Lessons Learned Trying to “Make It” as a Pro

Trying to go pro is one of the hardest things we can do. Jack Burke and Taylor Warren share what they’ve learned so far, and, surprisingly, what they’ve gleaned may apply to the rest of us, too.

FT EP 310

Many young endurance athletes catch the “pro bug” at some point and dream of hitting the top ranks. They know it’s going to be a lot of hard work and will likely take several years to achieve, but often end up realizing how much of an underestimation that still is. Most who have tried will tell you it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever done. But whether they made it or not, the lessons they learned along the way prepared them for just about any challenge they faced later in life.     

Here to share the lessons they learned are two elite cyclists who had the strength and the talent, but never quite made the World Tour due to a variety of other reasons (or maybe just not yet). Taylor Warren has raced the North American professional scene since 2014 and now coaches full time at Source Endurance. Jack Burke, a fellow Canadian, raced successfully in North America before moving to Europe and racing at the Conti Level. He recently wrote a book titled How to Become a Pro Cyclist. 

In today’s episode, we’ll share stories of just how challenging it can be. We’ll discuss the importance of opportunity, hard work, talent, and just dumb luck. We’ll talk about how reality compared with the dream, what proved to be insurmountable, and since both are similar in age to Sepp Kuss and have raced him, we’ll have a frank conversation about how and why Sepp succeeded where they didn’t.  

In addition to these two cyclists, we’ll also hear from Dr. Marco Altini, founder of HRV4Training, and Dr. Stephen Seiler, who both share their experience of what it takes for athletes to become professionals.  

So, put on your pro kit – but only if you earned it – and let’s make you fast!  

RELATED: Episode 52: From Collegiate Racing to the WorldTour in Three Years, with Sepp Kuss 

Episode Transcript

Trevor Connor  00:05

Hello and welcome to Fast Talk, your source for the science of endurance performance. I’m your host Trevor Connor here doing solo duty today. Many young endurance athletes catch the pro bug at some point and dream of hitting the top ranks they know it’s gonna be a lot of hard work can take several years to achieve. But they don’t know is how much

Trevor Connor  00:25

Most of you have tried will tell you it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever done. But whether they made it or not, the lessons they learned along the way prepared them for just about any challenge they face later on in life. So here to share the lessons they learned or to elite cyclists who had the strength of the talent. The never quite made the world tour due to a variety of other reasons. Taylor worn his race the North American professional scene since 2014. Now coaches full time at source endurance Jack Burke, a fellow Canadian race successful in North America before moving to Europe and racing at the county level. He recently wrote a book titled How to become a pro cyclist.

Trevor Connor  01:00

In today’s episode, we’ll share stories of just how challenging it can be. We’ll discuss the importance of opportunity, hard work, talent and just dumb luck. We’ll talk about how reality compared with the dream what proved to be insurmountable, and since both are similar in age to Sep coos and embrace them, we’ll have a frank conversation about how SEPs succeeded where they didn’t. During our two cycles. We’ll also hear from Dr. Marco Tini, founder of HRV for training and Dr. Steven Siler, who both share their experiences of what it takes for athletes to become professionals. So put on your pro kit, but only if you earned it. And let’s make your fast.

Trevor Connor  01:40

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Jack Burke  02:05

Yeah, happy to be here.

Dr. Marco Altini  02:06

Excited. I’ve been a fan since episode one. Appreciate it.

Trevor Connor  02:09

So we’re talking about something that’s probably near and dear to all of our hearts, which is those challenges and struggles of trying to become a professional cyclist, which I don’t need to tell both of you this, it is a lot harder than anybody thinks it is when they go into it. That said, we don’t have that many people who are listening to our show who are trying to go professional. So I still wanted to do this episode, because I know from my experience, even though I was actually never trained to go pro, I was just trying to race with the Canadian national team. I learned so much from the experience so much from seeing what it takes to hit those higher levels. There were life lessons that I was able to bring into my racing now into my business into everything. So I think this is really valuable episode on just the grit determination, the struggle it takes to really achieve any big goal that you have in life. And I think we can make this applicable to everybody. So guys, why don’t we start with give me just the two minute background on both of your experiences in professional racing and Taylor, why don’t we start with you and Jack, we’ll jump over to you. Yeah,

Jack Burke  03:26

I’ve been racing my bike for 15 or so years. At this point, I raced on the UCI continental team, the three three project back in 2017 and 2018. And I’m currently racing for CES bello domestic elite team. And we have the designation of domestic elite just because it doesn’t make sense to have a UCI continental team. But we’re still doing all the UCI races in the states tour. Vela Redlands, Joe Martin stage race and things like that. So yeah, this will be probably one of my last years competing at this level before I wrap it up

Trevor Connor  03:56

until Are you transitioning into coaching? You’re doing that full time now? Yes,

Jack Burke  04:00

that’s correct. I’ve been in coaching for best two or three years full time now. And I’ve really found I think my place in cycling is more on the coaching side of things. And even being an athlete, I think I can bring all the struggles I’ve been through and my journey as an athlete and my coaching practice, and I’m really finding a lot of enjoyment passing on the knowledge I’ve learned to aspiring cyclists, not just those that want to be pro, but even just helping people progress day to day staying consistent and living a lifestyle required to optimize your performance.

Trevor Connor  04:31

Jack, let’s dive to you. You have quite an interesting story. You’ve had quite an experience. You gave it everything to try to get into that world tour.

Dr. Marco Altini  04:39

Yeah, ever since I was a kid. The dream was always the Olympics, the Tour de France and the world tour. And so I grew up racing in North America. And 2018 would have been my last season in North America. So based on number of the continental teams there. I had a good year in 2018. And then that led to me stepping up and making it to Europe for 2019. And so then I’m 28 years old and it would be my fifth year in Europe right now. And so I’ve always just been at the continental level in Europe. And it’s really hard to make it there. And it’s not just the racing is a completely different sport. It’s all the off bike stuff that makes it so much harder. I think that that’s the thing I was the most frustrated with. And the first couple years I was here is when you’re just learning to build a new life here, you’re not even close to the same athlete, you were in North America, because you’re just struggling to get by on so little, like some of the crazy places that I lived over the years to, you know, you just you’re looking for anything, you’re not obviously not living at home anymore. And so there was one year I lived where we had a tractor, or in our living room, because we’re living in a barn another year, I was living in a bike shop, you know, it’s doing whatever you can to try to make it. And for the first three years, I didn’t have a car, like so everything was by bike, so groceries, everything, by bike, bus and train, it’s brutal at times, and you’re doing that. So I’m not sure if I’m done as an athlete yet. I know I’ve gave it absolutely everything I have. But it’s just my dream was always the Olympics and the tour. And I never quite made it. I’m not sure if I’m going to keep trying to chase those dreams because I’m 28. Like, I’m not 38. But it’s you need a little bit of a path. And so I wrote a whole book as a guide to give the next generation to try to help them avoid some of that, because I got so much help in my career. And I just wanted to bottle everything up that I got into one guide and give it to everybody.

Trevor Connor  06:18

I will say that book, you sent it to me ahead of this podcast, and I opened it up, I got the pdf copy, and it was 546 pages. And I kind of went, I might read 100 pages ahead of this podcast. I don’t know the time for all 546 pages, I will admit to you I read the entire book. It was a fascinating read. And I can tell you it is the story of what it is like going over to Europe and trying to make it and what you go through and the different experiences and one of my favorite stories that you brought up, because whenever I’m on group rides with people, they always, you know, you get these masters riders that are on $10,000 bikes, and they go well, it’s not as nice as the gear you guys have when when you were raised. I’m like, No, you don’t get it. And you had this great story about being on a team that didn’t have a team mechanic, but they wouldn’t let you work on your own bike. So your rear brake kept dying in every single race. And you finally just said he wouldn’t race on that bike. So they gave you an old bike that had rim brakes, and the spring on it was broken. So you were able to Jerry Rig it with an elastic band. Yeah,

Dr. Marco Altini  07:24

the story even gets better than that, actually. So that year, I don’t think I put this in the book. But that’s how the year started. There was a lot of chaos that year. But then I caught the attention of one of the coaches for Israel startup nation, and I got invited to a training camp with them. And it went really well until I got invited to a second training camp with them. And those were like the best weeks of my life like unbelievable experience. And we’re riding down the road in the venue one day and I’m on this bike that’s been jerry rig together. And Alex dasa was on the team that year and he looks at me and he says, Hey, Jack, you know, you have a different break between the front and the rear brake, right? Like the rear one was Shimano on the front ones CERAM. Just I didn’t want to tell him I’m like, Dude, the bikes are different sizes. Like you should see what the front brakes held together with because, you know, I’m just trying to make a good impression. Like, I’ve been killing myself with this opportunity. You want to impress the guys. And he’s like, making fun of the brakes are not matching. And I’m like, Dude, you have no idea how much worse it is. I

Trevor Connor  08:17

always find it funny. I remember going to a bike shop taking my bike in and they said they wouldn’t give me my bike back because my bike was not safe to ride. And I just had to laugh at them. Because I’m like, in the pro scene. This is actually a really good bike.

Dr. Marco Altini  08:34

Yeah, it’s.

Trevor Connor  08:36

So let’s start there. I just want to start with a couple of the stories from both of you of the challenges you face. And so, Jack, we just got one story from you tailor any good stories you have just exemplifying the challenges you face when you took this on

Jack Burke  08:53

one story that comes to mind and it comes from the 2017 tour Vela. And this just goes into the inside of opportunities present in North American stage racing. So at ECI race like tour Vela, the promoter is required to provide host housing or housing of any kind. But this particular year, our only option was sleeping in an abandoned Verizon Wireless building. There was no housing available at this race at all. So we have our whole team in this abandoned, empty building. And we’re all sleeping on air mattresses on the floor. I’m showering out back with the hose every day after the race. We’re cooking every single meal in a crock pot. And then we’re trying to compete with United Healthcare and all these well funded professional teams. There’s just like the discrepancy of opportunity in North America. And bike racing in general is just massive. And so yeah, people understand there’s a lot of challenges within the race, right? You have to get over these mountains and perform as best as you can. But it’s like Jack was saying it’s the things off the bike that really matter to and when your accommodation is sleeping on the ground in an abandoned building. without any kitchen, it makes a stage race that’s already extremely hard, just that much harder. And I love that story because it just exemplifies the struggle of what you have to put yourself through just to be on the start line. You know, it’s one thing to win a race. But just getting to the start line of some of these races is is a success in itself. Jack, you

Trevor Connor  10:21

have a story to match. Yeah,

Dr. Marco Altini  10:24

if I wanted to give a lesson though, with a story, I would say that you have to be willing to stick around and get your opportunities. And for me, at least what I found out in my career is if you, you can do some awesome stuff racing in North America. But if your goal is to make it to the world tour and pro road cycling, you have to get to Europe, because that’s where the opportunities are, no matter how hard it is. And the best example I can give that is my 2021 season. So the COVID rules have been changing a lot. I booked a one way ticket to Tucson, Arizona to start training in the middle of the winter, I found a team while I was down there, and then booked another one way ticket to Europe to start my season, because of the team was based in Austria. And three days before the plane took off the COVID rules change to the place where I was going to be living with another teammate. I couldn’t get to it. So I was getting on a plane to go fly to Zurich with no place to live. When I got there. I had one friend that I made in Europe the year before. And so I slept on his couch for a couple of weeks while I found a new place to live, found a place to live, you know, you’re just trying to kind of make it work. But I was sharing it was a madhouse that I was living in it was a shared apartment with a bunch of people like one guy that a super nice guy. But you know, he was fleeing Afghanistan, because, you know, terrorists had blown up the office that he lived with. And he was just trying to get to Europe. And so you’re living with somebody like that. And you’re like, Okay, I can’t complain about anything. But it’s also just you’re trying to focus on your training. And it’s just chaos, which you’re living in. And I’ve been preparing really well for the biggest race we’re going to do this year, and I was in really good shape at at a mountain top finish on the last stage and like winning this, that could be like a pro contract, right? They’re like, this is what you’ve been killing yourself for. And I was in great shape. And at the time, I was the strongest rider on the team. But I got left off the roster for that. And I thought it was a mistake. And so when I asked the the team director, what happened or why I was left off it, they said, well, the sponsor only wants to take Austrian riders to this race, because it’s the biggest race of the year. And they want to give the opportunity to the Austrian riders. And so that was crushing for me, because it’s like I’ve been killing myself for this. It’s like we finally had the opportunity. And then boom. But then the next day, I got a text message from the head of performance for Israel, inviting me to the first training camp that I mentioned before with them and the text message. It was so funny, because it was phrased like a question like, Hey, Jack, what are you doing this next coming week? And I told him, I’m not going to this race now because I didn’t get selected for it. And he said, Well, you know, we’re having the last training camp with Chris Froome. And the tour team, that’s gonna be the last camp they do to recon before the Tour de France. If you can get there you can join if you want not just like, dude, I’ll go to Jupiter. If I if I can join this camp, like come on, like what kind of questions that and I go. And just to be clear, like, this was the coolest week of my life, like life peaked at that point, it was unbelievable. And it went so well. But the point of the story is, I never would have got that opportunity if I was in North America, because I had people telling me to come home to North America, because you’re just not dealing with this chaos. Like you could live at home. You could focus on your training more. And I just thought like, Yeah, but the opportunities are here. And I never would have got that opportunity without it. So as crazy as it was. I’m glad that I did that. Because then it led to more stuff that happened later in the year. So there’s kind

Trevor Connor  13:23

of a theme here, both of you have touched on it, you brought up the everything that happens outside of the race that a lot of people don’t understand. But Jack, you mentioned early in the book, one of your favorite books, his book called outliers. And you said you loved the book, because it basically said, hard work alone isn’t enough. There needs to be opportunity, there needs to be timing. So I know that’s a big factor. I know that was something that affected both of you both of you got hit by COVID. Both of you got hit by basically a shift in the cycling world. Tell me a little bit about that impact and weather opportunities really worked for some people. And it might have been a case of the opportunities weren’t there for either of you two at the right times, for

Jack Burke  14:09

sure. I mean, racing in North America, you know, doing some of the bigger races in 2014. There was a lot more opportunity. I’m trying to remember but I think there was probably 15 ECI continental teams or something along those lines. There’s a Tour of California, two of Utah, two of Colorado, all these bigger races. So it seemed like the opportunities were a lot more prevalent when I was just getting into the sport. And so I don’t know if I really ever had this plan set in stone where it’s like, okay, my path is trying to go pro or like I want to go to the world tour. I don’t know if I necessarily thought about it. In that regard. My goal is just I want to be the best I can be. I want to compete with the best riders. I want to do the biggest race since I can. So growing up with that atmosphere. I was like okay, like there’s a chance to be a paid professional athlete, get on a continental team make not a lot of money, but I live in and be able to do what I love. So that’s kind of what I was pursuing for the longest time. And then as my career progressed, and you know, Tour of California went away, all these continental teams went away. And it just seemed like the opportunities were dwindling more and more every single year. And then COVID happened. And that further increased the divide, so to say, to the point now, where I look at the landscape of bracing in America, and I think there’s maybe two UCI registered teams, and we have three CI races in the whole country. And it’s like these opportunities to make it the next level has just evaporated. Unless you’re doing what Jack is doing. And you’re in Europe, and you’re getting to the races. I think about all the combination of things that need to come together for you actually, to be successful in the sport. And strength is just one of those factors, can you be the strongest rider in the world, but if you live in Alaska, and you don’t have any opportunity or access to any racing, then it doesn’t really matter. So I think opportunity is a really big deal. But it’s also like timing of those opportunities. And I think another big factor is just likability as a person, right? You know, you need to be on these teams go into these races, you need to integrate into a team and be a good team player and a likeable person. And your cycling really is a team sport. So if you’re the strongest rider, and you do have the opportunity, but you don’t mesh well with the people around you or in your environment, you’re still not going to make it. So this is just another factor that needs to be accomplished. Such as all these things that need to come together that are so much more than just being the strongest rider on the bike. There

Trevor Connor  16:39

are many factors besides just strength and Taylor just touched on a few. Let’s hear more from Dr. Marco I’ll teeny about how your teammates and environment can be a big factor.

Dr. Marco Altini  16:49

Like combination of their genetic abilities, and also their environment and which influences their psychology, I would say the environment yaariyan that includes everything right maybe stable or not stable situation with your partner, financial situation, right? To be hard as you will maybe are fighting also for some sponsors and ways to sustain you only cycling as opposed to also working some make it to professionals while also working the environment you’re in what you have available as space for we can call it mentally and around you outside of training, I think it’s a big part of it. Outside of I would call it the obvious genetic requirements to get there, which might be not necessarily something visible earlier also, when you’re when you’re with your mates, and everybody’s maybe similar and you think you all can make it but you know, development can be also at a later stage at times. And it’s not necessarily obvious at an early stage, which means that you still need to do the work for long enough to see if eventually you can make that final step.

Trevor Connor  17:59

Jack, you had a very similar theme in your book. So interesting to hear both of you say that.

Dr. Marco Altini  18:05

Yeah. And so going back to what you’re saying before Trevor, like, yeah, so my favorite book is outliers. And I love that book. But I always had a problem with it as far as like, oh, wait a minute. So it means like it comes down to luck. And so what I wanted to build on with my book, I wanted to kind of build on Malcom Gladwell, this idea that a unique opportunity as well. And the point I wanted to make in my book was like, so on the cover of the book, there’s a triangle that has talent, hard work, and opportunity. And you need to have a combination of these three things. And the point of the book, at the end of it was, you need to build a life that you enjoy. And you need to learn to enjoy this life enough that you’re willing to stick around for your opportunities to come. Because if you get a flat tire at the wrong time, like you break your pelvis in a crash at the wrong time and out right off your season, like any of these little things can be the difference between you making it and not making it. And at a certain point, it’s like you just keep getting up, you keep showing up like eventually, the stars are gonna align like you can’t rely on luck, you have to work your ass off for it. But there’s a lot of luck or lack of it in bike racing as well. And so as hard as it was for me and as hard as it’s been, for me to try to make it here like I mean five years in Europe, you like always on the edge of being homeless for right like you have no money, you’re always stressed about making rent or where you’re going to live. You’re really only it, but you have to learn to appreciate the upsides of it. Like I’ve had so much fun for it, I live up in the mountains, I get to travel all over the world. But you know, you spend your time chasing a dream life is all about you. And so you have to enjoy those parts so that you’re willing to stick around for that opportunity. But as long as you build the life that you enjoy, I think you have to just stick around for the opportunities to show up.

Trevor Connor  19:38

So that was something I always remember talking to athletes about and hearing when I was racing, which is you absolutely have to have luck. Nobody has made it without a little bit of luck. But luck is something that you can make by creating opportunities. And this gets into again, you know, this is something I learned from racing, but I have applied to all sides of life and I think everybody can apply to give you an example that I see athletes making the mistakes where they try to evaluate teams and they’re looking at what sort of bike are you giving me? What sort of gear are you giving me. And I’ve seen guys join teams where they end up with the $8,000 bike. And then they’re sitting at home racing little Wednesday night credits because the team ran out of money to take him to races. When I was racing and talking to teams, I would always tell him, Look, I’ll sleep on the doorstep put me on a huffy I don’t care, just get me to the races, because I want the opportunities. And that’s what I looked for is get me to as many opportunities as you can. And that was probably for me, one of the most important lessons I learned at being successful at anything. And I think I’ve even this podcast, I went and talked to VeloNews about let’s start this podcast, and they went podcast and who wants to do that? That’s a ridiculous idea. I went, Well, will you let me do it and they went, you can go ahead and do it. But we’re not giving you any money. We’re not doing any editing. You got to figure this out. And I went, Okay, I guess I’m staying up late most nights figuring out how to edit a podcast, but it was creating an opportunity. And that’s a mindset I’ve taken from race and applied to everything. And it seems like certainly, Jack, I saw that in your book as you were looking for those opportunities. Taylor, I’ve known you for a long time, I’ve seen similar sort of approach. And you

Jack Burke  21:16

Yeah, I mean, luck does play such a big factor. But preparation goes a long way to and I think that’s really how you capitalize on opportunities, like luck is just the ability to capitalize on opportunity, right? So if you’re not sharpening up and being as prepared as possible, you could be really lucky, but you’re not going to be able to execute at the same time. So yeah, you need to have a combination of that luck and preparation to be successful in the sport. Yeah,

Dr. Marco Altini  21:40

absolutely. Trevor, what you’re saying I couldn’t agree more. As far as there’s so much luck that goes into bike racing, you need to have a lot of times at bat for it. So I look at my first year, when I first came to Europe, at the very first training camp in Majorca. In February, I like off the plane go there. I’ve just been training in Canada, where I was in like comfortable environment, best possible environment to train as an athlete. For me at least I enjoyed biking and cross country skiing. And I came out and I just I smashed everything at team camp there. And then I just I never quite knocked it out of the park at any races for the rest of the year. Because I was just struggling to learn how to live there. Like just you go to the grocery store for the first time and everything’s written in German. And you’re like, I don’t even know how to get food right now. So these were like the things that I was having to learn all year. And when I first looked back at the year, I was like what a failure like what a screw up, I had all the warts in the world at training camp, and then never showed it in a race and never got the best out of myself all year. But the upside to it was I impressed all the coaches so much at that first training camp, they sent me to every race that year, I raced every single week, at least once a week, from the end of February until the second week of October, except the week before and after nationals because I was traveling back and forth to Canada. And it was like insane, like they just shoved so much racing down my throat. And all of them were UCI races, or poker messes, which are to like just as hard like impossible races. And so I was getting killed day in and day out. But you progress so quickly, you learned so much more like I learned more in that one season than I’d learned in probably two or three years prior to that. But then I got on to other teams later in the year where you might only get one or two chances in the whole year, like you’re betting your whole season on one or two races. And one of those years I broke my pelvis at the training camp right before it. And I just I rushed the rehab because I’m like, I have to race no matter what. Like, I’m going to be on the start line in four weeks. I don’t care like I have to otherwise it’s like what am I doing here? But when you have so much desperation, I think the people that talk about, you have to be desperate to be hungry and stuff like that. It’s like, yeah, there’s a difference, right? Like some people like to say that because it sounds cool. But you know, when you’re starving and you’re so desperate, you can’t relax because you’re like I have to win at this race, I have to get a result. This is my only chance, then you can’t relax doesn’t work, in my opinion. At least that’s

Trevor Connor  23:52

interesting. Because yeah, you heard so many people say, you know, desperation creates the talent. But there’s a line. Exactly. You know, I’ve seen athletes who are given everything and end up just not working that hard because they haven’t had to struggle for it. So I think there’s a line. I think there’s a balance there somewhere, of course. So let’s shift gears here. Because I’m have a feeling both have you had the same sort of experience I had when you were starting out of thinking this was going to be a lot easier than it was and all you had to do was train hard. And then you know, magical things would happen. So tell me a little bit of what your plan was and what your thoughts were when you started out with the intention of I’m guessing as we continue the conversation, you’re going to do a lot of the Yeah, and it didn’t really play out that way. So who’d like to go first?

Jack Burke  24:41

I’ll go first. I touched on this before or it was like I almost didn’t necessarily have a plan. I think that was probably a mistake. And I think maybe writers can learn from that of like, having some kind of a plan. It doesn’t need to be set in stone but having some kind of a long term goal. But yeah, I think the general idea was as long as I can remember I wanted to be it for Rational athlete, I wanted to be racing my bike at the highest level I could. And so my impression of that was alright, I need to get to the cat one level, I need to do an RC circuit, which is now the PRT, North America at this point, I need to get the best results I can get, I need to get picked up by Continental team, I need to race the Tour of California or the tour of Utah. I need to get noticed, but bigger teams. And that was like the progression I had in my mind. And you’re exactly right, Trevor, it did not work out that way at all. Because there’s just so many more hurdles and things involved than that simple progression. And the timeline, I think is going to look different for everyone. I don’t know what I was thinking like maybe five years, I can make this happen. Where I think in reality, for my ability level, that timeline was probably more like 10 or 15 years just to get enough progression to the point where I was actually good enough to be competitive at that level. And you know, I just didn’t have that much time. And then the opportunity started disappearing. And now my plan from the beginning has totally shifted focus of I want to be competing at the highest level to now I just want to stay in the sport and live a fulfilling life within the sport and just have fun and enjoy the process as much as I can.

Trevor Connor  26:11

So Jack, what was your plan?

Dr. Marco Altini  26:12

Yeah, I guess I’m a little bit different though. Because like, I’ve always been so like goals focused plan. And ever since I was a kid, it’s like, I’m gonna be in a world tour to the Olympics versus the Tour de France. That was always the plan since I was since I started racing. And the nice thing about cycling is you get so much, there’s so much that you can measure. And so a really strong asset that I had is every test I ever did, every coach I’ve ever worked with, anything like that it was always like Jack has the best numbers, Jack trains the most no one can train as much as Jack and it was nothing but like positive feedback. And so you’re hearing that when you’re starting out, you’re like, well, for sure I’m gonna make it. So for the longest time, I could just not imagine a scenario where I wouldn’t make it to the world tour. It was absolutely, I’m gonna make it. And that’s probably why I kept coming back over and over and over again, and just not quitting because I’m like, I’m gonna make it like, I’m good enough to do this. I just need the things to go right for me, and I’m gonna make it. And maybe it sounds a bit arrogant, but it’s like, that’s what kept me coming back for it, year after year. And then I mean, I didn’t know anything about cycling when I started, like, I just when I was a junior, I just sort of imagined Oh, yeah, I’m gonna be a pro cyclist. There’s gonna be like, money and Lamborghinis. And you go over to the Tour de France, like it’s a weekend thing or something like that. Like, I didn’t know anything. I was just imagining pro athlete. But I don’t know if I’m done with it, or not yet, because, like, I’m 28, I’m not like it’s not impossible, but it’s just the thing I’ve had to realize is like, you do need opportunities as well. And I just kept convincing myself coming to Europe, it’s like, I can just I can handle this stuff, I can manage all these things. And if I just work hard enough, I’ll make it but I like I had this conversation with the Swain tough when we were talking. And it’s just like, when you come over and you have nothing. If you don’t even have a car and you’re using your bike to get your groceries and stuff. If you break a spoke on your bike, like something that’s nothing, right? Like, that’s your way to get food that’s like, how do you get to the bike shop now. So now you’re organizing this mission, to get on the buses to get to a bike shop where they might not speak English, to get them to fix a spoke and they want to keep it for a week. And you’re like, No, I need this now, you know, like, it’s not like your local bike shop that’s going to that understands that it’s going to fix it for you right now. It’s like, suddenly, you’re wasting so much energy just dealing with this stuff. And that’s where I got my eyes opened a lot. And that’s why I created that whole book is just to try to help other guys that they want to try navigate those issues a little bit easier. But I just had so much belief in myself ever since I was a kid because you get so much stuff you can measure. And like other people told me that knew what they were talking about would like pump me up a lot and get me to believe in myself. So I always had a plan and a goal. This is where I want to go. And whether I make it there or not, I think it would probably eat at me for the rest of my life that it’s like you had enough talent, you worked really hard and you still managed to screw it up. Like it’s like that would eat at me. But on the other hand, I’m like, well, there’s not one more thing I could have done. So I’m not sure I’m having to wrap my head around this decision. If I want to keep going forward or not got to

Trevor Connor  29:05

point out I didn’t start till I was 29. So as you’re older than you and you’re thinking about retiring, that’s great to hear. Also got to point out, you put your numbers in the book, and assuming those numbers are accurate. They were jaw dropping. And I’ve seen separate numbers. I’ve seen a lot of these top guys numbers and I look at yours and kind of go really or is that actually your numbers?

Dr. Marco Altini  29:28

Yeah. That’s the thing. The maybe one good investment I made in my life is I only ever had SRM because a lot of teams look at these numbers now. And they the first question they always ask is what power meter is it? And that’s if you’re trying to get on to a pro team, you’re gonna be sending them data, it’s worth it to either have your testing done at the Olympic training center for whatever country you’re in. And also if you have an SRM it’s like yeah, like I said like that that’s the part that kind of eats at me because it’s like I was always told that and so when I go back to that my orca Tosa we did like they give us the SRM to calibrate them all this kind of stuff and A week before they had me do a test in the university in Cologne, and I sucked, and I was horrible. It’s the worst test I’ve ever done because I never ride indoors. And they got me to, you know, put this mask on and do a test inside. And I just worked so hard all year. And now I suck in this test. And so when we went to my Orca, even though I was flying and seeing all my best numbers ever, because I was just so stoked on like sunshine, warm roads, new bike, all this kind of stuff, like I’m a pro, I’m in Europe, when we went to go do the test, I was just like, just don’t quit on yourself. Like I was thinking it was going to be so bad. I was just going to quit halfway through the 20 minute test. And then five or six minutes into the test I just clicked so I hit the screen. So I could only see the timer on it, but five or six minutes, and I was like, I feel pretty good. Like, I’m going well. So I clicked the button over and five or 10 minutes, and I can’t remember what it was. I had 500 watts for and I’m like, oh damn, I’m flying like this is great. And I ended up blowing up. But I finished the test. And it was like 477. And so that’s what I mean, like it was that was the best test I’d ever done up until that point. And so I got picked for every race that year because they’re like, Okay, he’s an idiot, he doesn’t even know how to pace a 20 minute test, like He’s a moron. But if we teach them the other stuff, he’s really strong, maybe he’ll figure it out. So it’s the nice part. But that’s the part that kind of eats at me where you’re just like, man, you had the tools and you couldn’t put it together. That’s something

Trevor Connor  31:14

that’s true, both of you I’ve so I read your numbers Taylor, I know your numbers. I was your team manager for a year, and you had great numbers too. But the numbers weren’t enough, he had

Jack Warren  31:24

the numbers are never enough. And I feel like I’ve actually never really had that kind of test results. And I’ve kind of had to find success in bike racing from skills and being crafty in the bunch and conserving energy. And basically doing everything I can to compete with people that do have much better power numbers than me. And you can make a whole career off of being crafty and intelligent and bike racing. And it’s definitely not always about the numbers. That was the biggest eye opener for me is it’s a completely different sport, when you have to learn technique and stuff like that, compared to North America, where it a lot of is just like a fitness test versus you go to Europe, and it’s a full contact sport and learning all this positioning stuff. And you’re like watching, okay, the houses are about to stop. And it’s about to be an open field, which means we’re going to get crosswind in a second. And so everybody’s moving up. And you’re like, you don’t think of this stuff at all. Like, it’s just other parts of the sport. So

Trevor Connor  32:14

before we move on to the next part of this, I actually want to answer this question about the plan. Because this was another really important kind of life lesson that I’ve learned and applied. My plan was never to try to go pro I wanted to race for the national team. So my whole plan was get to the National Center, show yourself get on national team project and then move on to the next stage of life because that’s all I wanted to do. And I got to the National Center. And while I was racing at the National Center, I was getting some results. So I was turned in a few heads, not a ton, but a few heads and got offers got contract offers and refused them all. Because I was like, No, I gotta stay at the center, I gotta wait for that opportunity with the national team and look back and go, that was my biggest mistake. I was so stuck in the plan of here’s how I have to do it, that I had opportunities, and I passed them up. And that’s a lesson I’ve learned, you know, have your plan, have that direction that you want to go in. But don’t be so focused on the plan that when those opportunities come around, because the opportunities that are critical that you pass them up.

Dr. Marco Altini  33:20

Yeah. And, Trevor, if I was to give younger you advice, just

Trevor Connor  33:23

remember younger me was still older than you. But go ahead. Yeah,

Dr. Marco Altini  33:26

I know, I know. But just the best thing that I took out of my career was building a good team of mentors. And so I just I realized very early in my career that I’m very stubborn and hard headed. And this is like a huge weakness for me, like I this is what I’m doing. And I’m gonna go for it. And it has its ups and downs. But the way I kind of got around that was realizing like, Okay, I’m gonna pick four mentors, and whatever these guys say, I will do like they say jump, I’ll say how high, everybody else not ignore. But these are the four guys I’m listening to whatever they say, because I know what I would do is if I was just taking advice from everybody, I would just be picking and choosing which advice I want to listen to. And so for me, it worked better. These guys know what they’re talking about. They’ve been where I want to go, whatever they tell me to do. I’ll listen to them. Neil Henderson

Trevor Connor  34:09

has been the coach and mentor to many top pro cyclist. We asked him what it takes. And he raised a host of factors.

Neal Henderson  34:17

There are so many pieces to this puzzle. So each team definitely has different demands. But you have to have adaptability, the ability to adjust to new environments, new situations and being able to figure out how you work in those contexts. So there’s actually far more that’s probably going to be related to success in that ability to be adaptable than it is to just be strong, capable in that way. flexibility and adaptability. Number one, first and foremost. So there’s then context of like, emotional intelligence. You know, you may have certain directors that have a certain way of doing things, you’re not going to change them if you try to change that director who has been doing something for literally decades, in some cases, just because you don’t see eye to eye with them, you’re probably setting yourself up for failure in that way. It might be a team director, it might be a teammate that you have to ride for or ride with. And so being able to actually read, folks from that perspective is also really, really high, not just being adaptable. And being adaptable doesn’t mean being a noodle and doing exactly everything that everyone tells you you should do. But those combination of skills, their soft skills that are way outside of the typical thought process of many athletes will actually go a long way. One other thing that I would say is super important, and that is, whatever relative strength you have continue to develop it, don’t rely on it, because at that level, it may not yet be a strength anymore. And so you’ll have to reinvest into that thing for it to be a differentiator in capability or capacity. And so don’t just rest on your laurels of whatever capability that is that was better than your peer group, you’re now next level, you’re leveling up and probably everyone else may be very similarly capable in that thing. And if you have more room to develop and grow that then you might have a special weapon that you can be useful for your team. You can command a contractor you know, based on that ability in some cases, but if you work on the thing that you’re not as good at and then you neglect that power that superpower you had, you may then become a very average rider who does not last very long.

Chris Case  36:45

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Trevor Connor  37:52

So let’s shift you talked about the plan. And you did move a little into the reality. But now let’s really talk about the reality of it and how the reality played out. So I’m just going to start with that question what did play out the way you expected and what didn’t?

Jack Burke  38:07

I think what played out is the struggle for sure, just like getting to live that lifestyle of showing up every day, working really hard and all the things that you learn from, from trying to make it and just grow into the struggle. I think that was really the reality I took out of this whole journey. And things that didn’t really work out is doing the tour becoming a high level paid professional making a living. These are things that don’t really happen to that many people to be honest, it’s like there’s such as select few that are making a living racing their bike at the highest level. And I think another big takeaway is just not having any regrets about the journey. I think, you know, maybe I could have done things differently when I started. But at the same time, living without any regrets is really, really valuable. And knowing that I’m doing what I love. I’ve been pursuing this passion for so many years. And I’m extremely lucky to even have the privilege to race my bike and train like a professional athlete and get all these opportunities. And that’s the main reality of it. It’s like I’ve been living my dream, whether that’s you know, chasing this long term project, or just being able to go spend some time in the sunshine and exercise every single day. And I think the peace of mind that comes with that struggle is really, really valuable in all aspects of my life.

Trevor Connor  39:21

Jack will throw that back to you. Because you definitely know the struggle. I will say after reading your book, I have been accused of being one of the more tenacious people out there. And I might have to tip my hat to you. I loved your story about when you were in university, you still want to get your six hour rides and see you do all your classes and you go for your ride at like five, six o’clock at night and come home at 1am. And the only thing that you thought was an issue with this was the fact that you didn’t have a light.

Dr. Marco Altini  39:48

And I read this book back and I’m like the stupid things you did. I’m amazed that made it this far. I mean, I could definitely tell those stories all day but to go back to like your initial question. What worked and what didn’t. So I never had a plan B. Like I said, I always had such a strong belief that I’m going to make it no matter what I, for me, it was always like, I’m going to be a pro athlete. And then whenever I’m done with that life will just sort of figure itself out. I never thought past that. But what I always did was, I saw a lot of my friends that were older than me finish their careers, and then not know what they would do next. And even if they had enough money that they never had to work again, they didn’t have another goal or something like that. And then the ones that didn’t have enough money, were really in a hard place. And that scared me a lot. So one thing I think I did well, throughout my career is I was always just reading, like, I was just trying to learn on the side, I never wanted to go, I didn’t want to go to school anymore. But I would study just stuff that had nothing to do with sport. That was interesting to me. So for me, it was like psychology, I really love to read books about psychology and human behavior. And just like anything, like just trying to learn whatever I could with online courses or anything like that. And it wasn’t really leading anywhere. Like I didn’t know what to do with it. But what I’m realizing now is again, I’m not sure if I’m moving into chapter two of life, or if I’m still going to be an athlete or not. So I never reached those initial goals, those three big goals that I had at the start of my career. So that would be the stuff that didn’t work out. And I certainly didn’t make enough money that I’ll never have to work again, I got to figure that out as well. But I don’t think anybody gets out of their athletic career with having achieved everything they wanted, like I think Vanderpool and pokitto will finish their career and think, Oh, well, I didn’t win enough races, like Lance Armstrong won seven tours and still had to come back. Right. Nobody finishes that. But what I’ve realized in this is that the work works on you more than you work on it. And that was just a quote that I heard recently that I really loved as far as like, the part that I’m actually most proud of is the person that you become, like from so many these stories is like I’m the guy that can get a backpack and a one way plane ticket around the world. And I know I’m just gonna be able to figure it out. And now if I’m starting this sort of like, chapter two of my life, because this book is turning into something more than I ever dreamed or planned for. It’s I’ve learned all these other skills that I was learning and kind of reading about and figuring out how to do stuff. And now I’m really like, oh actually know how to do this stuff like this is kind of applying sort of like I would write and read for fun. And now I can do all this other stuff. And it’s like, it led to something better, like I just took a risk, and I went all in on I’m gonna make this dream happen. And even though that didn’t happen, it’s still led to something a lot better down the road. And so it is kind of still working out somehow, even if it’s not what I planned for. That’s

Trevor Connor  42:19

fair. And that’s a good point. So getting back to this idea of what the reality was like, and I just want to hammer on this a bit more with both of you. What were the biggest obstacles that you faced? And what do you think was the insurmountable obstacle

Jack Burke  42:35

or race in North America, I mean, the big one that comes to mind is just opportunity, lack of teams, lack of races, finances is a is a massive obstacle as well. You need to have money to get to races and get to where you need to go. Or you need to do what Jack’s noon and just figure out a way to get to Europe and live bare bones. And I think both of those have a lot of struggle behind them. I think time has been a big obstacle. You know, it’s like I talked about your timeline, if you had 20 years versus if you had five year that’s that’s a lot different, right? Age is a big obstacle, Jack and I are both getting older people don’t necessarily look at older riders to give them opportunities, just because they assume that you’re, you’re at the peak of your career, you’re as good as you’re gonna get. So I think that that often works against you. And for me, it’s like all those obstacles, put together have become insurmountable. It’s like you can’t really overcome the age or the time. So it’s just maybe redefining your why, and why you’re still pursuing what you’re pursuing, rather than trying to make the the original plan work exactly how you want it to 10 years ago.

Dr. Marco Altini  43:40

Yeah, I mean, look, for me, I screwed up plenty of opportunities all by myself, just because I, I overdid it like with, I would train too hard. Just because I didn’t have enough confidence at the time where I was like, I’m not good enough, yet, I need to train more and more and more like to be better. And I always had this like, thought in the back of my head that somebody else is doing more. And so that pushed me to just do way too much and overdo it over and over and over again, and blow many of opportunities all by myself. But if I had to think like latching on to what Taylor just said, it’s so when I finished my second year, Junior coming out of Canada, I won a lot and I was, you know the best if not one of the best writers in the country at that time. But then my life kind of got knocked. No, I got knocked into a different life, where this is a whole other crazy story. But I tested positive I won and broke the course record at the Tour dabba tittie, which is like a junior race, and everybody was talking about it was awesome. And I was in the leader’s jersey. And then I had my first drug test for that. And I was like, Oh, this is cool. Like, yeah, sweet. I’m good enough to be drug tested, like cool. And then I ended up testing positive at that. And that knocked me into a completely different life. And we later found out that what I tested positive for was a diuretic. It’s hydrochloric biocide, and it’s something that’s prescribed to people a lot. And it’s I didn’t even know what this was, but I tested positive for that and then we late They’re found out that it came from the drinking water that I had at that stage there. And when we finally went to the final hearing with the UCI, we’re all sitting around this big table in New York City. And across from me is the lawyer that represented Contador when he tried to make this clenbuterol case and I’m thinking, this is the best guy in the world to rip my life apart and destroy my life, call me a doper cheat, and then 10 years down the road, everybody’s gonna realize the truth and realize you didn’t do anything. And this guy who’s supposed to be calling me, a doper, and a cheat opens the hearing by saying, and I’m paraphrasing this 10 years ago, but he opens a hearing by saying, Look, we know you didn’t do anything. We know this isn’t doping. We know this is a mistake. But the reason we had to follow through with your case is we can’t let your case set a precedent for future drug cheats to use your case to get off. And so in the end, they let me off and they didn’t give me any sanction, they gave me my results back. And I got nothing. Except all the bad press that came with that because of this was eight months after Lance Armstrong went on Oprah and told the world everybody’s doping. So there was no one in a world that was going to believe that Jr. That’s winning all these races is Oh, yeah, he’s just another one saying I didn’t do it. Like so I went from being like going really well in the pipeline, standing on the podium with guys that have been watching doing Grand Tours for years now, to getting knocked into a different life where like, for three years, no team would take me like I couldn’t even get club teams to let me have a jersey because they everyone thought I was a doper and like the hate mail, and the messages I got were horrible. And you’re just thinking like, like I was 17. At the time, like I didn’t wear eight, maybe I just turned 18. And so I mean, that pipeline is real, like you should never quit. If you have the dream and you have like some hard facts that show that you’re good enough to make it you should absolutely go for it. Because crazy stuff happens. Like you look at guys like swing tuft. And these guys that broke through super late, it absolutely is possible, and you have it and you can give them undeniable results, you can absolutely make it but the pipeline is real. And age is a thing. And so I went from being in that pipeline, to getting knocked out of it. And then I didn’t make it to Europe until I was 24. At the time. And even still like to this day, I never thought it would be a factor. But like, I even get messages from realtor teams now saying, you know that my case from 10 years ago, even though I was found innocent, and they talked to cycling Canada, and everyone says like, yeah, he didn’t do anything wrong. A lot of them still won’t work with me, because the sponsors just don’t want anything to do with you. So three years, no team took me the fourth team that finally did the first continental team I wrote for the day, the media release went out. One of the sponsors from that team, h&r block, it’s an old Canadian team, one of the sponsors called the team owner and told them to get rid of me because he didn’t care. He’s just like, I don’t want this guy’s name with our team. And that way, the owner marker and steam like I owe that guy so much. He didn’t know me at all, and just gave me my first chance. He said to the sponsors, like what if this was your kid that that happened to? To convince him to let me stay on the team? Right. So like, I think that’s kind of where things changed a bit for me. But like I said, like, I screwed up so many opportunities all by myself, because I was like, I was so insecure that I wasn’t good enough. And so I just train so hard, because I’m just like, I have to get better.

Trevor Connor  48:04

I think that is one of the hardest parts you face is when you do all the work. You do all the struggle, you do everything right. And the insurmountable obstacle is something that you can’t do anything about Taylor with you, it was kind of the depth of the North American race scene and the arrival of COVID. Jack, you are dealing with that. You know, something I’ve never told on the show is after spending years trying to get on a national team project, I had just won a decent sized stage race over two recent Canadian national champions. So I contacted the national team coach and said, Now will you take me on a project? And I will never forget the words that he said to me, which was Trevor, you’re stronger than anybody we’re sending, but we’re not going to send you nor will he ever send you to anything, you’re too old. And that was the end of my goal. And it was something I couldn’t change. That’s

Dr. Marco Altini  48:57

crushing. And believe me, I’ve heard the same thing many times over. And that’s, that’s terrible. But that’s the approval rate there. And I know you want the approval from your peers and stuff. But I mean, you got it in writing you did it. No,

Trevor Connor  49:09

appreciate that. And I think that’s one of the things that unfortunately, everybody has to face all of us have to deal with, which is sometimes there’s just something that you don’t control that is going to alter the path for you. But let’s shift gears, let’s get a little more positive here and gonna hit both of you with this question. What do you know now that you wish you had no one back then?

Jack Warren  49:35

I mean, there’s so many things right. And it’s like, every single year you progress you learn a little bit more. I think just being patient is really important because a lot of these opportunities are not going to come right after one another. You have to stick it out and be in the sport for the long term. I don’t think anyone has ever taken a year or two years and achieved their goals, right? It’s like this is like a this is a long term project. Like sometimes even lifelong pursuit. So I think having patience is really important. Another thing that I would touch on is adaptability. I think, Trevor, you talked about your plan is not going to always go up to expectations, you might break your pelvis and change the course of your whole season, right? So it’s like having the wherewithal to have the adaptability to change, to have the courage to change your original plan. I think that is really, really hard, especially for a younger writer, you know, oftentimes, as a younger writer, you’re pretty stubborn. And you’ve got this path set in stone. But I think as you get wiser you realize, you know, having a little bit of adaptability and being able to change your plan that what’s going on in the rest of the context of your life is really, really important. I think that’s really good for younger writers to know and to hear.

Dr. Marco Altini  50:44

I agree with all that. I think if I could go back and talk to younger me, I would say the best advice that I’ve realized later, just to realize it earlier, is around having mentors, because the people that I’ve spoken to that have the biggest resumes the most impressive resumes in the world, like people you never thought would answer a message from you have given me so much of their time, like spending hours on the phone with me letting me live and train with them, getting the hang out with them. And like you never thought you’d even talk to these people. And they’re giving you so much of their time. Like why would they care about you. And they were the ones willing to give me the most advice and time. And so if I could talk to younger me it would be reach out to people that have been where you want to go. Learn how to ask intelligent questions. Don’t ask for favors. Don’t ask anything you can google ask them a specific question. And not like a long form question. Like don’t ask them write me a training plan or something like that, like, tell them, you know, this is what I’m thinking, this is what my plan is, Does this sound good? Like, make sure they can give you a short answer. And reach out to people and build that really good team of mentors that you can have around you. And so like, just to give like two names like people that did that, for me would be like Annemiek, Van Vleuten and Chris Froome. And like, I never thought I’d even speak to these people. Like I looked up to them. Like They’re my heroes, and they were offering so much advice to me, and they don’t have time to like mentor you. But I looked at another guy like Swain. Tufte. Like that guy’s given up. I mean, he was the most impactful mentor I’ve ever had in my whole career. Like outside of my family outside of my mom, he was like the most impactful mentor I’ve ever had. And I thought it was a prank when I got the first email from him because I thought this was a joke. I’m like, There’s no way Who is this really. And then I mean, that guy gave me equipment, his time, everything to try to help me. And it was unbelievable. Like that was probably the best asset I had in my career is getting to learn from guys like that. And so I would say to younger May, it’s like, evaluate the mentor, make sure this is somebody that really knows what they’re talking about and knows where or has been where you want to go. And just shut up and listen.

Trevor Connor  52:40

Yes, the one the smartest moves I’ve ever made is when I went to the National Center, I decided I’m the dumbest person here. So listen, ask questions. Don’t give your opinion. It’s not worth anything. Absolutely. Well, last question, before we get into any advice that you guys have. But I have to ask this question, particularly because you’ll look at how well SAP is doing. And as I pointed out, Jack, you know, your numbers are pretty damn close, if not the same. You know, Taylor, as I said, you know, I’ve seen your potential and what you’re able to do, and you guys are all around the same age. What ultimately do you think it was that was different about those guys who ended up making it to the World Tour who are at the Tour de France versus us? It’s just dumb luck. Are there other things

Dr. Marco Altini  53:24

I can say real quickly, I mean, set performed when it counted. I mean, the guy nailed it. He went to, okay, like, yeah, you can always pick and choose whatever opportunities and stuff like that like going on. Like he performed when it counted. Like I remember the first big results he had where he broke out, he won the Oakland mountain stage at Redlands. And like, I still look at the photo of that and he’s wearing this Harley Davidson jersey, like he’s not even on rally yet. And he’s winning this race and you see the arms up in the air and he looks like he can’t believe that he just won a bike race. And I’m like, 300 meters back behind it like dying while he’s smiling tongue opion. You know, the freak that he is the keeper he performed when it counted. Like when people were looking, he nailed that opportunity got that got on to rally. And whenever I talked to him, ask him advice. And he’s like, he’s another example. Like that guy is one of the best cyclists in the world. There’s nothing in it for him to talk to me. But he gives me so much advice all the time. Whenever I asked him a question. He’s so generous with his time. And he’s so laid back with it. Like he doesn’t put the same pressure on himself that obviously he works crazy hard, but he’s just much better at just relaxing. And yeah, he performs when it counts, and he made the he made the most out of it. And I’d screwed up I had some great chances and I just messed it up because I overdid it or was too stressed and just made stupid mistakes. It seems like that’s like a pretty common theme in the professional cycling world is these guys are just extremely calm and relaxed most of the time. You know that kind of comes with the territory of being a world tour rider and being under constant stress. But I think being able to take a step back and relax and take pressure off yourself to perform is a really valuable thing to learn how to do because that’s when you actually can come into your own and just get into this flow state. Whereas if you’re constantly thinking about I got to perform, I gotta get this result

Jack Burke  55:08

I get, if I don’t get this result, I’m not going to move to the next level. I think that can really disrupt the whole process of learning and progressing. And you’re constantly evaluating yourself against yourself in the sport. And I think if you can learn how to reflect on the positives, and not just the negatives of Oh, like, I didn’t get this top result that I wanted, I think that’s, that’s really valuable takeaway.

Trevor Connor  55:31

Addressing both of you bring that up, because we actually did a whole episode that we featured sap in about internal versus external motivation. And I’ll put the episode link in the show notes. But what I found fascinating about SAP is SAP is the purest example I’ve ever seen of an internally motivated athlete, meaning he goes through a race or he goes and does a workout, all he cares about is the task at hand, he isn’t comparing himself to anybody else. He isn’t actually that concerned about the the win or loss. It’s just what is my job here? What do I need to do, and sometimes his job is to win. But he sees it as a job. And you know, he just, he’s got to perform that. And what’s really interesting when we read the research about internal and external motivated athletes, you see, we’re very externally motivated athletes, that can be great when they’re in the lead and winning. But when they’re struggling, and they’re feeling like they’re not winning, they can shut down. And you often actually see the internally motivated athletes do better because when they’re struggling when they’re not in the right place, it doesn’t get them that worked up, they just get very task oriented and go, What do I need to do to be at the right place now,

Jack Burke  56:40

right when I think about coaching, and it’s like a lot of the higher level athletes I’ve worked with, a lot of them focus more on the process goals rather than the outcome goals, process goals, being the things you need to do day to day around your training to execute the training, outcome goals being x time x result. And it’s like mastering the process goals, helps the outcome goals become almost a bribe a byproduct. And I see that time and time again, of like the best athletes are completely focused on the process goals within the sport, Jack, you look deep and thought I’m

Dr. Marco Altini  57:11

trying to like because I always try to learn from stuff as much as I can. And like I said, like I’m so shocked at how laid back and relaxed isn’t exactly what you just said, Trevor. He’s totally internally motivated. Perhaps

Trevor Connor  57:21

the lesson to be learned from SEP is that he has both the physiology and the psychology. Here’s Dr. Steven Siler talking about why those are the critical elements in a pro athlete.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  57:32

Or the junior to senior transition is usually you know, almost everything you do helps as a junior, when you’re young, because you’ve got growth going in your favor, you’ve got puberty, going in your favor. So you get a lot of free improvement. And then you hit 1819. And now you’re looking at, you know, the senior transition. And now you’re in this law of diminishing returns zone. And that’s one of the big challenges for these athletes as they’re having to increase their training loads quite substantially. For very small gains in threshold power, or whatever it might be. And it’s, it’s tough. And then the stress of travel and all the things that the professional circuit will include, just not every athlete handles it. So I think why do some succeed and others fail? I think part of it is very subtle differences in their physiology, let’s face it, I mean, it is watts per kilo, it is pace, you got to be able to do certain numbers. And that small difference may not look big, it’s 30 watts or 20 watts or whatever. But it’s consistently having them be a little bit fallen short. But the other is just the psychology of keeping calm and focusing where they can make the most improvements, learning how to function in that team. In that environment, handle the travel handle, the stress handle, the hotel’s handle that mom was cooking is not on the table anymore, all of these things. So I think it’s a combination of physiology and psychology. It’s that simple and that complicated. In recovery is a talent as well, I don’t think the motivation is usually the deciding element. We’ve seen man and cross country skiing in Norway, the bar is so darn high. And you have athletes that have at in vo two Max and they train the same number of hours and they’ve got just massive machines, but they’re just that little bit below. And they have to put a line somewhere. And these are the national teamers and these are not and if you’re just below that line it you’ve trained just as much as the ones that are on that national team. So you know, high performance sport is cruel. It’s brutally honest, I would argue that it’s at times it’s cruel, because it is that fair and that unfair at the same time.

Dr. Marco Altini  59:48

I think something that when I look back on myself, like I think I was just so stressed all the time, because it’s like I didn’t have a plan B and it’s like I have to make it in this and if I don’t I don’t know what I would do like I was so So, just revved up and just, you know, to make like a hockey saying, like gripping the stick too tight, versus, you know if maybe I had something and what I’m at least realizing now is like with this whole, whatever this book businesses like I’m so much more relaxed about my training and stuff because it’s like, it’s not the only thing like I have, for the first time in my life, I have something else in my life like another hobby that I enjoy, other than just chasing this dream. And I’m just so much more relaxed. With training, I still train almost as much as I did, like at any other point in my career, but it’s just, I don’t even upload anything to training peaks anymore. Like, I’m just so relaxed that I just go out and exercise every day because I like it. But I’m still actually quite fit. And it’s but it’s just, it’s totally fun. It’s just relaxed now, because I have something else. And I wonder if that’s when I talk to some of these guys. And they’re so relaxed. You’re just like, I mean, everybody’s stressed about contracts, right? Like anyone can be when you’re on a contract, you’re everybody’s revved up to the moon. And because you’re fighting tooth and nail to get a contract. And a lot of guys don’t know what they would do if they don’t make it so guys are stressed. But when some of them are so relaxed with it, I’m just thinking like, man, what is your plant? Like? Do you have a plan B here? Like why? How are you this relaxed about it? And I mean, maybe they hide it better, or they’re just better at dealing with a mate. But I know that that really killed me. It’s just being too worked up on it and gripping the stick too tight at times. And I wish I would have had a hobby like this during my career to help me relax a bit,

Trevor Connor  1:01:23

which I think is good advice. Well, guys, we’re at an hour. So both you know, the show, you know how we typically finish out which is with everybody given their one minute summary. But I’m actually going to do this a little bit differently. I’m going to hit each of you with a question, a focused on the advice that you can give our listeners and you have more than a minute take as much time as you’d like. But Taylor, I’m gonna start with you. You’re a coach now, looking at everything you learn from your journey from your struggles in the pro ranks. What have you taken from that? What advice do you now give to your athletes? And not just the ones trying to go pro but any athlete? What advice do you have from them that you’ve taken from your journey and your experience?

Jack Burke  1:02:10

One cliche really comes to mind. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. And it’s so corny to say, but I found that to be so true. And I think no matter what, as an athlete, you need to identify your why, whether that’s breaking into the world tour, go to the Tour de France, or simply just being better than you were yesterday, I think identifying your why and the sport is really important. And cycling is one of those things that you can make a lifelong journey. So staying relaxed with the journey, not putting so much pressure on yourself. And really thinking about how to make this a lifelong pursuit. How are you going to live the rest of your life beyond the bike that’s gonna you know, optimize performance on the bike. And just keep your yourself balanced. I think what Jack was kind of noting on is like, he’s so much more relaxed now that he has this side project going on in life isn’t just about training. I think having that big emphasis on balance in your life is so so important. It’s like the yin and the yang, right, you have to put in the really hard work for training. But you also have to have rest and recovery, and have something to take your mind off the bike when things aren’t going perfectly according to plan. And yeah, just that adaptability aspect, right, it’s like, you can make the best training plan, you can have, you know, everything lined up, and then you can break your collarbone the next day, and the whole plan gets thrown out the window. So being able to adapt on the fly is so so important. And to reiterate Jack’s point to is like that mentorship, it really does take a village, right, you need a support team around you or else you’re just not going to get very far.

Trevor Connor  1:03:44

Great answer. So Jack, a bit of a different question for you, you know, I’m not going to ask you what’s your advice to aspiring pros, because I’ll actually, you know, this is my plug for you. As I said, I was only going to skim your book and ended up reading the whole thing. I really enjoyed it. And you had a lot of great suggestions for aspiring pros of here’s what you should be doing and what you shouldn’t be doing. So I think they should read your book. But what I found interesting as I went through the book is you started with the I have no plan B, this is it. This is what I’m doing. And you got more philosophical as you went through the book of what is Plan B about now. And so that’s my question to you is, what lessons did you learn from when you just had this plan a when you were struggling to get to the world tour that you think you’re now going to take into Plan B whatever that happens to be,

Taylor Warren  1:04:39

um, first of all, thank you very much for the kind words that’s that’s really lovely to hear,

Dr. Marco Altini  1:04:43

figuring out what I do next. There’s a concept I’m sure a lot of people are familiar with. And I forget who I think it’s Scott Adams came up with it first which is called Talent stacking, where you basically pick if you can get into the top 25% or top 10% of two or three or three things that say in the world you can make a career Did at it. And that’s how you make a living out of doing something you love. And so for me, I understand cycling at probably the top 1% of the world. And let’s just say endurance sport, I’d be very good at that. I enjoy Storytelling, I enjoy writing. And so maybe you can make something with that. I don’t know, that’s kind of what I’m figuring out. What do I take from being a professional athlete and moving into the second part of life, I would say, and I would give this advice to everybody, any of like, the guys that are professional, or girls that are professional athletes, right now, I would hammer on them so hard to like, make sure you’re learning another skill on the side, have all your focus on making as a pro athlete and getting everything out as you can there, because it’s the only way you have a chance of making it, you have to make it your whole life and go for it with everything you have. Don’t have a plan B. But don’t stop learning on the side, because there will be a chapter two of your life and you need to be prepared for that. And for me, it worked out so well that I’m so glad that I was just reading books and just trying to learn whenever I could, because I was just so afraid of ending my career and ending up stupid at the end of it like not knowing anything else. And now I have something else even though I had no idea it was going to apply when I was doing it. And the reason is, when you finish your professional athletic career, you are absolutely world class, you are a freak when it comes to grit, hard work, determination, focus setting goals, all this stuff, right, but you need to have something new that you can apply it to, that doesn’t require you using your body. So just to give myself an example here, and I’m brand new to this, right, like, I’m just starting this next chapter of my life if I am even doing it, but I look at like when people say it’s hard to you know, write a book or something like that the way I did it, is for nine months straight for the first six hours of my day, I would just write and so and it ended up being an average of four hours, like I just had a timer on my desk. And every time I got up and looked away, I stopped the timer. And I kept a timer of the whole time it took me to write the book. And it averaged out to four hours and 12 minutes every day for nine months straight. But that would take me like six hours to do because I can’t focus that well. So you know, it would take a little bit longer. But when people say that it’s hard, it’s like, man, you get out of your pro cycling career like hard is racing with blood in your eyes and broken bones. Or like being on the other side of the world where you don’t speak the language. You haven’t talked to anybody in three days. You don’t know when you’re going home, you’re killing yourself to try to make and you seem like you’re getting nowhere. That’s hard like this, like normal life. Again, I’m brand new to it. So I’m not the expert on it. But I’m just saying like, Man, this is kindergarten. Compared to that like this, I just show up, I’m nice and warm and dry, have a cup of coffee, I push buttons on a keyboard, like, come on, it’s pretty fun. And then I can go exercise later. Like, it’s not so bad. But you need to have a skill set, you need to have something new that you can apply all those skills to otherwise, you get out of your career. And you have all these skills, let’s say talent, hardwork, grit, focus determination, and you have nothing to apply it to. And that’s so sad when you see guys get out of their career. And they don’t have that. So like just learn, think about what else you’re good at. Like for me storytelling and talking and trying to make my friends laugh was something that always just kind of came easy to me. So I’m just lucky, I kind of found that.

Trevor Connor  1:08:10

So I guess I need to throw in something here. And so I’m just going to talk about something I’ve seen in both of you. So Taylor, I’ve been working with you for years. And I’m really happy to see you moving into the coaching world because I think you’ve got a lot to offer there. And Jack like I said it was a real joy reading your book, you brought up on a your favorite books, one of my favorite books is actually a book called Grit. And a story that I love is this experiment where they put people on treadmills and have them be on the treadmill side by side. And it was actually they told the people it was one experiment, but the real experiment was to test their grit. And what you saw was there were certain people that if they were side by side, and they felt they were competing, some of these people would literally fall off the treadmill before they would quit. And in this experiment, they kind of follow these people. And what they saw was the people who ended up being the most successful in whatever career they had, were the ones that were willing to fall off the treadmill that just wouldn’t quit that stayed at it. And it’s something that I’ve seen in both of you, which I think to me is the biggest lesson that I hope to share with the listeners, which is both of you have extraordinary grit when you hit these obstacles when all these things started falling apart when all these things were happening. You just you stuck at it and it might not have fully gotten you to the Tour de France. But my belief is what you learn there that grit that you developed as you move into Plan B and potentially Plan C, that grid is going to take you somewhere and that’s my biggest suggestion to everybody listening is anything you do if you want to do it well, is going to be really really hard. Be willing to fall off the treadmill be willing to stick at it until you literally just fall down. I agree with all that for sure.

Trevor Connor  1:10:01

Well, guys, thanks. So that was a fun episode that was a little bit different from what we normally do but really appreciated all you had to share with our listeners.

Dr. Marco Altini  1:10:09

I’m glad I do dev been a fan for so long. It’s an honor to finally be on the show. Yeah,

Jack Burke  1:10:14

super fun to pass on these stories and give a little bit of insight to the grip we

Trevor Connor  1:10:19

both was great, guys. Really appreciate it. And thank you. Awesome. Thanks so much, Trevor.

Taylor Warren  1:10:24

Thanks for that

Trevor Connor  1:10:25

That was another episode of Fast Talk. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk are those are the individual. Subscrube to Fast Talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast. Be sure to leave us a rating and review. As always, we love your feedback. Tweet us at @fasttalklabs. Join the conversation at forums.fasttalklabs.com. Or learn from our experts at fasttalklabs.com for Jack Burke, Taylor Warren, Dr. Marco Altini, Neil Henderson and Dr. Stephen Seiler. I’m Trevor Connor. Thanks for listening!