Race Tactics and Training with Rally’s Evan Huffman and Pat McCarty, part 2

We're sprinting into part two in our series on race strategy and training; today is all about hilly road races. Prepare your mind and body for the vast range of elements in a stage race, including the crit, time trial, and road race.

Evan Huffman Fast Talk Podcast
Evan Huffman

We’re delving into the second part of our series on strategy and training for particular races. This episode is all about hilly road races and winning the GC at a stage race. If you salivate over 12 percent grades, if your heart beats faster when you think about suffering in a race against the clock, then this episode is for you. Last time we talked about flat races and crits where the sprinters tend to come out on top. If that’s you, don’t worry, we’ll still talk about what you can do in these races as well.

Some of the themes we discuss include:

  • Is there ever a race where you truly don’t need a sprint?
  • The difference between hilly and flat races, including which are usually more dynamic, and how to know if you should favor sprint races or the tougher hilly races.
  • How to approach a hilly race, both in terms of strategy and how to train for them. Hint: it’s not just about dropping weight.
  • The elements of a stage race, including the crit, time trial, and road race, and which you should focus on.
  • And finally, the difference between how pros and amateurs race these events, and why trying to imitate what you see at big pro races may not always work.

We caught up with two members of Rally Pro Cycling. Team Manager Pat McCarty has spent much of his adult life racing, as a junior, U23, on the WorldTour, in Europe, in the U.S., crits, climbing races, on team’s big and small. One of the Rally’s team leaders, Evan Huffman is known for his skills as a breakaway rider and time trialist. He’s coming off a phenomenal 2017 season. We reached Pat and Evan on the road while racing their spring campaign in Europe.

We also had a chance to catch up with two riders on the Trek-Segafrado WorldTour team: Kiel Reijnen shares thoughts on how the region you come from helps determine what style of racing you may like, and Toms Skujins discusses how grand tour GC riders and classics riders have to train differently.

We should also note that the training piece in the May issue of VeloNews magazine is all about how to approach both flat and hilly races.

So, click into your pedals. Put it in the big ring. Let’s make you fast!

Primary Guests
Pat McCarty: Rally Pro Cycling team manager
Evan Huffman: Pro cyclist on Rally Pro Cycling

Episode Transcript



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


Chris Case  00:10

Hello and welcome to another episode of Fast Talk. I’m Chris case managing editor of Bella news, joined as always by the stalwart Coach Trevor Connor.


Chris Case  00:18

Today we’re going to delve into the second part of our series on strategy and training for particular races. This episode is all about hilly road races and winning the GC at a stage race. If you salivate over 12% grades, if your heartbeats a little bit faster when you think about suffering in a race against the clock, then this episode is for you. Last time, we talked about flat races and crits, where the sprinters tend to come out on top. If that’s you, don’t worry, we’ll still talk about what you can do in these types of races. Some of the things we’ll touch upon today include one is there ever a race where you truly don’t need a sprint to the difference between hilly and flat races, including which are usually more dynamic and how to know if you favor sprint races or the tougher hilly races. Three, how to approach a hilly race, both in terms of strategy and how to train for them. Hint, it’s not just about dropping weight for the elements of a stage race, including the crit time trial and road race in which you should potentially be focusing on. And finally, five, the difference between how pros and amateurs race these events and why trying to imitate what you see at big pro races may not always work. Today we’re talking with two members of rally Pro Cycling. Team Manager Pat McCarty has spent much of his life racing as a junior you 23 on the world tour in Europe in the US crits climbing races he’s done it all on teams big and small. One of team rallies team leaders Evan Huffman is known for his skills as a breakaway rider and time triallist. He’s coming off a phenomenal 2017 season. We caught Pat and Evan on the road while racing their spring campaign in Europe. And because of their schedules, we had to talk to them at separate times. Coach Connor said that with his masterful podcast editing skills, you’ll never be able to tell we aren’t all in the same room. So I apologize ahead of time for a few rough transitions. We also had a chance to catch up with two Riders on the trek segafredo World Tour team. Gil reinen shares thoughts on how the region you come from helps determine what style of racing you may like. And Tom spoons discusses how grant or GC riders and classics riders have to train differently. We should also note that the training piece in the May issue of velonews is all about how to approach both flat and hilly races. So click into your pedals put in the big ring. Let’s make you fast.


Chris Case  02:47

Today’s episode of fast Talk is brought to you by envy with envy his new g 23 rims. The Utah based brand has targeted rim geometries that favor the wider tire treads and volumes that have proven to be the most fun with an inner rim width of 23 millimeters. The G 23 is designed to be paired with gravel treads between 35 and 45 millimeters for all your off road adventures. And we also understand that despite any sidewall warnings about minimum psi, many riders are experimenting with pressures in the 20s. The G 23 is designed with a wide hookless bead anti flag technology which provides a larger, more forgiving surface during bottom outs protecting the tire from those dreaded pinch flats. I wrote the new g 23. Wheels at dirty Kansa in early June, we’ll have a special episode of Fast Talk on the physiology and training for dirty Kansa coming soon. So stay tuned.


Chris Case  03:49

Not every race is created equally. Not every rider is created equally. Let’s talk about heli races and stage races. But first, let’s ask the question to Evan. Is there such a thing as a race where a sprint isn’t important?



I think it’s pretty rare in cycling, but maybe a long time trial. You don’t need a sprint. Mm hmm.


Chris Case  04:11

That’d be one place.



People generally associate climbing as the opposite of sprinting. But, you know, a lot of times it’s just a sprint uphill.


Chris Case  04:20

Right. So let’s get into hilly races and stage races. Now this is the type of racing that you like, I assume it seems like it’s the type of race that you’re built for in a way. How did you get good at hilly races? What were the things that you worked at? What were what are the things that you naturally bring to the table that make you good at hilly races? No, I



guess a lot of it is is somewhat natural, just having more endurance and and join doing those longer, harder efforts. Sometimes A lot of flat sprint days, you’re just kind of cruising around easy all day. And I would prefer enjoy more. Ride hard all day. Yeah, I think about it, it kind of just seems like that’s just kind of what I prefer to do.


Chris Case  05:15

I prefer to ride hard all day. It sounds like it’s I’m driven both by your physiology, but also mentally, they’re more exciting to you. They’re more perhaps mentally engaging. And that’s why you like them, but it just so happens that your body is built for them, too. Is that what I’m hearing?



I think so. Yeah.


Trevor Connor  05:36

So it’s interesting that that podcast we did earlier about the the flat style race, and we talked about different types of riders. And you really touched on something that to me separates two key types. This all around or time traveler versus the the flatlander sprinter. I can always tell when somebody is kind of naturally the sprinter type. They don’t like to go hard all day, they like to kind of sit in and go easy. And then have that 510 minutes where they are absolutely on the rivets, which actually find time travelers don’t like that that huge, five minutes way above threshold intensity at the end of a sprint race, but they kind of like to go hard all raise. Certainly sounds like you fit that mold to agree.



Yeah, I think that’s pretty accurate. Yeah.


Chris Case  06:26

And would that that would that function of people’s physiology and the muscle fiber types that they possess naturally, Trevor?


Trevor Connor  06:34

Yeah, that’s a good question. That’s a chicken or egg thing that I don’t have an answer for, is it? What they like lead them to be in that particular type or does be in that particular type? Create the what they like? And I certainly think sprinters have that huge above threshold abilities. So they enjoy that end of the race that the time travelers don’t and because they enjoy it, they might be really focused on making sure they’re they’re ready for it and not trying to waste too much energy. Since I couldn’t give you a good answer. Let’s hear what kill reinen veteran rider from the Pacific Northwest who rides for trek Sega Fredo had to say about sprinters versus climbers, pro races. He also had some interesting thoughts and how much the style of race were exposed to derive their preferences or vice versa. Okay. Reminds me of a couple years ago, I interviewed Carter and he commented he was shocked how fast the sprinters could climb. And his comment was over there, everybody is really strong at everything. It’s just the climbers climb a little bit better the sprinters sprint a little bit better. So it sounds like you’re saying a similar thing, which is, you have to have all all assets, the whole race is gonna hurt. It’s just which assets you have a little bit better.



Yeah, yeah, I mean, certainly the percentages, the differences between top and bottom there are smaller, just because it’s a bigger talent pool. And I think anytime you have a bigger talent pool, you end up with the smaller differences between the top and bottom of the group. Traditionally, the races in Europe are longer, they definitely seem to be able to hold sort of a higher average wadded leading up to the big moment of the race, whatever that is, you know, some short punchy climbs or sprint or whatever, the the sort of average wattage over there is just higher, but that doesn’t mean that it’s inherently more difficult. It just changes what you need to train. And if you’re good at that, then maybe it’s easier for you then in the US, where we kind of almost dilly dally until the big moment of race and then it’s this really big power push. I think I think that the wattage is we do on on climbs in the US are really similar to the watches we do in Europe, it’s just that in between those climbs, you’re averaging 300 watts instead of 200 watts, and it adds up to more kilojoules, but it’s like, you know, for me, usually the hardest races are the ones where I’m sick or undertrained. Or, you know, it’s rarely the races where I had my biggest like kilojoule load are my highest average watts. Those are days you feel good. The hardest days are the ones when you don’t, and you have to go hard anyway. Yeah. And I you know, I always remember there’s a story of the Seiko development team. I think it were no it was the maupay development team coming over to the US to the Air Force crit. And all these guys are warming up on the rollers and the Italians are roaming around just laughing at them thinking, you know, this is a an hour long race, you know, what do you warm up for? And they I think the entire team was out of the race in three laps. Yep. So I kind of like that story because one doesn’t equal the other. You can’t just say all the races here are harder than all the races. There. It’s they’re different and you can Be good at whatever you decide to be good at. For sure the you know, the talent pool is bigger over there, which means difference between top and bottoms is smaller, but it’s just a different style and in a racing Asia to it, they have their their own style there. And it was I remember how baffling that was when I first started racing in Asia, I just, I was spending so many bullets and just going nowhere. And that’s why even at 31, you’re still a valuable asset to the team, because experience counts for a lot in the sport, not just vo two max.


Trevor Connor  10:35

So that just stick it out loud here that raises an interesting question of does the way they train in these different locations to kind of create the style of racing that they prefer in each location? Or is it that the style of the racing has dictated how people train horses something else?



No, I think it’s the prior. I mean, I know that I like races with short, punchy climbs. And that’s not a coincidence. That’s what I grew up with. And, you know, you the terrain you train on definitely changes the type of rider you are. And, you know, each each country definitely has its own style. And I think a lot of that has to do with the landscape. And there’s so much history in the races, the way they’ve been raced, you know, like, scale, the price, that race always is a big sprint, and everybody knows it’s a big sprint, when they go to it. It doesn’t have to be expensive. But it was for a lot of years. And everyone got in their head that it’s a big sprint. So guys don’t go on the attack. And, you know, there’s a lot of underlying cause I’m so jet lagged, my vocabulary goes out the window, but like you make a lot of presumptions about the race that you’re only basing on past experience or other guys stories about what traditionally happens. And the truth is, you know, races are as hard or as easy as we make them. If you go up the Alp d’Huez twice in one day, it doesn’t have to be hard, you can do it easy, it just that no one in the field is going to make that agreement. And sometimes you see that too, like sometimes they’re really, really hard stages on paper get a little bit neutralized because everyone in the field is so afraid of them. They don’t want to go on the attack. They don’t want to take a risk because they know it could be the death of them.


Trevor Connor  12:28

I remember that often the the bigger the field. And the harder this, the harder the profile of the stage. Actually, the easier the race would get.



Yeah, yeah, a lot of times are super short. stages are the hardest, because everyone knows they can go all in and about a lot of consequence.


Trevor Connor  12:49

Let’s get back to our conversation here what Pat McCarty has to say about hilly races. So let’s talk about hilly road races, ones where you don’t necessarily need as much of a sprint at the end, which is certainly the type of race I like better. And are there different strategies? Are you when we talked a month ago about flat road racing? You said Really? It’s the most predictable race out there? Is this different? Is this a far less predictable race? And are there different strategies? Or is it really just Hey, there’s a big hill at the end? We’re gonna go hard there.



Well, of course, yeah, hilly, the hilly race changes the dynamic, quite a bit. If if it ends up being hard race and say things are kind of chaotic from the beginning. And you have some of the stronger riders, some of the better climbers, some of the overall stronger, stronger riders playing a role in the race from further out, then it’s going to be a totally different race than if it was, things are kind of lazy in the beginning and more controlled. You know, there’s not a big breakaway, there’s just a couple of teams riding and it’s no big deal, then yeah, you might see a different type of rider get further and further into the race and have a chance to win. As opposed to like I just discussed the inverse of that where you know, it’s just a hard race, it’s just a full on throw down from the beginning then then you’re going to see different riders feature feature in the end. So a hilly race is Yeah, much much more dynamic. With there’s nothing that’s obviously going to nullify the the chaos like like a sprint finish camp and or an uphill mountain top finish can can just sort of nullify the racing at a certain point where you know, everybody knows it’s going to be the best climber the day that’s going to win. If there’s just a hilly road race, then sometimes those can be some of the most dynamic, exciting races.


Trevor Connor  14:34

If you have multiple hills in a race, you want to be really careful on the first couple climbs and save it for the last one or is it the race is going to play out the way it’s going to play out and you just have to be ready.



I think there’s more of an element of the race is going to play out how it plays out. I think when you’re on longer climbs, you can’t just let yourself ride your own pace and get dropped. Because you can’t just chase back To the front group on the set necessarily, within reason, if you’re 30 seconds off the back of the group, maybe you can, but if you know you’re two minutes behind, you’re out of the race. So if there’s guys that are writing harder than you want to, you kind of have to do that too. But you don’t have to be the one forcing the pace either. And it depends, I think, on the hilly race, you can kind of dictate the way you want to play out a little bit more, if you want it to be a hard race, like you individually, or your team can just go to the front and ride hard on the first climb and drop, though a lot of guys or make a lot of guys suffer on the first sale. Or you can just take it easier and say, Oh, I just want to do one really hard effort on the last climb in the day. And you can do that, whereas compared to a flat race, you can depending on the course, but you can ride flat out on the front all day, but for ones just crashing behind you, it’s gonna be easy day for them, find a climb, you can actually, you know, make people hurt on the back.


Trevor Connor  16:02

So you can use the courts a little more to dictate the race.



Yeah, exactly.


Trevor Connor  16:07

So when you’re dealing with just that hilly road race without that one like that giant hc climb at the end, which you know, is going to decide so here we’re just dealing with this is hilly that things could happen anywhere. How do you talk to your team about it? How do you get them ready? What’s What’s your thoughts about the race? Is it just be ready for everything? Or do you try to take control? Or how do you approach it?



Well, it’s a little bit more of a playing a game, I think, in a race race, where there’s just, it’s just gonna be more of a throwdown like a one day hard race, that’s going to be hilly, and he is not necessarily a sprint, not necessarily going to be a breakaway, not necessarily anything, then you have to cover your bases, I think the worst thing that can happen for a team in a race like that is to not be in the front, like there’s a breakaway, and they’re not there. Because then you have to waste energy to get the race back under your control, in a sense. So losing control the race not being at the front or not being at a position where you’re still going to have an opportunity to win later on is is boy, you’ve made a mistake. And you have to either correct it or you’re going to lose it same thing at the amateur level at the professional level. So it’s just all about instructing your writers to be mindful of certain things, certain combinations of scenarios, knowing when and how to respond before it’s too late. If you remain in control, the whole time you have presence, you have a rider on the brake, you’re always near the front of the race, then it’s also instructing them and know how to, to not, you know, be overzealous to save energy to, to conserve, you want to have things in your favor at all at all times. And if they’re not in your favor, you have to correct it immediately, or you’re just gonna make things harder for yourself.


Trevor Connor  17:52

And what happens, let’s give you this scenario, you’re back in Colorado, and you decide you want to hop in one of the local races. And that weekend, something like air force, which has a lot of climbing in it is going on or you decide to hop in the superior margao Road Race, which has a fair number of hills in it. How are you as a solo rider going to approach that? Are you going to go into it with a plan? Or are you just going to try to read the field, see what’s going on and then decide real time what you’re gonna do.



If you’re just riding solo, depends on who else is there. You know, racing sometimes is almost instinctual, you got to be able to feel even create, like, we’re talking about a crits you got to be able to feel what’s going on in the race and the other good riders are going hard, then you need to follow. Depending on the scenario. Really? I’d say there’s no you know, that’s a difficult question to answer and say that there’s one set of specific guidelines you need to follow.


Trevor Connor  18:48

So basically, you’re saying you’re not going to show up to one of these races with something as simple as at the 40 mile mark, I’m going to break away and try to go solo Yeah, it is much more a got to read the situation read Who’s there? And and then just your strategy accordingly. Yeah,



yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s good for any writer to to inform themselves. Of all the pertinent information that you know, the around a race, the course the weather, the other teams, the other riders that are there. And if you’re writing Well, you’re strong and you’re good at conserving and then knowing what moments to push and push then, then yeah, you’re gonna give yourself a good shot. Again, you know, it really depends on a totally solo rider. Sometimes I would, I would have some of my best races at Nationals when I was not riding with a team because I could just sort of hide back I was the only rider there and you could just sort of like watch everything happen in front of you and pick your moments to follow and not follow and yeah, you’re never really nobody really looked to you until the last few laps or last few kilometers anyways to do anything. So some ways it can be added advantageous to be so low. There’s no obligations necessarily for you to do anything except sit back watch. And then you can use the element of surprise.


Chris Case  20:11

Evan, let’s switch briefly to climbing in a stage race and how it may be different from a hilly one day race. If you’re in a hilly stage race where your focuses GC, since you have such a strong time trial, do you conscientiously try to climb at a steady pace like a time trial? Or do you go with the attacks and try to hold the wheel of those punchier climbers,



it depends on what the goal for the day is, if you’re trying to lose as little time as possible, to those guys for like the GC, then maybe it’s better to ride your own pace. And kind of let them let them get away. And then don’t let them let yourself lose too much time. I said, you can kind of only do that on the last climb, you know, if if you’re doing a stage that has four big hills on it, you need to stay with that on the previous climbs. And it also depends on the length of the hill. And I guess he has just so many factors. So many factors. A lot of times, I think something that I have a hard time with, especially as like a junior you’re 23 is when you do climate training, you just ride study the whole time, or you do climb a race, a lot of times the hardest part of the bottom, because you have guys that are, you know, sprinters that are leading out there climbers into the bottom, and then they’re going as hard as they can the first two, three minutes at the bottom of the climb, and then blowing up and getting dropped. And so a lot of that is mental, just feeling like this is gonna be really hard for a couple minutes, but eventually it’s going to settle down. And so sometimes you just have to do that big effort at the beginning, especially if it’s a flatter climb where you can draft Mm hmm. Because then you can kind of once it settles down a little bit, then you can try to recover.


Trevor Connor  22:00

I have to imagine there’s a difference between you’re on a climb in the middle of a stage race, you’re you’re the GC guy and 20 riders are going up the road at that point, you know, you have to respond to that you have to go with that or you’ll never see them again. Versus you’re on a climb a little climber guy goes up the road, but goes up the road solo, I imagine you you a little more willing to say we’ll probably see him again later in the race. Let him do his thing. Is that accurate assessment? or?



Yeah, yeah,



I think yeah, if it’s 20, guys, it’s maybe time to panic a little bit, and you just have to try to stay with them. Maybe if, if it’s not the last time the race, if you have a lot of teammates with you, and you say, Oh, we can, we can just ride study, and we’ll be okay, those guys are going to come back. But it’s kind of risky. I think the size of the group matters a lot. If it’s one or two guys that you know, are more punchy, pure climber type guys, then you can let them go. But if it’s a big group, or if it’s guys that you know that are as as good or close to you at times that are dropping on the climb, you’ve got to try to stay with those guys.


Chris Case  23:13

Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about preparation. If your director came to you and said you would race all hilly races this year, how would you prepare? And I assume since you like these races and do a lot of these races, it’s what you’re doing right now, where you’re going hard,


Trevor Connor  23:30

a lot. What type of assets do you need?



What’s the hilly stuff, it’s more about the threshold power than just overall endurance. You have to ride harder on the climbs then on the flats, and downhills. And so you need to be able to, and do it repeatedly, if there’s multiple hills on the course, as there often are. So just having that really high capacity to ride a little bit harder than what’s comfortable. And then do it kind of over and over all day.


Chris Case  24:03

And how do you specifically train that ability?



For me? I do. I guess a lot of my training is really structured. I do very few, just like, quote endurance rides, or you just go ride for hours. It’s a lot of efforts, going just above and just below threshold to try to get more comfortable doing the big efforts. One you need to ride hard.


Trevor Connor  24:32

So what sort of over unders would you do you give a couple of examples?



Yeah, so like, typical kind of big climbing workout I would do for 15 minute climbs. You do one tempo, which for me is like around 350 watts and then you do two of the climbs the next two alternating two minutes tempo, three minutes tempo, two minutes. It’s like threshold, which is like around 380 to 400 for me, and then you do the last one, basically a threshold and every 30 seconds, attacking or much above threshold. And so that’s kind of a workout that I think, is really good to train for breakaways, because you’re doing a lot of, like, when you add it up, it’s like an hour of really hard riding, but it’s getting progressively harder. And so a lot of times you see, guys in races, you get more and more tired, and you tend to kind of do the same effort, but you go slower. So it kind of trains you that it’s getting harder, but you need to pick it up. So


Chris Case  25:44

you’re basically just trying to recreate these race scenes out in your training, that will help you physically as well as mentally.



Yeah, yeah, a lot of workouts are not not exactly race simulation. But I guess trying to train those physiological systems, in a way of when you get tired, you need to be ready to go hard. So


Trevor Connor  26:08

yeah, I’m actually a big fan of that type of work, where you go essentially counter to what your body wants to do. Our natural tendency is to initially rely on those, that big anaerobic energy store, which doesn’t last very long. So a lot of people when they go out and do interval work, they’re gonna hit it really hard at the beginning, and then as they deplete their anaerobic stores, they become more and more aerobic. So they basically just slow down, what you’re doing is starting with efforts that are much more purely aerobic but hard, and they’re going to fatigue you a bit. And then as you get further and further into the the interval work, you’re actually bringing in more and more anaerobic type efforts, you’re bringing in those 10 seconds jumps at the end when your body is fatigued, and doesn’t necessarily want to do that type of effort. And that’s really the way racing is. So that’s a great thing to train.



Yeah, a big part of it is, is mental to just learning how to suffer or being prepared for how that’s going to feel one year at the end of a long ride and you’re tired, but you have to go hard.


Trevor Connor  27:18

It’s the good old you don’t win on the first climb. You went on the last climb.


Chris Case  27:22

Yeah, and I would throw out a word of caution to listeners to not do the workout that Evan just described trying to hit his power numbers as you probably wouldn’t do that.


Trevor Connor  27:32

I also wouldn’t do all that Yeah, pro workout that was just described.



Yeah, I wasn’t doing that workout when I was. I was 19 or 20. Either. It’s definitely a


Trevor Connor  27:46

it’s all relative. It’s as you can ask you what horrible mean person gave you that word? What was it they didn’t like about you?



Yeah, sometimes sometimes it can be a love hate relationship with with the coach, but I think that’s probably a good thing. I get coached by Jesse Moore. He lives in Sacramento as well. He saw race for Cal giant when I did in 2011 and 12. But he does a triathlon now.


Chris Case  28:16

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Chris Case  29:20

So let’s uh, let’s have you flashback to your amateur days and pretend you’re at a weekend stage race. Maybe it’s a three, three stage today type of scenario or creating a road race in a time trial. Is it as simple as saving yourself in the two events that maybe aren’t as decisive or that your strengths don’t play to as well and saving it all for the the discipline you’re best at? Or is there some more sophisticated strategy you employ?


Trevor Connor  29:49

And also bearing in mind that your typical North American stage race is going to be a time trial, a crit and a road race? Well,



yeah, it really does. Depends on what you’re good at and where you think you can make the most impact in the race. And then if you’re a specialist at something, then obviously you’re going to try to excel there and make the most of it is if you can, the trickiest thing is for a pure crit writer to go out and win the three day local stage race. But if you get a good time trial list or a guy that is really strong at road races, then maybe you have something, you know, you could you could focus on, you’re one of that. And then try to do your best to mitigate losses everywhere else or, or stay at the front of the race.


Trevor Connor  30:32

Having your thoughts.



Yeah, yeah. So talking about a kind of a shorter, you know, maybe two or three days stage race, you need to be pretty well rounded and competitive at all three or four stages, depends on the route. Still, as always, if it’s a crit and a flat road race and a time trial, a race is probably going to be decided in the time trial. If there’s a really hilly road race or circuit race, then maybe you need to be more focused on the climbing, then the time trial, and also depends on the length of the time trial, things like that. But in general, you need to be pretty competitive at every event, I would say. And then compared to a one day race, the biggest thing is recovery. If you know you win the first stage, or you do really well in the first stage, but then you know, you lose a bunch of time on the next day, it kind of doesn’t matter for the overall. So you got to be ready to compete every day, every stage.


Trevor Connor  31:35

I noticed when you said which race is going to come down to you, you never brought up the crit. It doesn’t sound like if you’re the GC guy, you’re going to be trying to win the race and the crit,



I think in Yeah, in general, not. If it’s going to be a really tight race that doesn’t have a time trial or a really short time trial, then maybe you can see the race come down to time bonuses in the crit or small breakaway in the crit, I would say most stage races, it doesn’t come down to the crit That said, the creek is still a race you have to do and you have to get through and you can waste or save a lot of energy in the crit, you can still lose time in the crate, you can crash in the crit. So you got to be a good career racer, for sure. Good enough, what I would say it’s usually more of a situation where you can lose the race in the crib, but much harder to win it in the crit.


Trevor Connor  32:33

But you make a good point that you might be at a stage race you’re gonna have some guys are just gonna show up and say I’m here for the crit. I’m not necessarily here to try to win the stage race. And if you’re there to win the stage race, I imagine that could be an advantage, you almost want to let those guys win the crit, because they’re not a threat to you. Set the case. Sure.



Yeah, absolutely. I think if you’re leading the race at that point, you know, you start to be still to be careful. You have to know know, the other riders know the field know what’s happening, they overall, you know, get out and write, write all the numbers down on on a piece of tape and put on your stamp and make sure you’re you’re informed during the race that’s, you could miss out on something just by making a mistake or not paying attention for sure. Yeah, or you could or you could be on the other end of that. And you could try to create some chaos if you’re lucky. And maybe the guy that’s leading the race fall as fall asleep. And something like a crit is actually to your advantage because there’s there’s some chaos there that can ensue even more so than a road race and definitely free of the control of a time trial where you’re just paddling by yourself, you know, create, you could you could actually take advantage of the chaos and maybe try to distance yourself.


Chris Case  33:45

What if you had a stage race where the first day was the road race? Second day was the crit and the third day was the the time trial and you thought, Man, that time trial is gonna make the difference? How do you race, the first two stages,



I think you just need to try to keep us as little energy as possible and keep the field together for for field sprint. If you have a strong team, that’s a little easier. And then you also need to consider sometimes you have a writer who’s a really strong time trellis, but can also sprint, and you need to look oh, this guy wins the first two stages and gets, you know, 20 plus seconds of time bonuses. Maybe I can’t make that up in the time trial. So maybe you do need to try to find some way to sneak some time should


Trevor Connor  34:31

you just racing every event as well as you can or is there any benefit to sandbagging, meaning, let’s say you have a scenario where the time trial then a crit than a road race, you might be strong enough to win the time trial. Would it be an advantage to hold back just a little bit try to get like third or fourth in the time trial so you’re not in the jersey and then catch guys off guard and the road race or is that just too dangerous and approach?



I think you’re starting to stage race over the time. Try to put 100% effort into it. You’re just hedging your bets. Who no reason not to the road race? Yeah, you know, you got to be a little bit more, more careful and more guarded with your, your efforts and your energy. I think, you know, if you see an opportunity sometimes Yeah, there’s some place to take some risks. And then, you know, you get to the criteria that i think i think that’s depending on what kind of writer you are. I think that’s from my experience on the local cnn crits. I’ve definitely seen more chaos ensue in both the road race and the crit than, than anywhere else, probably the road races is potentially the biggest, the biggest deciding factor of a local stage race.


Trevor Connor  35:44

So typically, in a North American race, you’re going to see one of the days time trial in the morning, crit in the afternoon. So if you’re trying to win the GC, you’re obviously going to have to kill yourself in the time trial and try to do very well. How do you turn around and get ready for the crit?



Yeah, I think just the normal stuff, you know, you got to get your your recovery in, make sure you’re staying hydrated and fueled properly. And just know that you are going to be tired. But suppose everybody else because they all did the same time trial. Even if guys maybe didn’t quite push it 100% like you did. You know, they’re not going to just ride away from you and the the crit, necessarily, yeah, the double days are definitely tough. Because it’s a much tighter turnaround, don’t have the full night asleep. But yeah, just focus on the basics, I’d say eat hydrate,


Trevor Connor  36:38

should do a longer warm up for the crit or a shorter warm up. Or just your typical warm up,



I think shorter. I think if, at least for me, I think a lot you see a lot of times in the stage races that have just a single day crit in the afternoon, guys will do it easy right in the morning. And then oftentimes, you’ll feel a little better in the crit not have to warm up as much for the crit. So I think if you are doing a double day stage race with a time trial in the morning, or in the afternoon, you probably don’t need to warm up a whole lot. I think it’s almost more important to do a good cool down after the time trial. And then you can do a little bit shorter, lighter, warm up and not feel as tight as


Chris Case  37:23

someone likes breakaways and likes getting into them, in wins from them. Are you making the choice out on the road? Or is the director? Is it a conversation that takes place for the stage? Or during the stage? Or? Or is it all of those things? Depending on the day? How do you how do you decide when to go and where to go?



I guess it’s kind of all of the above, usually, at least on your on a professional team, or, you know, maybe an elite amateur team, where you have a director, you have a plan going in, and you need to stick to the plan. And you know, otherwise, your team, I still know what’s happening. And you can’t really help each other out if everyone’s just out there going rogue. But sometimes it is more more open ended. Depending on the field and the route, they might say, getting a break if you can, but it’s not do or die. If we don’t get in the break, it’s okay. Or we’ll see how the race situation is unfolding. Especially if you’re in a race where you’re not one of the stronger teams that people are looking at to control you can wait and see a little bit more. But I guess yeah, for me, especially last year, and oftentimes, it’s directors orders to be in the breakaway on a specific stage.


Trevor Connor  38:34

So Pat, now what would you say is the biggest differences between professional stage racing and the more local amateur stage racing,



the depth of the field, and the depth and direction behind the teams, and, and even individuals, there’s an expectation in professional racing, preach to the team is in the writers because they’re paid their paper professionals, if something needs to get done, it’s gonna get done. Right. If a team has the right on the front, they’re gonna write on the front. And you can expect that they’re going to do it at a certain level every time whereas amateur racing, maybe, you know, like, a guy shows up and and half of his team are firemen or something like that, or they have other jobs, or it’s their accountants, and it’s tax season, and they’re all tired, because they’ve been working their asses off all weekend, and they won’t be able to ride on the front or do any work because it’s amateur cycling. And, you know, maybe they’ll get 20 bucks at the end of the day and share a beer with their buddies. And that’s great. And that’s fine, but how hard are they actually going to work? You know? So I would say that’s, that’s the biggest difference is the team component of professional cycling, it’s you just use don’t see that at the amateur level. Even if you get pretty talented riders that are very capable and strong. You just don’t see lead outs you don’t see people riding on the front you don’t see the cohesion. You don’t see the team dynamics in amateur cycling anywhere. Close to the level of professional second.


Trevor Connor  40:02

So it is a little more chaotic. It sounds like there’s a little more luck involved.


Chris Case  40:09

One of the biggest races out there for amateurs is the tour of the hula. I know last year you want it. I’m curious if you could sort of walk us through how that race went for you. And because I honestly, and no offense, I don’t think of you as the type of guy that maybe winds toward the heel. It’s usually devoted to a pure climber. But there’s a really difficult time trial as well. How did that race play out for you? And how did you capitalize on your strengths to win that race?



Yeah, no offense taken to the question at all, I definitely was a Yeah, normally wouldn’t expect to win that race. Because it is more of a pure climbers race, I got a little lucky they shortened the first stage and didn’t do the full keela monster climb at the end, last year, played into my favor. Another really big factor is just the strength and depth of my team. I did you know more or less win the race in the time trial for the the size of one there. But then the last day, the final stage was easier for me that everybody was 100% behind me to defend the lead. And we’d kind of just rode the front all day study and on the climbs the same and I’d never had to respond to the question accelerations or tax too much from other guys. It was just a very steady controlled race. And that played into my favor a lot.


Chris Case  41:42

does help to have a team sometimes doesn’t it?





Trevor Connor  41:45

definitely. Is the consummate Domestique, since I have no sprint that that is. One thing I have learned over the years is there’s this particular sweet spot pace, you can drive on the front. That’s not so hard that you’re going to destroy the field and destroy yourself. But hard enough that it really just encourages everybody to sit on your wheels and not attack. And a really good squad can can find that pace. And it just allows you to control to control the field for your GC guy and not have to worry too much about too many attacks. It sounds like they did that perfectly for you.



Yeah, yeah, for sure. People attacked for sure. And it was hard and we had to we had to chase a little bit. But uh, we had the guys to do it. Where that when that did happen, I you know, was suffering quite a bit for sure. But I always had teammates with me and I was getting, you know, whatever draft I could on going uphill. So that was a big advantage.


Trevor Connor  42:49

Okay, so I gotta ask how come they took out the healer monster?



Oh, sorry. I think this was not the I guess the monsters the last day?


Chris Case  42:56

Yeah. Then Leon will be okay.



That was my bad. I guess there’s some kind of landslide or road construction. The road was on usable, apparently. So if we did, there’s kind of a short climb before and then a plateau for a little bit before the real proper climb. And so we finished at the end of that. So it was this kind of a reduced while I guess a teammate Matteo wants solo, but behind him, it was a reduced






So yeah, I guess we’ll never know how the race would have been different if we had done the full climb. But theoretically, I would have lost some time to the better climbers like TJ eyes and harder Kevin Manian that were in the race. But that’s bike racing, I guess sometimes the route. Yep. dangerous.


Trevor Connor  43:47

So going back to the question we’ve been asking the whole way along, t managers came to you your season is all stage races. You’re the GC guy. What are you going to change about your training? If? Or what are you going to focus on? In your training? What assets do you need?



I think being well rounded and being good at everything, but also, even more so the day to day of recovery and endurance. So doing, you know, three, four or five hard training days in a row to build that up. And when you get to the last day, tore the hill is a good example, the last day is probably the hardest. And you know, he see the GC changes hands quite often the last day at that race. So you have to be physically and mentally prepared to race hard for five days. And I think just kind of trying to simulate that in training is the biggest thing besides working on the time trial and worked on the climbing and working on the spring.


Trevor Connor  44:54

So it’s kind of a jack of all trades. Is it good to have one that’s a real strong Acid? Or is it really almost kind of like, this is the triathlete a cycling, you just need to be pretty good at everything. Ah,



I guess, I don’t know. For the most part time traveling, I guess is the most obvious. I don’t want to say easiest. But yeah, the time trial is maybe the most obvious way to gain and lose time in a stage race, because you’re by yourself. It’s kind of conducive to time gaps. Or as if you’re a really good sprinter, you can’t really make up time in the sprint, you know, unless suffered time bonuses. Obviously, in climbing, you can make some big gaps, but you’re kind of limited to this guy’s can climb with you, then if you can drop them, you can drop them. But if you’re a time trial, you’re already by yourself. So you just have to go a little bit faster than they do. But like everything, it depends a lot on the course. If you’re doing a race, where it’s a flat crit, a flat road race and a long time trial, you need to be really good in the time trial. But if it’s maybe a shorter time trial, and it finishes on a huge mountain, then you need to be better at the climbing to win the GC, they’re probably I don’t know, I would lean towards this time trialing. But I think it depends a little bit on kind of the arena you’re at. I guess with the US stage racing, the time trial probably weighs a little more heavily with the bigger European stuff. Probably a climbing some more important.


Trevor Connor  46:33

Tom skycouch. World Tour rider with trek segafredo is known for his classics ability. We caught up with him while he was preparing to race, the Jiro in 2017, which unfortunately, couldn’t raise due to a bad concussion at the Tour of California. He talked with us about preparing for the tour and the difference between tour and classic riders.



For sure, I’ll try and do more stage races beforehand. And that’s that’s how you build the base as well. And that’s how you get that long, sustained effort. But at the same time, I’m not going to go for the GC so not. But one of the key differences between especially GC riders and grand tours is that the training, the focus on in training is different because for them, the actual way to win a race is just drop everyone on the climb or when the time trials. And that is sustained, controlled effort. We’ve seen how Froome does it just dangles off the back and then comes guns from the back and smashes everyone. So he just has that one constant number he can keep on? Well, not him necessarily just those riders focus on that one number they can keep on going forever and ever. Whereas me and classic cyber riders, we have to focus a lot also on the ability to just go hard as you can five minutes at a time 10 times per ride. Just because every little punchy Hill, every little acceleration, that’s what it is. So the training is different. Like for sure on Sky, there’s a lot of riders that focus a lot on that running just because not only their Grant Hill riders have to be able to put that sustained power for a long time. But also the riders that ride the flats all the time, they have to be able to there, they have to be more able to keep that sustained number for a longer time than to be able to go five minutes flat out recovered in two minutes and five minutes flat out again.


Chris Case  48:36

So even if you’re a sprinter, if you love those flat races, and the next thing you know you’re thrown into a hilly race or a stage race, how do you cope? What do you do? What can you do to survive those races? Or surprise, maybe surprise people in Excel? And same


Trevor Connor  48:55

thing? Is there anything you can do to prepare to be able to handle those races a little better?



Yeah, I think a lot of people will say that jokingly, that I need to get in the breakaway to get a big head start for the climb. But there’s some truth to that. You see a lot of guys do that, when you have a long stretch a flat before the climbing starts or before the climb, then you can get on the breakaway and get a head start and then you’re can ride the climb that much slower or get caught that much later or get dropped that much later. But in general, if you’re a flatlander guy, definitely stick to writing your own pace. Find the other guys that are trying to do the same thing. And then chase back with those guys on the descents and flats when you can. Yeah, a lot of times you’re gonna be better off getting dropped by a little more and not completely blowing up, as opposed to being really close to making it over with the climbers and then just having nothing left So I would say definitely try to ride study and find a good group of guys that are doing the same thing.


Trevor Connor  50:08

So the only thing I will add is, if you took Mark Cavendish and put him up against a pure track sprinter he would get killed. I see. And a lot of new riders feel they’re the sprinter type, that all they should really be doing is working on their sprint and working on their big one minute power. And why would they ever work on their their threshold and endurance. And I think that’s a mistake that specialize in too much. Most of your road racers who are considered sprint specialists, they’re still doing a lot of threshold work. They’re still doing climbing work. And they’re still doing endurance work. And if you lose a little bit of your sprint, that’s fine, because you do need to get to the end of the race.


Chris Case  50:50

I want to back up for a second. You said if Mark Cavendish went up against a pure track sprinter, or track sprinter, he’d get his ass kicked. Oh, yeah. He’s World Champion on the track many times over and the silver in many, many Olympic medals on the tracks and durance track.



Ah, well, it’s


Chris Case  51:10

okay. I don’t know. I don’t have his stats in front of me



that your your pure trackball maybe has an X maybe there’s an exception. Yeah,





Trevor Connor  51:19

But still, I mean, the Cavendish peaks out at about 1600 watts, your pure track sprinters peak out around 27 2800 watts. I have a hard time believing that in a straight up pure sprint. He’s gonna be able to beat one of them. But maybe I’m wrong.


Chris Case  51:34

Yeah, I don’t know if he’s the best example because he does have a lot of track experience. But yeah. Yeah. So


Trevor Connor  51:39

in the in the track world, it’s kind of divided into endurance track and sprint track. And they’re very different piece. Yeah, good. Road racers can be good. Endurance track riders, the pure sprint track riders spend more time in the weight room than they do on the bike.


Chris Case  51:55

Yeah, I don’t know what I agree. There. There is a difference. There’s a massive difference between him and Cavendish and somebody like Gregory Bouygues or whatever. Forsman, whose legs are probably as large as cats, and is his body. But yeah, moving on. Moving on. there any take homes, Evan, that really applied to this type of racing that maybe we haven’t talked about yet? How do you excel at hilly races or stage races that without revealing your secrets, something that will benefit all of our listeners,



maybe it needs to be sad, like being skinny. And being litas obviously a pretty huge part of the equation, the climbing but see a lot of guys take it too far. And you get to a point where you’re too skinny, or you’re trying to lose too much weight too fast. And it kind of doesn’t matter how little you are. If you can’t pedal hard, you’re not going to get up the climb. So especially for younger guys, I’d say don’t stress out too much about being skinny work on the power and the endurance first. And then kind of let the weight work on it. And baby steps maybe are over over a long period of time years even. Yeah, it


Chris Case  53:09

sounds like how old are you now? I’m 2828. And you have seen your body changing physically over the last few years. And you haven’t even done too much weight work. You’ve just been gaining weight from the the type of work that you’ve been doing the type of racing you’ve been doing. So even you someone at 28 is still seeing changes.



Yeah, yeah, for sure. I think



Don’t try to force your body into a certain stereotype of what kind of rider you want to be. Sometimes you’re better off being a little bigger and more powerful. Sometimes you’ll climb better than you would if you’re a few pounds lighter if you have the extra power.


Trevor Connor  53:55

So it was something that Chris and I touched on in that climbing piece you look at the research and they’ve actually said on your flatter steadier climbs your your hundred and 55 pound time trailer can often beat the peer climber.



Yeah, for sure.



Yeah, I experienced that. I’ve been kind of, I guess on both sides of it, where you see guys that are even even bigger than me that on short, shallow climbs can’t really drop them. And then vice versa guys that are little pure climbers that can’t get rid of me. So yeah, I think you know, pure climbers, kind of put yourself in a really specific niche.


Chris Case  54:36

Alright, Pat, you’re on the clock. You’ve got one minute will make you fast in stage races and hilly road races.



What will make you fast is getting good at it picking the right moment to follow the right people. I think learning patience sitting at the back not doing anything before you need to. But not missing, not missing the train where it goes. I think There’s one thing you can focus on doing is understanding how to be patient. I’ll be fast in a race.


Chris Case  55:07

That was another episode of Fast Talk. As always, we love your feedback. Email us at Fast Talk@velonews.com Subscribe to Fast Talk on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Google Play. Be sure to leave us a rating and a comment. While you’re there, check out our sister podcast the below news podcast which covers news about the weekend cycling. Become a fan of fast dock on facebook@facebook.com slash Bella news and on twitter@twitter.com slash velonews Fast Talk is joint production between velonews and Connor coaching. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk are those of the individual for Pat McCarty, Evan Huffman,


Trevor Connor  55:43

Trevor Connor.


Chris Case  55:44

I’m Chris case. Thanks for listening.