Pro Training Tips, with George Bennett

We sit down with Jumbo-Visma rider George Bennett to better understand how he trains, how you can apply his tips, and how pros have vastly different approaches.

pro cyclist Fast Talk Laboratories
Photo: Arni Svanur Danielsson

A few episodes back, Trevor and I interviewed George Bennett of Jumbo-Visma, who at one point was sitting fourth at this year’s Tour de France. At the time, we talked with George about the importance of recovery and adaptation. In the course of that conversation, we talked with George about how he was managing his recovery from the Tour de France to get ready for the Vuelta a España. That lead to an entire conversation about how George trains, and his tips for hitting peak form. Ultimately, we decided to make it a separate episode. Today, we cover:

  • First, something that is fascinating but probably won’t help many of us: how to complete two consecutive grand tours.
  • Second, the training approach that George has found works for him. While many of his teammates need high intensity work, George does very little, and focuses primarily on long endurance rides. But he emphasizes that the method that works for you is highly individual.
  • We discuss if George’s approach is appropriate for amateur riders, or if we should focus more on intensity. Bennett points out that different work can lead to very different strengths and weaknesses.
  • Next, we have a long talk about the importance of eating enough and keeping your glycogen stocked up.
  • Finally, George offers a final word on having the confidence to rest, and to not take your training too seriously.

Let’s make you fast!~

Along with George, we hear from Grant Holicky, formerly of Apex Coaching when this interview was conducted, and now with Forever Endurance Coaching. Grant addresses how to time your season, particularly as an amateur rider. Primary Guest George Bennett: Pro cyclist with Jumbo-Visma

Episode Transcript


Welcome to Fast Talk, the velonews podcast and everything you need to know to write a press.



Hello, and welcome to Fast Talk. I’m your host, Chris case managing editor of velonews, joined by the best coach inside of Boulder Creek, Coach Trevor Connor. Before we jump into the episode, a note, today is actually my last day as managing editor of velonews. It’s been an incredible run, but don’t fret Fast Talk will live on. In fact, Trevor and I are going to expand our offerings in the near future. So please stay tuned. A few episodes back, Trevor and I interviewed George Bennett of jumbo visma, who at one point was sitting fourth at this year’s Tour de France. At the time, we were talking with George about the importance of recovery and adaptations. In the course of that conversation, we spoke with George about how he was planning his recovery from the tour to get ready for the Vuelta back to back grand tours, stupid or incredible. That led to an entire conversation about how George trains and his tips for hitting peak form. Ultimately, we decided to take all that great information and make it a separate episode. That’s today’s episode, we cover first, something that is fascinating, but probably won’t help many of us how to complete two consecutive grand tours. Second, the training approach that George has found works for him. While many of his teammates need high intensity work, George does very little, in fact, and focuses primarily on long endurance rides. But he does emphasize that the method that works for you is highly individual. We discuss if George’s approach is actually appropriate for amateur riders, or if we should focus more on that intensity. Bennett points out that different work can lead to very different strengths and weaknesses. We’ll discuss in more depth. Next, we have a long talk about the importance of eating enough and keeping your glycogen stocked up. And finally, George offers a final word on having the confidence to rest and not take your training too seriously.



Along with George, we



hear from our good friend grant hockey, formerly of Apex coaching when this interview was conducted. And now with forever endurance coaching, Grant addresses how to time your season, particularly as an amateur rider. And with that, let’s make you fast.


Trevor Connor  02:36

Just a few episodes ago, where we talked about the value of recovery, this is something that’s really important to me as a coach, most athletes can go out there and absolutely tear themselves apart on the bike or in a run. But they’re not so good about that recovery side. And that’s critical because it’s in recovery that your body repairs and adapts and makes you stronger.



Yeah. And just like athletes who go out there and can beat themselves up. There’s a lot of tools to track that side of the adaptation process that performance side or that work load side. But there aren’t that many tools out there that track the recovery side. And that’s equally as important. Too bad. We


Trevor Connor  03:17

didn’t have a strata of recovery.



Yeah, exactly. and turn it into a competition.





Trevor Connor  03:22

Who can get the PR the best night’s sleep? Ooh,



I like it.


Trevor Connor  03:26

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Trevor Connor  04:51

So Chris, we’ve been kind of excited to bring aftershock headphones onto the show is one of our sponsors. As you know I’ve been using them for four years. I mean, when I first got mine, I thought they were just kind of gimmicky. They they claim to be bone conduction. So they sit on your your cheekbones and they send vibrations through your cheek bones that go directly to your eardrum that allows you to keep your ears open and you could hear your surroundings. And remember to say again now that just got speakers on them that just sit really close to yours and it’s completely a gimmick. But I remember what you know, right after I got them actually put them on, I put my fingers in my ears to block my ear canals. And they actually got louder. So this actually truly is it is bone conduction. That’s your cheekbones. And if as you this is if you’re out for a ride, you want to listen to some music or listen to any particular podcast. You can have these on here your music, but your ears are completely open so you can hear cars and everything else. Right?



Exactly. A lot safer that way.


Trevor Connor  05:52

Of course when I’m riding with Chris I prefer to have the completely noise cancelling headphones since I just don’t have to hear.



That’s not nice at all. Trevor, sorry, Chris. This episode was sponsored by aftershocks the award winning headphone brand best known for its open ear listening experience. Powered by patented best in class bone conduction technology aftershocks headphones sit outside your ear so you can hear your music and your surroundings. aftershocks is a must have headphone for cyclists providing the ultimate level of safety and comfort without compromising sound quality. To learn more and save 50 bucks on aftershocks, bundles visit that’s a f t er and use code Fast Talk



All right, we’re sitting here with George Bennett. He’s at home in Andorra at the moment. George What are you up to today?



Well I’m currently watching the the final tour of Poland with my teammate Jonas young guy looking looking pretty good. sitting here with my my Norma tech boots on actually had a bit of a session on today by today’s so try to try to flush a bit of the damage out while I while I can and get ready for tomorrow. Excellent. George, is



that something you do pretty often?



Yeah, yep. I mean, every day in the tour, we were using the boots and pretty much every day for me in training, I’ll put them on. It’s, you know, even with message we’re also using the boots so really helps me for the recovery helps me from from doing things day to day. And I really, really enjoy them. And he really got the whole team on board now. So all the boys, all


Trevor Connor  07:36

the boys are pretty happy when you use them. What are the differences that you notice? Do you feel different the next day? Yeah, I



mean, for me a huge differences. There’s a I struggle a little bit with sort of inflammation and things like that. And the boots really helped on that front. I also feel a lot of the advantages of having a message. It could fly, you know, could sort of, I guess for lack of a better word. I mean, I hate to use the word toxins because I feel like it’s overused in too many false sort of claims. But I do feel without you know a lot this, you know, there’s a good flush of toxins out of the body and out of my legs and a lot of damage. Helps me go day to day.



So the best way to train for the Vuelta is to do the Tour de France and get sick last few days. We Well



yeah, that’s that’s my current approach. Really reverse really reverse into the last the last weekend of the door, sort of hobble through the week afterwards, and then try and get back on the horse and roll the dice really, it’s anyone’s guess how to go in between the tour and the well turn. I’ve done it a couple of times and the combo and one time it worked out amazingly. It was you know, I guess it was my first top 10 in the Grand Tour. But I also didn’t have a weekend at home between the tour and the World Tour. I went straight to San Sebastian and then from there flew to the Olympics. And then I think I did one training ride and Drona maybe and then went to the welter and it turned out great and then the following year I I was home. I went to the vaulter and came home a week later. So it can go either way, during the double, but I’m hoping this time I’m a bit wiser and sort of trying to apply a little bit of what I learned the last couple of times and optimistic at least that the welter, when you’re listening to this is going well for me or has gone well for me.


Trevor Connor  09:21

So I’ve got to ask about that. Because I’ve done situate, you know, certainly I’ve never done Tour de France to volta, but I’ve done the five days stage race and then a couple days of rest and then another five days stage race. And I’ve had some times where I do that and I get to the second stage race and I’m smoked. I’ve had other times where I do the exact same routine. I get to the second stage race and have the race of my life. Is it a crapshoot, like when you did that and went to the volta and got 10th are you were you looking at going wow, how am I having these legs or were there things that you knew you did that allowed you to have that form for the volta? Well,



I think either Like, in hindsight, there was definitely things I can look back and say that was why. I mean, for example, that year when I wrote the tour, I didn’t know I was going to ride the tour and I went on holiday and they rang me and said, how you doing the tour. So I went to the tour superfresh didn’t ride GC. I just pick some days when breakaways was on break way a lot. But I also had a lot of easy days came out, and then I was forced to go easy because I had San Sebastian, and then I was forced to go easy again, because the Olympics, and I went to the welter, again, as a helper took a really easy, Stevie crashed. I waited for him the first few days, actually, because I was really going well. And he wasn’t going super well uphill. So I spent the first few days sort of waiting back with him. And then he crashed and went home. And then they said, okay, you can you can go for it. And so the whole approach was that I just didn’t overtrained when you can look back, where’s the second year, I got I went to the tour for GC, I was writing everyday, I was doing well in the top 10. I got crazy sick, didn’t finish the last few days of the tour, and then went to altitude and tried to make up for what I’d lost. And, you know, so in hindsight, you can say was the second time I just smashed myself and of course, there was nothing left. What was I thinking? But at the time, it’s hard to acknowledge that when you when you say, Well, I had a week off because I was sick. And you know, I don’t feel great. And the world is coming up. And it’s one of the hardest stage races, so I need to be fit. So yeah, it’s it’s easy in hindsight, but I think the thing that we often underestimate is how hard racing is compared to training. I mean, you can look at numbers and say, Well, I only averaged 200 watts, but you probably did three hours at, you know, 100 watts easy while the break went away. And then you did two hours, going so much harder than you’d ever go and training and you underestimate those effects. And, and that catches up to you because you do a stage race. And then you go home and go back, I’ve had a couple of days, and it’s start training again.


Trevor Connor  11:54

So we talk a lot in the show about this fundamental principle of training, which is it’s all about stimulus recovery, stimulus recovery, you need to hit the body, you need to do some damage, and then let the body adapt to that. It almost sounds it’s almost feels crazy to say this. But in that year where you did really well at the volta The tour was almost just training, it was a just a big stimulus. But you went into it fresh enough that you were able to recover. And you know, and you’re able to hold back enough in the tour that you were able to balance that stimulus and recovery to keep building and finding a better form after the tour. Is that is that what I’m hearing?



Yeah, exactly. And I think also what was key was having those easy days in the tour to get the hard days turned into form. Whereas if it’s just hard day after hard day, you never really get that chance, because 21 days, I mean, at some point, it’s not doesn’t become a stimulus, it just becomes a absolute beating. And so I think, I think the easy days of the tour, like you say, going into it fresh, and then having those easy days where you can sort of make the adaptions and you can come out of it good. That was the key, as opposed to, you know, it was it was just a really great three week block where everybody cooked for you, you got a message every day. And, and you You didn’t have to do the washing, you didn’t have to do anything you set on your bill rode your bike. And so it was really, really good like that. But there’s There is also no reason to say you can’t do a really hard tour like I mean, I’ve just done the Tour de France. And although I didn’t ride GC, I think I actually ended up doing more work than if I had written GC. I mean, from day one chasing breakaways. I never got an easy day in the mountains. Because on the flight days, because I are there to try and do a lead out, or chase back breakaways, or stay with Stevie, or you know, write the front on the mountain. So I actually ended up doing in terms of numerically harder than I have ever done with a GC, I still think is as possible if you you manage the time between the tour and the welder correctly, to do both. And still, you’re fit enough in the tour, that it didn’t completely bring you to your knees. Then you can come out of it really strong. But if you if you come out of like my first, my first year I came out of that. I wasn’t I wasn’t good for months, because I was just so tired. Yeah, well, I’ve


Trevor Connor  14:10

heard first Grand Tour. There’s just no experience like,



yeah, it was it wasn’t good. I mean, I already went into it extremely tired. And I think I had this idea in my head that I was going into a grand tour. It was harder than anything I’ve ever done. I need to train harder than I ever have. And I absolutely fried myself I did ramen deep before it almost didn’t finish ramen. They are so bad. And when I started the JIRA, so it was Yeah, I mean, I was completely, I guess mismanaged or just didn’t have the right people around me to sort of say, hold on a minute, mate. You need a coffee just a little bit.


Trevor Connor  14:43

Now bear in mind, our listeners. I don’t think we have too many listeners who are doing grand tours. But we certainly have listeners that are doing stage races during the local stages is doing some some big racing blocks. When you talked about you think you can still go to Race like that destroy yourself trying to go for GC and turn it around for your next big stage race? What are you? What’s your approach? What are some of your strategies and translate this to a way that that people who aren’t doing a grand tour can use?



Well, it’s a tightrope. I mean, I look at Steven crozet. Last year, he was first in the tour de force in the welter. And I had a big discussion with my trainer yesterday about Okay, how are we going to do this? Because I rang him and said, Look, I’m in a position where I actually, you know, it’s quite novel to me, I mean, the first time I did the double, and it’s worked well, it was all laid out for me, I just had to do the race that Sunday, Raisa next Sunday and recover in between, and I kind of, you know, almost flipped it. Whereas this time, I said, Okay, everything’s in my control. And I guess the approach, we, you know, the philosophy we came out with, that we’re approaching the next sort of couple of weeks is, is that we just need to never, like, do it, like treat your body, well, you know, don’t, you’ve just forced it into a really hard three weeks. So don’t don’t put unnecessary stress on it. For example, we’re not going to do any low carb rides. And we’re only going to train in two day blocks, and not do huge hours, but just to enough, that you, you get the stimulus from training. But not, you know, you don’t need to, you don’t need to force your body into the red zone, it’s already been in the red zone, you just need to trust that that’s in there. Instead of trying to always push every day, like, like normally before the welder, I would be doing sort of 567 hour rides, three day blocks, some of them low carb, trying to do saunas, trying to do gym trying to do all that stuff. So we just cut it all out, cut out all the excess stuff, make sure you get enough sleep, make sure you never go into debt. nutritionally, I mean, that’s huge also, because that really, you need to be kind of anabolic, to you know, you need to stay anabolic, so that you, you know, your hormones and everything have already taken quite a hit. So you need to still be recovering, and still be getting the training stimulus. So just really treat your body right, really just two day blocks, reduce the hours, we can do four or five hour rides Max, and a little bit of work. And they tried a little bit of altitude, that kind of thing. But, but yeah, make sure you get enough sleep, don’t worry about going to the gym, don’t worry about doing saunas, and just just really look after your body.


Trevor Connor  17:18

So it’s almost a case of at some point, the race has become your training. And your only focus in between is just getting your body ready for that that next stimulus getting your body ready for that next race. And the worst thing you can do is think, Oh, I’m not getting enough training and after go do a bunch of interval work.



Yeah, yeah. I mean, I won’t do intervals between I’ll do one interval session between now and the welter, maybe a few days out, I’ll do some do to efforts, but I won’t go hard. And I think that’s the mistake a lot of people do they do too much intensity. But if you look back at what we did, I mean, yeah, you never do 21 days of intensity, which is what we did in the tour. And if you look at all the graphs and all that stuff, I mean, I don’t follow them too closely. But the you know, I’m still carrying a lot of form, I guess, according to training peaks. And, and you just need to trust that that because you had a week easier for the tour. But that’s not gone away. I mean, I often take a week easy after a stage race now because I think two years I was always just running too tired.


Trevor Connor  18:17

So it’s really rethinking that balance between stress and recovery and refocusing on the recovery side,



focus on recovery, but but you know, you can’t shut down and go Okay, I’m just going to ride around with two fingers on my nose between now and the tour, you still need to train because otherwise you’re especially for a guy like me going to a grand tour. If I if I just stopped riding then my Vla max gets way too high, I get way too fresh. And then you know, I lose that sort of strength and that insurance that you need for three weeks of racing. And when I say Vla max gets too high, I mean, I didn’t have the ability to do a really good sprint or, you know, maybe why not, he’ll finish but on a mountain day, back to back after 10 days or whatever, then you, you lose that. So you need to you need to maintain those kind of NEOs, doing some strength work and doing some mediums and things like that, at the same time, every day. You need to never come home when your hunger bomb or anything like that. You can’t have any of those going on. You can’t go and drink 10 beers and get up and train. You can’t do any of that stuff that that put your body on the edge.


Chris Case  19:27

Yeah, it really does sound like a tightrope. You are at a you’re at this high level, you’re on a plateau of sorts, and that you have to ride and if you don’t do enough, you’ll fall off one side. And if you don’t do if you do too much, you’ll fall off the other side.



Yep, yeah. And I think in the end, you you’re never going to get it perfectly so you opt that you’ll come into the welter and suffer for a couple of days. And that’s fine, you know, because the 21 days, so the ttt will be had the first app will finish It will be hard and then you’ll be away. I mean, I look at Simon Yates last year in the welter riding with him in Poland. He suffered the first days and I was flying in Poland. And he was saying, like, there’s no way he can ride to see the world. He suffered and, and he was thinking, you know, I could really, I could do a really great result in the world because I was flying. And then by the end of Poland, you could see he was he really had it back. And then whether even the first stage of the welter uphill finish, I mean, I think I finished fourth from the peloton. And then he lost a bit of time, he wasn’t great. And then the next day, he was pillar, and I was a little bit worse. And then by stage, Tim, he was, you know, untouchable. And I was losing five minutes. So I think, you know, when you’re walking the tightrope, you have to go in into a grandi. I mean, it’s different for a one day race or something like that. But into a grandi, you have to go and not necessarily under done in terms of fitness, but under down in terms of intensity, you want the work in there, you want the volume, that you you know, you can afford to be a little bit behind in terms of that, that real high intensity, type in space. And that comes back so quick, especially if you’ve done the Tour de France or you’ve done a season of stage racing in the pro tour. I mean, it’s it’s just in your body.


Trevor Connor  21:18

Well, we said we are going to include grant Hala key to talk about these things from the perspective of somebody who doesn’t raise a grand tour. But the fact is Grant has experience working with tour athletes. Here’s his experience working with Neil Henderson at Apex coaching, helping an athlete do a double.


Grant Hollicky  21:36

No. And one of the other things that that I’ll often say is that years ago, Neil was coaching somebody that was asked to do multiple tours. They were asked to do the zero. And the Tour de France and after this year Oh, that rider went and sat on a beach for seven days. Yeah, the it was a three week gap, right. So the first week they did nothing didn’t touch their bike. The second week, they got on their bike and did easy riding, but nothing nothing specific. The third week they got on their bike did some early week. Short efforts and things like that, and then walked into the tour recovered, but also probably knowingly, very, very dull, right? knowingly blocked up and all of those things. And what it took was a week or two to work his way back into that he had the fitness he just didn’t have any sharpness whatsoever. So he wasn’t going to go out there when the prologue and as you’re saying he’s not gonna be competitive in those tours. And even the guys that are, they’re targeting the second tour, you know, somebody like kitana is going to try to do the double. But fully knowing that the benefit of doing the double with the Tour de France is that very, very rarely does that first week have monumental stages that are going to try the side the tour. Right now he’s going to lose time and a prologue but maybe not a time because he’s going to be rested. He’s going to sit in and motor pace, essentially for a week, and then hopefully show up when the race goes to the Pyrenees.


Trevor Connor  23:16

Let’s get back to the show and talk with George about his unique style of training. So what I love is this incredible self awareness of the type of writer you are. So you just talked about Vla max like like it was almost a swear word. In the past the previous podcast we did with you, you talked about how building up to a grand tour, you do a whole block where you do no interval work. It’s just all getting big volume. And it sounds like you You are the GC style writer and you are you’re you’re you don’t care about Can I sprint for that finish at the end, you’re just building that big aerobic engine. So you can be with that lead group on those big stages at the end.



Yeah, I mean, I naturally there’s I have a few different visual theories on why or what works for me and why to the two things I guess the first is that often my Vla max does get up too high for GC, you know, for a pure GC rider can get quite high, which is surprising. But you know, like my three minute power and things like that can be can be really, really good. Whereas you look at say, Chris work, he’s the opposite. Firstly, I have to train, you know, a lot of strength, a lot of hours a lot of insurance to to get that low. To bring that down where Steve, he has to train, sort of the IMAX efforts so that he can get his up a little bit so he can you know, go with go with the text and things and that’s why he’s such a good rider in the third week because he is just, he’s just pure aerobic endurance. But yeah, I mean, I trained very differently to other guys on my team. I mean, I do a lot more hours than anyone. And it’s not just for Vla max. It’s just that that seems to be what works for me over the years we’ve found out that if I do If I take out all the intensity and I just to generally in a build up for a race, I’ll just do one interval one high intensity interval session. And when I do a lot of strength work a lot of tempos and things like that. But just one interval session where I really had to suffer and do sort of do to efforts. And, you know, I don’t know if that’s because I haven’t naturally high do to max anyway. But I often find that my first effort, you know, if I come down from altitude, for example of doing a lot of bass work, and I go down and and do a veto session or a high intensity session, I’ll already have really good numbers on my first session, which is quite different to two other guys who need to do a lot of repeated intensity to get the numbers up.


Trevor Connor  25:42

It sounds like you’re saying that it that is highly individual, like you’re not saying anybody who’s trying to be a GC rider should be doing exactly what I’m doing. You’re saying, This is what we’ve found over the years that works for you and tell you I’ve actually seen as I have one athlete I coach is Vla. Max is naturally incredibly high, we can do no sprint work. And if I tell him to go out and do a sprint, he can hit 1400 watts which is which is incredible for a local cat to rider. But we can spend all winter doing threshold work and aerobic work and the second we stop you just see that side of his fitness plummet. So I’ve seen the same sort of thing where that’s just what we’re he’s unique. And it sounds like that’s what you’re saying that this is just what you have found works for you but don’t necessarily replicate me because this is just me. Yeah, I



mean, it’s it’s not that my Vla Max is crazy. And I can do a great sprint, I mean, my I have a bad sprint, and you know, can’t push me watts and I’m still you know, nowhere near a high Vla Max, but just for it from a GC writer point of view, it nice, it does need to go down, it does tend to go up quite easily, as opposed to if I freshen up a lot. So, you know, I also think that there’s a lot of other things that one of the big factors for me is that that any day of the week, naturally, when I do a video to test, I always put out a good number. And so I don’t really need a paperwork on that video. Whereas I do struggle with this with really long, three weeks sometimes or with with 250 k rights at the worlds sometimes, you know, whereas other guys that they can ride all day, but they they can’t make the splits. So, yes, it is very individual and, and I always think that miles help the doing case help. But you can’t just ride around easily you have to, for me, I ride pretty fast, or at least in the tempo zone, when I go up hills and things like that a lot of the time. But it’s pretty easy to work out what works for you, early on. I mean, you do a bunch of miles fishing up and then see how you’re riding, or do a bunch of efforts, and then freshen up and then see how you go. Yeah, I really trained quite differently to a lot of guys, which is I mean, I met a guy out riding who did the tour this morning, who’s also doing a welder. And I was out doing some big year work on my TT bike. And he was already doing vo two efforts. And I was thinking man, I’m not gonna do it with two more weeks. And it just you know, it just highlights the difference between between the types of riders we are,


Trevor Connor  28:11

I’ve been quite surprised with this conversation with you about how little vo to work. So that high end anaerobic capacity vo to work you do. And you’re also describing other Grand Tour riders that they do very little. When you apply that to amateurs who aren’t doing grand tours or just doing a few races a year. Do you think that’s a good strategy for them? Or do you agree with what’s becoming very popular of this do that high intensity work all year round? You should be doing those vo two efforts in December in January, then? Well, I



think, you know, again, it’s quite individual. And if you really struggle for the veto, I mean, it’s it’s a real issue for you that you don’t have the power, then you need to work on it. I mean, for sure. And we will do things when you first get back there’s a lot I mean, my coach, he’ll, he coaches, a lot of guys from our team. He’s the head trainer who he often starts giving super short stuff, just a little, you know, one minute, two minutes stuff. But it’s more just to kind of keep you going and early in the season. But I think it’s also different for an amateur that does, you know, sort of 20 races a year one day races. They can afford to do that when you start in paradise. And then you have some tour and then sorry, seven down under the new center and then you go into the spring with Perry nice Catalonia and Basque. You’re doing so much intensity, you just blow up. I mean, you can get yourself going really well by it. But I think long term, that’s when you you get this huge decline, especially if you do the vo to without having done the miles. And I mean, I know guys that that won’t do more than 20 hours a week and they just do efforts and efforts and efforts. Yeah, I mean some some guys will argue that really works for them. But for me that’s a that’s a terrible approach and even for a race like downunder I mean, this is a great example, actually, this year and down under in December, I didn’t do any miles I, I was just riding around, I was really taking it easy. And I trained, you know, like 15 to 18 hours a week. And then I was allowed to do one big week, where I did like 26 hours. And then I went to Down Under. And I think the second stage or four stages, something was corkscrew, and it was seven minutes. And I did a really good seven minute effort. And I was first over the corkscrew, and I had really, almost my best six, seven minute power ever. But it was only 100 k stage or 120 k stage, it was super easy. And then we just went nuts, that decline. Then, you know, the the team were sort of really excited saying, hey, you look like the strongest guy on on the corkscrew, you know, we can win this race. And then by the time we got to willunga Hill, which is the last day I think stage six or seven, it was a you ramped it up to 170 Ks and you had to do two climbs, I got to the bottom willunga Hill and I was just staffed, I just didn’t have the aerobic base to deal with the accumulation of the effort. Whereas early on in the race, a one day race where I where my coach has given me a few shorter efforts, I did get me going well enough to do the seven minute effort for Yes. But you know, over a stage race and then when you have to when you add to the distance and then the multiple climbs, it really didn’t work out well for me.


Chris Case  31:24

Well, I just had a chuckle because he said you weren’t writing in December and then you said you were doing 15 to 18 hours of writing a week and and that’s probably more than I’ve ever done in the last four or five years. So that’s a big week for for for you know a lot of people. So it’s all relative, it’s all relative. I’ll just


Trevor Connor  31:44

point out this driving notes. Chris trains like five hours a week and we went and time travel to climb here in Boulder. And on Strava he got third he was above Sep coos, he was well, you you were 13th on this climb. This was Superman. He was above ever Superman, Superman.


Chris Case  32:00

You go up you go up Chapman. And then you finish up the top of super flag. So you are probably you are holding back probably literally putting two fingers up your nose that day. But still. And he exaggerates I do. I ride more than five hours a week. But I don’t I don’t train and it’s all relative. But you



know, doing short stuff will make you great at doing things like that, you know, but then go to do 200 K and at the end of it, you know that? And that’s the difference. Also, you got to look at the racing. I mean, that is pro tour racing now it’s it’s day after day. And it’s it’s been good at the end of six hours. And that’s where the big differences amazed. But yeah, I mean, yeah, 18 hours as I would consider a pretty a very small week to me. A big week, we’re getting into the 30s 30 to 34 even maximal but yeah, it’s I think, one year in the tour 2016. The first week, I had 41 hours.



Wow. Well, you know, you will this is your job. So you really should be writing 4040 hours a week, every week otherwise,





Trevor Connor  33:10

George touched on the fact that depending on how you train and where you’re at in your season, your strengths and weaknesses can really vary. I talked with grant about how long it takes to truly achieve your best race form. In general, how



long would you say somebody needs to be doing based training? And how long does it take for them to get from base to good race form? And then how long can they expect that race form to last before they they need their first big rest?


Grant Hollicky  33:35

Again, very, very generally the funding. The thing that’s kind of humorous about this is I’m standing here looking at an athlete’s performance management chart. And it’s their last year, and it’s it’s a pro female cyclists she ended your season, right around September took her break. And it was a little bit of a long one. It was it was about a month, she started training again, seriously and focused the beginning November and November, December, January. So we’re three months into that build for her. And I would say that she is starting to get she’s in a race place she would be able to race and be able to perform, I will want one more month. And that’s the plan to get her to peak. So a four month train training cycle to get her to peak first out to be archy. I’m going to try to hold that for upwards of three to four weeks, maybe even six depending on on whether I can get some races in there that are not as focused. And then we’re going to take some sort of a small pause, some sort of a break some sort of a re gathering of our thoughts, so to speak. Before we make To build and the push towards nationals in July, in August, so I would say most athletes are going to need something along the lines of a three to four month build, before they can really target, they’re going to be able to hold a pretty high level of fitness for depending on the athlete, I know this is a huge variable piece before eight weeks, with a very, very, very high peak level of performance for something as short as two to three weeks before they’re going to have to hit the reset button and figure it out again. Because at that point, the season two you might be a my Sprint’s great are my 20 minute power is fantastic, but this is really struggling. So back to the drawing board and working on those pieces. Yeah,



that’s pretty consistent with what I see. I never tried to take an athlete much longer than than eight weeks. I’m trying to hold it steady.


Grant Hollicky  35:55

Yeah, it gets hard. And, and and frankly, you know, Trevor, and speaking one of the exact same things you say if I look up somebody’s PMC chart, and I see a year where it’s looks almost exactly the same. They’re at the same level, and it’s just kind of wiggling up and down for more than, you know, four months, there’s no load, there’s no build than then there’s no drop that worries the hell out of me. Yeah. Makes me that makes me feel like immediately that a I think they’re probably overly fatigued, and definitely limiting their ability to perform. Yep,



I agree.



I used to live down in Florida, and I call the Florida the land of the 85 percenter. Because they have no bass, they have no C’s, right. They are the same form all year round,


Grant Hollicky  36:45

all year round. Right. And, and, and the biggest thing you see with people like that is that they’re just not as good as they can be. It’s not that, you know, it’s not that they’re not good, they could be better. And I think that’s what people really miss out on is that you could be racing at a higher level, if you gave yourself that opportunity to step down.



Yeah, which people have a hard time with. Yeah, I’ve tried to explain that down there. I still periodically go down at Christmas and again in March and Christmas, I’ll go up and do the training race and they will kill me. But a March is not even a challenge because they haven’t proven one iota.


Grant Hollicky  37:31

Right. Absolutely. And and yeah, that without a doubt that’s your that is one of the things that’s the most dangerous is is and the I think too many people look at this reality and say that we’re saying you can’t hold that form and that’s true we our coaches are saying we can’t You can’t hold that form but what a lot of coaches are what I would really be worried about in that scenario is you’re not reaching your potential right and and that’s a great way to word it right? Because that gets them in a positive mindset not just Hey, you’re hurting yourself, you’re not gonna be good you’re saying hey, you’re losing your ability to be great.


Trevor Connor  38:14

Let’s get back to the show and talk with George about one of my favorite things long insanely epic rides. But I gotta say that this is kind of off subject but I train very similar to you and I’ve been noticing on Strava all these rides that you and Sep coos have been doing because I go out and do very similar routes. And Chris and I did this ride out to gold and that was like yeah, it took us seven hours and we were really happy with it until we were really fast. And then we noticed that you and Seth a couple months earlier had done virtually the same route and we looked at how fast you guys were and at the after looking at that we’re just like oh my god we’re slow.



I remember the day that we may and sip started and we just I don’t know if he was half wheeling me I was half Willingham but we just went to war that day. And it it was it was a great ride I remember we went out over while all these crazy I mean I’ve lived in Boulder for a year trainer all the time and I thought I knew every road and then I said rotting was sick yeah and we were going all through sort of people’s gardens and stuff and then we we we ended up doing pretty crazy right and we just we pushed on and it wasn’t until with I think the top of picked up coming into MIT that I finally managed to force a crack and the most of the time he just had me on the limit.


Trevor Connor  39:32

Well that that makes me feel better because there was this one climb I can’t remember the name of it. It’s just fairly well known climb near golden that



is barely


Trevor Connor  39:42

paved. Not look at what was awesome. Douglas were Chris. Oh, yeah. Chris is like Trevor, you should take a run at this. So I took a run and I felt really good about him like I’m sure I did pretty well on Strava. And then when I got home, I took a look at it and you and step it just destroyed Man you have first and second and you guys were like six hours into your ride when you did that Chris and I were only like



three and I was big day every you need those rides every once in a while, where you you destroy yourself for and have somebody else there alongside you to help you destroy yourself and you to destroy them. But you can’t do that every day.



No, no, not every day. But I you know that those are the kind of rides I really feel I get the most benefit from I caught you know, I found my form finders and my engine builders, I just, I often do these five, six hour rides where I ride every climb, you know, just under five watts of kilos or something you just push all day. And then, you know, like you say you can’t do them all the time. But they’re the ones that I get a lot more benefit from that. Then from say, going out and doing for eight minutes if it’s full guess,


Trevor Connor  40:46

yeah, I have to agree with you. I personally know I have always been on my best form. When you go out like you don’t do it every week, it would destroy you. But you got to go out and have those epic rides where you go, this probably doesn’t on paper make a lot of sense. But boy, it makes you stronger,



even. But I also I you know, they’re the most enjoyable for me as well, you know, I don’t find a lot of joy in going to a climb. And going after eight minutes, turn around and go doing it three more times. But I you know, I love that feeling of just going on an adventure and just hooking into a rod. And then after five hours, you start to feel the correct C’s top for coke. And you know, you get I always say that and after five hours of stop making your money. And then that’s where you’re in the zone where everything you do up to that seven hours is just, you can’t replicate that other than going out for five hours. And then starting then you know you’re in a new a new realm of adaption, because your body’s like what’s going on here. It’s still pushing six hours, seven hours, and you get home and you’re ruined, but you just have this great, you’ve had this adventure and you have this great sense of sort of satisfaction that you’ve just done so much work as opposed to some monotonous session where you just go up and down a hill and come home after three hours. And you know is it’s for me it’s it’s the joy of cycling is those big long rides.


Chris Case  42:07

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Chris Case  43:24

I know you grew up in a small town in New Zealand and did you did you know early on that this was the type of writing that you liked and that also worked for you or did was it trial and error to get to where you are now because Forgive me for saying but it seems like you’ve really come a long way in the last few years from a guy that maybe was built for and and mature enough to handle week long stage races and to now a few years later where you’re coming in top 10 at a grand tour and doing back to back Grand Tour set that to me seems like a big difference.



Yeah, I guess I didn’t know. I mean, early on. I didn’t didn’t ride bikes early on at all. I was mountain biking. I just went and smashed it every day for an hour and came home and you know, I didn’t ever coach or anything. When I first got into road cycling, I was looked after by a guy Rob Reed and he you know, he’s still one of the biggest sort of influences in my my career now I still talk to him a lot about training and ideas and just life in general and he always had the philosophy of miles and he’s always helped me and sort of told me just go ride as long just ride ride ride. And for me, I that’s when I started noticing like, well man, I’m actually getting way better now. But I think there was so many other things. That one I developed late because I started late and I am just a young kind of person like you know the see see guys when they’re 17 they’ve got beards. They’re already massive and they just man Charles wears it. Light, and I’m feeling like now I’m starting to come into sort of the age where I’m actually finding my legs. But seeking women. Yeah, exactly. I’m Benjamin burden. But the other thing I think is that, you know, the first years of my career, I just didn’t know what I was doing. I was writing, but I then picked up team coaches and ages sort of told me what to do. So I kind of lost my philosophy. And I was too scared to say, you know, I’m tired, I’m not gonna, I kind of felt like I had to impress them and training, you know, I had to hit the numbers, even when I wasn’t good. I had to just prove to them that I could handle this training, even though I was tired. And I didn’t want to do the intervals. And that was all this stuff. I also think that I didn’t get told how much to eat. I was, you know, I just wasn’t eating enough. And not because I was trying to get skinny. But just because I didn’t realize that that’s how much food we burn. So I was always just blowing up. And there was so many so many mismanaged things in my career, that finally when I came to jumbo, they were like, hold on, why are you doing this? Just do it this way. And I was like, Ah, yeah, that probably makes a lot more sense and little things that make a massive difference. And then as soon as I got those sort of within within half a year, I was writing top 10, and quite a few World Tour races, and they went from there. So continuing with that, the question I have for you is,


Trevor Connor  46:13

what were some of the things you learned along the way, that you that made a huge difference that you would just say, Boy, anybody, any level should know this, this, this applies to everybody.



There’s this few key key things. I mean, don’t train when you’re sick. It is massively. I remember the other day, I was going up. And when I was in RadioShack, I was sick, and I was just going up and down rocker Coburn, like looking back at what was I doing, like I had a fever, they could have given me my carditis or something like that. I mean, it’s just basic, don’t train when you’re sick. Also, let yourself recover from stage races. We’ve touched on this already, but I would often do a stage race and then take two days easy and then start training again. Whereas now I do a stage race, Catalonia, I won’t train. So that’ll finish on Sunday, I’ll go two hours easy, every second day until say, Friday, you know, do like a three, four hour ride open back up, and then Saturday, Sunday. So basically five days of recovery and just trust that you’re not going to you know, that’s the confidence that you’re not going to lose for more that you could have to to do that.


Trevor Connor  47:20

Several times through this episode, George talks about the importance of trusting yourself enough to rest and not always race tired. During my conversation with grant, he also discussed this idea and talked about how peak form is finding that perfect balance of training and recovery.


Grant Hollicky  47:36

out there’s absolutely fine. A window is another way to kind of look at it, you’re gonna have a window of, of high level performance fitness. And, and, you know, a lot of amateur racers may have the ability to hold that window long term because what they’re doing and we see this a lot in across athletes is that because they’re racing twice over the course of a weekend, you’re getting this fitness pump. And if you go and you rest during the week, you’re going to be able to hold a fairly high level of performance physically over a period of time. My My opinion is peak peak peak performance is is pretty narrow window, because the rest that’s required to create peak performance is by nature, a diminishing fitness piece, resting the legs resting in the body, doing those things, you’re going to watch the fitness drop as the recovery comes up and what you’re trying to nail to hit that window as a coach is hitting that place where those two things intersect, where the fitness falling and the fatigue or lack of fatigue rising, right so the fitness is coming down to fatigue is coming down. When do you hit that sweet spot, and that sweet spot, it’s different for every athlete, you know, if you use the numbers on training peaks, or use the numbers in Wk, four or whatever, they’re golden Cheetah, whatever program you choose to use. every athlete is going to be different. What intersects for Amanda Miller is going to be very, very different than what intersects for Yannick Ekman, or Danny Summerhill. And so the areas is small window, what I really feel like is repeatable high level performance. For an amateur athlete through the course of a race season. The limiting factor there becomes mental fatigue, showing up to a race week in and week out with an expectation of winning or performing. At some point you’re gonna lose that. It’s often in a reflection of losing it a little bit physically, but it’s hard to stay mentally sharp for that extended period of time. This is why we watch high level cyclists do not just take physical breaks, when they take their midseason breaks or their post, focus breaks, they go on vacation, they go to a beach, they don’t get on the bike for six days, they’re taking mental breaks as much as they’re taking physical breaks, to get away from the intensity mentally of what racing at that level does to your, to your to, as you said earlier, you’re on an automatic nervous system, it takes a huge toll. So I do think that you can hold a fairly high level for a long period of time, but it is finite. And that’s the thing that that clean point is for nationals that in January, can often be held a very, very brief period of time, even going to Worlds Two weeks later, or three weeks later, there’s a there’s a whole other thing that I’m trying to put together, I’m not going to hold that nationals form. For worlds, I’m going to try to get something out of the World Cup and then repeat again for that World Cup form. So super high level performance, the the window is is very, very small.



For something I can just a couple of weeks.


Grant Hollicky  51:14

Yeah. And that’s what I’ve seen. Again, every athlete is different. But that’s why we have a races and B races and C races you’re a targets are and we need to have those you know you’re a target. So those races that you are willing to compromise other races for. Right. If I’m going to really focus on nationals, or I’m going to really focus on Pan Am’s, I have to be willing to maybe not be my best the two to three weeks leading into that race. In terms of performance, that’s why you prioritize races and every athlete is going to prioritize races. Sometimes the question is whether they prioritize their training to reflect those prioritized races?



No, what do you mean by that?


Grant Hollicky  52:01

Well, what I mean by that is, is we all target something. And so you’re familiar with the calendar here, if I look at my spring, just me as an example, I’m going to target a race like boulder Rue de or I’m going to target a race like COPPA Berg, they suit my style, they suit my riding, they suit my technical ability because they’re on dirt. If that race is, say, April 15. And that’s a major target for my spring, I have to be willing to compromise or not be my best at the race on April 7 and April 1, we’re all very, very good at pointing to that date on the calendar insane. That’s the one I’m focusing on, we’re not always good that two weeks prior being willing to let that race that’s down the road stay the priority. Sometimes we try to do too much. Sometimes we try to rest too much. Or we get in this cycle of train, train, train, train, and we don’t rest when that a race is coming up. This is why planning and structure is so important, not just when you do it, but holding that planning and structure as the time comes to that priority race.


Trevor Connor  53:15

Let’s get back to our conversation with George about the things he’s learned through his career. Next one is the importance of eating.



I mean, the other massive thing is eat enough like on the bike to eat. You know, I used to think I ate about an hour and a gels in the finals. And now I ate three bars. Now, you know, I always try and eat somewhere around 100 grams of carbs an hour. And that’s so much bulk and you think this is crazy, this must be too much. But actually Ellen Lim was the guy that turned the page for me nothing to do with jumbo it was Ellen Lamb who told me before Kelly one year, I was in Boulder hanging out with him and he’s like, man, just try and be on statline you want to be as skinny as possible but as as heavy as possible in terms of glycogen and water on board. And that year, I think I was third on on the on the Queen stage. And you know, it was a big breakthrough for me. And then from that moment, was that right is eating is actually pretty important. And by Christmas.


Trevor Connor  54:14

That’s something a lot of people don’t understand just quickly jumping into the physiology. When you’re talking about glycogen to form glycogen, your body bonds, one glucose molecule to four water molecules. So in essence, think of it this way for every pound of glycogen or of glucose. If you want to store you have to bind it to essentially four pounds of water. So if you want to glycogen stock, if you’re doing carb loading before the race, you’re actually going to arrive at the race pretty heavy, but it’s not fat. It’s glycogen which you’re going to use in the race.



Yeah, and I mean, we’re now we’ve now advanced set a lot more on jumbo we now have an app and we get told what to eat and all of this but we may Maintain and training mostly a pretty high carbohydrate level. So that when we get to a race, we don’t actually get much heavier. But I could also drop two kilos by just eating salads, and really depleting my glycogen, I used to be that I would suddenly be two kilos heavier at a race the Saturday some and this is not going into the the other inflammation we talked about on the last podcast, but it’s I’m talking about when you’re fresh. And you know, I used to just think you had to eat five plates of pasta the night before, if you in training, you know, you maintain a pretty good glycogen balance, there’s not actually a huge amount to really you can add to that before the race if you’re already quite full. But you can really eat a lot on the bike to help you 90 grams, and ours is a lot of carbohydrate. And you do that for five hours. You’re putting in 2000 calories of food just in a bar, Chris.


Trevor Connor  55:55

So what is it like in a there’s a bit of a side topic, but in a grand tour, what is it like trying to get enough food in through through the race,



you know, we were pretty lucky we have a great nutrition sponsor v set, which is made just for the team and might be available. I’m not sure if it’s available, I guess it is available to the public now. But it’s, you know, it’s really palatable and you drink a lot if it’s hot, you drink a lot of your calories. So basically, if you ate, drink a bottle an hour, 30 grams, a gel and a bar, or both, we measure everything in 30 grams, that will give you 90 grams. And on a really intense day, if you’re trying to shoot for 110 grams, you make sure you drink another bottle an hour, or take another gel. So it is manageable. But there’s also a lot that goes into that where you train the gap in training. And we’ll have days in our training schedule where you do specifically trying your cat to absorb that much carbohydrate. Yeah, we’ve


Chris Case  56:52

actually had a conversation with Oscars you can group about this very subject. So we you know, we’ve talked about the the app and we’ve talked about the the science and we’ve talked about training the God and all of these things. So yeah, listeners out there that haven’t caught that episode. Be sure to do. So anything


Trevor Connor  57:11

else that you you feel boy, everybody, you know, this is something I learned the hard way everybody needs to know this. Yeah, I



mean, for me, it was don’t stress as much about just be confident that you’re a good writer, that you got there for a reason. And that you don’t have to that you can take two days easy and not become a bad writer. I think that was when I looked back. I think man, I was always so tired and always so overdone. And and soon as I sort of, you know, you’re not gonna get worse and three days off in, take the three days and then had a really good session and then then you’re back on top. So yeah, I mean, it’s such a cliche to say listen to your body, but it’s, it’s, it takes a takes a lot of confidence to go on. And I’m not super today, which isn’t always mean don’t train, you know, like, I often wake up feel tired and still train. But when you when you feel like okay, there’s, this isn’t right, there’s something wrong, it’s like that. The only way I can describe it is like a sour feeling in your legs, which probably doesn’t make sense to anyone except for maybe a cyclist that stops at a cafe and they just get back on a bike and not just standard cafe legs. But a real or it’s almost like you’re poisoned in and then you need to shut it down.


Trevor Connor  58:27

So let’s flip this around. Is there anything that you see people do or you just want to say? We’re Grand Tour riders, we have to do that. But your your amateur riders, please, please don’t do that.



Well, to be honest, I don’t train now with with any amateur riders, I mean, the guys I ride with back in New Zealand are really good at becoming juniors. So they’re doing all the right, the right things. And then I’m surrounded by pros. And yeah, I guess in Boulder, it’s kind of the home of the the amateur cyclists or the master cyclists that takes it very seriously. And I think a lot of them just take it a bit too seriously. I mean, it’s great to be really serious, train hard, but to not, to not let it take over your life when you think okay, it’s a it’s just a sport, you know, and I see with young guys, they often they often get it but but to kind of obsessed by it and they you know, I think it’s important to go to go have some beers with your mates and to stay in touch with that. So your life and spend time with your friend and family and all that things because that’s when things go when things sort of don’t go to plan of cycling, that’s when you you know you need those outlets or those escapes or those strong relationships with people away from cycling and, and for me, I always tell young guys like it especially when they’re like 18 and they’re not going to house parties and things like that. Sure you need to train harder and pick events but you also need to make sure that you enjoy being young and 18 and or whatever 16 and do all those normal things because a lot of guys get to 24 and go man kind of missed out on on life, and I’m kind of going over the cycling thing, and I’ve got a knee injury and whatever, you know. So that’s that’s what I always say to young guys. And and I’m glad I was surrounded by friends that neither none of them were cyclists when I was through school and I really enjoyed my time as a young guy and I look back, you know, I feel more comfortable locking it down when I have to because I have those outlets for, for when it’s time to use them.


Chris Case  1:00:25

So George, as you know, since you’ve been a guest before, we like to close out the episode with one minute takeaway from each of the guests. And Trevor and I will start with you. So you’ve got 60 seconds, what are what are the big, biggest take homes that our listeners should take from this from this episode? as well,



I think we covered a lot, I’m trying to do more run over. But I think essentially, from a training point of view, work out what works for you, I know, for me, it’s big hours, you don’t I don’t need a lot of intervals and I trained to, to what I’m trying to achieve, I need to be good after five, six hours. And that’s why I’m doing these big weights, long rides, and you know, trusting my natural ability to do a to do a good high via to effort. Whereas, you know, if you’re a guy doing short shot races, you struggle to do the Paladin thing, go for it, train those. Those peaks, I guess we’ll say the, you know, anything from sprinting after that 21 hour power. And I think, you know, you’ll see results from you. If you train specifically for what you’re good at and train your weaknesses, as the cliche goes, Trevor,



Do you have one? Well, I


Trevor Connor  1:01:33

would say my first take home is if you’re on Strava, don’t do the same routes as George and Sep do because it’s just hurts the ego. But other than that I really liked your point about don’t get stressed, and avoid recovery that you said one of the biggest changes for you was being willing after a stage race after a big training block to take some real rest and not be exhausted all the time. So I think that is one of the biggest mistakes that athletes make they show up to every race 75% because they’re always tired. Chris,


Chris Case  1:02:09

you know, it’s it’s a theme that we’ve talked about before on the show, and we touched upon it quite a bit in this episode, of course, don’t necessarily do what George does in terms of volume in terms of blocks in terms of combining lifting and, and and riding and just the overall quantity of training isn’t necessary for an amateur but if you listen to the way he speaks about these things, and the knowledge he has about what his body needs and the latest science on what is best for recovery, what is best for adaptation, what is best for leading into a grand tour, etc. It just shows a this level of experience and knowledge that is helpful for him. And that certainly is going to help anybody at any level, be a better writer perform better is having more knowledge experience keeping up on some of the latest science, and I’m not just saying that because this Pap, this This podcast is about that very subject, but it all goes towards making you a better athlete. And that’s I think everybody would agree that when you’re performing better and you’re feeling good, and you’re hitting the things that you want to do, you’re enjoying it more to.






that’s what I’d say. That was another episode of vasta. As always, we’d love your feedback. Email us at Fast Talk Advil, news. com. Subscribe to Fast Talking on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, SoundCloud and Google Play. Be sure to leave us a rating and a comment. Become a fan of Fast Talk on slash velonews and on slash velonews fasnacht is doing production between velonews and Connor coaching thoughts and opinions expressed on phastar are those of the individual for George Bennett grant hockey. Trevor Connor. I’m Chris case. Thanks for listening