Surviving a Long Season Like a Pro

Is it possible to stay fit and fast all year round? We talk to former pro and team director Mike Creed about the toll that cycling takes on a body.

Is it possible to stay fit and fast all year round?

We talk to former pro and team director Mike Creed about the toll that cycling takes on a body. He also discusses the mentality required to endure bad days on a bike, which happen far more often than good days. Plus, we speak with Cannondale-Drapac pro Toms Skujins and Trek-Segafredo pro Kiel Reijnen about how they plan their seasons, schedule training and avoid the dreaded burn-out.

Primary Guests Trevor Connor, Caley Fretz, and Dr. Iñigo San Millán

Episode Transcript



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q o LL. And I’d like to point this out to the guys is like sometimes it’s not about how you win or your result when you’re on top form. It’s really unfair to ask of a team director to sign you off your best result ever. But it’s also how you ride when you’re tired.


Trevor Connor  00:55

Hello, and welcome to Fast Talk developer news podcast. This is Coach Trevor Connor, along with velonews writer superstar Kaylee frets. Joining us is a multi talented superstar, ex pro superstar manager superstar with the velo cycling, and podcast superstar Michael creed. Our plan today was to take on a simple question. Is it possible to stay on top form all year round? We want to take on this question because I’m often asked by writers, whether it’s possible and when I give my opinion, they say but pros do it. Michael, who is uniquely qualified to answer this question, both as an ex pro writer and as a pro manager may have something else to say. And while that question may have been our starting point, we’ll go in a whole variety of directions, really delving into what it’s like surviving the season as a pro, including mapping out the season targeting races, and the importance of not just physical fitness, but mental toughness. To help us along the way, we’ll hear from two pro riders, Kyle ryden, and Tom skytouch. And I think I just butchered both of their names. This is an exciting one that really gives a retrospective into training and racing at a higher level. So strap in, and let’s make it faster.



Alright, so let’s dive right in here. Trevor, as you alluded to, in your little introduction there, the primary question we were trying to answer today is whether it is possible to stay on peak form throughout the entire year. And I think the first thing we wanted to do was go around this table here, the three of us and decide whether well, to provide our opinions on that. And my initial reaction is absolutely not. And I think that is, I think that much it’s pretty clear. However, a lot of amateurs still try to do this anyway. What do you think, Trevor?


Trevor Connor  02:47

Well, I think you already know my answer, which is I have never seen somebody be able to do it. I’ve certainly seen riders who can stay on really good form year round, I find them to be somewhat unique. But I don’t think you can ever hit top top form 100% form and hold it that long. With the athletes I coach, this is a bit of a simplification, like said every athlete is different. But I apply what I call a six 912 rule, which is it takes you about six weeks from when you stop doing base to build race form, it takes you another three weeks to hit a peak. And then three weeks after that, or about 12 weeks, you’re going to start really pushing burnout. And at that point, you have to take a break or your body is going to make it take a break. You can play with that. And we might talk a little bit later about this whole concept of block periodization. But I believe very strongly the longest you can stay on top form is about six weeks at a time. Yeah,



I mean, I think by definition peak form, right? Like if it’s a peak, then you can’t stay up there very long, right? wise, that’s just your natural level. But I think there are ways to stay at the high level. And when athletes say well pros do it or these guys do it. I’d be interested to see who they were pointing out.



I think maybe the Miss misconception comes from teams like sky or similar or maybe not even teens, but just riders that seem to be able to pop back up to peak form with some frequency. I mean, you know, you look at at Chris Froome doing tore welted double or contohnya doing the gyro tour double or maybe even even better examples, Bradley Wiggins, you know, in 2012, winning everything from parent ease straight to the Tour de France. It makes it seem like those guys are peaking the entire year. And maybe that’s where the misperception comes from is they’re not actually picking the entire year. They’re there. They’re just that much stronger. I mean, how does Bradley Wiggins win parents and the Tour de France in the same year?



I think it was a couple years ago from one tour of Oman. Right. So I mean, what people have to realize is that you don’t make pick That one outlier, that guy is so talented, that he can get away with it that he can show up to this race at 90%. He had a really good winner, maybe he’s really lean, and he can get these results, but you don’t make like the rules based on the people who are just so talented that they don’t have to play by them, you know. So when you have a Chris Froome Peters, again, Bradley Wiggins like, you don’t make your training like them, and you don’t make your races like them.


Trevor Connor  05:29

I think another reason you see the misconception is people forget that just because a professional team goes from some point in February all the way through October doesn’t mean all the riders are going that whole length of time. So I think with all teams and my being a team that you manage a top pro team, really interested in how you manage this, but what I’ve always seen is you you will have some riders who are designated to be very strong and early season, you can have some that are designated to be strong at some of those key races at the peak of the summer, and then some that are even going to try to be strong at the end of the year. Is that how you did yeah,



I think, um, the way I always like doing it is I liked coming out hot and I liked setting a tone. And I think it’s easier to come out hot, and try to throttle that and make that last as long as possible. Rather than possibly do a little too little think that you’re gonna gonna be great. And you come to these first races, like Redlands or whatever, you know, you take a hide in, and then you can build up and, you know, to whatever say national championships toward Colorado, but unfortunately, like, I don’t think if you’re talented enough to really ride well at Torrey Colorado and get these top 10s or whatever, then you’re talented enough to not take a hide in Redlands. So for me, I think it builds a lot of morale within the team to come out, put in a really, really good winner, do your first races really, really great. And then try to find a way to throttle back because I think more than physical fatigue, because I think you can hold the physical, you can stay above 90% physically throughout the year. If you play it right, you know, with really doing a lot of rest, really good diet and all that. But I think where that burnout comes is more than mental fatigue of there’s only so many times you can be on the start line, and just be willing to go that extra three or 4% harder and that I don’t think it’s a physical burnout, I think it’s a mental burnout and like a CNS type of burnout. So the way to do that within the team is just to give those riders different goals. And let them know that there’s not a lot of pressure in this race and that you need them to do this one specific task. So if you do have a climber, and you’re trying to rest them a little bit, but you need them to take the start, you tell him that his job is to stay with this one sprinter and help him get over the climb. So now his job his role. It’s it’s changed around. Maybe he gets a little bit more enjoyment out of that he doesn’t have to go up the climb and create such a demand on themselves. And I think that’s a really good way of keeping everybody smooth throughout the year. doesn’t always work. I mean, the first year on smartstop by time we we came out hot like we were racing in February in the Dominican Republic. We did Redlands did healer and then we came in, we won nationals and by time we got a tour of Utah it started getting a little shaky and mentor Colorado and tour Alberta were pretty bad. When we give them meetings before on the bus, and I gave one mentor on the bus were just finally told him like, Look, if you guys are you guys are tired, which is totally okay, if you’re tired, just let me know. Because I don’t want to keep making these plans. If we’re not going to do them. And if you’re not going to do them because you’re too tired. I don’t care. But if you’re not doing them because you’re not doing them then I’m getting angry. So you guys, you have to tell me which one and it’s a couple days left to go. We just didn’t do any more race meetings just did a very painful tour around.



Just get to the finish line.


Trevor Connor  09:02

A couple years ago I talked with Kyle reinen a pro with trek Sega Fredo about this very question of surviving the pro season. He had a lot of great things to say about how Pro Cycling is changing the importance of bass and needing a break. What really struck me really listening to this interview a couple years later is how much he agreed to experience pros see eye to eye as you’ll see.


Kiel Reijnen  09:28

First thing that comes to mind for me is something that’s really changing in the sport that we as writers are noticing is the season length. It is unbearably long at this point and something that used to exist and now exists are these mid season breaks. Sometimes they’re a week sometimes they’re three days. There is not a mental as they are physical but it’s becoming not like a sport like like I think of Iron Man is once or boxing where you have you have an event there’s a specific buildup to that event, and then a decompression time post event. I think for guys who are tour stars, you’re seeing a lot more of that kind of targeted racing where they have a handful of targets throughout the season. They’re not afraid to shut it down in between rebuild for for the event. And then this whole idea of base training, followed by intervals, followed by seven months of racing and maintenance is not realistic anymore. I don’t think it’s I don’t think science backs that either having specific hard training near an event is effective. And and that maybe means you don’t need to be doing medium hard training for three months before the event. That’s maybe not as effective. And I do think that fatigue is is a bigger issue than it used to be because the races are not necessarily longer, but they’re definitely harder, more kind of across the board, you know, there’s no vacation races, everyone takes every race seriously, every race is an opportunity. So you have to, you have to pick goals, you know, now, no one shows up to Team campuses. Yeah, I want to be good from January through October. It’s just not realistic. So, you know, teams are focusing on specific goals for specific riders. And I think part of that is finding out that specific training for for an event, not like you’re saying not months in advance, but sort of right before that event, work. And you find, you know, the form is such a kind of fleeting thing I’ve been, there’s kind of a saying that we all have, that if you’re on forum, nothing matters. You can lose sleep, you can get a cold, you can have a shitty travel, you can do all this stuff. And somehow, if you’re on form, you’re just on form. But when it’s done, it’s gone. And doesn’t matter how much rest or how much you treat this that how much asleep? You’re not informed anymore. So why is that? You know, what is? How is that happening? And because it’s so important for us to be able to predict when we’re on forum, we need to understand more about why that happens. And I do think part of it is this tendency, in the sport to overtraining to to look at this the kind of macro cycle of the year as a big base buildup, followed by efforts followed by racing and demons, I don’t think that that is the best model anymore. So what is you know, you have to have some sort of base fitness, right? Otherwise, what are you doing your intervals from the base fitness, you’re, you’re starting from scratch every time you do your weekend effort. So that doesn’t work. So there needs to be some sort of maintenance, base, aerobic whatever. But then kind of a hard punch quite near the event is maybe all you need to spur a lot of these these systems, as opposed to the kind of old school year mentality would be race race to fitness, you some of those early season races that used to not be as hard to get that intensity in, and then you’re good to go. That’s it’s too much for too long, I think anymore. So what intrigues me about what you’re seeing is, how little time it took how close to the event, you really can up your game, right? So it’s, you’re saying, if you feel like crap, or you’re not putting out great numbers, three weeks before an event two weeks before an event, stay calm, you still have opportunity to make progress, a lot of progress, perhaps. And that coming into three weeks before the knots fatigue is maybe just as important as coming into it.


Kiel Reijnen  13:57

It’s good to say is that something that you ever do? Or is it with your calendar, it’s just not really even an option. Well, so what’s the calendar I’ve had the last three years we don’t do a tour de france and for those who don’t make the Tour de France team on their on their respective teams, same kind of opportunity. July is dead. And that’s really important. That’s that’s where I’ve taken opportunities to take a midseason break a week off, reset, not lose all my fitness but but come down to a level where I’m not constantly in a state of fatigue and trying to balance fatigue versus sharpness. You know what, that what that kind of chunk in July allows me to do is to prepare really well for August. And that’s been huge for me because I always seem to be able to perform for the rest of the year after that. You know, as you get towards October, maybe fatigue sets in again. But that that ability to reset there. I think the people who do reset there, you see them performing second half that season well they haven’t had the opportunity to reset. They’re really They just continue to get worse as the season comes to the end, they’re just hanging on, especially guys that are performing in the tour, that kind of thing it’s like, and that’s why you see it. You know, a lot of the tour stars are pretty vacant at races, like Colorado races, like worlds, the sort of late season races, the top two are guys, you know, there’s always exceptions. You know, I don’t know what to tell you that 100 Valverde, apparently, the sky’s the limit. But for most of us humans mere humans, it’s, it’s too big to ask to keep that rolling. Well, but maybe this idea makes it more sustainable, right? It makes that longer racing calendar more sustainable, if we’re saying, Hey, you know what, we’re making too big a deal out of this long build up to these events. And really, we don’t need that much preparation. As long as you have some maintenance level of fitness, then what we can say is, now we can have more than a couple of targets for the year, maybe you can have five or six, spread out evenly. And we’re just doing a real specific prep for each, each one and really shuts it down after each one. It’s always it’s really dangerous and easy when you’re on the form. To go, Well, I’m on form, I got to race, I gotta use this form, I got it. Some and you can extend that that form of fitness for longer if you’re a little more careful with it, you know, if you treat it a little more gradually. So instead of saying, Hey, I’m on forum, yeah, you know, Colorado went really well. Let’s let’s do Alberta. Maybe instead you take a little rest after Colorado, you do a hard week, and then you do. And then week after Alberta are two weeks after Alberta? Yeah. And you know, there’s always a tactic to it for riders, like, Guys, let’s say you’re on a two year contract, you’re, you know, you’re wanting to step up teams or, you know, make a leap or something. It’s really important that you come out of the gates hot for whatever reason, knowing that people intuitively definitely cut down their offseason. And if your target is July, you know, it used to be that you, you really took a long offseason and eased into it. Now, now those guys have decided that, in fact, coming into the season’s hot, and then shutting down, and then coming back again by July is more ideal, but they’re, you know, depending on what your targets are, there’s definitely the approach it’s worth it’s worth saying, Yeah, different approaches, it’s worth thinking about how you approach it.


Trevor Connor  17:47

So both physically and mentally, how do you how did you deal with it, and as a manager had had your riders deal with it when a lot, they’re often doing over 100 starts in a year. And that in itself can just wear you out? I think



having an exact goal is is key if you make the goal very ambiguous and just like, Oh, go out there, do your best pal. Like I get, I just I don’t even know what that means. do my best. You know, whereas directing a team, I would email every writer individually and give them stage by stage expectations. And it’s very specific. And they were very realistic there. The expectations were never best day best form, get lucky expectations. But if it was like, Look, I have you on this team, because I think in this time trial, you would be in the top 35. So you need to be top 35 in this downtrend. Now, that doesn’t sound like it sounds weird, even tell somebody that to get so far back. But if the rider is tired, and they warming up and the legs don’t feel great, they know they’re not going to win, they know they’re not going to get top 10 the chances of them riding a little bit easier. feeling sorry for themselves still filming for the paint and then come in and get in sixth pretty high. But if you let them know that you’re watching, and you’re not asking something unrealistic, but you need to get as many guys inside that top 30 for just general tactics and expectations and for themselves because then other directors are looking at them. And seeing that even on the bad days. They can still perform. That’s that’s how you coax them into very realistic and honest goals and results.



Do you have guys that you that you tell to sort of that rather than hit a big peak to try to sort of maintain you know that this little low 90s kind of level and then other riders that you tell that to peak a little bit harder.



know, I mean, you, you know, pretty quickly where the riders heads out what races are important to them what they want to try to prove or whatever. So you you help build around that. But you definitely don’t want riders to get into this idea that there are afforded the luxury of being able to back races because that within the division three continental circuit like that, that’s not a luxury anybody has this thing of everybody’s like, well, I, it’s okay, I didn’t ride very well, at this race. There’s a big race, you know, what, you know, a couple weeks down the road, or a couple months down the road, it’s like, yeah, you’re not on a pro tour team, you’re not making a million dollars. Every everybody’s fighting for spots, like, that’s one hell of a gamble you’re taking. Because if you don’t win that race, then guess what your whole season is. And so



that kind of extends down to I mean, we spend a lot of time in this podcast, actually, the first, the first episode that we did was essentially Why aren’t you a professional? That probably extends down to amateurs, but there were many reasons to listen to, that probably extends down to amateurs trying to make that leap up, right? I mean, you know, if you are, if you’re a cat one, and I’m so I’m getting a little bit off topic here. But I think it’s an interesting discussion and your cat one, and you’re trying to make that leap up to a content team, maybe a big peak is not the way to do that, maybe maybe sort of more consistent writing. So, for example, I was talking to Larry, Larry, we’re bass not too long ago. And he went from Hincapie to BMC to em, and then basically now back down to the pro county level, and he never really had any exceptional results as a junior you 23 he essentially just sort of chugged along. And it was like, fifth in every single race that he went to. Sure. Is that a good way to, to get yourself noticed? I mean, you’ve been in that that hiring position as well.



Yeah, there’s definitely something to consistency. Like, one of the biggest things you worry about as a director is how to get the riders competitive. So if you have a guy that you know, is a little set and forget, like, okay, maybe he’s never gonna be your strongest guy, but he’s reliable, he’s gonna, you can start them in different races. I think, towards the latter part of my pro career, when I wasn’t climbing as well anymore, I really had to focus on other things and learn how to do the lead out and protect sprinter. So he behind it, there’s definitely a role for this position, I kind of call it like the Swiss Army Knife of a rider Where are like the Leatherman of a rider where it’s like, he’s never the perfect tool for the job. But you never really want to go without him either. Because he can get you out of a jam, right? He wouldn’t, he wouldn’t be the only tool you brought, he might be in a little bit, might be in some trouble, if that was it. But it’s really good to have around. And that way you get starts in all sorts of races, right, from criteriums, to races in Colorado, but I think, number one thing you look for is age, how long they’ve been professional and their consistency. I mean, it’s definitely something where if a guy just pops up and wins the stage at Redlands, or Joe Martin healer, what are these definitely grabs your attention. But if he just does that, this one massive run and then disappears, and it’s back in the 70s and 80s. And whatever, then, I mean, unless he’s really young, the chances of him getting pro pro right out of that are pretty slim, it’s better to be consistently in the top 20. And be every time the bunch gets reduced down to 20 or 30. That when they call names over race, radio, your names constantly that right. And it’s through that like consistency that I think that that’s really attractive to directors.


Trevor Connor  23:42

So that’s one of the reasons I really beat my fist on the the importance of base training, especially, I think most pros eventually realize how important this is. But with newer riders and some amateur writers, they really, really want to focus on that that top band and they talk about, I need that 30 seconds to be able to win that race. And yes, that I’m going to say that top end is extremely important. You don’t win races without it. But if you have a good base form, it should be able to allow you to finish with the lead group in a race. And really, that top end is what takes you from just finishing with the group to now being one of the people contending to win the race. And that gives you some longevity through the season, in my opinion, because at certain points when you’re starting to fatigue, we can stop doing some of that top end work, we can bring it back down to base. And if you go into a race, you’re not going to get popped, you’re not going to win it. But you can still go in and do some work for your team. You can still finish relatively high up if you want. And then when you put the top end on top of that, you start winning the races.



Now first of all I would like like to give you an A plus for that segue. Sorry, that was well done. Back to the topic at hand. We had intended to talk a little bit about the physiology, which you just sort of touched on just now. That the physiology of the importance of starting with that really strong base and as Mike was talking about earlier, like coming in maybe a little bit You said you described as coming in hot but at least coming in, you know, very very fit maybe not with a lot of you know, super high end efforts but with a big big bases and and not starting the season, quote unquote slow. Can you can you can you go into the physiology? I know, you’ve described it to me before off Mike, the physiologist, you know how fast you can actually get with nothing but really a base mile season?


Trevor Connor  25:33

That’s a good question. Mike. I was very interested in how do you feel about all this? Do you agree with the importance of that base? or? Yeah, I



mean, how far how quickly, you can come from base training to competitive race, I think that’s really dependent on the rider. I mean, there’s riders who are naturally very explosive. So they have, you know, that critical one to two minute power that it takes to make front group over a climb. And for a writer like me as just a diesel, like I can just, if, if I didn’t get dropped in the first two minutes of the climb, then I knew I was okay, because I was just very hard with those accelerations. So for me, I think I had to do a little bit more work to get race ready. For riders are naturally explosive, I think they could rely almost solely on base training. But um, the way I always try to explain to athletes that was coaching or directing for is, for me the basis if you had a like a car chassis, and it’s making sure that that car chassis is strengthened and as strong as possible, because yeah, we can go on we can do these vo two efforts. And we can do any kind of like, over under intervals that we find fit. However, if you don’t have this, basically the simplest way it has been filled enough to train. Because you can go through freshness, through just being excited you can do these vo twos and 4020s, whatever you want to do, and you can create a lot of damage. And it’ll take you a lot longer to recover from that. And then you’re bounced back from that as far as percentage. Sure, you’ll get like this overcompensation bump in the beginning and you’ll feel great, but how far you can actually take that with being a little soft and unfit and have these other issues, like I think there’s a bit of a ceiling to it. Whereas if you spent the winner working on your way, getting your weight down, doing a lot of the core body movements and biomechanic movements and getting a lot of high zone to work in. So you’re able to do a lot of work. And then resting from that I think that’s strengthen the chassis. So you have a weak chassis, you have a strong chassis, you put the same high power motor and both, both of those, one of them is going to bend first and you’re going to need to stop doing what you’re doing to try to get back, you go the other one, you could throw a whole lot more of that chassis before it breaks. And it’s easier to repair. So I think I think in general, you have to be an athlete. And I don’t think people always understand that.


Trevor Connor  28:09

Love that analogy. I haven’t heard that one. But I really like that. So looking at it from a physiological standpoint, I’m hoping most of our listeners have seen a what a lactate test profile looks like where you you put somebody on a trainer and you have stages of increasing wattage, and you measure their blood lactate. And what you’ll see is at the lower wattage is their lactate are going to stay very level usually below about one millimole. And then there’s a point where it starts to kick up and and threshold is usually right around four millimoles for most people. So you just see this point where the this graph just kicks right up. And that means that you’re starting to get to where you can’t sustain those waters anymore. And what you see with good base form is that graph just gets shifted right? You get to higher and higher wattage is before you start to see that that wattage kick up and one of the best examples I’ve ever seen was Swain, tough. Swain used to be able to go out and do a five hour ride at about 320 330 watts, no big deal at just flat lactates. For most people, that’s threshold that’s their 20 minute power. Yeah, for him that



was taken. Speaking of the exception,



exception of Yes.


Trevor Connor  29:24

But to bring that back down to reality. So I’ll use an example of an athlete that I was coaching. He was a cat too, and he was trying to get to higher levels.



This is me, Trevor, we talked about me.


Trevor Connor  29:36

No Kaylee Kaylee was one of those guys who just drives me nuts because he’s just strong all year round. So here’s another exception to this this rule strongest relative, but this other athlete when he came to me and we talked about what he wanted to work on, he said, I need to work on my top and I said, Why is that? He said, Well, I’m in the races. I’m fine until about two, two and a half hours into the race and then everybody starts attacking or the big dog start attacking, I can’t respond to them. So I need more top end. So I asked him to send me some of his race files pointed out the partners were in the race, he was having problems responding. So I looked at the period of the two hours before he was said he was struggling. And he had about an his his average heart rate was around 176 177. I went, what’s your threshold heart rate goes about 174 175. So this is not a top end issue. This is a base issue. You’re spending two hours at threshold just hanging on with these guys. Of course, you can’t respond. Where if you had the bass, you know, the guys that he was racing against? They were probably sitting at a 141 50 heart rate, then you can attack?



Yeah, no, I think one of my favorite workouts I went through riders, I coach and then I think myself was a was going out and motor pacing, I would motivate them for about two and a half three hours. And I don’t I don’t do I’ve shifted a lot away from power, I go a lot towards heart rate and just having them I’ll just have them sit on the back of the scooter 161 65. visitor for three hours. And it’s a every riders the same, you know, the start, you have that 161 65 and there’s no you know, we can go a little bit faster if you want to know what’s gonna go on stay right here. Yep. And then we do a little bit of calorie restriction on the ride just to help, you know, get the glucose efficiency up and everything like that. And, boy, after doing that, if you do all the riders or do it, you do three days on one day off, two days on one day off, and then repeat. And we do that for about three or four times leading into big race, the freshness that they would have, before those critical powers were needed, they could almost do the selection purely based off the natural talent at that point, because they were fresh, because they were sitting in the pack, getting that the same amount of torque they were behind the motor. Because you know, you can’t just go out and ride by yourself sometimes for two or three hours, you’re not getting the same micro accelerations from moving around in the wind and that that speed at that cadence, it’s hard to replicate unless you’re going actually that fast. And then when you hit the bottom of the climb, I mean, we did it with Shane Klein, who’s like, is known for being a criterium specialist in the States. And he really wanted to tour Utah, and it sounded like, well, you find Utah you totally get to kind of my house and train for a month. And then I’ll let you start thought you’re done. And we did that we basically almost no top and work just but caveat to that. He’s a sprinter, he has the natural explosiveness right, and I just, we brought a little bit of weight off of them. And we had them do a ton of highs on two lows on three motivation. And, boy, we’re tight. Are you talking? I mean, he was he was making the front group of 40 and 30. And for sprinter I mean, that was, it’s pretty incredible. So I know there’s I think sometimes people confuse through no real it’s not a big deal. But I think they just confused like, what they what they want to do versus what they need. Right? It’s not, it’s not like exciting, right? It’s not exciting to go and ride for two and a half hours or three hours. This high RPM, medium heart rate zone, like it’s not fun. But like anytime people talk about like sacrifice or doing what others aren’t willing to do, sometimes I think they confuse that with like, doing more animals or doing like, going to bed hungry or whatever like these these like these dynamic cliche attributes, when really it’s like, No actually doing the same thing. That’s pretty boring. And everybody tries to engineer a way around it, doing that over and over and over again, like that sacrifice and that’s doing what other people won’t do.


Trevor Connor  33:51

Well, I think getting people out to go and do intervals to tear themselves apart. That’s easy. Everybody wants to do that. You’re right. Yes, this sort



of work that people give completely. It’s almost it almost feels like an immediate gratification.



Exactly, exactly. Yeah.



I mean, you know, you you can feel the pain in your legs, you know, somewhere in the back of your head. Alright, I’m doing good work right now. It’s kind of harder with the the kind of workouts that you’re describing.


Trevor Connor  34:13

So I think the the key message here is that if you don’t have the base, then yeah, you’re only gonna have a couple points in the year where when you’re on absolute peak forum that you’re going to be even something close to competitive, where if you want to be able to be at least somewhat competitive all year round. That’s where you’re looking at the sort of work that we’re just talking about. That’s where you need to have that base, you can be sitting in the field comfortably.



Yeah, I think it’s um, I would much rather have a rider who maybe was a little too fresh and a little too soft, and really nervous and anxious on the start line. versus a rider who came in super hot, super lean and is tired and I think people need to have That faith in their ability to where if they dedicate themselves to this effort, like I’m not gonna attempt to make this feel good, I’m not going to attempt to be gliding on this climb, I just really, really want to do this, I really want to prove myself they’re going to have a pretty decent ride, they’re gonna they’re gonna do okay. And I think that’s what people confuse when they see this ratterree like, is holding form all year and it’s not necessarily that he’s maybe he can hold that form because he has the confidence that he’s gonna not try to make it easy on himself. He’s gonna go out there and dedicate put himself in the right positions to perform. So to just falsely assume that it’s all because of fitness i think is a little disingenuous to the world bike racing is


Trevor Connor  35:49

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you know what happens a lot with division three racing in America is you know, you come into races like Tora, California, and whatever the pro tour guys come over. And often the pro tour guys don’t ride that great. Just because you know, they’ve traveled it’s not a big goal for them, you know. So you, you hear the chatter on the team bus of like, I can’t believe that guy’s on the pro tour, I’m better than I’m here. Like, I can’t, nobody will sign me, whatever. What happens a lot is when the races get a little bit more tiring, or not great, like say talk about bird, it’s raining all the time. And then the guys kind of give up because they know they’re not gonna win. And I had to point this out to the guys is like sometimes it’s not about how you win or your result when you’re on top form. So it’s really unfair to ask a team director to sign you off your best results ever to share just playing the numbers game, you’re gonna have your best day training than you will in your race. So and it’s also to like not hitting like some magical PR number or on this climb, I average this I was holding this wattage, making sure that you understand that’s not your level. Now because you did it once. That’s not your level. That’s not what you are to expect the next time you go on a bike ride. We have like, you know, train with track riders, you know, if they do a four minute pursuit, and that they PR they really want to do four minute pursuit bam, they train hard had all the mental stress and adrenaline leading in they go and they do like a 359 promises the next time you go up there, you’re probably not gonna do a 359 you are now not a 359 pursuit. Like until you can do this three times in a month with no specialized leading, then you are not. Yeah, it’s not hoping for that magic day. But it’s also how you ride when you’re tired. Yeah. And that’s a big difference. And that year on smartstop. And things are finally would talk about Berta. I mean, they wrote like trash. And I had to tell him that like, I don’t want to hear any more about how you guys should be on a pro tour team. Because there’s a reason you’re on my team. Right? This wasn’t nobody’s first choice. You guys turned down a pro tour offer for this. So there’s a reason I have access to you. And it’s not because of how you ride on top form. It’s how you guys ride when you’re tired. And that’s what you need to focus on. That, like if I hear one more thing about like, you know, trying to get the lighter wheel or, you know, a more aerodynamic frameset when you guys are getting tired and shake hand on a flat road race in the rain. I’m not listening to you. It’s this. So let’s figure this out. Because now you are if you combine the top results, your top results with positioning, dedication, perseverance, all these cliches that you throw in there. That’s the time to use cliches when you’re tired. Not when you’re feeling good. Then that’s how you get picked up the Proto.



I like this conversation is morphed a little bit into the psychology of the pro bike racer, and also the psychology of the Pro, like racer director. I see as you as you both Ben, do you think that I’m trying to kind of phrase this question which is the nice thing about podcasts because we can just cut this middle part out. Keep it in



people like here in the wheels.



Yeah, know that. Like I said, I’m very much enjoying the way that this conversation is turned. So to to return this a little bit to our our discussion. I mean, we wanted to talk this episode about Essentially the way you structure an entire season, and from what I’m hearing from you is that, as you said earlier, the mental side is as important if not more important than, than the physical side. But the two are definitely interconnected. And there’s no question that they’re connected, because what is hurting these guys mentally? Maybe is the fact that they don’t feel great. And what what can riders do, physically? And maybe this is better question for for Coach Trevor over here. What can guys do physically to keep their body from messing with their mind?






Is that what the base where the base is? so important? Is that where periodisation where you get good, good rests are so important. Where what do you what can you do to keep keep your body from essentially shutting off your mind? Because you feel like crap?



I think it’s almost the other way around for you. But I think it’s if you’ve done some things in the offseason to make sure that you don’t get injured in the middle. Yeah, I mean, that obviously helps your mind. But I think one of the best pieces of advice that I ever got, while racing, and it made absolutely no sense to me at the time, I remember thinking this person was dumb as hell was, I was making this excuse why I didn’t get a result in this race, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, all I thought legitimate reasons. So the difference between reason and excuse, not quite sure. But and I remember them just saying like, you know, like, it doesn’t really matter how you feel you’re a professional. And I just thought that was like the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, like, What are you talking about, like how I feel means everything, but then you get removed, and you realize like, it just doesn’t matter, actually, because you are here, because either you willingly showed up, or you’re being paid to show up. So like, at a certain point, it just doesn’t matter. And I took that on, you know, so like when I would do these time trials, and I was really, I wanted to get a good result a long time trial, I remember letting go of trying to have good legs, letting go like not analyzing every footstep across the hotel room floor, or those first pedal strokes on my bike, like, I remember, just not, I had to completely let go of that and not check in with my body every half second. And instead, I promised myself that I was not going to finish the race in good shape. I promised myself that I was going to really damage myself during this time trial, and I would almost lay in the hotel bed like mourning the effort that I was about to do. Because I had made an agreement with myself that as long as I never tried to feel good. I mean, if it happens, great. But as long as I’m completely on board with total annihilation. Between that, and the training I’ve done, and any natural talent I have, I’m gonna, I’m going to do an okay result, I’m going to be something that I might not be pumped on, but I’ll be okay. And that is the most important thing, I think just the dedication to not almost like this violent response to hoping that you’re gonna feel good, where you just say like, it doesn’t matter. Like I’m just gonna go off and crush this.


Trevor Connor  43:14

So the reason I was initially avoiding answering that question is because I have to kind of take the physiologist says, do all this in your preparation, eat this the night before, do all these things. Throw that aside. And now you’re going to hear from from bike racer, Trevor, where I’m much more the Put your head down and do it. And as you know, a month ago, I was in a race I got sort of hit by a car, fractured my hip and raced another two and a half hours out of the car



hit you, you hit the car,


Trevor Connor  43:40

I slid into the car. So I am fully on the same page with you. And I’ve watched a lot of cyclists since I’ve always been more on the development. And I get to see all these guys very early on in their career. And I have seen guys with mediocre talent go all the way. And I’ve seen guys with amazing talent go nowhere. And ultimately, that mental side is what I see differentiates them. And I think that’s more important than all the other elements put together. And so something I always tell the athletes I coach is you get three races, your entire life, where you feel great, where the legs are there where you make the move where everything goes, right. Make sure you win that race because the next one’s not going to be for a few years. Rest of the time. You’re not going to feel perfect. The bikes not going to work perfectly. Things aren’t going to go the way you expect in the race. Don’t complain, figure it out, win the race anyway.



Yeah, I think that’s where I messed up a tremendous amount of my early career is i think i would i would train almost I would train to have to make the race like easy on me to have those magic days. Those days where you fight for position foot before the climb. You hit the Climb and you’re just waiting for the attack and you’re waiting for the attack and you’re like, I can’t believe nobody’s attacked yet. And you look back and you’re the last person in the group. And you’re like, Oh, Okay, I get it now.


Trevor Connor  45:11

So I think I think the message that we’ve given here is pros, just like us. They can’t, you know, as you said, right at the beginning, by definition, a peak is something that that is short and rare. So they have their, their really good points in the season, just like the rest of us. And the rest of the time, they have to deal with not having the best form. But probably what differentiates the pros of it is, this is their job, they can’t say, Sorry, my legs aren’t there, I’m not going to start today’s race, they got to start they have to perform. And I think they build a toughness that allows them even when the form isn’t there to still be able to race. And I think that toughness is more mental than physiological.



Yeah, it’s having that like focus, you know, where you’re at, you know, how to get your job done. And also do what helps bring that more sustainable performance level is, like, basically, it’s just called like, ceaseless immersion. So it’s how to make your life as professional and as athletic minded as you can. So you’re not thinking like, Oh, well, I’m going to it’s December 1, start time to start dedicated myself and you go in, like, really hot, and you know, it’s some unsustainable plan, if it’s diet or training, like, you’re operating in this form of reality. And I think I did it so long, where I didn’t notice that I did it anymore. You know, like, I knew not to eat sugar past a certain time, I didn’t really drink I didn’t, I didn’t do these things when I was a pro. So like, and to me, I didn’t notice that I did them anymore. It was only when I was around people who weren’t around it, who didn’t dedicate themselves like that year around. And it has to be something sustainable has to be something you know, you can’t just go on some crazy diet and that your white knuckling the whole time, you have to find a way to make a very real lifestyle that you get gains out of even if it’s really slow, but that you can live it around the clock. So the ceaseless immersion aspect is if if you were to travel to a new town, like Los Angeles, and you saw it, you’re flying in and you see it smoggy. And you’re like that was a lot of smog. After three or four months, you might not see the smog anymore, doesn’t mean the smoke went away. Right? You’re just so used to being around it that you don’t see it anymore. And it takes somebody who’s not from there to pointed out to you. And that’s the goal on how you can come in really hot and you can train better all year you’d like you’re eating really good diet all year, like something obviously, like sustainable and good and that you enjoy. Like, how do you make this a diet that you enjoy? How do you make sure that you’re doing your core work and you’re in any kind of muscle activation in your in your your training? Like how do you get that so it’s not taxing your partner? Your mental side? anything in your life? How can you live this 365? So it’s not, oh, well, I’m gonna just be super serious for next three weeks be a completely unreasonable human being piss off everybody around me and be really moody the whole time. You know, like, that’s not people, I think people confuse that with lead into a peak, where they say, Oh, I can’t do that. I can only do that for three weeks out of the year. It’s like, Yeah, probably because you’re not a very nice person. But if you get started on it today, where you make sure to have this checklist of stuff that you can filter into your life and bring it around, it’s it’s much easier that way because now you don’t need to change or the only thing you do is need to bring that mental dedication ghf


Trevor Connor  48:57

that’s a great way to look at it. So the things that I would add is trying to raise strong march through September, which is the typical local scene, sometimes shorter is hard enough. Don’t try to extend that and be doing it in December in January. I have seen a lot of amateur and masters athletes who are already hitting their PR numbers in December and January going I’m gonna have a great season. I look at that and go No, you’re gonna have a very short season. You might win some races in March but but don’t target anything in June. So still have some of that timing is the one thing that I would add. And then I had one other take home that I was going to add that I’ve completely forgot. Okay, this segment.



We decided we’re leaving everything, everything.


Trevor Connor  49:51

Oh, no. So my second book. So the second thing I’ll add is and Mike I’m glad you’ve touched on this a couple times. But just to really emphasize this, the importance of recovery, you like you said, when you go into a race and not feeling great, and you tear yourself apart to make sure you still perform, it does take a toll on you. And you have to get that recovery time. And I too often see athletes go and do these races tell me they’re fatigued. And then I say, Okay, so what are you doing next week, I think I’m gonna do intervals on Tuesday, you need to give yourself that rest. I had a professional athlete that I was working with a couple years ago who was from Australia. And she did the entire Australian season, which is our winter in the US, and then join the US pro team. So right when she was finishing the Australian season, she then did the entire US and European season. Yeah. And I think the entire time I was coaching her, we maybe did five dedicated interval sessions. I mean, almost all of our coaching and training was getting her recovered for the next race and getting her through like a sweet coaching gig,



or some amazing training schedule. Like I don’t know, sleep.


Trevor Connor  51:08

Here’s your training plan, sleep. I mean, it was actually tough. It was a lot of conversations. And it was a lot of figuring out how to get her through keeper on form. And she was able to do it, she got all the way to through September, with form, but it was tough. And doing her recovery perfectly, was essential. Last time, we spoke with Tom’s a regular on our show, and a pro tour rider with Cannondale drapac. We asked his thoughts and survive in a pro season. Even though he talked about life as a pro, he had a lot of great take home. So cyclists of all levels can use.



Well, for me, and I think most of the riders, the first thing is you pick the races you want to do good at, and you, you pick the races, you’re, you’re gonna do well, and you pick the races that suit your skills. And you go back from that. So you don’t really start with the building phase you start with, where do I want to be good. And for us, there’s a lot of racing throughout the year. So you really have to focus on the races you actually can do good at and will do good at. And that also that focus is not just physically but also mentally. Because a lot of the times it’s a lot in the head than in the legs. And you start going backwards from that you pick the first race Well, yeah, the first race you want to do really good at and then you can count on a good month that you can be at the top level, for sure you’re going to be racing really good throughout the year as well. But there is that edge that you still need to win races. And once you decide where that’s going to be, you take, I usually take two months, because I need a good, good block of intensity to really get me going. I take two months before that I start doing some heart races, some maybe not even suited for me. But as long as the racing scarred, that’s all you need. Well not necessarily suited for me for sure it’s better if they’re suited for you. But at the same time you then you’d want to do good at them and try too hard.



But just to kind of get some racing. Yes,



you for sure need some racing miles. And just focus on intensity caught caught back a little bit on the volume. And before the two months of racing like to get the race legs under, under you. I do three months. On a perfect, perfect scenario three months of build where I do mostly base miles focus a lot on Core i do the first month definitely I do a lot of running do mountain bikes I do. I do go swimming, do a lot of gym work, just because Cycling is very easy on the bones easy on the joints. And you still need to live as a human. So you need that running that impact thing, that impact part of it. And you need to just be actual human before your bike rider. Because we all will get skinny we all will get twigs for our arms and just have frog legs but you need you need to be a human first as well.



Is it different for a rider like you than someone who for example, is like targeting GC at a grant or where do you feel like you need to be more like 90% all season versus 100% at really short periods of time or do you still try to hit that 100% a couple times a season or once or twice a season?



Yeah, for sure. I try and hit that hundred percent. Not every year you can just doesn’t work out. Well. Just some nothing goes wrong or you get sick or something. 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 cyper 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. And that’s I think one of the like, for sure, on Sky, there’s a lot of riders that focus a lot on that running just because not only though 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 more able to keep that sustained number for a longer time then to be able to go five minutes flat out recovered in two minutes and five minutes flat out again,



with your JIRA rad this year, do you think you’ll change your training? You



know, 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 GCC. So not not necessarily



Yeah, if you win a stage of the JIRA, that’s still not,



it’s still gonna be a stage where it’s hard to hilly and terrible weather.



Well, we, we started



discussing, being able to peak all year and we ended up talking about all kinds of things that were vaguely related to peaking all year, mentally and physically and basically just getting yourself to the season. And I’m trying to think of a good way to sum up all of today’s conversation in one line, I don’t think it’s actually possible, regardless,



word salad, word salad.






I think that an interesting way to end, this is just the three of us here, maybe providing one last little take home and how to be as fast as possible for as long as possible. Go for a tour.


Trevor Connor  57:48

So I think I’ll approach it from the physiology side and my take home is make sure you do that base work. If you are sitting in the field at close to threshold, you’re just not going to last that long. And you’re gonna have very few points during the season, where you’re going to be strong enough to actually be competitive, where if you have a good base, you can win races at certain points of the year, and you can still be competitive and contribute to the team the rest of the year. And with that the importance of recovery, the importance of having points in the year where you back down on that high intensity work, because that’s what pushes you towards burnout, and get that rest and then rebuild. But if the base is there, you can still do okay, in the races. Yeah,



I think just for me, I guess extending your fitness is more of a mental game for myself. And I think creating a fearless self moral inventory of what you can and can’t do, and not avoiding things that you’re not great at. And I think in those times where you’re really tired, and then that’s when you focus on your weaknesses and being very honest with yourself and not not getting carried away. And that this is a year where all sudden you’ve, you’re gonna jump 40 watts and be six kilograms less, just maybe try to back down a little bit.



And finally, for myself, I think when I was racing, the struggle was always sources of motivation and finding which sources worked and which sources didn’t and which sources could keep me going through periods when I maybe didn’t want to be doing what I was doing. And so those are going to change for everybody but figure out your your sources of motivation, whether it’s ego, whether it’s beating your buddies, whether it’s just bettering yourself, whatever that is, whether it’s getting a contract, you know, making a living, whatever it is, figure out those sources of motivation and cultivate them and don’t let other things get in the way. That was another episode of Fast Talk. We’d love your feedback. Email us at Webb letters at competitor group comm subscribe to Fast Talk on iTunes stitcher Google Play and be sure to leave us a rating and a comment. While you’re there, be sure to check out our sister podcast the velonews podcast become a fan of Alan is on and on slash Melanie’s Fast Talk is produced by velonews which is owned by competitor group he thoughts and opinions expressed on desktop are those of the individual for Trevor Connor and our special guest my creed, I’m Kaylee Fritz. Thanks for