce 08:42
Coach-centric perspective. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So thinking about that whole stress equation, you know, I mean, I’ve had a lot of conversations with other people on the pod, and I’ve talked a lot about talked a lot about how focused people are on their PMC, you know, that performance management chart, which is this chart, that tracks your load on the bike, and I think it’s so easy for people to go down the wormhole of myopically focusing on that stress and just sort of forgetting about all the other stressors. But you know, Paul Chek teaches, one of his most fundamental teachings is that all stress summits, and I think this is exactly the model you’re talking about. For a Pro, the primary source of stress is their training load, although that said, I would argue that they have non-trivial amounts of stress off the bike as well, simply due to their lifestyle. I mean, even now, you hear stories about how young Americans, men, and women go to Europe and successfully or sometimes maybe not, as successfully make the transition to living in France or Spain or Germany or whatever. I mean, moving to a foreign country as a 21-year-old, in our era is quite challenging. I can only imagine when you did it, what kind of challenges you had? I mean, simple things like you can’t just text your mom and be like, “Hey, Mom, I landed in France,” like, you have to go find a pay phone when you and I were in that era, right? Not to sound like the old codgers who walked.
Jeff Winkler 10:15
It was definitely I don’t, you know, I don’t want to like, he just said, we don’t want like back in my time.
Colby Pearce 10:21
Jeff Winkler 10:21
It was a headwind in both directions.
Colby Pearce 10:22
The Stress of Collegiate Riders vs. Professionals
Jeff Winkler 10:24
It was certainly more isolation than there is now because there was no internet. I mean, young kids may be surprised to hear that you used to have to pay for long-distance calls, and from Europe, it was quite expensive to the point that I did not call my parents at all, you know, and even when I had a, you know, a serious partner, girlfriend at the time, we talked maybe once a month, because of it was just that hard. I mean, when I didn’t have a phone in my apartment/barn when I was in Spain, and you know, and then there was so few Americans over there at the time, and you didn’t have a hub like Gerona or some of the other places where English speakers have sort of migrated together, and so it was really sink or swim. It was also the cultural changes that have occurred in Europe, to where internationalism is really kind of taken hold in the last 20 or 30 years, you go to Europe now, and it’s a little bit more like the US than it used to be.
Colby Pearce 11:37
Jeff Winkler 11:37
Thirty years ago.
Colby Pearce 11:38
Colby Pearce 11:39
Jeff Winkler 11:40
So but yeah, those are stressors, for sure. It’s lifestyle stress. I mean, you adapt to food, you adapt to a new schedule unless you have language capability, you feel really isolated. And, you know, there’s a lot of old-school thinking back then from directors of these teams and stuff, and so you get on the wrong side, and your life is pretty miserable to be sure.
Colby Pearce 12:03
I would argue there’s still quite a bit of old-school thinking amongst a lot of instructors. I mean, the sport in Europe is just so rooted in that in the culture of cycling, and as a result of that, it’s kind of the same people because so many racers now become directors, so many racers right now, you know, involved.
Jeff Winkler 12:24
And they have matured under that same system?
Colby Pearce 12:26
Colby Pearce 12:27
Yeah, exactly. So, you worked with Eddie B quite a bit? You rode for Postal for a while, is that correct?
Jeff Winkler 12:35
Not Postal. But I worked, when Eddie started his team, I was in that first year.
Colby Pearce 12:44
Jeff Winkler 12:45
And then worked a little bit with Carmichael, because he was National Team Coach around the same time. So.
Colby Pearce 12:52
Right. And where were you based in Spain when you lived over there?
Jeff Winkler 12:56
One year, I was in the Basque Country, and another year I was in a city called Valladolid, which is a couple of hours north of Madrid. Kind of in the plains.
Colby Pearce 13:05
Yep. Yeah. So rainy part to the kind of dusty or desert part?
Jeff Winkler 13:11
Ah, it was more, well, I was also in the Basque Country near Alava, which is the capital, and it’s actually over the mountains from San Sebastian. So, it’s a little bit more the dry part of Spain.
Colby Pearce 13:26
Colby Pearce 13:29
Jeff Winkler 13:30
I loved racing in Spain, Spain was the best for me. Although I, I understand now, it’s not quite as good, because the frequency of racing and the number of teams has really taken a hit probably because of economic issues. So.
Colby Pearce 13:46
Jeff Winkler 13:47
But the opportunities in the early 90s were pretty amazing. I raced, I mean, you didn’t have to train once you got there. It was just it was all racing. It was all stage races and all road races, and, you know, yeah, a lot of climbing. So, it was really great.
Colby Pearce 14:01
And just for context, again, what year was this? Or what years were you in Spain?
Jeff Winkler 14:06
I was in Spain and 91′ and 92′, I was in Germany and 90′. And then I raced kind of more domestically in 89′ and 88′.
Colby Pearce 14:14
Okay, so, yeah, 92′ did you run into Tim Petty? or race with him at all? He’s an American.
Jeff Winkler 14:21
I did. I think more in the US, than over there. I think Vatter ended up going over just after me. He was there in Spain, because a friend of mine who was a teammate, befriended Vatters, and I recall seeing a bunch of pictures of those two guys together, a Spanish guy and him.
Colby Pearce 14:45
Jeff Winkler 14:47
So but there were just so few guys. It was many more, you know, Latvians and Russians and Norwegians floating around than there were Americans, in my experience.
Tim Petty: Spain Then Onto the Olympics
Colby Pearce 14:57
Yeah. Well, I got to tell the story and I’m sure you’ll, you’ll get this. You know, Tim was my roommate and Petty was my roommate in college for a while, and he just told me one day, “oh, I’m going to Spain.” He took off and somehow found his way over there and found his way onto a team, and just as he said, it was pretty much all racing, I remember him going over there, and I don’t know, maybe late January or something, he was pretty dreadfully out of shape, he hadn’t really done much in the fall. And he came back that spring, and this was 92′, and he showed up back to the US and just destroyed everybody at the Olympic trials and made the US Olympic team for Barcelona. That was a big controversy because Lance did not like him. So, there was a lot of pressure from Lance and his crew, for Tim to not race the race, and it was I think it ended up being speaking for Tim for a moment, I think ended up being the not very positive experience in the end because there was so much pressure from Lance and his herd, his posse. But anyway, it was a really interesting story, because Tim just, I mean, he went through this crucible in Spain and just became a completely different bike racer just got I think, he came back and I said, “How was your trip? You know, what, what, how to go?” And he was like, “well, I basically got dropped for about three months straight. And now I’m starting to feel really good.” And he came back to the trials, but of course, he had the advantage, no one had any idea who he was because he’d never really performed that well, nationally before he left her for that trip. And then, of course, he went through that Spanish meat grinder and came out and just yeah, had the element of surprise as well. So.
Jeff Winkler 16:28
Yeah, you know, it was very much sink or swim, and the racing style. If you were an aggressive, strong rider really favored you because it was always full blast. You know, the proverbial cream always rose to the top, because as soon as we went uphill, it didn’t matter whether it was 1k or 10k, it was full blast from the bottom.
Colby Pearce 16:53
Jeff Winkler 16:54
From the first pedal stroke.
Riding in the US vs. Europe
Colby Pearce 16:55
Jeff Winkler 16:55
And so you, you almost always had splits, and you know, the top 20-25 guys were always at the front of the race at the end, and it was always aggressive style racing, which was a real contrast to the US, which was very, to use the the term that in use at the time was more negative style, where were the favorites were often canceled by everyone would just chase them down, and so it was very difficult to like it had an impact on this flow of the race, and it might have had some, I mean, probably make an argument that it affected our ability to build strong riders to be competitive internationally because we were racing in such a different style.
Colby Pearce 17:37
What do you also think some of that is just the topography of the Spanish races over there? I mean, when you’ve got a lot, hillier terrain, it kind of plays out, generally speaking, that riders just sort of start round housing each other, or do you think it was more cultural?
Jeff Winkler 17:53
I think it’s more race culture, just because Spain is not full of mountains everywhere, and we raced, you know, you race all over the country.
Colby Pearce 18:00
Jeff Winkler 18:02
But like, like the first stage race we did was characterized by crosswind you know, and bad weather, more than climbs. But, yeah, certainly the most prestigious races were tended to be in the North and in the Pyrenees, or maybe in the Sierra Nevadas, in Grenada. But now, they weren’t as good on the flats, which was great coming over as an American, you know, I felt like any anytime there was a turn, or crosswind on the flats, that it was kind of more in my wheelhouse, and then I did ultimately kind of train myself to be decent on the climbs. I wasn’t the best climber, but I could certainly match them, and then they could not sprint me that, you know, I would end up being the best all-round rider at the climbers.
Colby Pearce 18:56
Jeff Winkler 18:56
So, and that that led to consistent success.
Colby Pearce 19:01
So you were the guy kind of one of the last guys to make it up the climb with the elite group, and then once you got to the line, you would mess everybody up.
Jeff Winkler 19:08
Yeah, I’d say when I mean, I was in 91′ was going quite well, I mean, I remember a race towards the end of the season, and Alex Zula was there, I was the only guy holding his wheel when he threw down. He went on, went on to Tour de France podiums, and, you know, granted. There are all kinds of background noise of doping and everything else in the era that followed, but nonetheless, he was still a pretty outstanding rider, you know, certainly one of the strong ones of the generation. But yeah, I think I you know, like back to your comment about the grinder, you know, I think in four months, I did like 65 races.
Colby Pearce 19:50
Racing and Recovering in Spain
Jeff Winkler 19:51
It was racing every third day, you basically just raced and recovered, and in those 65 races, I think I had 15 wins. At the time, you know, Americans struggled for success coming up in Europe, and it was just harder, you know, it was just so different than for all the reasons we’ve discussed.
Colby Pearce 20:11
Jeff Winkler 20:13
But for whatever reason, that was kind of, I really enjoyed racing over there more, and it probably made me race better than in the States, and it was so convenient, you know, you had choices of races, we never drove more than three hours, we had stage races every other week, you know, in order to go to the big ones, you had to be on a big team, you had to fly all over the place, or drive or whatever. It was harder.
Prize Money and Major Races
Colby Pearce 20:38
Yeah. Geographic challenges for sure. How was the prize money over there? Were you making enough money to cobble together, you know, some beans and rice? Or were you doing okay?
Jeff Winkler 20:50
Well, you know, it was in my memory of it is kind of funny, at the time this was a team where they had recruited half-Americans and half-Spaniards. The rationale was, they would get more invites to races at the time because Americans were something of a novelty, and the team wasn’t super strong. My recollection was there was a whole lot of prize money splitting, but it was still pretty decent. I didn’t have any financial obligations, it was kind of just, as long as you could subsist.
Colby Pearce 21:31
Jeff Winkler 21:32
You were, you were okay.
Colby Pearce 21:36
Good sprint for rent money. It’s a powerful driver, right?
The Stories of Eddie B
Colby Pearce 21:41
So, for those of for those listeners who are familiar with Eddie B, he wrote a pretty legendary book several years ago, and it’s filled with all kinds of old-school, Edie, I would consider being one of the most, old school cycling coaches out there, you know, kind of archetypally speaking, he talks about having sandwiches with horsemeat and water bottles with, you know, what? Whiskey or bourbon in them on cold days and stuff like that. What, uh, I know, you’ve got a good Eddie B story to share with us. Tell us.
Jeff Winkler 22:19
Yeah, I mean, I don’t know if that’s because he’s old school or because he was Eastern Bloc, you know?
Colby Pearce 22:25
Jeff Winkler 22:25
Um, you know, he came out of the 70s and 80s, in Eastern Europe, you know, and that, what if you want to talk about a meat grinder? I mean, cycling in the Eastern Bloc was the meat grinder to end all meat grinders, you know? I had a teammate from Poland and, and he raced for the national team, and it was basically you, you do exactly what the coaches say, and what they told you was often extreme, because there were 20 guys lined up waiting for your spot at the moment, you know, batted an eye.
Colby Pearce 23:02
Jeff Winkler 23:03
You would get replaced, and this kid at like, 16, went to a race in West Germany, and, and basically just defected, he just sort of ghosted the team and found his way to the US eventually, and made a life for himself. But, you know, as hard as we think we have it.
Colby Pearce 23:24
Jeff Winkler 23:24
You know, it’s like a whole nother level. But yeah, back to Eddie. Eddie was funny, I mean, honestly, I don’t have a ton of, I mean, as old school as he might be, he was responsible for sort of taking the US cycling out of the nonexistence.
Colby Pearce 23:43
Jeff Winkler 23:45
And you can criticize him, there are certainly things to criticize, but we needed him, he was the right guy at the right time, he took us through important steps to make us an international player in cycling. His accent was probably the most entertaining because he would get an idea about you, and then, you know, he had a bunch of isms, Eddieisms that that would always come out, and the manner in which he spoke was always quite entertaining.
Colby Pearce 24:17
Jeff Winkler 24:17
And I was the young guy on the team, and so you know, I was teammates with well- established riders in the US at the time, like Steve Hague, and Nitz, and Karl Maxon, and Thurlow Rogers and all these other guys, and I was you know, like an 18-year-old punk, and often, I was at the butt of Eddieisms. It was not bad, it was just kind of entertaining. I don’t know if it’s PC to like, it’s probably not PC to sort of imitate accents anymore, but you know, he’s he always referred to me as being crazy. He’s like, you know, “for my mind you, you are crazy guy.”
Colby Pearce 25:06
And why? What made you crazy? Just because you were the youngest?
Jeff Winkler 25:09
Oh, just, I don’t know, you know, honestly, that was why it was funny because he really didn’t know what it was. I didn’t do crazy stuff I’m pretty, I’d say pretty non-crazy, as far as risky or any of those kinds of things. I don’t know, maybe I think as I was, I was coming up, I probably rode without a whole lot of fear or wasn’t very wide-eyed about the guys who I was riding with, probably because I didn’t know anything about the sport. You know, I came in, and it was just kind of like, “Oh, this is awesome.” And within one year, I was riding with those guys, and you know, I didn’t have a background of like, these are the guys that did, you know, went to the Olympics and won gold medals, and you know, whatever. I just remember, you know, maybe in a year-and-a-half in, at the Tour of Baja, on a club team from SoCal that got invited for some reason, bridging to a move and Alexi Grewal sitting on the back, and he’s watching me come across and the, you know, I happened to be up on GC, but I was a total unknown, and he, as soon as I caught he, like, rode me off the back. Now I know what that is, but at the time, I didn’t know what that was, and I’m like, “What is he doing?” And then I was like, “why is he doing that to me?” You know? That didn’t make any sense to me, but of course, I learned that lesson, that was like a one-time lesson.
Colby Pearce 25:39
Jeff Winkler 25:46
And I was like, “Oh, yeah, that’s never gonna happen again.”
Jeff Winkler 26:49
But anyway, part of my experience.
Colby Pearce 26:53
And it’s just so our audience understands, and so I understand, Alexi took you out the back of the break, because you by being a higher-level rider on GC, that meant other teams who had GC interests, were going to chase the breakdown and then prevented success for the today, right?
Jeff Winkler 27:08
Yeah, well, what had happened is, I mean, without going into a lengthy, lengthy but so I was basically an unknown, I barely made the club selection to go, and it was in the start in two one, I had a prologue TT with this massively steep hill in it, and I ended up riding to like seventh in the prologue, and then over the next three stages, I was like, in the next stage was a long road stage, and I ended up getting in the break with Thurlow, and a couple of other guys right at the end, and finished fifth. Then the next day, we climbed this 18-mile climb in, in northern Mexico called La Roma Rosa, and I was like, now I’m gonna get blasted, and I hung in the front group, and still and then sprinted to top ten, I had like a string of basically every stage, I was top 10. I was, you know, in the top 10 on GC, and so, I mean, I was ahead of Alexi on GC.
Lessons About How Tactics Work
Colby Pearce 28:09
Colby Pearce 28:09
Jeff Winkler 28:09
So, you know, and then on this day, where it kind of happened, I was leading the young rider, Jersey from like, day two or something, and Paul Willerton, who had success in the 90s was my competition. He was a little bit behind me but threatening, and he was riding on a big team, Plymouth Reebok at the time. So, I kind of picked my battle, and I just said, “I’m just racing, Paul. I’m just going to try to defend the young rider jersey.” And we started on the stage and had a big climb, and there was a split, it was a sizable split, there was 20 some guys that rode away, and I was just marking Willerton, and I was like, “Surely, he’s gonna go, he’s gonna go, he’s gonna go and I’ll just wait. I’ll wait. I’ll cover him when he goes.” And he never did, and I was kind of like, well, then I’m gonna go and so you couldn’t even see the split anymore, it was gone, and I went anyway. Certainly, a high degree of naive, but solo, I crossed and bridged. So, I climbed, I was gaining obviously, and an over the top. I was coming up on this front group of 20 or 25, guys.
Jeff Winkler 28:34
And that’s where Alexi was, and so by knocking me, he basically, I caught and then I blew up because he took me off the back and I couldn’t sprint back on.
Colby Pearce 29:36
Jeff Winkler 29:37
And that group ended up rolling because all the teams had somebody in there, and so that was pretty much GC was up the road that day, and there was only one more stage, I think. But it was a hard lesson, but it was, you know, it also didn’t matter, I kind of made my splash.
Colby Pearce 29:58
Jeff Winkler 29:59
People found out who I was, and set up the next few years of contracts based on that one week, you know? So the fact that it didn’t get finished off is one thing, but it wasn’t critical, and it certainly learned a hard lesson about how tactics work.
Colby Pearce 30:17
Right. So that’s a great story of, you know, it makes me think like, it doesn’t really seem like stuff happens that much anymore, where guys will take people out the back of a break and such. I don’t know, I don’t I don’t hear about things like that as often in modern racing, do you? Maybe I’m wrong about that, maybe we’re just super out of touch, maybe we just don’t see.
Races Are Driven by Team Dynamics
Jeff Winkler 30:37
No, I think you’re right. I think certainly, I mean, maybe it’s hard to hear that in the States or in the sort of lesser races, and, you know, the coverage folks on the front, so maybe you don’t see these things. But certainly the way, you know, the highest level of sport operates both domestically and internationally, things are driven by team dynamics that may take some of that out of the picture, maybe, you know, but you and I both, we’ve coached people coming up through the sport, and they I just feel like I had to learn some harder lessons that maybe you don’t have an opportunity to learn those in your late teens and early 20s, the same way you did before. I’m thinking especially like Crossman’s, you know, some of the dynamics in racecraft are a little different, and I don’t know if that’s because of the influence of power meters and data and focus on you know, performance metrics, as opposed to racecraft itself.
Colby Pearce 31:43
Jeff Winkler 31:45
But certainly, we don’t see as much racecraft at the highest level, right? Because it’s so much dominated by team dynamic that it removes individual race craft, Somewhat.
Colby Pearce 31:56
Somewhat, you know, yeah, yeah.
Jeff Winkler 31:59
It’s muted a little bit. So, you know, it’s concentrated into a very narrow part of the race, right? After it’s been set up.
Colby Pearce 32:08
Right. Right. But it hands the potential race victory onto the silver platter of the race leader, I should say, or that team leader, and it’s up to them to execute.
Jeff Winkler 32:21
It removes a lot of the like, chance, right? Yeah, chance outcomes that maybe we used to see more of.
Colby Pearce 32:27
Jeff Winkler 32:28
I was just doing a group ride online, and we were, you know, talking about some names and one that came up was Claudio Chiappucci, you know, had an amazing ride, it’s sort of a, he had a, he was unknown, and in the 1990 tour, he gets away on day one, and he’s allowed to gain 10 minutes, takes a yellow jersey, everyone just assumes, “Oh, he’s gonna lose that.” He holds the jersey until stage 20.
Colby Pearce 33:05
Jeff Winkler 33:06
And only loses it to LeMond, in the time trial, and he finishes second overall on the tour. Then he goes on, to have success after that, right? You know, it’s like changed him as a rider, all on a chance kind of move, right? It’s hard to imagine that happening now.
Colby Pearce 33:25
Agreed. Yeah, that’s a good point. It kind of transformed his career, pushed this wind into the sails, probably because he can realize what he was capable of. Yeah. Yeah.
Jeff Winkler 33:37
Colby Pearce 33:38
That’s a great point, interesting. Well, that makes me wonder if, you know, coaching is really changed dramatically in these years, I mean, it used to be well, to go back to your comment about you know, kind of race craft and crosswinds and such I mean, I had a conversation with Scott Moninger about this on the pod, but I cut my teeth on some you know, early Colorado windy road races like there was this road race the Buckeye road race, I don’t know if you ever did that, you probably didn’t you were probably in Spain, but basically just a giant rectangle north of Fort Collins, so perfect set up to pretty much be a wind tunnel every time because it’s about you know, 30k from the mountain so the wind just comes right off the off the mountains and swoops right down and just hammers that farmland rectangle with just a couple little rolling hills. I remember showing up to that thing, the first year I was a senior, and just getting my ass kicked, just totally decimated by the field, and also having these painful moments of realization like you really register how powerful the wind is in that moment when you’ve got 12 guys lying in front of you, and you’re a single bike length off of that group and you cannot close the gap.
Extracting Learning From Lessons
Jeff Winkler 34:54
Colby Pearce 34:54
For me, it was that moment of insight like, “oh, I understand this now. This is 12 against one.” That’s why I’m never gonna win this battle, it doesn’t matter how strong I am, unless I turn into rain, you know, overnight, which wasn’t gonna happen. Like, it’s, it’s not going to be a thing where I close that gap, I have to learn how to hide in this wind, and it comes down to centimeters of positioning, you have to have your wheel exactly in the right place and learn to become an extremely good bike handler, and, you know, you have a few of those hard lessons, and if you’re good, or I’ll say if you’re an AP student, and you have a passion for the sport, I’ll put it that way, then you learn those lessons really quickly, right?
Jeff Winkler 35:34
Yeah, and my experience was that I think we could all, you know, the American, you know, Peloton can learn those lessons. We just didn’t have very many opportunities.
Colby Pearce 35:45
Jeff Winkler 35:46
I raced in Southern California, and you know, for the most part, that wasn’t what racing looks like, you know, it wasn’t flat and windy. But there was the occasional race like up in the Central Valley, not Central Valley, but I don’t even know what to call it, but it’s where like Palmdale and Lancaster are, it’s like north of LA.
Colby Pearce 36:06
Jeff Winkler 36:08
And occasionally, we would get wind in early-season spring races there. Or if you were out in Borrego Springs, east of San Diego, occasionally you would get it, but it was always even when you went to a place where there could be wind, you never were guaranteed to get it. Where if you race in Belgium, it’s guaranteed every day.
Colby Pearce 36:29
Jeff Winkler 36:30
You know, at a certain time of year, that’s going to be an animator in every race, you know, and excuse me. So, you know, that was the struggle is you just, you had to extract so much learning out of so few lessons, you know, opportunities. And so, it was great that I got to go to Europe pretty early in my career and get a dose of that in sort of get a graduate degree, if you will, in certain race craft certain aspects of it. That probably was certainly I know, when I came back to the States, it was like, “Oh, yeah, there’s going to be wind, I know exactly what to do.” You know, and most of the people that were, you know, at my level, hadn’t had that experience, perhaps, you know?
Additive Effect of Gaining Experience
Colby Pearce 37:18
Yeah, and I think there’s an additive effect there, meaning, you know, then you come back to the US and you race, whatever Redlands where there’s really not typically that much wind, maybe a touch here and there on the Oakland stage or whatever, but most of it is, is I’ll say low wind conditions racing, but on a typical year. But there are certainly moments in the Peloton where you can increase your efficiency or move up on the correct side of the group or find a way to kind of ninja through the draft when you’ve been hardened by that Belgian experience or that racing, you know, Hollander or wherever you got your wind of curriculum given to you, right? And it just it’s an additive effect, then by the time you get to the bottom Oakland, you’re far fresher because you’ve navigated a Peloton for three hours, in a much more efficient way than someone who just really doesn’t see those dynamics. These are the kinds of lessons that are, I think you’re exactly right, it’s really hard to coach these because we don’t have opportunities to practice that stuff or to learn and when you go, you know, one week of racing in Belgium will teach you more than three months will in the US as far as the wind.
Jeff Winkler 38:27
Yeah, yeah, I agree. I mean, we are the kind of lucky here in the Spring, usually or late Winter. I know I’ve gone out leading like CU rides with some of the A and stronger riders, and you know, we get a lot of wind in February and March, especially if he’s close to the Front Range. There were long rides where we’re coming back, you know, towards Boulder, and it was massive attrition, you know, so you had the 10 guys who were, you know, good, good riders, some of them certainly stronger than I was at the time, but usually, me in those strongest guy were the last one standing in the paceline, that wasn’t attacking was just sort of rotating hard in a crosswind, and it was I attributed entirely to I just knew when I had to go hard and in order to save energy, you know, and knew how to save energy on a regular basis perhaps, because otherwise these guys you put them on an uphill, I’d lose to them every time they would go faster. But like you said, that’s hard to intellectually coach without the experience itself, and I think that it’s much more eye-opening, you sort of see the nuance, and then you can address it in the moment and really, really kind of coach that well.
Colby Pearce 39:59
Jeff Winkler 40:00
But you get so few opportunities to do it. It’s tough, you know, it’s pretty tough.
Colby Pearce 40:04
So much of it is experiential, you know, you feel the wind on your left shoulder, you feel when you get in that pocket, that draft, and you really put your wheel overlapped and close to someone else’s derailleur, but not touching it, but you feel that pocket of wind sucks you in, and everything gets easier, you have to feel that.
Jeff Winkler 40:24
Colby Pearce 40:25
I mean, I can describe it on a podcast, and some people who have learned it may identify with it, but it’s, you’re not going to know it until you get out there and feel those sensations.
Jeff Winkler 40:33
Yeah, navigating the return line, in a rotating Echelon.
Colby Pearce 40:39
Jeff Winkler 40:39
You can do it the wrong way, and you’re gonna get popped, or you do it the right way, and you’ll survive. I think I recently read something where Scott Mercier was talking about one of his first-year European experiences, and he made the front Echelon, but 10 or 15 minutes, he got blown out of that into the second Echelon, 10 or 15 minutes of that he got blown out of that, and he was in the third Echelon, you know, and that’s saying a number of things that we often don’t experience in the US, or at the time, at least, is the concept of a second and third Echelon was completely foreign. You can’t get US riders to make a second Echelon. It’s so funny, you know, it’s like one develops at the front, and then everyone else just lines up in the gutter.
Colby Pearce 41:28
Jeff Winkler 41:28
And just survives as long as they can.
Colby Pearce 41:31
They pop and then there’s a lead group, and then there’s a peloton. Yeah.
Jeff Winkler 41:34
Yeah. So I remember doing the Tour Mexico, which was like a late-season race in 1990, a three-weeker, and we had multiple Echelons for 35 miles.
Colby Pearce 41:49
Jeff Winkler 41:49
And it was like full tilt, and you could see the one in front of you, you know, and you were just trying to hold the gap.
Colby Pearce 41:57
Yeah, you went to a headwind or tailwind.
Jeff Winkler 42:02
But, those don’t happen in domestic races.
Colby Pearce 42:06
Jeff Winkler 42:06
Momentary Act of Survival
Colby Pearce 42:07
You’re right, very rarely, I remember a few times, you know, Vuelta De Bisbee, back in the day, 92-91′, when we had a huge fields sometimes we’d have a second Echelon or a third, but the gaps were pretty big. I think what a lot of people miss in that equation is the race will shatter into four Echelons, you know, in Holland or Belgium, and then that group of comes together, as soon as you make a turn, becomes one Peleton again. So, when you’re in the third or fourth group, your race isn’t necessarily over, assuming everyone in that group knows what they’re doing and knows how to work with the wind, you’re just like you said, you’re maintaining a gap to the group in front of you, and then that gap is closable once conditions change. It’s just a momentary act of survival, basically.
Jeff Winkler 42:50
Yeah. And, you know, another thing you would often see in the States that you didn’t see over in Europe was, if you had a second Echelon, and you were within, you know, firing distance, or the front one, you know, you’d have guys try to jump over to the first one.
Colby Pearce 43:03
Jeff Winkler 43:04
You know? Which would destroy the second one, because it destroys the flow and you’re sort of bleeding horsepower, which is allowing you to just stay right behind the First Echelon.
Colby Pearce 43:13
Jeff Winkler 43:13
Colby Pearce 43:14
Yeah. Yeah, good point.
Colby Pearce 43:19
So well, I was reading on your site the other day that you decided to undertake this Zwift project this year to make your threshold, I think you said you’re going to try to bring it up to its Project Winkler, battle my youthful self, or something like that?
Jeff Winkler 43:34
I mean, it 2021, I’m going to try to match what numbers I had when I was 21. So, with a certain degree of fudging for what I knew at the time, obviously, I’m at elevation here, not MSC level before, but yeah, it’s not just Zwift, it’s everything. But Zwift, obviously, in 2020, was a major, major contributor to my training time, and it probably as a result of doing so much inside riding, that actually created the possibility of this project, because I got quite a bit fitter in 2020 than I had in the previous six or seven years.
Colby Pearce 44:20
Jeff Winkler 44:21
With a normal riding schedule.
Consequences of Only Riding on Zwift
Colby Pearce 44:26
Okay, that’s a great platform, for a few points I’d like to make and discuss with you. I think one of the problems we have now, especially, you know, given the context of the COVID era, is that so many people are on Zwift, and people are getting stronger, but there’s an imbalance there because just as we were talking about, you don’t learn racecraft on Zwift, you don’t learn how to put yourself on the right wheel, and arguably, there are other complications as well, with all that indoor riding. I think some of the trade-offs that I can see that I’ve seen I think our potential pitfalls for certain riders are one like you’re clearly a rider who adapted to cycling very well, very easily, you’re probably what we can refer to in the fitting world as a high-level compensator, you’re doing a lot of indoor training. I don’t know what your’re off the bike conditioning routine or stretching looks like or strengthening, but, you know, you clearly had an aptitude for cycling at a young age, which meant you adapted well to that stress without problems, you didn’t have a big injury history, you didn’t have any, you know, challenges of blood chemistry, like low iron or anything like that, at least not that you mentioned. So, you adapted that load easily, we’ll say and I will also, not a lot of riders fall into that category, not a lot of athletes necessarily follow that path so simply. So, when we put someone on an indoor trainer, I think the risk of biomechanical challenges goes up because the bike is locked in place. So, we have little stabilizations that happen when you’re riding outside, you’re out of the saddle more, you’ve got things like stoplights and descents, so you’re coasting more.
Colby Pearce 46:09
So, what I found is that riders who train indoors a lot on a trainer that’s fixed in particular, they almost manifest this thing that I’ve sort of termed, trainer syndrome, where all their little niggles, all their little IT band pains, or saddle sores, or lower back pains, or neck pains kind of get amplified. I think Zwift doesn’t help that situation, because when you’re so focused on this video game, virtual environment, and the trainer’s locked in place, and you’re usually not standing up as much, you’re not cornering, you’re not coasting, you’re not breaking, you’re not clipping out of stoplights, all those things get what I said before, amplified, the point being is that they sort of summit into this additional acute state, right? So, get some IT band stuff that’s bothering you from time to time, ride Zwift a bunch, chances are, it’s gonna get worse, and I think that’s one challenge. But then we add to that the fact that the rider is building a certain amount of strength, of raw strength, you know, FTP, or Watson zones or whatever, but they’re not counterbalancing that with racecraft, and I want to make a point. This is a really long-winded platform to give you sort of a chance to talk but, you know, this is also something I noticed in riders like, well, Phil Gaimon is the perfect example, I coached feel for several years and he grew up racing in Florida. And Phil’s really strong, very talented, high aerobic capacity. I think riding in Florida did him a bit of a disservice later in his career because he was probably 5% stronger than almost anyone else in the Peloton there, and so he could pretty much ride out, pull out in the wind, pass the entire Peloton and then do things like you were describing like a bridge from, you know, bridge a four-minute gap from the Peloton to the brake solo, and then still win. He was that much stronger than everyone, and when you’re so strong, you lose the nuance of, you know, you don’t have to hide in the wind when you’re that strong compared to everyone else. Necessity is the mother of invention. Now, I learned how to hide in the wind because I was by, you know, far, far from the strongest guy in any local race here in the early 90s. I mean, not only because I was not a particularly amazing natural talent in terms of raw engine, but also because I was dealing with guys like Davis Finney and the whole Coors Light team is based here in Colorado, whatever. So, I show up to the Buckeye road race, and I’ve got 12 pros on the line for a 108-mile road race with that $9 prize list. It’s just what you dealt with. So that crucible helped me become a better racer, so I’m grateful for it, but Phil didn’t have that experience in Florida he was always so much stronger than everyone else that he learned to operate as a blunt force instrument, as opposed to using his strength and skill in a much more you know, you might say race crafty style.
Colby Pearce 49:04
So, as a coach, you’re, you’ve got you are you’re leading online groups and you’ve got Zwift workout that you lead and things like that, and I think that’s all got value, but how are we? How are you offsetting that to teach your riders given the limits of COVID I understand, you know, some of this race craft, how can we work around this as coaches and make sure that athletes are still knowing how to pull through in a paceline? That they’re understanding, you know, basics of riding outdoors or maybe for your more advanced riders, how are you at furthering their skill for those types of things?
Coaching Athletes During COVID-19
Jeff Winkler 49:42
Yeah, well, let me just address one thing you said. I agree with you and I think I had a more inexperienced, maybe more like you then Gaimon coming up. I felt like I was always racing up, you know, so I, I never sort of sat around and the fours or the threes or the twos, you know, I got out as soon as possible. It wasn’t like because I was dominating that I got out, as soon as I had the ability to upgrade, or I could finagle someone to sort of sidestep the points a little bit and fudge it.
Colby Pearce 50:17
Athletes Don’t Win With Brute Force but With Optimized Application
Jeff Winkler 50:18
I would get up because I felt like I need to learn what I need to be successful in that level, and I need to keep moving up, not learn what I need to be successful here, because it probably doesn’t apply, I still believe that. As a result, there were always much stronger riders in the groups that I was racing with, and so I had to be clever, right? You couldn’t win with brute force, you had to win with the smart, optimized application of what you had to bring to the table, and that had I would say that certainly has informed my approach. Even as a coach, I’m always trying to override these guys’ natural instincts of just smash it, right? Like, the classic thing that athletes always say is, “I just wanted to make it hard.” And I said, “Well, you achieve that, but primarily for you.”
Colby Pearce 51:19
Jeff Winkler 51:20
You know, you made it hard, but you made it hardest for you, which is not super smart, you know unless you are head and shoulders the strongest guy. Anyway, so but then back to the inside. Well, the first thing with regards to comfort and injury, yeah, it’s different. I had a cohort of, of riders that we embraced Zwift from the beginning of the COVID, and we spent, I mean, it’s kind of mind-boggling how much time I rode inside and 2020. I was never a trainer guy, I hated the trainer, like when I was coming up, I was like, “No,” 75 minutes was like the absolute limit. I think I put in 8000 miles on the trainer.
Colby Pearce 52:15
Jeff Winkler 52:16
Colby Pearce 52:18
Jeff Winkler 52:20
And there are some physical things you need to figure out. You know, it’s like we learned early on. So, I had a cohort, so everybody had issues pop up, right? So, you had an opportunity to sort of solve some of these issues that presented for different people, and one of the key things is to alter the trainer so that it isn’t as fixed in place.
Training Inside vs. Outside
Colby Pearce 52:44
Jeff Winkler 52:44
Um, and you know, you’ve probably had the experience, I had an opportunity to sort of see some of the data with the LEOMO device, which is a motion sensor package. One thing that they noticed is that the hip motion sensors, were quite a bit different, essentially, opposite, inside and outside, that you would have hip tilt, and hip twisting, and they behaved 180 degrees opposite inside and outside, that’s because what you were sitting on was moving outside, and so that took the pressure off your body to do the moving.
Colby Pearce 53:27
Jeff Winkler 53:28
And when it’s fixed inside your body ends up doing this extra movement to create the same kind of sensation. So, the first thing was to get the trainers on a squishy platform, if you will, you know, not that initially, there weren’t like the, you know,
Colby Pearce 53:45
I’ve got a Saris MP1 in my fit studio.
Jeff Winkler 53:48
Yeah, yeah, that one seems to be the kind of Cadillac or Rolls Royce of platforms.
Colby Pearce 53:57
Jeff Winkler 53:57
But I went the route of just I got like the pads that you would have at a standing desk, or if you had and if you worked in a standing position, and they have, you know, an inch of soft padding and just put that under the feet so that you get some flow. So I decided you can’t rock the bike like you would outside, but it at least you was not sitting in one place, forcing your body on the saddle to sort of make all these micro-movements that might lead to friction and saddle sores. Yeah, whatever, and the knee pain and so that seemed to be something that was solvable, for most people in our group. We, I mean, everybody put in a lot more time than you know, we were doing three and four-hour and five-hour rides on the trainer on the weekends together as a group, and there was no chronic injury problems.
Colby Pearce 54:47
Adapting and Learning Zwift
Jeff Winkler 54:48
So, there’s that and then more to the, you know, the just to sort of the practice of riding inside, I think Zwift it’s certainly not a proxy or facsimile of real life, group riding or racing, but it is a system like it has a physics system, it has an interaction system, that if you’re going to do it, you have to engage intellectually with, and you have to figure it out and adapt to it. That is exactly the same process you do in the real world, just different variables, right? The variables present differently. So, holding a wheel in Zwift, you don’t get as much sensation as you get in the real world, but you still have to interpret the environment to see whether you’re doing a good job and get better at it.
Colby Pearce 55:52
Jeff Winkler 55:53
And so, it’s kind of a similar process. I can say that most of the people that I’m riding with, there I mean, it’d be interesting if we had like a five-year COVID problem, where you had people start the sport, in that way, right? And then have to migrate out that that would be very interesting to sort of struggle through, I imagine it would be quite an issue.
Colby Pearce 56:15
Jeff Winkler 56:15
But most people are coming from the real world, they have a context already to work the Zwift or the online racing and group riding kind of thing into the larger thing they’re used to.
Jeff Winkler 56:29
So, you sort of bridge it. But I think, yeah, and certainly the style of racing or successful racer on Zwift, I mean, we all we’ve all seen the stuff where, you know, the World Tour riders did stuff early in 2020, and you had Zwift like pros, blasting them out of the water. Although we know, the World Tour riders are fitter, at least they’re fitter for their sport as we know it outside. But that’s true, that’s really not unique, right? That’s kind of a truism. In the 80s and 90s, you had European pros come over and do like the Coors Classic, or races over here, and there’d be a crit stage, and they’d all get blasted by Americans who were clearly not at their level, you know, so that’s not really all that surprising. But I don’t know, I mean, I don’t do a ton of Zwift racing, I have done some, and I did more in 2020, the thing is actually want to, because I think it’s a great training tool, not because it’s replicating what goes on in the real world, but just because it motivates you and it gets you to work hard, and you get stronger. So it’s a tool, and if it’s the only tool you have, it’s the tool you have to use.
Colby Pearce 56:29
Colby Pearce 57:59
Interesting. Yeah, I mean, I take your point on that, Zwift bros coming and beating up on European pros, because they’ve specialized in this, you know, weird little niche discipline of cycling, and it’s kind of almost the same thing as the Everesting battles that have been going on, right? Now we’re seeing people who are riding bikes with, you know, drops cut off, and all sorts of weird equipment and bizarre gear choices and stuff, and they’re doing these ridiculous Everesting times and good for them, that’s awesome. You know, I think the latest guy, Ronan McLaughlin, is at the time of this recording who I don’t even know what is Everesting time is.
Jeff Winkler 58:34
Colby Pearce 58:35
It’s like, yeah,
Jeff Winkler 58:38
No, it’s like 640.
Colby Pearce 58:39
Sub seven. Sorry.
Jeff Winkler 58:41
Jeff Winkler 58:42
20 minutes faster than the previous set, which were all right around.
Colby Pearce 58:47
Yep. Which is just nuts.
Jeff Winkler 58:49
But that’s also not really that bizarre, because he’s British and England and I don’t mean that because he’s British, but England has a tradition of hill climb time.
Colby Pearce 59:01
Jeff Winkler 59:02
And all of the things that we saw on his bike are common in those hills, you know, even more so because they’re there, they don’t have to have the durability that you might have to have for an Everesting.
Colby Pearce 59:14
Jeff Winkler 59:16
But yeah, it well, but yeah, it was that the whole movement, if you will, or the whole thing, and it’s also true, applicable to the sort of fastest known time trend that has also developed. These were alternate competitive outlets when the standard one kind of evaporated, you know, and I think that that’s fine, productive, I think it’s useful, I think it’s, you know, it’s good. I would argue the Everesting thing is really not as big of a change for these guys, you know, the guys that we’re seeing records and stuff.
Colby Pearce 59:57
Yeah, I agree. It’s just something that requires a bit of, you know, it’d be like an hour record like for someone who’s a European pro for them to take time out of their calendar, prepare specifically for it, you got to deal with equipment and, you know, yep, train specifically for it, etc, etc. But you’re right, it’s not a massive stretch. I think it’s interesting to watch these evolutions and see these types of records’ faults inspiring other people.
Jeff Winkler 1:00:21
Yeah, and I would guess if you could do online racing in the similar sort of duration format that you see at the high level of the sport outside, the same people would rise to the top, it’s just that you’re not going to get anybody doing six-hour races. Now, anyway, I mean, you know, but like, everything is a process. I mean, you adapt to like, you know, when we started in 2020, the idea, I think most people in our little group were like, yeah, they were not like, hey, let’s go ride, you know, three hours on the trainer, or four hours on the trainer, but we built towards that, recognizing, like, hey, that’s what we would normally do on a Saturday, and if we want to sort of have fitness, normal fitness, when this ends, we’re gonna have to, you know, try it, right? And, and, along the way, we discovered, I discovered, that there are actually some pretty strong positives associated with this approach that I had never really envisioned being there. An example is, you know, we all enjoy the long weekend ride, and what we did is very early on, we had the sort of add-on audio component, which is discord is typically what’s used, it’s a, you know, a shared audio server. So, everyone plops on their headphones and have a mic, and so you ride in Zwift, but then you have a shared audio space, like a maybe like a conference call, you know? And so, it’s like, then it’s like, you could say, Oh, well, now we’re at least getting the interaction that we get on a normal outside ride. But in the end, it turned out being better, because when you’re on an outside ride, unless you’re just on the bus stop ride or something and ignoring the rules of the road, you can only talk to the guy in front of you, or next to you or maybe behind you, you know,
Colby Pearce 1:02:28
Jeff Winkler 1:02:28
And that’s it, where we could have a 20-person ride where you could have a conversation that everyone participated in, simultaneously,
Colby Pearce 1:02:38
And you’re not all shouting over the wind.
Jeff Winkler 1:02:40
Yeah, yeah. And it was actually kind of great. You know, it developed its own rhythm to where a lot of these guys are now like, I don’t know if we can replicate that back outside, you know, the group ride outside is not going to have that, and it’s gonna be a bummer.
Colby Pearce 1:02:56
I mean, everyone is going to have to wear wireless mics. Yeah, it’s not a bad idea. I mean, that’s how motorcycle groups do it.
Jeff Winkler 1:03:05
Yeah, right. Right. Right. Right.
Colby Pearce 1:03:06
Then it would prevent people from you know, conglomerating, into a Peloton is often I think that’s one of the problems with group rides is after, you know, an hour or two people think they’re in a Peloton, and they just start floating up next to each other and riding because they’re talking, and then a car comes, and It’s like, there’s this wrestling match and the cyclist’s mind.
Jeff Winkler 1:03:25
Yeah, but I’m about to make this really interesting point in this conversation. So, do I really want to move over?
Colby Pearce 1:03:30
The drivers like, “Dude, what are you doing?” You know, we’re in a farm road, but come on.
Jeff Winkler 1:03:35
Colby Pearce 1:03:36
And then it’s the well, they don’t have anywhere to be in a hurry.
Jeff Winkler 1:03:40
Yeah, yeah, that whole conversation.
Jeff Winkler 1:03:42
Well, I mean, so that’s kind of nice. It was kind of, and having gone out more recently, with more outside rides in small groups, you know, it’s highlighted the absence of that interaction with vehicles, right? And reinforced that, like, that actually was a real positive.
Colby Pearce 1:04:02
Jeff Winkler 1:04:03
Something you didn’t have to worry about. But, uh, you know, anyway, and, you know, we could go in I, we don’t really need to go into, like, in-depth of, like, you know, why riding indoors tends to be high quality, and all of that, I mean, because, right, you know, we know why, you’re always on the gas and blah, blah, blah. But, I mean, I was genuinely surprised, and I did an indoor Everesting in 2020. So, I rode How long was it? Nine hours and 20 minutes or something? Indoors and that’s crazy, right? Yeah, that’s crazy talk for somebody who came from real-world racing, you know, but it wasn’t that bad, you know, I mean, the other benefit is like, if and I think it’s it’s funny, as I transition back to being outside, I can now sort of contextually relate these points that I thought were things inside is like, the cool thing about inside is you have all of your nutrition, you know your fluids and food, all handy.
Colby Pearce 1:05:15
All accessible. Yeah.
Jeff Winkler 1:05:17
And I drink more inside than I do outside, and I eat more regularly probably because there’s nothing else to pay attention to, right? You’re just like, there’s a bar, I’ll eat it, right? Or there’s my bottle, it’s half full, I want to finish it before the hours out or whatever. From a coach’s perspective, if we think, well, when you go out and you do some of these longer rides, and you don’t do a good job of staying on top of fluid and nutrition, you actually enhance the training effect, right? And maybe it you make it more burdensome, and then it makes it harder to recover, and it kind of negatively impacts training going forward. Well, if that’s true, and I had a suspicion that that was true, training inside doing like the same workout inside will have a more predictable and perhaps intended stress, right? And strain.
Colby Pearce 1:06:12
Jeff Winkler 1:06:13
And so then you can bounce back better because you’re on top of the little things that boost the training stress, you know. So unexpected, perhaps benefit, you know.
Colby Pearce 1:06:29
That’s a good point. Yeah, you’ve never run into the problem where you just sometimes you just run out of food and water because of either poor planning or because ride conditions are different than you anticipated, and there’s just an hour until you either get home or go to a store, you know if you’re in the middle of nowhere, there’s like no food or water available that happens.
Jeff Winkler 1:06:46
So you’re in your last hour, hour and a half and you’re like, I just eat when I get home.
Colby Pearce 1:06:50
I’ll just make it. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, and then half hour your like, whoo, that wasn’t a good idea or whatever.
Jeff Winkler 1:06:57
You’re already at home, so that’s not gonna happen, right? It’s in front of me, I’m gonna eat it.
Replenishing the Engine
Colby Pearce 1:07:02
Yeah, that’s a good point. I think a lot of riders are confounded on this, at least I imagine that they are based on the conversations I’ve had, maybe this is just imaginary, but I think some people see, okay, we read stories, or you read articles or, or hear about training techniques where people are, you know, intentionally glycogen depleting themselves, or they’re riding in a fasted state. I think riders, and then there’s an old school mentality on top of that, which is, you know, oh, eating is cheating, or, you know, I drink only water on my long rides. I mean, here, I like, some of our training colleagues talk about how they get up and have a coffee only, and then they ride for four or five hours on water only. It’s like, man, that’s a really powerful recipe for a pretty substantially depleted ride, you know, by the end of that ride, you’re gonna be pretty smoked, you’re gonna have not a lot of glycogen in your system, most likely, and you’re gonna be running really low on blood sugar. The theory is that that’s part of your training load, and these are two very different philosophies. From the sports science, and sports nutrition stuff that I’ve been studying recently, it seems like most of the top end people are pointing towards, you know, really the opposite, which is you want to kind of what you’re describing, Jeff, you want to have a very fueled experience, and you want to enable yourself to do high-quality work. In order to do that, you’ve got to constantly be replenishing the engine, you know, their pros talking about having upwards of 100 grams of carbs an hour right now, during hard racing, that is the opposite of any world where you’re trying to do glycogen depleted or fasted ride, you know? Instead, it’s about maximizing as much fuel into the system as you can, and the real challenge there is how the athletes can handle that much fuel. So from that perspective, I don’t know do you have a comment on that? Do you prescribe a lot of fasted rides to your athletes or intentionally glycogen depleted state rides or workouts?
Jeff Winkler 1:09:02
I never do never. I did it inadvertently, like we all do, you know, when I was training and in retrospect, I would always think like, well, I always felt like, okay, I needed to have a couple of big bonks before, you know, like after that I kind of felt like, oh, yeah, like something changed, you know? And so, I’m going to contradict myself and say, like, even though that was kind of my experience, I didn’t go out of my way to create it.
Colby Pearce 1:09:32
It just happens sometimes.
Jeff Winkler 1:09:33
It would happen, you know, you’d be under fueled or, you know, I had one crazy epic fail of a ride that turned into the most dramatic sort of bonk and recover kind of thing I’d ever experienced, where, you know, was this long ride in the mountains, east of Bakersfield, and there’s a store on the far end like you go over the mountains, then you’re on the backside, and there’s the store and you refuel, and then you kind of climb back over and get back down and you know, 120-mile ride or something like that.
Colby Pearce 1:10:06
Jeff Winkler 1:10:07
And I did it, and of course, that day the store is closed.
Colby Pearce 1:10:11
Jeff Winkler 1:10:11
Right. It’s Bakersfield, it was summer, it was 100 degrees. I no water, no food, and about 60 miles to go, including 15 miles of climbing.
Colby Pearce 1:10:27
Jeff Winkler 1:10:28
And it was the most awful experience until I started going down the other side and got back into town. Something like I was fully bogged, you know, could barely turn over the pedals, I had no water, I had to, like, ride with my mouth closed, because if I didn’t, it would get so dry, couldn’t swallow, right? And I couldn’t find water, on the top, there’s was like campgrounds, I like shot into and there was no water to be found whatever. Anyway, I get back into town, it’s 100 degrees back in Bakersfield, and suddenly started to feel fine, even better, like good, you know, and obviously, the body made a switch, right? And said, well, we’re not getting any of the fuel we need, so let’s use what we got, you know, some? But yeah, you know, this is it kind of loops back to kind of where maybe we thought this discussion was gonna go is about science and incorporating into coaching, and sort of knowledge in general and comparing that to experience, and how you put these things to work, and you know, the problem is, is that the science, and I use that term just to collectively refer to stuff that’s testing that’s done and studies that are done in labs and academic setting. That we get a lot of info and a lot of the results don’t really jive with each other, so it’s pretty easy to just selectively pick what reinforces your own preference, you know. So if you believe there’s something to glycogen depletion or fasted training, or fat-adaptation like that, that’s something that’s A good, B possible, then, then it’s pretty easy to find scientific support for that proposition, and then to feel confident in prescribing it. You know, and unfortunately, the opposite is also true.
Colby Pearce 1:12:42
Jeff Winkler 1:12:42
If you think it’s better to train fueled, because the output is better, so therefore, the primary training effect is focused, you know, right? That’s what’s get getting emphasized, and maybe there’s some follow on effects to putting yourself through this metabolic stress that is undesirable for future training, you know, it’s tough, right? And I think as a coach, especially, you have to check yourself, and it’s also true of an athlete is like, just because something gets currency and gets promoted, doesn’t mean, and certainly, the degree to which it’s promoted doesn’t really mean it’s true, just because it’s louder, right?
Colby Pearce 1:13:31
Jeff Winkler 1:13:31
Because these things go through phases, like, you know, like the BeatRoute thing.
Colby Pearce 1:13:37
Jeff Winkler 1:13:37
That thing exploded, even though the original paper said, “We don’t believe you can make this conclusion for elite athletes yet,” right? We need more studies to say whether this mode of operation, this benefit that we saw in untrained individuals is true for well-trained or elite athletes. Now, the latest study that I saw in the last few weeks is that there’s no benefit for the elite athlete, right? So, think of the market that has exploded over the last five years, and how much money was spent. I think that it’s interesting, the ketogenic thing, and fasted, and fat-adapted, and all that kind of stuff is it’s, there are things there, but I just saw a study that basically said that they compare a fasted training group to a fueled training group, and they always will show that the fasted group burns more fat, I mean that, that always happens, that’s really not that novel and not that unexpected. But it’s interesting when you look at the numbers, often the numbers are not, it’s like we just focus on, oh yeah, it’s better, it makes you burn fat, and we know burning fat is good, right? But if the difference in your grams of fat burn per minute is, .2 times 60, to get it per hour. So, it’s 30 grams of fat per hour, times nine grams, or calories per gram, that’s 270 calories.
Colby Pearce 1:15:25
Jeff Winkler 1:15:26
That’s the bar, right? That’s one bar.
Colby Pearce 1:15:31
Jeff Winkler 1:15:31
So one Clif Bar, right? We were saying that, like 150 to 250 calories an hour is transformational.
Colby Pearce 1:15:43
When you can eat the bar either way. Yeah.
Jeff Winkler 1:15:45
Yeah. Now, that said, I mean, some of the earlier studies about where you have, so what that might actually mean is that you do need to commit to becoming ketogenic before you have a significant alteration of fat metabolism, right? And the studies do show that like these, these 17 months or nine months of ketogenic diets, and then you look at the fat metabolism rate comparison, and it’s dramatic, I mean, we’re talking two or three times as much, right? Then we’re talking real numbers, but, you know, what are the other consequences? Some say there aren’t any, but, you know, you and I both know, you can’t perform in a bike race, if you’re under fueled.
Colby Pearce 1:16:35
So like, glycolytic energy, I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, like, you’ve got more physiological education than I do, I believe, but glycolytic energy runs off of carbs.
Jeff Winkler 1:16:48
Colby Pearce 1:16:49
And yeah, so if you want to go really fast out of a corner, or attack a breakaway, or bridge to a breakaway, or, you know, anytime, basically, you’re making power in the mean maximal power, might say, or critical power and any duration between about 45 seconds, and we call it three minutes, maybe five minutes, depending on the athlete, the circumstances and how recovered they are, you’re gonna make a significant portion of your energy glycolytically, and that glycolytic energy is derived, the fuel source is carbohydrates. It’s not something you can change by eating avocados. It’s the way your body works. So if you want to shut down that energy system and not get it fuel, then go keto.
Jeff Winkler 1:17:32
Well, there’s some evidence that the percentage of VO2max, that curve shifts as well. So you’re able to, you know, so like the classic one, but I mean, is we’re still talking kind of talking about ultra-endurance athletes more than we’re talking about, like one hour athletes, you know, so that’s, that’s always going to be like, this probably just doesn’t apply on the short side, it really applies on the long side. It’s just sort of a question of, when does it apply? Where they were able to keep very high-fat metabolism into 80 to 85% of their VO2Max, where the carb adapted athlete started to shift much earlier, like maybe at 60 or 70% of VO2max, that they started to really decline and shift over to carb, that the fat adapter or the ketogenic athlete also does that, but they just do it much later.
Colby Pearce 1:18:44
Jeff Winkler 1:18:47
Yeah, and some evidence that at least some of these studies say that the actual storage of gut muscle glycogen in the ketogenic athlete is actually the same as the carb adapted athlete. And so then, in theory, they have the fuel for those higher intensity efforts available. Part of the problem, you know, sort of the confounding, again, this is not this is the problem it’s like we don’t have certainty, you know, that none of this science is providing a certainty yet, if it will, maybe, but it’s a very complicated process, and I think it’s going to be very difficult for us to ever get to a certainty point. But um, you know, one thing we do know is the body gets good at doing what you ask it to do. So, if you are not continually using the glycolytic pathway, the body down-regulates it and it becomes less effective than someone who uses it a lot, right? And so there’s the risk or the confounding possibility that, yeah, maybe you have the muscle glycogen stores, but maybe your system just doesn’t do it as well anymore because you don’t make it do it.
Colby Pearce 1:20:10
You’re not using it. Yeah, that was exactly the point I was gonna bring up. It’s like, yeah, we have enzymes that process those carbohydrates at high rates when we need them, right?
Jeff Winkler 1:20:19
Colby Pearce 1:20:21
If you don’t use it, you lose it, right?
Jeff Winkler 1:20:23
Yeah. And I mean, it may be that that’s not an issue, but the science doesn’t support that yet, right? The science hasn’t done the test, okay, well, then we took these athletes, and now we made them do you know, a one-minute max or, you know, a bunch of Tabatas, highly glycolytic output.
Colby Pearce 1:20:41
Jeff Winkler 1:20:43
You know, and the other thing they don’t discuss is like, okay, yeah, that’s great, so you have the same stores, but the carb fueled athlete is continually taking in exogenous carbohydrates, and so those are circulating in the blood, and those are being used, sparing muscle glycogen, right? And the ketogenic athlete who does eight hours on water doesn’t have any incoming carbs, and so if he has to make carb efforts, they’re only coming from muscle glycogen.
Colby Pearce 1:21:14
Jeff Winkler 1:21:15
Right. Not blood glucose, right? So, you know, I mean, it’s not saying that I mean, I don’t have the specifics to say, “Oh, yeah, that’s definitely bad, or that’s definitely good, or it’s good in this amount,” is just that it’s not as clear, as it is often presented to us or to the community, you know.
Colby Pearce 1:21:40
Well, I think that sentence right there could synopsize most science, you know, how you do one thing is how you do everything. So I think people, they read that quick article, or read a headline, or maybe they read an abstract and they take away a conclusion from a study, but the fact is, like, when you look deeper into everything, there’s always nuance, there are always conditions, there are always extrapolating factors that we must, are extraneous factors, I should say that we have to consider in how data is interpreted, how it applies to the individual, details everything in life. So, I think that’s a really good point.
Jeff Winkler 1:22:20
Yeah, and actually, where I thought our discussion was gonna go, was kind of more cognitive bias.
Colby Pearce 1:22:29
Cognitive Bias and Science
Jeff Winkler 1:22:30
like, the way that humans think, you have to fight these sort of natural tendencies, and, you know, confirmation bias is like one we’ve all probably heard of, you know, where we tend to notice the things and embrace the support for the thing that we already believe, you know?
Colby Pearce 1:22:52
Jeff Winkler 1:22:53
Which then, you know, and I did a little reading just because I thought it was interesting is, there’s a laundry list of cognitive, yes, defects if you will.
Colby Pearce 1:23:05
Yeah, what, I’ve done some reading on this, too. I would love to hear you talk more about this and unpack some of these all humans have a cognitive bias in certain situations, right?
Jeff Winkler 1:23:16
Yeah. You know, like one, I feel like, as a coach, especially, and I think as an athlete, you need to kind of be thinking always, in the same way, is that whenever you read something, you can’t like tune in to what you want to get out of it. I think as a coach, you really have to, like, push back against these natural tendencies, so that you don’t fall into the traps, and one they call is motivated reasoning.
Jeff Winkler 1:23:48
This bias is that we tend to read things that support our already held view, with much less depth and critical thinking, and we read the things that counter our already held position with much stronger motivation to find the holes. I can see that I mean, there are some concepts that I have from, and I want to step back and say like, well, that sort of says, well, then you should never believe in what you believe in, I wouldn’t maybe go that far, but you might have good reasons to have the position you have, that doesn’t mean you should only take in supporting evidence, you should also with the same level of inquiry, explore the conflicting evidence, you know, to grow and to make sure, well, just to have a more nuanced picture, because we just started this with like, hey, it devils in the details. There’s lots of nuances here, it’s not absolute, and so I see that and things that I think have a positive impact, and I’m often interested to see whether there’s emerging scientific support for, like ideas that I learned in the 80s and 90s, where there was not much academic research going on, you know, certainly not as much as there is now. So, it’s interesting to me, I want to see scientific support for what I felt like was true from experience, and so then you go looking for it, and then you read something that says, you know, that’s a counter, and it’s conflicting study. Often I, you know, I can sense my reaction, right? I’m like, “No, but I believe there’s something there.” So how can this study be true? And so, therefore, you read it really closely, and you’re like, “Oh, well, this is, you know, this is a hole, and these are, you know, 200 kilos, subjects who’ve never ridden a bike before,” and, you know, whatever. So, right, it’s pretty easy to fall into those traps, and you really kind of have to be vigilant as a coach or athlete, I think, so you don’t take everything at face value.
Colby Pearce 1:26:10
Agreed. And I think, you know, from you, and I have parallel paths in the sense that we went through the athletic, you know, sort of pathway, and now we’re in the coaching pathway, so we’ve had all these experiences, right? I mean, you can come from either end, you can come from academia, you can come from the gutter, so to speak, and you and I took the gutter pathway, we did a bunch of racing and had our experiences, and now we’re coaching. So we’ve got a lot of experience to help our athletes, guide them through their journey, and we can give them lots of anecdotal stories and moments about you know, riding off the gutter while you’re trying to get a bottle and you’re getting dropped, and then the wind and get your rain jacket caught and your wheel, and all those little bits, or about what it’s like to do an interval or what it’s like to, you know, climb to the top of your third mountain pass in a race, etc., And now we’ve had these experiences, and so do we do I think at times want to go back and see the science that supports or explains like, why was it that I tried this type of training, and it didn’t work at all? Or why was it that I, when I did that colossal ride to Bakersfield, that store was closed, that I was, you know, in dire straits for hours on end, and then suddenly, at the end of the day, my body switched back on and everything felt well, and I had energy again, you know, what science can explain these types of reactions? What science can bring about an explanation for how that worked? And then how do we apply that to our coaching?
Colby Pearce 1:27:34
So I agree that’s a definition of confirmation bias is looking for those facts in our science. That’s a really interesting point. The trade-off is as you said, we have to really look critically at the other side of the argument, understand that just because our experience manifested into a certain perhaps belief system, it doesn’t mean that experience is going to apply to all other individuals, we also can’t make the basic logic rule of an insubstantial generalization, which is, just because I saw one instance of this means it applies across the board, and to explain that briefly, it’s, well, people who think that smoking is bad or stupid, because I had an uncle who smoked a pack a day, every day of his life, and he lived to be 108 years old. So, therefore, everyone can smoke as much as they want, right? So, we can clearly see this logic is flawed, and that’s really what we’re doing when we have our own individual experience of well, I did these intervals the week of this stage race, and then I had the best race of my life season that year. So, therefore, these intervals are the best way to prepare for a certain type of state race or however you want to extrapolate it, right?
Jeff Winkler 1:28:42
Yeah, I think that falls into one that that I found that’s called a narrative fallacy.
Colby Pearce 1:28:48
Jeff Winkler 1:28:49
And that’s where we have a series of facts that the mind wants to connect them, and it fills in the gaps for causation, basically. So, it links these facts together and then links them to an outcome, which doesn’t necessarily follow, you know. That’s a that’s a trap, for sure. That’s like the nature of experience, right? You know, arguably, that’s how our brains are built, they’re categorization machines, right? They take in a whole bunch of facts and details, and they have to prove them down to actionable behavior, and as a result, that means, I think, that makes us quite effective as a species, but it is prone to error, right? You know, certain types of errors, a lot of the science, it reports the results as a means or average, like the average response, or the average response from the subjects showed a particular effect and that It’s true, but as we know, from monitoring training data averages and means misrepresent reality, right? A lot of the time, right?
Colby Pearce 1:30:11
Jeff Winkler 1:30:12
They cover important details.
Colby Pearce 1:30:15
Jeff Winkler 1:30:15
And so this one ketogenic or maybe it was very, it was either the fastest one, I think it was the fastest study. So it showed, okay, you know, the mean, of the fasted group was that their performance improved marginally and that they were burning more fat. Well, if you look at the individual responses from that group, over a third of the group got worse.
Colby Pearce 1:30:44
Jeff Winkler 1:30:45
Right. And what’s important from your coaching or athletic standpoint is which one of those am I? Or is your athlete? Are you one of the three that gets worse? Or one of the five that gets better? Or one of the two that says the same?
Colby Pearce 1:30:58
Jeff Winkler 1:30:59
Right. And that’s the risk, I think, as a coach, or are as an athlete too, self-coach athlete is that you believe the summary of the science.
Colby Pearce 1:31:13
Jeff Winkler 1:31:14
And you waste time because you don’t fit the mean, you’re actually having an individual response, and you and I both know, is that individual responses are really the name of the game. It’s not a mean response.
Colby Pearce 1:31:27
Jeff Winkler 1:31:28
It doesn’t make you feel better when you can’t win the race, just because most people who do this do, you know?
Colby Pearce 1:31:37
Yeah, you’re 100% right. You know, I know people who can ride their bike really effectively on a bowl of oatmeal, and I get up for a four-hour ride, if I only have oatmeal, my ride will be a total train wreck. So, no amount of science and this is my confirmation bias, no amount of science is going to tell me that oatmeal is the perfect long ride fuel, and that everyone should have it, like this is this is the problem, right? This is what I wanted to get to in the essence of our discussion of how do you know what you know? Did you read a headline? Did you read an abstract and you came to this conclusion, that beetroot is right for everyone? Just as you said, you know, are you one of the three riders who got worse when they took it? Are you one of the two that stayed the same? Or are you one of the five who got better? And to highlight the problem with that with statistics, which is a very slippery little bugger. When you’re talking about a subject, you know, group size of 10? Well, if we expand that to 100, those proportions may change drastically, right now we’re assuming that it’s 1/3, you know, crappy performance, about half got better, and the two are in the middle. But you and I both know that the one of the biggest challenges in these types of studies, is getting a big enough “N” number, right? Number of subjects to work with and you know, when you consider how some, and that’s for an average study that might take three weeks when you’re looking at, you know, the effects of beetroot on exercise performance. But when you look at something like ketogenic performance, things get even more complicated, and the reason is, that, as you said, some of the science suggests that the people who are really committed and do a true keto diet, and we’re not talking about, you know, bacon and doughnuts, we’re talking real keto, less than 50 grams of carbs per day, which does not mean a lot of protein, because protein actually has a fair amount of carbs in it when you’re talking about animal protein, obviously, sums included, but anyway, my point is, when you’re talking to keto, for nine months, or 12 months, or 15 months, that’s a massive commitment. Also, when you read the anecdotal studies or the people have gone through this, they talk about how their energy system, their energy production is actually through the floor, it’s super low, for a couple of months, at least when you start this protocol, it takes a long time for your body to begin to function normally, assuming you’re coming from a context of a standard American diet, so the point being is how are we ever going to get a high-level athlete, someone who’s on the verge of being a professional, or someone who has a professional contract to go through some process like this and flush months of their performance? No one’s going to do that.
Jeff Winkler 1:34:26
Maybe not even be limited to the highest level, I think what I read was four to six months, right? Is the benefit, even if you got the best benefit, is it worth four to six months of sacrificing everything until then?
Colby Pearce 1:34:45
Jeff Winkler 1:34:46
That’s a question. I don’t know what the answer is, I mean, the answer is different for different people, and certainly different sports, that’s more possible than others, you know, if you only compete a handful of times, you could do that.
Colby Pearce 1:35:01
Yeah, maybe pro triathlete could do it, especially in the COVID era, last year when they had less races, that would have been the chance to go.
Jeff Winkler 1:35:09
That was an experimentation year, a lot of people got hung up on, lamenting the, you know, loss of the status quo when it actually was an opportunity.
Colby Pearce 1:35:19
Jeff Winkler 1:35:20
And a lot of people probably didn’t take really good advantage of that, and obviously, there’s plenty of reasons why, you know, there’s other things, why it would be a challenge, not saying it would be easy, but, you know, there’s sort of classic quotes about, you know, in every challenge, there’s an opportunity, you know, a lot of it is perspective. That’s not always easy to spin on a dime, but it’s an option, you know?
Colby Pearce 1:35:46
Process of Navigating Uncertainty
Jeff Winkler 1:35:47
But, yeah, you know, athletes, coaches, everybody, we’re attracted, and we desperately want certainty, from the science and from method and process, but I don’t think we can get it. So I think the sooner you recognize that there is no certainty you stop seeking it, or trusting every sign of certainty, as it’s, oh hey, it’s finally here, if you set that aside, and embrace the fact that you will not get certain answers, and the process of navigating on the uncertainty is what’s important. It’s your approach, and it’s doing the things that you have the strongest conviction, you know, about having a positive impact, like sort of this, like, the marginal gains, and the primary gains is, you know, a lot of energy is spent on marginal gains, to the detriment of the primary.
Colby Pearce 1:36:53
Jeff Winkler 1:36:56
You know, maybe coming up in this world, it’s just so much noisier, there’s so much more info available that I didn’t have, you know, in the 80s, late 80s, and 90s is, is the blessing of that was, you just focused on what you had control over, you didn’t have all these other options, you know, you didn’t have crazy nutritional options, and maybe supplement, this supplement was going to transform you or this or that, or the other thing is that you were just like, I just need to build the machine, the engine, right? And just train like, really hard and progressively and get stronger and stronger and stronger, and don’t worry about the rest of the stuff. I think you can do that in today’s circumstances as well, maybe the approach is that, well, if marginal gains all accumulated equal 2%, maybe I should get to like 95 before I even start to entertain them.
Colby Pearce 1:37:57
Worry about the two. Yeah.
Jeff Winkler 1:37:59
Right. You know, because going from 80 to 90 is way more valuable than going from 80 to 82.
Colby Pearce 1:38:06
Jeff Winkler 1:38:11
It’s very difficult for, you know, an individual amateur with limited resources to tackle that 2%. If you make it to the World Tour, you’ve got a team helping you tackle that 2%, and it doesn’t take away from what you need to do in order to be a competitive athlete, where I would make the case that if you’re going to try to do it, like as an amateur athlete if you’re going to try to tackle the 2% it’s probably undermining your ability to focus on the big things because that’s a lot of energy.
Colby Pearce 1:38:51
It’s a lot of time, energy, and money.
Jeff Winkler 1:38:53
Coaching and Reinforcing Fundamentals
Colby Pearce 1:38:55
Yeah. That’s very well said, and that kind of brings us back to the starting point of our discussion, which is that I think coaching is constantly about reinforcing fundamentals, right?
Jeff Winkler 1:39:07
Colby Pearce 1:39:07
It’s like, “Oh, I had a bad day today. You know, I got dropped or my legs were terrible, like, I couldn’t complete my interval workout.” Okay. Well talk to me, you know, what did you have for dinner last night? Did you sleep well? Have you been hydrating? How’s your work stress? How’s your personal life stress? You know, did you get in a massive fight with your wife last night, and then you couldn’t sleep all night? Well, that might be the simple explanation for why intervals didn’t go so well today. Or, “Hey, oh, yeah, coach, now, you mentioned I forgot to tell you I decided to try this all spinach diet. I only ate spinach for the last three days.” Okay. Let’s talk about that.
Jeff Winkler 1:39:45
You didn’t think that would have an impact?
Colby Pearce 1:39:48
That’s why you have to ask sometimes, right? And I find that you know, those six foundational principles, as Paul Chek teaches, I cover those of my athletes, 98% of the time, we unroot the most likely cause for their challenge in training. Those are sleeping, eating, drinking, breathing, movement, and hydration. Pretty basic. So, not to make our job sound like a knotless monkey could do it, but coaching is one of the hardest jobs in the world, I think. I’m biased, and that’s confirmation bias for me because I haven’t done that many other jobs.
Jeff Winkler 1:40:36
Well, I mean, coaches are valuable, for all the reasons that we were talking about with biases, right? And faulty cognitive processes is that when it’s just you, you the athlete, you are victim to those, you know, more, sometimes less sometimes, but they’re in play. The advantage of having a coach is you have a third party that’s got their own versions of those, but they don’t happen at exactly the same time as yours do. So, there’s going to be lots of times where that coach has a view of what’s going on with you that is clear.
Colby Pearce 1:41:19
Jeff Winkler 1:41:21
That is not subject to the same blind spots that you have looking at your own situation.
Coaches Are the Mirror for the Athlete
Colby Pearce 1:41:28
Very well said. Yeah, and I think that also brings me to a point, which is that if we are going to be coaches, and coach other athletes and guide them through their journey, our responsibility is to do the best that we can to recognize our own biases, and also approach from that place of clarity. You want to be the mirror for the athlete, right? You want to show them what they need to see, to show them the reflection of their own, you know, little mental spiral eddies of weirdness that they get into and endpoints where they focus too much on, you know, whether or not a tire is two or three grams lighter, or two or three watts faster, etc, right? And bring them back to the big picture that’s going to make the difference, the jump from 80 to 90, rather than the jump from 80 to 82.
Jeff Winkler 1:42:16
Yeah, and I think, having been, you know, by as both of us, we’ve both been athletes and coaches, and they’re certainly a, I would say, a desire on the athlete side. I would certainly say that if, you know, if I had had access to coaching like is available now, when I was an athlete, I would have probably had an expectation of expertise and certainty. I mean, that would seem to be part of what you’re getting out of a coach, but I think in reality, it’s better to not have that view, both on the part of the athlete and the coach that that, yes, there’s expertise, but it’s not that they have the answer, it’s that that they have the process to help you get to your answer. So, if you, you know, and I can say from a coach’s perspective, I have this part of me that thinks I need to be the expert for the athlete, right? Like the expectation is that I do know the answer, and an athlete is not necessarily going to want to hear from me that, I don’t know for sure.
Colby Pearce 1:43:37
Jeff Winkler 1:43:38
Right. But I have the process to navigate the uncertainty that is effective, in my opinion, right? And so I think the sooner we get away from this idea that the coach has the answer, probably the better. Probably the athlete, getting away from the idea that there is a definitive answer is probably a good idea because there’s probably a bunch of different answers that will work.
Colby Pearce 1:44:10
You’re making me laugh. I just had a discussion the other day with one of my athletes, and he literally started to ask me questions and then stopped halfway through and said, “I hate asking you questions because you always just respond with more questions.”
Coaches Don’t Have All the Answers, but a Process to Find Answers
Jeff Winkler 1:44:23
Right, right. I think the key is getting the coach and the athlete on the same page, and like, what’s the goal, right? Then, the athletes saying, I want to get there and I’m willing to do the work that is necessary to get there, and the coach is saying, I want you to get there, and I have enough experience with different processes and variables that go into doing the work, and we’re going to go through a process of doing work, evaluate work, iterate, do new work, reevaluate, and on and on, and on. Recognizing that that process, there’s no, there’s no pathway for an unknown athlete that you can just pull and just say, “oh, for you, this is what we’re doing, and that’s guaranteed the best answer.”
Colby Pearce 1:45:12
Jeff Winkler 1:45:12
It probably is a combination of all of the coach’s techniques applied in a forward way, like a progressive way to where you continually tune it towards the optimum, or a set of optimums.
Colby Pearce 1:45:30
Yep. It’s a refinement process on the black box problem. Yeah.
Jeff Winkler 1:45:35
Yeah. And it’s tough is like, you know, it’s frustrating as an athlete, not with regards to a coach, but even the same things you may have done in one year, don’t work the next year.
Colby Pearce 1:45:47
Oh, how many times I had that discussion where athletes like, “well, two years ago, I did this then I won this race.” And they’re a little lost, like, “can we just do exactly the same thing?” It’s like, well, we can, but that was a year and a half ago, your body is different now than it was, have a different training context, you have a different fitness context, you’re in a different space. So, we can’t guarantee, that’s not the way it works, it’s not an A plus B equals C equation, as you said.
Jeff Winkler 1:46:14
It’s not math.
Colby Pearce 1:46:15
It’s not math. I think you phrased it really well, earlier, I like what you said a lot, you said, “people desperately want certainty.” And then you went on to say, “I think the key is to coach yourself, or for us to coach our athletes to learn to accept that there is no certainty and that we are on a learning journey together.” Basically, we are putting input into the system, the athlete, and we’re watching to see what the response is, and that’s a never-ending process of refinement.
Jeff Winkler 1:46:46
Right. Just to make sure it’s clear is like, the coach wants certainty just as much as the athlete. I mean, I would love to have the right answer.
Colby Pearce 1:46:57
Jeff Winkler 1:46:58
Guaranteed, you know, I would prefer it, but it’s, it’s not possible.
Colby Pearce 1:47:04
Well, it would take away from the magic of sport, though. I mean, because there’s that moment when an athlete puts it all together, and they win the race and smash it and cross the line, and they’ve got tears streaming down their face, because they worked so hard, and crash so many times, and got hit by cars, and had mono, and all the other things that we deal with in cycling, you know, whatever it was got hit by dogs and you just see that magic come together, and there’s sort of that mysterium tremendum that goes into an athlete’s victory when they crossed the line. It’s like, Wow, he worked so hard. She worked so hard. She did all those intervals. She ate right. She went to bed early, she did all the things, and now it’s manifested with this victory. There’s also this part, this component that we don’t know, still, even when the success happens, it’s like, it just works. I think there’s something really entrancing about that or captivate.
Jeff Winkler 1:48:00
Yeah, yeah. I mean, you know, even when you do all the right things, you’re not guaranteed the outcome, right? And similarly, you can do a lot of things wrong, and sometimes you get the outcome.
Colby Pearce 1:48:13
Jeff Winkler 1:48:14
You know, that’s a tough environment to operate in, you know, mentally over time. You know, but there are also so many high points in the overcoming and the struggling and the, you know, pushing through and, you know, it, arguably, you probably get like a lot more contentment and satisfaction about like, “oh, I had all these obstacles, some I was able to, to jump over others I just had to deal with, and yet I still was successful.” Compare that scenario to where you’re like, “oh, I did everything I followed, you know, the recipe, and I got the result.” Well, if it always operated that way there’s like you said earlier, there’s not a lot of romance or industry.
Colby Pearce 1:49:14
That’s what I thought of when you said, “Well, you know, even as a coach, I want that certainty.” I think that would take something away from what sport is, to be honest. I think that you know, if we could make a formula, like if it was an Excel spreadsheet like you’re going to do these intervals on this day, and you’re going to eat this many grams of carbs, and your CDA is going to be that you’re going to show up and win the race. We might argue from an external perspective, we might argue that Team Sky has made the sport that formulaic in some ways, but they’re still dropped bottles, they’re still dogs in the Peloton, they’re still whatever unexpected crashes, there’s still an unknown fudge factor, and riders still have to overcome that, there is still an energy that a rider carries to a race, that’s beyond the intervals they’ve done, it’s an energy of intent, and an unfailing focus, a singularly focused intent on that day towards their trajectory, to go back to one of my analogies earlier on their orbit. That is what enables them to really tie together and produce that result, but not always, and that’s why we watch. Otherwise, it would just be, you know, what was your best 60-minute watts per kilo on Zwift? And just, you sign that into a spreadsheet, and then whoever has the biggest number wins? That’s boring.
Jeff Winkler 1:50:42
Yeah, yeah, I think I mean, obviously, the athlete wants to be the winner. But yeah, you know, from the sports perspective, often it’s better when there are a group of athletes that could be the winner.
Colby Pearce 1:50:55
Jeff Winkler 1:50:55
And it’s the timing, and the sequencing, and the event, and the day, and the weather, and all those things that determine which one wins. We can certainly point to parts of the trajectory of cycling in different disciplines where you lose some of that, and it’s almost, and for some people, the sports not as interesting, right? Like, you could look at the Svien era, you know, you watch the start of a cross race, and you knew who was winning, you know, for a long time, right? You can make the case for the tour, that, you know, you know, dominance by particular teams or athletes was a little bit of a bummer, you know, watching the tour, and I know, for me for a number of years, I didn’t like watching the tour, because it was so scripted. The number of contenders was so small, where you contrast that with the classics, or, you know, or just where, you know, not every resource was brought to bear on that race, and there was some chaos.
Colby Pearce 1:51:57
Jeff Winkler 1:52:09
Anyway, that’s, as a whole tangent, of, of enjoying the sport, and, you know, just to relate it back to coaching is some would argue that the advent of all of the technology associated with cycling and power meters and other sensors, and everything else has taken away some of that, you know, that riders probably, in my era, early days, rode with more emotion than science.
Colby Pearce 1:52:40
Jeff Winkler 1:52:41
And that, I think, the pattern of racing, it reflects that, you know, other things contributed as well, it’s interesting, you know, with that, when it’s when it when you start to reduce things to a system or to more machine-like certainty, the outcomes become certain and maybe that’s just, it, loses a little bit of its panache.
Colby Pearce 1:53:11
Colby Pearce 1:53:13
Well said. Well, Jeff, I want to thank you for being on the show today, I’ve got a run to another appointment, actually.
Jeff Winkler 1:53:22
Colby Pearce 1:53:22
I hate to cut our conversation a bit short, I feel like I could keep going here for a while, but I think we covered some really great territory. I really appreciate you making time to come on today and share your thoughts about science and indoor riding.
Jeff Winkler 1:53:36
I hope the listeners have time to listen to it all and find it entertaining and informational. It was fun.
Colby Pearce 1:53:44
Public service announcement. Listen up Space Monkeys, we’re gonna make a slight change to the method of operations, how you give me feedback or post questions on my episodes, and there’s reason to this. The reason is, the purpose of this entire project is for me to get my mind movies, my internal dialogue out into the universe and make it external, and thus, for me to teach you and for me to learn more. The best way to do that is for us to make all questions happen in a public format so that multiple people can benefit from the answers. In the past, I’ve asked you to send me an email, but we’re going to change the gears on that. What I’d like you to do is post your questions or episode feedback in the Fast Talk Labs Forum. If you’re not, there are parts of the forum that you had to pay for, but every podcast episode that I produce gets its own page in the forum. So, go to the fast talk labs forum, you have to make an account, and then you can post a question there. Make sure an @ Colby me in the podcast. That’s an @ with a Colby afterward. That makes sure that I know you posted the question, and I will respond, and then everyone can check it out. I really appreciate your feedback on the episodes. I really appreciate your input on future episode ideas. This tells me that my audience is engaged and cares about what I’m doing. So, head to the Fast Talk Labs Forum and post your questions there, and everyone can benefit from our discussion. Thank you for listening. Much gratitude.