In episode 64, we ask the question: What does it take to stand on the podium at the world championships? It’s a simple question without a simple answer. Strength buys you a seat at the table, but playing a winning hand takes effective training, teamwork, near-perfect strategy, and an incredible mindset.
In today’s episode we take a deep dive into all of the elements that are needed for a podium placing at worlds with two of the members of the Canadian team — Mike Woods and Rob Britton. The two of them, along with their team of coaches, asked that simple question over a year before the 2018 world championships. Canada doesn’t have the biggest reputation, nor the best-funded team, but they found the answers and earned Mike the bronze medal.
So, how did they do it? Today we’ll cover:
- How the race played out to put Mike in a position to fight for the podium
- Rob Britton’s all-day breakaway that helped put Mike in that position
- The final “hell climb” as Rob calls it, how it was central to Mike’s strategy, the sort of numbers he put out on the climb, and why those numbers don’t tell the full story
- The finale, and why in a split second the excitement of a podium momentarily turned into a disappointment
- A comparison of Mike’s and Rob’s very different preparations for worlds. Mike used the Tour of Utah and the Vuelta to get his legs ready. Rob, on the other hand, loaded his bike up with fifty pounds of gear and did a very low-tech ride across half of Canada. Yet, both riders arrived with great legs… and, perhaps more importantly, great mindsets.
- How Rob and Mike balanced their training — including the balance of long slow volume rides, threshold work, and VO2max training, and how training for a seven hour event like worlds may differ from the local two-hour race
Our primary guests for this podcast were the Canadian superstars themselves: Mike Woods of the EF Education First team and Rob Britton of Rally Cycling. Mike, who comes from a running background, exploded onto the scene five years ago and since then has raced multiple grand tours, which has included a recent stage win at the Vuelta. Rob has dominated the domestic scene with multiple wins, including the GC victory at races like Tour of the Gila.
In addition to Rob and Mike, we’ll talk with:
Mike’s coach Paulo Saldahna. Despite his remarkable coaching success, Paulo points out that coaching is only one of the many hats he wears. He’s the owner of the successful indoor training company PowerWatts and is an endurance sport physiologist by trade where he builds support structures for athletes worldwide and runs a high performance facility in Montreal.
Let’s make you fast!
Mike Woods and Rob Britton: Members of the Canadian national cycling team
Paulo Saldanha: Mike’s coach, and owner of PowerWatts
Chris Case 00:00
Welcome to fast all the news podcast, everything you need to know to run. Hello, and welcome to Fast Talk the velonews podcast on the science of sport training, nutrition, physiology and much more. I’m managing editor Chris case. And as always, I’m joined today by a Canadian, not necessarily the great one, but a Canadian nonetheless, Coach Trevor Connor. Today we asked the question, what does it take to stand on the podium at the World Championships? is a simple question without a simple answer. Strength buys you a seat at the table. But playing a winning hand takes effective training, teamwork, near perfect strategy, and an incredible mindset. In today’s episode, we take a deep dive into all the elements that are needed for a podium placing at Worlds. And we have the great pleasure of having sat down with two of the members of the Canadian team, two superstars of the Canadian team, Mike woods, and Rob Britton. Two of them, along with their team of coaches, asked that simple question over a year before the 2018 World Championships in Innsbruck. Canada doesn’t have the biggest reputation as a cycling powerhouse, nor does it have the best funded team. But together they found the answers and earned Mike the bronze medal and incredible achievement. So today, we’re going to cover how they did that. First, why Canadians think they rule and Americans drool. Oh, that’s that line that Trevor nicely begged me to say a how the race played out put Mike in a position to fight for the podium. Next we’ll talk about Robin’s all day breakaway that helped put Mike in that position. we’ll delve into the final hill climb as Rob likes to call it, how it was central to Mike strategy, the sort of numbers he put out on the climb and why those numbers don’t tell the full story. Next, we’ll talk about the finale. And why in a moment, the excitement of a podium temporarily turned into a disappointment for woods. Next we’ll talk about a comparison of Mike’s and Rob’s very different preparations for worlds. They couldn’t really be that much different. On the surface of things. Mike use the tour of Utah and the Vuelta to get his legs ready. Rob, on the other hand, loaded his bike up with 50 pounds of gear and did a very low tech ride across half of Canada. Yet both riders arrived with great legs and perhaps more importantly, great mindsets. Finally, we’ll talk with Rob and Mike about how they balanced their training, including the balance of long slow volume threshold work. And vo two max training and how training for a seven hour event like worlds differs from the local to our race. Our primary guests today are of course the Canadian superstars themselves Mike woods of the EF education first trade team and Rob Britain of rally cycling both riding for Canada at Worlds. Mike comes from a running background exploded on the scene five years ago. Since then has raised multiple grand tours, which has included a stage win at the wealth of this year. Rob has dominated the domestic scene with multiple victories including a DC victory at races like tour of the healer, Robin Trevor were teammates in fact back in the good old days. So this is a special episode for Trevor. Seeing how far Rob has come since then and getting him on the show. In addition to Robin Mike will talk with Mike’s coach Paolo Saldana. Despite his remarkable coaching success, power points out that coaching is only one of the many hats he wears. He’s the owner of this successful indoor training company power watts, and is an endurance sport physiologist by trade where he builds support structures for athletes worldwide, and runs a high performance facility in Montreal. Finally, we’ll talk briefly with Dr. Karen O’Grady, a coach and sports scientist at team Dimension Data as a realtor coach will ask him what’s different about training for a seven hour race. Now I’d like you all to please stand for the national anthem of Canada. Oh, Canada, my home and native. Alright, let’s make it fast.
Trevor Connor 04:30
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Chris Case 05:10
So welcome, guys. We’re joined here today by two members of the Canadian national team that just had a stellar performance at the World Championships in innsbrook, Mike woods and Rob Britton, we want to talk a lot about the performance they had on the day, the training leading up to it, and all things when it comes to worlds and preparing for it. And then of course, how that applies to our listeners out there. So welcome, guys.
Yeah, thanks for having us.
Yeah. Thanks for having us.
Trevor Connor 05:41
Joy to have you on the one thing I’m going to bring up here. I’ve been waiting two years for this. I am made fun of constantly for being Canadian. Down here. We have three of us ganging up on Chris. So I’m just going to say in this episode, please, let’s make fun of Americans.
Chris Case 06:01
As as everybody knows, Trevor, though, you are a Canadian only one year in the US and you’re an American when you’re up in Canada, so you have no comfortable place anymore. Yes, I
Trevor Connor 06:13
like to. I like to offend people anywhere I go. So yeah, that’s true.
So here’s the thing. Here’s the thing, though, despite us being three Canadians and Chris being one, for sure, we’d all just bow down to his needs as we’re like, as Canadians do. You know, like, you’re just
Chris Case 06:29
you’ll, you’ll apologize, apologize and be very,
Trevor Connor 06:34
but I love what Mike Myers said about this, which is there is nothing more Canadian than a Canadian living in the US.
So true. Alex house makes fun of me quite a bit when, like, he’ll see me hanging out with another Canadian in an environment outside of Canada. And we always bring up the fact that other people are Canadian, even if we know both people are Canadian. So we’ll be like, I’ll be sitting there with Rob or something. I’d be like, did you know Justin Bieber’s Canadian, and he’ll be like, yeah, yeah, of course. Like we bring it like, we have to highlight that we’re Canadian to other Canadians outside of Canada. Yes. Like, I think that
we realize Justin Bieber was Canadian.
Yeah, we hit him on the good days.
You learned something new every time on fastag.
We’ve got all the hitmakers. We’ve got Celine, the biebs. Michael boob les.
Chris Case 07:28
Great. All right.
Trevor Connor 07:29
Should we be admitted to any of these? Oh, see,
this is this is why your Canadiens
Trevor Connor 07:35
rush Tragically Hip let’s let’s let’s go a little higher quality here. Yeah,
I wouldn’t judge the beams on his artistic quality like, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t take him down. Don’t he’s not that bad.
Chris Case 07:45
Right. And with On that note, let’s let’s return to cycling. Do you want to start by both of you, sort of walking us through the day. And if you’re able to bring in some data bring in some sense of just how big this day was for both of you. And I realized both of you are had different roles to play on the day.
Trevor Connor 08:11
And let’s just quickly add in there that Rob was in the the the breakaway of the day. And Mike, you ended up finishing on the podium, you got the bronze medal at the World Championships, which is absolutely huge. So let’s just for any listener, who wasn’t aware of that, let’s let’s start there, to give some context. And
I remember talking about the numbers after the race with Rob, and Rob’s were significantly higher than mine, just because he’s in the brake. He was on the pedals all day. Whereas when you’re in the peloton, obviously you’re not producing consistent power throughout the day. It’s just hammering and then backing off. So I remember Rob, you said like, you’re over 300 watts, I think for the whole day for average, but I’m gonna try to remember.
Yeah, yeah. So the numbers I had is I think, like, our race is kind of like inverse variation. Like, when I was going backwards, you were just hitting the afterburners. So yeah. For me, I think it was like 7500 kgs for the day, and pretty damn near 300 watts on the nose for seven hours. Good. Look
Trevor Connor 09:18
at your stats right here. Seven hours, seven minutes. 280 watts.
Yeah, so normalized. Probably 323 1017
Trevor Connor 09:29
There we go.
Trevor Connor 09:32
Yeah, Where’s mine?
I was 646 for the duration of the race. That’s excluding the ride to the start goofing around on the bike a bit of 646 and 291. normalize and 231 average, so significantly less watts overall, but also I’m a bit lighter than raw.
A little bit lighter. Yeah.
Trevor Connor 09:57
So Mike, You’re what? 62 killer. grams Rob, what are you?
On that day? I was probably right around 70.
Yeah. And I got down actually under how’s like 61 flat for the race.
Trevor Connor 10:10
But you are really putting out that when you are in the peloton. It’s so Mike, you are really focused on energy conservation for the right moments were Rob, when you’re in the breakaway, it’s just put your head down and go as hard as you can go. Is that correct? I was just
just writing and like, I always had in the back of my mind to kind of be be there deeper into the race for Mike. But yeah, the way it worked out was, you know, after 6000 kgs worth of energy expenditure over six hours. It’s not a whole lot left, you have in the tank to do much.
But the interesting like for Rob, for example, His goal wasn’t to go all out when he was in the break. It’s to conserve as much as possible throughout the day so that you can be there was. So he’s actually trying to play this the same game that I was trying to play, except you have to put more power just to keep on going forward in the break. Mm hmm.
Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. I don’t think there’s any point in the, in the break where I was actually going, like, flat out, you know, other than the start to get in the break. But after that it was a, it was a very kind of steady conservative effort. Yeah, through the day, it was just a nice, long grind.
Chris Case 11:21
Mike, you and I spoke recently about sort of the the plan. And I’m curious if you could revisit that plan. It sounds like it was a for you. Specifically, it was one that came together over the course of a year with a lot of different input from personal coaches, Canadian team coaches, trade team coaches, and maybe explain that a little bit and then talk about how that played out on the road. with Rob in the break and some of the other goals you had during the race and how you ticked off each one of those.
Well, over a year ago, was right around a year ago today, pretty much Rob myself, several other members of the National cycling program. Kevin field, we are performance director, we were all in Victoria. And we were sitting around a table just brainstorming and we ended up talking about the world championships. And it seems so distant at that time, seemed over a year away. Like and for me, it’s really hard to to make goals and make plans a year away from a race just because racing, there’s so many intangibles in crash so much it so much stuff goes goes wrong, that it’s for it’s always really difficult to say this is what I want to do at this race. But I remember at the table, we sat and we talked about the goal of meddling, and we even talked about Rob getting in the break. And being a guy that can help out late in the race by getting in the break. And throughout the rest of the year. I had calls with Kevin, I had calls with my coach Paul Saldana and I had my I talked with my team director, one manual grata. And he also communicated with both Paulo and Kevin to build a plan for how I could execute at this race. Also, we brought in Nigel Mitchell, nutrition or nutritionist on the on on EF education first drapac powered by canadel. He put together a nutrition plan. So we put together this big massive plan starting almost a year out and throughout the year working on it. And as we got closer and closer to the goal, the goal, I started to believe in that goal more and more just because it wasn’t that far off. And finally, when we arrived at the race, everything that Kevin had orchestrated, that Paul mccoach had orchestrated that Juan ma had communicated with the guys in terms of array strategy. It all came together. And it was it was beautiful. And it was really, really nice for me to see. And it gave me a lot of confidence as the race progressed, because I know how hard it is to get into a breakaway. At that level. I had to that was my job at the Vuelta a week or so earlier was to try and get breakaways. It’s not easy. And right away, Rob was in the first several moves. And then finally, when was in the move that would go up the road and talked about that a year previous. and have it happened a year later was cool. It was super cool. And then to have Hugo cool, and then what to do, Shane, my two teammates that were with me in the race just kind of be my bodyguards throughout the day. And having talked about that again a year earlier, and just having them execute on that plan was also really special. And all those things contributed to the result that I ultimately had. Because when I got to the place where I had to execute, I had no choice but to execute because everyone else in the process applied executed on their part.
Trevor Connor 14:54
So I got to ask the question here because there’s an expression in Pro Cycling The best laid plans fall apart on the start line. So here you have a plan that you mapped out a year ahead of time. And this is a hard plan to execute. How much of this was just some good fortune that allowed it to play out the way you wanted it to play out versus You did all the homework, all the preparation had all the people on board to make sure that this plan happened.
Okay. I have
to say, I mean, there’s a saying that just like luck happens to the well prepared, right. And I think what Mike just said is like, for a country that doesn’t have a boatload of money, I think we did an exceptional job of being very well prepared for this specific World Championships for this team of four guys. And this course with Mike as the leader. Yeah, I think we did kind of, in a very Canadian way. everything right.
Chris Case 15:51
Yeah, Mike, my question for Rob was the pressure was on for you to get into that break. And people often don’t understand how tricky it is, how complicated it is, and how difficult it is, sometimes to get into that break. Maybe you could walk us through that process early on in the race.
Yeah. So how Mike’s goal was to you know, or the team’s goal was to get Mike on the podium, my kind of single thought for that whole race before like, weeks and months before even like I say, even a year before was to get in that break. So that was just always in the back of my head. And then as I got closer as more before thought, and I don’t think I’ve ever been that nervous. Like the days are like, like hours leading up to the race as it was to, to get in that break. And I kind of was pretty dead set on getting into it. And either either I’d get into it or I’d be questionable for the hour after racing it because I would go as deep as I had to go to make it happen. Yeah, thankfully, the days before the race I kind of had some good sensations and legs and you know, started to sharpen up and snap back just the nick of time. You know, a couple races before to with the realtor race in Quebec in Montreal being the last races I’d done before this, I was in the break in Quebec there, which was good practice. And I’ve done it a few other times this year and stuff like funny, so you kind of know how to surf it. But uh, yeah, it was, it was super stressful. But I was pretty, pretty dead set on making it happen.
Trevor Connor 17:29
So how did you pick the move? How did you know? Which was the right move? Was there some luck there? Or was it a feel or were there things that you were looking for?
It was a bit, I was more just paying attention to start the race. Actually, one of the guys who’s out there was one of Anton’s teammates, and he had talked to Antwan at the start about getting into the break, knowing that no one would be watching Mike, but I was standing right there. So he kind of looked like a guy who seemed like he knew he was doing you know, watching guys like this surf the front, you can always kind of play off them. So I think he was a Swedish guy, and then the Danish fellow from Quickstep went and I preferred in the course the first 40 k a couple of times, so I knew that there was this one kicker in the first 10 or 15 care so that would be a really good launching point because there would be a few attacks before it and it’s just trends uphill into the base of it so I made sure that I was near the front and those two guys kind of kicked off and I remember just thinking like this is going to be it and if I didn’t make it this time, I’d be in a world of trouble because I had to go pretty deep over the top there just too young to take that move but once you’re there we’re kind of gone and we sat at 30 or 40 seconds for the longest time and then finally it started to go out
Chris Case 18:45
so it all came down to strategic eavesdropping
But the worst part about those moments too is like because I’ve been there we’re after the same thing and a You’re so nervous and like also especially like the style of writer that Rob is like and I’m similar i’m i’m not great at the start typically I’m I’m better at the finish of a race, you know how much is going to hurt at the start in order to get that break away. And then also this fear that that hangs over your head if you don’t make it like not only have you not made the break but you’ve wasted all this energy trying to get in the break. And so for us the race you’re gonna feel awful and you’re not gonna be good at your job of being a helper for the remainder of the race and it is a terrible fear that just I you get super nervous so as that’s why it was even like I know how Rob was feeling pre race and it’s such a relief when you get that break.
Yeah, after that it was it was pretty easy. Like that’s just like the way the world is official. There’s like just kind of ride especially on the course like that they gave us so much time so fast. It kind of made for a pretty chill few hours out there before things started to pick up.
Chris Case 19:53
For those people out there that are wondering, why is it so important for Rob Britain to get into The breakaway. If Mike Woods is the leader of the team, could you help us or listeners out there understand what that means for the team as a whole, and why it is so important for you to get into the break that day?
Yeah, it’s, it’s sort of like two parts. And I think we executed really well on one of them, you know, the first part, it kind of takes any responsibility off our shoulders to ride. And also, the further up the road we get, the more energy these bigger teams are going to have to put in to chasing teams like Spain and France, and, you know, Belgium, these teams that have seven, eight riders, so they’re gonna have to kind of throw their guys in the front and start bringing their matches and allow, you know, Mike, Tony and Hugo to chill out a bit. And then the second half, which I kind of missed a bit there was, for me to be that guy for Mike deeper into the race once maybe Hugo and Anton have come out of the field. Yeah, that was definitely the initial plan was to still be there to kind of help Mike get into position of going up the climb on the last lap.
But also even to having Rob up the road late, meant that if there were any attacks from key guys that if I followed, I could just sit into. So if like, let’s say a real hitter, let’s say Valverde, for example, attacked, and I got on his wheel, I can just sit in, I can just follow and not have to pull through until we catch up the wrong.
Chris Case 21:32
Yeah, I think that isn’t obvious to everybody that is watching racing and isn’t maybe familiar with the dynamics of racing in the way a team works. But also, it’s a little more complicated at a race like worlds when you’ve got teams of different sizes. And you’re working with teammates that aren’t your trade team. So there’s a little bit of added pressure maybe or dynamic or just even sometimes confusion as to who’s working for who, and, and how it’s all going to play out.
Yeah, numbers were a big factor for us to like we aren’t Spain or France, where you can have a bunch of guys devoted to helping somebody late in the race, we only had four, we’re only four guys. So we had to be a bit more creative. And we did like having Rob up the of the road certainly meant that it took the burden off a lot of who it meant that we didn’t have to have nearly as many riders in the race.
Trevor Connor 22:31
So to kind of give a an image here later in the race, let’s say Spain is on the front chasing, if Rob was an up the road, they could be yelling at the mic and any other Canadians that are there to say, you need to be helping us stop sitting on our wheel where with Rob up the road, Mike and say I’ve got a teammate up there. I’m not going to chase down my teammates. Sorry, I’m gonna sit on your wheel, and I’m not going to help you.
Yeah, exactly. Fortunately, we also aren’t recognized as a nation that needs to take responsibility. Like, no one’s looks at the canes be like, Oh, man, why don’t you guys, right? However, that’s starting to change too, which is, it’s great. But at the same time, it’s going to put more of a burden on on the guys we have.
Trevor Connor 23:12
Right. Now, like just a question for you. When Rob was up the road and the breakaway, was that motivating for you? No. And you had a teammate up there who was working for you? Or did they produce a little stress saying he’s killing himself for me. So I better deliver
a bit of both. So I love doing races that have positive momentum. And what I mean by that is a good example is like, if you if you’re in a race, and your teammates are riding Well, it forces you to step up. And so it puts a bit of like I find it puts a bit of pressure on on my like when a teammate is up the road putting doing a good job, it puts a bit of pressure on me. But it’s positive pressure, it’s coming from a good place, because they’re they’re being aggressive. They’re creating this positive momentum. And then I get excited about having to feed off having to expand on that positive energy. So good example was this race but also on my trade team. When we were doing the Italian classics, the first Italian classic we did was Amelia, and we rode really positively like we had Hugh Carthy first attack and then we had Danny Martinez going up the road. And all that meant that like I fed off that I got excited, and when finally we would catch them I was keen to attack and do an action that would continue that positive momentum. Whereas we did a race A few days later in tree Valley vendor Xena, and we were down a few guys. We weren’t going as well and we we actually missed the move. And then you’re sitting there and you’re it’s negative like there’s, you’re all of a sudden having to play defense and so we had to put a guy on the front to ride and like I don’t like when you have to sacrifice a guy to ride in the front in order to account for mistakes made. So it’s like you just continue to make Have spiraled downward. And yeah, like I don’t operate as well into that. So when I saw Rob up the road, sure it’s a bit of pressure, but it’s positive pressure. It’s like, man, he stepped up. Now I get to step up, I get to continue that.
Chris Case 25:10
I think having having watched it having spoken with Mike a bit, I understand the sort of emotional rollercoaster that you went through. And I know listeners will love to hear that about everything is going well, during the race, the checklist of things you want to go right, you’re taking them off one by one Rob gets in the break, you’re keying off of particular riders in particular teams. So why why don’t you explain the last and decisive moments of the race and how everything was coming together? And then the ups and downs emotionally and physically of that effort?
Well, yeah, like we like I said earlier, it was amazing to see this plan unfold. And it unfolded all the way until 300 meters to even 200 meters to go for me. I did the Recon with Rob, and Antoine a few days before the race, and I visualized myself hitting the base of the hill climb and attacking at a certain point. And I actually did an effort at that at the point where I wanted to go from
Chris Case 26:16
just to jump in. There was so much talk about this hell climb with with with different names and scary scary descriptions. How How bad was it? Was it nasty?
Uh, Rob will probably laugh at this. So it wasn’t too long. ago, we had Joe, we had a joke about this. We have a joke about this. Oh, my God, it’s
hard, but it’s not long.
Sure. It’s very steep.
Trevor Connor 26:45
2.2 point one, five kilometers at 12.8%. So for Mike, you’ve completed it in eight minutes. 17 seconds. Rob, considering you were in the breakaway all day. I’m guessing it took a little bit longer.
Mike’s not that long, was probably the single like, deepest thing I’ve ever had to do on a bike in my life to not walk. Well, on average 12% it, it maxed out at 28%. I don’t think I’ve ever written up a 28% grade in my life. I think one of the only things that really got me over that climb in like, yeah, without walking and say it was a boat 70% of the way out when I was just starting to blackout. Somebody kind of leaned in and said that Mike had gotten third. And it was like kind of energize me for a few more pedal strokes is incredible. Yeah, to hear that. But that’s the difference between a normal bike racer and like the guy who’s in it for the win, like Mike actually did this like huge dynamic acceleration there. And there’s two other guys in the entire world that were able to, to match it.
Trevor Connor 27:53
It just to give some stats to show how impressive this was. So Mike, your time up to climb was eight minutes, 17 seconds, you average 419 watts, which works out to 6.65 watts per kilogram.
Yeah, the numbers. I don’t think we’re super crazy. But it was just the fact that it was so late in the race that made it more difficult. And also, it wasn’t the ideal client. It’s not that like the perfect power file climb. Like I can do much bigger numbers than that for eight minutes. So can a lot of guys in the world tour. But it’s just the fact that it was that late in the race after that many accelerations because we did. We never rode easier up the previous climb. And also it just being so steep that you couldn’t really see it. But yeah, I mean, there’s there’s still pretty good numbers. It just not not the biggest numbers you you’d imagine. I know for a fact, if you say those numbers, there’s probably a guy who rides cat one that that’s out there that’s just has a huge engine that’s like, Oh, you know, that’s not that impressive. I did that on my group ride the other day, right. But the group ride wasn’t seven hours long and had you know, 50 efforts before that.
Trevor Connor 28:55
Well, I gotta tell you as a mere mortal, I look at those numbers and go boy, that’d be nice. Yeah, regardless of the fact that it was six and a half hours into a race.
Yeah, no, really, the climb was tough. Like, I remember hearing and seeing video of Andres heights, I believe he was, like 20th or something like that is in the race, and he walked up the climb.
Trevor Connor 29:15
Well, Chris and I had a long talk with Mike’s Coach peloso. Then, the day after our interview with Mike and Rob Pella shared his thoughts as the coach on Mike strategy and how he tackled the final climb.
Chris Case 29:28
So yesterday, we actually had a great conversation with Mike woods and with Rob Britton, but specifically with Mike about his efforts, let’s maybe break down Mike’s worlds ride if you have some insight there and some data to give us a sense of how big that day was.
Trevor Connor 29:46
Mike’s 645 effort about 66 hours in 45 minutes and it goes about 260 k we kind of broke it down into into three sections the the race that really What we wanted to make sure was that he got to that last effort, which was one fight one climb with the final steep climb as fresh as possible. And the way we did that was to kind of try and get him to stay in his comfort envelope as for as many of those laps as possible. And in fact, the first 60 to 80 kilometers, the race, were really kind of with the exception of one little climb that they had in there, were really more of kind of a warm up, make sure he stays hydrated, make sure he follows is sort of 80 to 100, you know, grams of carbohydrate, an hour leading up into the loop course, and what the strategy was really for him to expend as little energy as possible, because we knew, or at least when we talked about it, we thought it would come down to that last steep climb. And the interesting thing about that last steep climb is that I knew that if he could get there, even having expended a teeny bit too much energy, because that happens sometimes in bike racing. If you got to fill a gap, or you know, surge ahead to maybe a key competitor who might be a threat, if he could get to that last climb where the grades were upwards of around 26 27% done certain sections of it, even though it wasn’t that long. The fact that everybody would be sort of have fried at that point glycogen depletion sets in, you know, and so everybody’s a coward under fatigue a little bit. So we’d hoped that the advantage that Mike has, which is standing climbing could really show itself on a on a course like that, where the finish had about a two and a half to it was about 2.7 kilometer climb, with an average grade, anywhere between 14 and 20%. Depending on where you were in it actually topped out at 26. Or when you did it in training was actually 28% that we measured it. And the thing that people have to understand about Mike is that he’s got a fairly large engine size. And he comes from a running background, I think most people know that. But when you come from a running background, it’s really tough to make a transition from generating power in an upright position to generating power and a trunk flexed sort of aerodynamic tuck. One of the reasons why it doesn’t do super well in TTS, because as soon as he hasn’t this trunk down position, he tends to suffer a little bit more. So the process was, if he can get to the point where he has his best advantage, which is when everybody needs to stand on the last climb, then we knew that he could do something special. So the whole race was, you know, I basically I gave him just a few words before as a pep talk before the race. And that’s David and Goliath. You know, he isn’t Goliath, but he needed to act like a David. And he played it perfectly in the actual race. So that’s kind of a strategy and how it all played out a little bit.
Trevor Connor 32:54
That’s fantastic. And you kind of touched on something we brought up with Mike which was in some ways it seemed like the race was six hours of kind of wearing everybody down and then one hour of seen who’s got something left in the legs, which is what you’re talking about, it was all about trying to get to that end when the the big throwdowns are going to happen with pretty close as close as you can be to full strength.
Yeah, exactly. I mean, and you could see when I when I did the analysis of the actual race itself, the first lap around that loop was done in about 2020 minutes, 20 minutes and 15 seconds. The first climb I should say that loop was done in about 20 minutes and 15 seconds in every loop after that was faster so we went from like 2015 to 1940 to 1830 to 1820 to 1810 to 1750 and then the last one before they hit the monster was 1740 so it actually because of the breakaway they started to slowly pick it up. And and that’s a good thing for Mike because he just said in you know, conserve his energy make sure he fueled up and even on his last lap before the monster I call it the monster the last 2.6 k climb. He was relatively conservative he climbed that at about a normalized power is about 350 watts or so at a sort of a variability index of just a little over one so that means that he wasn’t burning a lot of matches on his way up there is about a 1400 1400 and 50 vam which is more than capable of doing and so after I looked at that I after the race I said okay, well this is why he was able to climb the last piece of it at about 420 watts or so. You know at about an 1850 to 1900 van and that’s what that’s what the difference maker is you know it’s what you have left when it’s time to put the Jets on in these in these top level races where all the best or they’re in the field of super deep but it takes that much whittling away to let the cream rise to the top a little bit.
Trevor Connor 34:56
This coaches Paul and I are both sometimes stuck just looking at the number So let’s get back to the interview where Mike explains why the experience often isn’t as simple as what the numbers say. It seems like there is a huge sustainability or training your ability to essentially not fatigue involved in this right. So what I mean by that is I look at the first part of your race, the climbs that you were hitting, and certainly they were hard. But you know, for example, the second climb, you were doing 4.9 watts per kilogram, I look at things of that and go, you know, that would hurt a lot. But I could actually do that. But then you get towards the end of the race, and this is six hours into the race, you’re going up climbs, that wattage is and watts per kilogram that I just go, not even close, I would be out the back. So it seems like, please correct me if I’m wrong in this, but there’s almost this, the first part of the race, it’s not, let’s do a big killer effort to see who we can pop, it’s much more a, let’s kind of grind everybody down and see how much we can fatigue, everybody. And then as you get towards the end of the race, now let’s see who’s got something left in the tank? Is that correct? And if that’s the case, how do you train for that?
Well, I think for like, first of all, if you look at just watts per kilo as it’s, I don’t think that’s actually a good metric for how we do the climbs are structured, just because, yeah, maybe I averaged 4.9, or 4.9 watts per kilo for that first climb, and then each one was progressively harder. But that 20 minute window isn’t representative of how hard the climb actually is. Because if you look at the file, and you zoom in to each climb, it’s not. Okay, I’m just going to sit on 320 watts, it’s right 600 like, like, literally the points, we’re doing 450 500 watts, and then your zeros, you’re fighting for position, you’re not writing the most efficient line in the climb, because you’re trying to get around guys, you’re producing power, not even through the pedals. Because you’re manipulating your bike as well, you’re pushing guys around debts, you’re using energy that you wouldn’t use, just on a straight climb alone, doing five watts per kilo. It’s like you’re expending way more energy. And so like, I find, when I look at her, I look at a race file. And I look at a number like a 20 minute power file. Like, if I hit that the number that whenever I hit, you can almost you can up it by almost another watt per kilo in order to represent how difficult it really is. Because every time I’m on the pedals on that the those each each of those climbs, it’s way more, it’s also way higher watts than then the 320 that I averaged. And it’s taxing and so that that repeated spiking of wattage fatigues you big time. And you see guys, particularly who you’ve heard, I’ve heard, do way bigger numbers than I can, in training come completely apart, because you watch them go up a climb, spiking their watts, way more than the two, trying to get around guys way faster, not right in the most efficient way, holding them bars too tight, all these things that contribute to them wasting energy, and then they look at the file after two. And they’re like, man, I only did 320 watts and training I did, I can do that, you know till the cows come home, but they can’t execute in the race because of all those things. So I think for sure, like those are numbers that are doable, but more doable and training when you do when you try to do something like that in the race at this level. It’s so fatiguing.
Trevor Connor 38:42
So that kind of one of our first episodes of Fast Talk we talked a little bit about what separates pros from amateurs and the research on this is fascinating because they they point out that your your vo two max a lot of your your peak numbers, they don’t really improve that they’ll look at there’s some studies have looked at pros over five, six years and really whatever their their peak is, it stays their peak. But what you see improvements are in is a couple things. One is better efficiency so they can produce that power with with less of a essentially a strain on the body. Likewise, you see a decrease in what’s called the slow component of vo two, which is one of the indicators of fatigue, the muscles are kind of wearing down. So essentially what you see in pros is that top end doesn’t get much bigger, but their ability to keep hitting that top end or to ride very close to that top end without fatiguing improves over time to where they can just keep riding at those high intensities. Is that kind of what you’re getting at here? Or do you feel it’s different?
Yes, for sure. But also also from a mental perspective to like like what you’re saying is totally accurate. But also over five years, let’s say without the athlete as an example, that athlete is going to get more efficient but also more mentally efficient. And also able to navigate the peloton better, and know little tricks in order to keep that them themselves fresh in order to keep themselves eating properly hydrated properly. It’s like yeah, obviously for sure, from a physiological perspective, they’re more efficient, but more so I think it’s the positioning of the mental side. The ability to just stay relaxed, be composed, be cool, and, and execute under duress.
Chris Case 40:39
Well, well, let’s jump back to those those closing moments of the race and walk us through that Mike.
Yeah, everything just came to plan. I, we recorded it. I visualized the descent, did it fast with Anton Duchaine trying to draw me. And then even when I was when we wrote up to the finish line, I told myself, I’m not going to go until 150 years ago. And so I made all these plans in my head. But again, like I said earlier, there’s so many intangibles and race. So it’s very hard to make, make a plan and expect it to work. But when I hit the base of the climb that final climb, my goal was to using France as a reference point, and in front of me only four guys, alpha leap bar de, to Pino and Muskaan. And the only guy behind me was Valverde. So it was like I was shocked that I was in that position to Pino made an effort. And basically, there are only five guys left after he made that effort. And it didn’t feel that difficult when he made it. And so I was, I was so surprised at how good I felt. And then when we hit the section where I did an interval, in the Recon, I just told myself, I’m going to use that same effort. It’s roughly four minutes long. If I do that effort, now, I get to dictate the pace, I get to control how I feel, as opposed to someone else controlling how I feel. And so I went and I draw, I was able to draw a mask on, I was able to drop alpha leap, and you know, and there were only three guys left over the top of the climb. And then my next biggest worry was that December because we did a great recon, we did a good descent with Antwan, I actually felt like I took better lines than then Valverde and, and bar day in that in that descent, which is rare for me. And I felt like I don’t know, I just felt like I think I told this already, Chris, but I felt like Neo in the matrix, like I was just everything that I was planning doing just unfolded, and I had this, like nice bird’s eye view of how the race was going. And even in the final 300 meters, 300 meters, I couldn’t believe how everything was going because I thought I was going to win, because that’s when Valverde started to sprint. And he started in my mind way too early, he was just leading me out, he’s gifted me the sprint. And with 150 meter tour meters to go, I pulled out to come around him. And I just cramped up like massive electrolyte cramp and went from thinking I was going to win the race to just trying to survive and, and hold off barred a and do Mullen for the metals. And when I cross the line, oh went from like this huge, emotional high to thing that was going to win to this huge disappointment that I didn’t win. And it took me about four or five minutes to get over the disappointment, realize it was a big accomplishment. And it was actually something I should be proud of.
Chris Case 43:21
That’s amazing story. I’ve been there. Not not at Worlds of course, but that a roller coaster of emotions where your your, your everything’s lining up and you’ve got this vision of yourself, posting up winning a race and then all of a sudden, you go from that, that immense high to this. Oh my god, I just blew it or Oh my God, I just cramped and you come in third. And it does take you a while to process all that. Because you were so close to the ultimate prize. And yet you got something less than that. But still an amazing accomplishment which you don’t want that bad taste in your mouth to to remain really because you got to be you got to be really happy with a bronze medal at the World Championships.
Trevor Connor 44:08
But also just the fact that you were talking about holding off guys like do Milan, these are Grand Tour winners that you were holding off to get that bronze.
Yeah, no. Like, in retrospect, I was very proud of the performance, especially considering where I came from the sport can like I mean, Rob has seen me when I did my first NRC race and cast in cascade, and I was it like, a completely different rider than and how how we’re like how far I’ve come. I can’t not be I can’t be disappointed without performance at all. But it wasn’t that moment when I finished.
Trevor Connor 44:45
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Chris Case 45:13
That’s probably a great a great way to transition into the training that it takes and the different approaches that both of you had to take to get ready for this race. I know that there’s in some ways at polar ends of the spectrum, I realized that Mike race the Vuelta as prep, that in itself is a massive block of racing. Rob, on the other hand, I think that you did a interesting bikepacking trip in some senses to prepare for worlds. So it’d be great to dig into these different approaches. Of course, the common theme, there is a lot of miles for both of you guys knowing that this race was going to be so physically taxing such a long effort. So maybe we could start with with Rob, and you could talk us through your preparation.
that’s a bit different than most people would get ready for a one day race with 4500 meters of climbing. Yeah, my preparation was exactly we just said it was nine day backpacking trip on my cross bike from Calgary to port Renfrew on Vancouver Island. We weren’t staying in hotels, we did not have a nutrition plan. It was as far from my normal style of training as it could possibly get. But at the same time, it was also exactly, I think, for me what I needed and wanted to do at the end of the season to get ready for something like this. And I also know my body, and what works well for it and what works, and what doesn’t work well for it. And I remember talking with Kevin field, or our director at cycling Canada for this, and I know Kevin likes numbers, and I like numbers. So I kind of before this bikepacking thing, and before I was officially in for worlds that he said he wanted me to go and I kind of came up with a bit of like a set of metrics. For the bikepacking it was nine days, I figured between 16 and 800 k 25 or 30,000 meters of climbing, just tons of like, training stress kilojoule burns hours, daily miles, everything was just off the charts also with no recovery days in there. So this would be the most consistent training I would have ever done. Without any mental stress of no habit it hit these marks every day, which I love about training but at the same time at this time of year is kind of over it. No it wasn’t doing the volta I wasn’t about to go to altitude again and train which would be how I would normally get ready for something like this and you know motor pace and all this. You know, I just been away for six weeks before doing the World Tour races as in Colorado and Utah for those races and now three, council four. So yeah, it was a definitely a little unconventional. And even up until the first hour of the race, I couldn’t have told you what the answer is going to be if I thought that bikepacking was the right answer or the wrong answer for preparation just to kind of wait and see.
Chris Case 48:27
Yeah, it must have been a bit nerve racking
Trevor Connor 48:30
when you are doing these rides were you targeting a particular heart rate or power zone? Or was it really just go and ride each die?
There was no I had a two garments one to route us and one to record stuff from my traffic power cadence that kind of stuff. But no, there was no there was no preset anything. And I went out the window like on the first day any any ideas that I had for speed and everything. You just like the bike weighed 75 pounds or 65 pounds. Going through these mountain passes one day, we had like, just insane hike a bike section, just this stuff doesn’t exist in normal, normal day to day like professional road training. So no, I was I think the only real efforts i did i mean much to the dismay of the guys that was with were on the last two days, I did some pretty decent kind of like, sub threshold kind of climbing efforts just to make sure I still knew what I was doing bike. But after day two or day three like your heart, your heart rate stops responding to pretty much anything. It just sort of stays low all the time. Like Mike could probably shed more light on that. I’ve never done a grand tour but after a week of these kind of 233 50 TSS days, it hurts just basically low all the time.
Yeah, I’d say it’s shocking how low it gets relative damage power you can put out mm compared to when you’re fresh. Right I even said to you I haven’t said to you rob, before you started I was like dude, you’re probably this is probably gonna hurt so bad to get in the in the break. But if you get in there, you’re gonna feel great
is exactly that. It’s and you’ve mentioned it even before on the podcast here. It’s like, yeah, the first hour of the race is probably my least favorite part of it. And it’s not like the kind of race or and it certainly wasn’t the training I’d done. So that added to the pressure in the nurse back for that because there was no there’s no sprints or vo twos or, you know, one minute on offs for this. This tour. I think the only Sprint’s happened, like, you know, for towel, Hines when we get bored.
Trevor Connor 50:31
So this was really mostly just all aerobic base work that you were doing on this trip.
Chris Case 50:39
What’s it like to sprint for a town line with a 65? pound bike packing bike? Awkward?
Not safe, that’s for sure. Yeah.
Chris Case 50:48
So So Mike, knowing that Rob was using this type of trip to prepare for a very important role at Worlds to give you any trepidation? Or were you pretty confident that this was gonna work for
him? No, I know how much volume can benefit a person, a rider in a race of that duration. So I wasn’t too worried. The worst thing you can hear is when a guy getting ready, like when you hear teammates coming into a race, for me, at least, is that they haven’t been riding their bike for weeks. Yeah. Or they’ve, you know, like, Oh, you know, I just got back from his vacation, like, then, you know, they’re tapped out. Whereas, like, a bike trip like that, yeah, it’s not the most specific thing you can do for for a race, but you’re building such a huge base. And also your chances are, you’re going to come into racing mentally fresh, you’re not, you’re doing this, like you’re, you’re doing something that’s interesting, exciting, it’s a bit different than, than racing your bike. So you’re probably not gonna be as blown out as doing, like a big grand tour, but you’ve done a big block of volume. So chairs aren’t gonna be fat, you’re not gonna be you’re not and you’re not gonna be out of shape. So I wasn’t too concerned at all like I when I heard, I was like, Oh, that’s sick.
Chris Case 52:00
Turning to Mike, I know that you’re training over all leading into worlds was significantly different because it was based around a lot of racing. When we spoke recently, you mentioned how even even in in retrospect, there were some some other things that didn’t go according to plan at the tour of Utah, but that actually, in the end maybe benefited your preparation. So if you injure yourself at the tour of Utah, you come out of the tour of Utah a little under where you had prepared or had expected to be leading into a big objective, which was the Vuelta and so your role there changed a bit. So maybe you could discuss a little bit about how you use the Vuelta to prepare for worlds and also that awkward time between coming off of a grand tour and leading into a key objective and how you balance recovery with being sharp still, for race like worlds.
Yeah, so using the volta to prepare for worlds and approaching the volta the way I did because of the crash and getting injured, I crashed in Utah and up my leg got affected on the flight back from the US to Europe. So it meant that I couldn’t target the Vuelta with GC ambitions, which I had originally hoped to, and was pretty frustrated when I first came into the volta because of that. However, my director one manual grata was amazing, was amazing. And he managed me very well. And he told me that is actually great. The way I was coming into the welter that I was coming in, he said, If you come in at 60 to 70%, I’m actually happy. The reason why he was happy was that he knew based off my physiology and the base based off of how I’ve responded in previous grand tours, if he managed me Well, in the first week and a half, I’d actually be at my best in that last week. And that’s what we did. I just worked for Reagan that first week, I kept my head low, tried to get one or two breaks, but never really had to carry the weight of riding a GC. So you’re not carrying this emotional stress every single day. You actually have a lot I find doing racing a grand tour like this. It’s just fun. It’s kind of like you get to hit the reset button every day. Because you’re not chasing a GC. You’re also getting the best training camp that you could possibly imagine just because you’re doing big miles close roads. Got a massage after every single ride. You’ve got the best food for training like we have a team shaft that just does an exceptional job of creating great food. Yeah, this is a nutritionist that’s there and Nigel Mitchell making sure you’re not gaining too much weight. You have a Cairo they’re giving you adjustments and you just have this whole staff around you trying to optimize your your performance. So it’s a great environment to be if you want to get into shape and over those first two I just consistently felt better each day, felt like I was getting the fuel and rhythm of racing back, getting my confidence back. And by the time the third week rolled around, because it’s building on this positive momentum, I felt great. And I felt really good. And it’s a great, that’s a great place to be. Because a lot of guys in the third week are not at that place, they are falling apart, they’re deteriorating mentally, and you have a great time, because you’re taking advantage of how fatigued everyone else is. And I built this positive momentum and after, after finishing the welds after I got to stage one and on stage 17, that that continued these positive vibes, I continued my motivation. And instead of what I’ve done in the past, where I finished a grand tour and just been completely cooked, physically and mentally, I felt fresh mentally. And so I didn’t get depressed after this grant, after this grand tour, I didn’t lie around the couch, and eat bags of chips, and drink beers. And just wish I was no longer having to race my bike. Instead, I was thinking, Oh, man, like World Championships are coming up, I can get a good result here. And I’m fit. So I was able to not worry that I wasn’t writing for the first few days in order to recover. It created this really nice place mentally, where I was able to chill on the two weeks between the vault and World Championships and just get excited for the race.
Trevor Connor 56:29
So really interesting trend that I’m hearing here is the importance of this mental side. So Rob, you talked about that heart rate depression, that’s actually it’s called sympathetic fatigue, that’s actually a sign of overreaching. So both of you did these things leading up that actually just from a pure physiological standpoint, fatigue, you had you a little stretched out. But it sounds like mentally The both of your preps really put you in a good place for worlds. And it almost seems like that was more important than how physically fresh you were.
Yeah, yeah, I mean, bike racing is he has done it long enough will tell you, it’s an incredibly mentally demanding sport. Like I don’t have any experience in a grand tour. But I mean, I know how I come out of just like the week on tours I’ve done. And you know, to do three of those in a row, especially if you’re going for like a GC role, like what I’d say, Mike’s traditional position on that kind of a team, that is a huge strain, that’s every day, you have to show up and be on point, and you can’t have a bad moment. And that all adds up. And that’s really, really, really hard. And to have that mental freedom, at least for me, takes away all the pressure. And so you could be doing every bit as hard of like, you know, work but yeah, to not be just mentally fried and kind of shell shocked after, after a block of stress like that is is makes a huge, huge difference, and just shows how much there is to the mental side of it.
Trevor Connor 58:02
I actually have a question here from one of our listeners. This is from Robert palter, who lives in Toronto. So we’re going to keep our Canadian theme going here. And he asked how much of your training time is spent on threshold level work versus vo to work? The reason I asked the question is it would seem to me that simply making it to the final selection at the worlds was all about threshold, but actually winning the race was all about anaerobic efforts. How do great athletes think about the time spent training between these two and preparing to do both? And I’ll actually add to this question, it seems like both of you put a high priority on even lower intensity training that big aerobic base training.
Yeah, from from my side of things. Paulo, my coach and I we don’t do much work. In thrive in the threshold zone, we don’t hit it up too much. I do a lot of longer, easy rides, and then do a lot more specificity were due to max work style stuff. So a lot more punchy, shorter efforts. And I find just doing those two things really do enabled me to have that punch at the end of a long race. I think the threshold work if anything just kind of often leaves you stale. And I mean, it doesn’t help my doesn’t help my time trawling i don’t think i’m i’m not a great time trellis. Because of that, particularly because of that. But as a pro rider, I think more important is just getting the big volume in and then occasionally doing the harder efforts.
Trevor Connor 59:35
So you’re really describing a very polarized approach, which is that 70 to 80% of your time at low intensity and then about 15 to 20% of your time above threshold.
Yeah, I it’s funny, I’m probably a bit different. For me, I get huge gains in doing a lot of volume and then certain periods of the year I’ll incorporate a big block of threshold. Usually the poorly, California or Utah, for me just sharpening up that little bit doesn’t take too too much. So we’ll do maybe a four week walk or threshold, you know, big 2030 minute long efforts, and we’ll do up to two and a half hours of that in a ride, you know, broken up. And then yeah, the weeks, maybe a couple weeks before a target race, we’ll, we’ll do those shorter efforts, you know, the 32nd to four minute kind of efforts. And I find once I have like that huge block of volume, and both just standard kind of zone to work, and also threshold, the, the sharpening of the sphere, per se, comes really fast.
Trevor Connor 1:00:41
So this is not you’re not doing high intensity all year round. This is really, as you get close to an event, you’re doing this to sharpen yourself.
Yeah, definitely. And for us to the racing brings a lot of that out as well. So I’ll change the training to prepare for certain races. And then also you get some of those efforts in these races. So you don’t need to do that kind of stuff in training so much.
Chris Case 1:01:06
I think what’s interesting too about this is there’s multiple ways to skin a cat and good athletes understand themselves a bit. They understand how their body responds. And while one method might work for one person, it might also work for another person, but maybe a better approach is something with a bit more nuance to it or just just sort of different so it’s it’s interesting that you both know and you said I know that my body responds to and then fill in the blank so that it’s interesting to know the individuality of what works for for different athletes.
Yeah, certainly. But I also think to like it, both Rob and I are training for diff different style of racing often to like, you look at Rob’s best dad, it’s races that are often high altitude long climbs, where the threshold is gonna be more important. Whereas I’m, I’m a guy who focuses on races that are like the Ardennes classics that are, you know, far more punchier, and explosive and shorter efforts. So it’s like, we’re also training often for separate, not disciplines, but separate, slightly different events.
Trevor Connor 1:02:18
During our previous podcast with Dr. Sarah Grady, who’s the coach and sports scientist, a team Dimension Data, we asked him what training is like for a world tour rider preparing for six hour races? And more importantly, does that style training work for those of us doing to our races? As a physiologist who’s now working with a world tour team, in terms of the physiology, what’s different about World Tour rider? And do you train them and test them differently? So yeah, the
physiology would be a lot different to the amateur athlete, you know, these this, this is their job, they spend, you know, countless hours on the bike every year, they race, a lot of writers who perform well in worlds will have will have done the welter. So they’ll have three weeks of racing in their legs before they got to have to compete in worlds so that there’s the different scheduling of preparation, you know, the amateur athlete will find it very difficult to to find a racing schedule that would work with that type of precision, knowing that this race by Reinhardt in this race and then do a bit of a taper I’ll perform well in this one day race so but the you know, the physiology, the just the pure efficiency of these guys, that it’s unreal, they can just push the power out and at the end of a six hour race, still be able to push out near enough the same power, it’s something that we look at quite a lot is the fatigue. So do an effort at the start of a ride, and then do a training session and then do do another, you know, the same effort repeated on, you know, ideally the same climb or stretch of road at the end of the ride. And then you can get your fatigue and then just track that throughout the year. But with with the way that the racing is going a lot of it is is learning the demands of the race and how that is changing year on year. And being smart and looking for opportunities where you know, your guys can perform better than the demands of the race. So you know, just looking at power files from from previous races, go back years, different years, and and then training to a little bit about those power demands and being ready for when the time comes.
Trevor Connor 1:04:25
Now, do you think this that sort of form, you talked about the amazing efficiency that they can ride six hours at the end of that six hours still be able to go hard for an amateur rider who’s doing a two, two and a half hour race? Is there still a benefit to building those assets? Or would that potentially take away from other strengths that they need in those shorter races?
Little bit would would take away with the shorter races. Yes, efficiency is is still important over two hours your efficiency is going to decline so that there will be that necessary. a necessity to train to still be good performing, especially if the intensity is is high, you’re gonna still be struggling at the end of those two hours. But for the amateur athletes that there is a little bit more of a focus, I would recommend on the on just the raw power, you know, having being able to do it in the first hour. And if you can be there, at the end of the first hour, you know, that you’re 50% of the way through, you’re going to try and hold on for the for the rest of it. Whereas if you focus on those being able to perform over six hour rides, and you know, a little bit lower intensity, and then go into a two hour really hot, you know, high intensity, race or road race, then you’ll probably be on the backfoot from the get go and really be struggling.
Trevor Connor 1:05:46
Alright, let’s get back to Robin, Mike. So let’s hit you with our cut. The last question that we want to finish up with here is a lot of our listeners don’t do seven hour races, obviously their racers are more that three to four hour length. How is preparing for a race like this different from a North American race? It’s just three or four hours in length. And after preparing for an event like this, do you think you can go back and be at your best for one of those shorter races? Or is the training fundamentally different? Yeah, I
think the training is I don’t, it’s fundamentally different is for sure for getting ready for this. But being good for a seven hour bike race, doesn’t mean you’re not going to be good for a three hour bike race, for example, is that you three are bike races in the middle of the Tour de France now, or, you know, the tour of Italy. And these guys are probably going a lot faster than anybody in North America could dream to go. And yeah, the biggest thing is a lot of guys in North America, they’re just able to execute big numbers and a good ride for three hours or roughly 120 K and it’s almost like a light switch. After that. That’s That’s it. So I think getting ready for a seven hour race prepares you for to be good and still be a solid bike racer for three hours. But being good at three hours is night and day to be good for seven hours.
Yeah, I also think it gives you when you do the longer races. Even if you’re an amateur, if you do some hard like over distance training sessions. It just gives you such a good perspective. On the shorter distance you come in, you’re like I know, three hours is going to end me. Whereas when you first start doing three hour races, and you don’t have that experience, it’s such a daunting task was now having done these longer classics, having done some grand tours, you come back and do a shorter race and you’re just like a tour for Utah, for example, I came back and did I did that this year. And a six day race after your last races this year in Italia is like oh man. Like we’re just getting started when you’re on day five. Whereas again, so that’s a nice feeling. It’s a good feeling mentally.
Trevor Connor 1:07:50
I still remember the first time ever did 100 mile race the thing that terrifies me the most was what happens if I have to go the bathroom?
reasonable fear to have
Chris Case 1:08:00
Trevor Connor 1:08:00
hello had some fascinating points about how training for an event like this is different. And also really took a deep inside the last five years of training that turned Mike into a podium finisher at the world’s certainly wasn’t a traditional approach. What’s different in the training for a race like this versus a more like a domestic three hour race?
Oh, it’s pretty massive difference. Well, the preparation leading up to Worlds actually started with Mike and I and probably as early as June where he he came out to I live in Montreal, just outside of Montreal, Quebec and I live in the countryside and I have a motor Pei scooter and he came out to do a sort of a mini training camp where we were going to sort of put them through some of the stressors that he would encounter not just for the Vuelta. But for the worlds I really felt worlds was super well suited for him. You know, they say horses for courses and and Mike’s worlds this year was it was perfectly suited for him. And so what we what we would do in the training camp this summer, I know we only do three or four day blocks. We don’t do much longer than that, because I like to hit the pointy end of the stick hard for a few days overload him super stimulate him and have him recover for a longer period of time. But when we do do the quality work, it’s very high intensity. It’s actually faster than race pace for much of it for different types of climbs that we want it to do. So what one of the key workouts that I remember we did with Mike is about 250 k behind the motor scooter through the mountain side of upstate Vermont, doing about 5000 meters of climbing. And every climb we did was all either tempo based, you know anywhere from 5.5 to six watts per kilo, or it was over unders where we did a lot of what I call anaerobic repeatability on climbs so we would have them hold let’s say on base pace of Five or 5.5 watts per kilo, and then he’d have to surge with the scooter to 6.5 and then back down and then surge again with the scooter to seven watts per kilo and then back down, but always holding between five and 5.5 watts per kilo, which is exactly what happens in a race, you know, can’t just give it a full gas effort and then get dropped off the back of the pack when they catch you. So we did a lot of work like that. And it actually started in June. Go ahead, you had a comment?
Trevor Connor 1:10:24
No, actually, Chris and I are still trying to catch up after your comment. We were doing a lot of tempo work at 5.5 to six watts per kilogram. That’s the first time I’ve ever used those two things put together normally, it’s I was dying for a minute at six watts per kilogram tempo work.
Yeah, the numbers are pretty crazy. When you think about it, I mean, and I work with different athletes at different levels. So Mike’s about the top of the spectrum there in terms of physiological capacity. VO to max is a fairly high and you know, coming from my running background, he’s all we had to do was really over the years was convert him peripherally to become a cyclist, you know, when obviously tactically, but just to touch back on the on the the lead up to two worlds, people would be surprised at how little specificity we did in training, because remember, likes racing 80 times a year. So I mean, he’s, he’s doing the gyro is doing the Vuelta. So really, by the time we looked at trying to fit little places where we can include a little bit of specificity there were only really a couple of places that first one was in June. And the other one was when he went to do his altitude prep in July prior to Utah, where we did a little bit of work there. And then one week or so before worlds where we did some, some sharpening repeatability work just to kind of wake up the system a little bit and get his, uh, his periphery firing and get his body back used to those types of efforts. Obviously, not for a seven hour workout. But you know, even on the Wednesday, before worlds, he did almost a five and a half hour ride with, you know, some anaerobic power repeatability, and we take a very non traditional approach to preparation for bike racing. That’s the beautiful thing about working with Mike is that in a sport, like cycling, that has a lot of innovation in it, it’s quite conservative in nature. And so I know that Mike comes from a running background, he had no knowledge of cycling conditioning protocols in any way. So I had the luxury to be able to not fool him, but just tell him to follow this approach and see if it’s going to work. And the approach that we take with him is one that’s much more rooted in, in qualitatively based training than it is volume volumetrically based training, and it works super well, over the last four and a half years, he’s made a sort of a meteoric rise. And there’s something to this, this approach, obviously, you know, you can’t apply it to every athlete, but it’s certainly exciting for me to go through a process of experimentation with an athlete and have him end up at a world class level and finishing, you know, third in the world in that in four years or five years.
Trevor Connor 1:13:08
So can you tell us a little bit more about this approach, because when he described it to us, during interview with him, it sounded very much like a classic polarized approach to train, you
know, because I don’t know if he talked to you a little bit about his four or five year build up. But what I mean by non traditional is that when we first started working together, I mean, if you look at the sort of the traditional pyramid of building your foundational base in the beginning of the year, adding miles and miles and miles of aerobic endurance, and then slowly shortening that triangles peak up a little bit and putting layers of lactate threshold based kind of intervals or aerobic threshold based intervals, and then you start to add, you know, anaerobic power development, and then you start to sharpen for races. That’s your, that’s your typical periodization model, in many endurance sports. And I actually flipped that upside down. I flipped them upside down to the point where we did very little base conditioning in the first two years. And almost all of it was based on intensity, how much intensity could he handle? How quickly can we shift this periphery to be able to manage the loads that he’s going to encounter on the bike? And where’s when are we going to hit the point where we then have to introduce more volume based training. So what Mike is describing to you is maybe the last year we’ve added another layer of, of endurance based pieces to it. But over the first three or four years to get there, it really was flipped on its head and every year we would reduce a teeny bit the intensity and actually add a little bit more volume. So it’s actually the reverse of what people might think when they’re preparing an athlete over a four to a six year or even to quadrennial is leading into Olympic Games, you know, and then that’s what I mean by it being different. The other thing we do a lot of is capacity, like Mike when he came to dhanam, which is our place in Quebec. We did a ride where we did about a five and a half hour motor pace. And in that five and a half mile motor pace, our process was to take a certain duration and to try and do maximal maximal capacity within that duration, much like a track cyclist might do in a in a 4k all out pursuit. And what we’re trying to do with him in a case like that is we’re trying to push up that ceiling that tends to hold all of us down. And by by super stimulating him in a way that he never really encounters in a race. Because when you’re in a race, you have a lot of elements of fatigue, you have strategy, you have to of course, you have the team role that you play, that never really provide you with an environment to be able to actually stimulate that. But in training, we can do it. So that’s another non traditional approach. So we would do a lot of motor pacing, whereby we would say okay, on that on the next piece in the next 20 K, when we hit that climb, it’s a three, it’s a three minute four minute climb, and then we’re going to give you any targets, you’re going to do it all out from the gun. And that stimulus made a big difference in pushing up the ceiling. So what happens is, when you push up that ceiling of capacity, then everything underneath that ceiling, relatively speaking becomes a little bit easier, and takes a little bit out of you a little bit less out of you. So that was sort of the logic I used in that. And obviously, you can do that type of training on a regular basis. But when you’re rested, and you have the time to recover from something like that, because it takes three, four or five days to recover from something like that, then it’s well worth it to push up the ceiling so with with athletes who are plateaued and stuck in a place where they haven’t really moved up. That’s an approach I use. And not to say that Mike was plateaued. But I like to use that once in a while with guys like Mike, because I don’t want him to get I hate to use his nickname rusty, but your body can get rusty. And we always want to delve into homeostasis, we always want to go down a little bit. So it’s continuously trying to push the stimulation envelope to get them into the right place. So that everything underneath that envelope is easier. I don’t know if that makes sense.
Trevor Connor 1:17:22
No, it’s it’s fascinating. I’ve definitely heard other people talk about that approach of so first coach I’ve ever worked with the the way he described it was if you always ride at 20 miles an hour, you get really good at riding 20 miles an hour, but you never get good at riding 30 miles an hour. Right? And it was that idea of you have to push that envelope you have to even if it’s just for a minute or two, and this is how old I am. This is pre power meters and anything else we talk speed, but it was at even if it’s only for a minute, you got to go right at 30 miles an hour. And then the next time you might be able to do a couple minutes. And then it’s slowly built up as your body gets used to that. And then all of a sudden, 20 miles an hour becomes really easy.
Yeah, it’s the same kind of concept. Exactly. And he was hitting numbers there that were actually quite outstanding. I mean, he was doing some eight and nine and 10 watt per kilo efforts that were longer than anyone I’ve ever worked with, has been able to do so it was it was pretty fantastic to see, you know, and that’s when I knew I said this kid. He’s got a shot at Worlds this year. With those kinds of numbers. He can draw most riders on this planet, especially if it’s a if it comes down to a standing climb slugfest. I actually thought when I watched the race, I watched it in a bar in Innsbruck, I thought he was going to drop those guys. And you know, he, I think he still could have. But you know, he’s now the next step with Mike is he’s got to learn how to win, in a sense, like now that he’s here, all of a sudden, he’s like, Oh, my God, I’m here. Now I got to figure out how to win this stuff.
Trevor Connor 1:18:56
Let’s get back to the conversation. Mike’s thoughts on what’s next for him.
Chris Case 1:19:00
I was I was just gonna ask knowing all of the things that help you progress. What is your ceiling? What do you do next to make sure that you win worlds the next time instead of coming in third? No pressure?
Well, I literally just sat down with Paul and my coach today we had coffee and we talked about this like what, like what is there another layer that we can break into from a training perspective? physiologically can I improve? I think I can still improve in a lot of rounds. But the biggest inroads I’m going to make still are in execution in the final portion of the race. I’ve gotten to a point now where I’m able to execute and perform and and and tap into my strengths physiologically, I the key moments of a race from from a climate perspective. But I still haven’t figured out how to truly win a race on a regular basis in a consistent And that that’s a leap I’m gonna have to make that is going to take some improvement mentally, it’s gonna take some improvement tactically, and it’s going to take some improvement in the bike handling skills department. So I think, yeah, I think there’s there’s room for me to improve big time. And I’m excited to tackle those things, especially this offseason.
Trevor Connor 1:20:18
So why don’t we finish up with just translating this for us mortals out there who are doing just the three four hour races? What would be your take homes or suggestions? What can we learn from the sort of training that you’re doing? Or from what you experience with doing a race like worlds?
Yeah, I think the biggest thing, I think Mike and I both kind of said it is to not give your mental side of things. enough credit, that’s it, that’s huge, huge part of training, whether it’s the mental preparation to do these workouts over and over again, like that, that has a lot of value in like when it gets hard and races, you’ve done it in training. So like Mike was saying, he knew that you could do a four minute effort and like he was doing the same and could do the same numbers in the race that adds up from training and racing. And then also just rest isn’t always just for the body. A lot of times in our bodies are fine, they can recover fast and massage and Kira. And all these things stand back physically very quickly. But a lot of times rushing back to training and are not taking enough time to recover from training to to erase can put you mentally in a much bigger hole than you’d ever think you’d be physically.
Yeah, I think we both kind of did that. Like you did this big block, and then recovered in order to be ready for the race. And there’s the same thing with me. I did this big block and like was confident in the work I had done, and then was able to chill and freshen up mentally for this race as well. Because, like you said, Yeah, being fresh mentally so important.
Trevor Connor 1:21:54
That was another episode of Fast Talk. As always, we’d love your feedback. Email us at Fast Talk@velonews.com Subscribe to Fast Talk and iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Google Play. Be sure to leave us a rating and a comment. While you’re there, check out our sister podcast developer news podcast, which covers news about the week and cycling. Become a fan of Fast Talk and email@example.com slash velonews and on firstname.lastname@example.org slash velonews. Fast talk is a joint production between velonews and Connor coaching the thoughts and opinions expressed in Fast Talker those are the individual for Chris case, Michael woods, Rob Britain, Paolo Saldana and Sierra no Grady. I’m Trevor Connor. Thanks for listening.