It’s Thanksgiving in the USA, which means that most of us are foregoing the usual workout to spend time with family and over-eat on some comfort food. So, along that same theme of rest and digest, we took a break as well. Instead of a new episode, we’re sharing some nostalgia and honoring this year’s Vuelta a España winner, by digging into our archives for one of our favorite episodes – number 53 with Sepp Kuss.
This year, Kuss made it most of the way through the Tour de France in the top 10 while riding support for the eventual winner of the race – only losing a top spot when he was taken out in a crash on the penultimate day. Two months later, he won the Vuelta a España with his own teammates riding against him. Kuss has proven himself to be one of the best riders in the world.
In 2018, he was a domestic US rider with clear potential but only three years of racing under his belt and a mostly unproven track record on the World stage. We had a chance to interview Kuss as he was making that transition after just joining Team Jumbo-Visma. We talked with him about what it’s like racing in Europe, how he trains, and the mindset he takes to racing.
What surprised us most was how internally motivated Kuss was. Winning and beating other riders didn’t seem to be what pushed him. Instead, it was all about execution and doing the job his team managers gave him. If you watch a lot of sports movies, that may not seem to be a winning mindset, but in the five years since that interview, Kuss has proved himself to be a champion at the highest level.
We thought for this Thanksgiving Throwback, it would be interesting to go back and listen to Kuss’ training approach and mindset again with the knowledge of the success it has ultimately brought him.
So, rev up the time machine and let’s make you fast!
Trevor Connor 00:04
Hello, Welcome to Fast Talk your source for the science of endurance sports training. It’s Tthanksgiving, I am sitting here in the studio and I am completely by myself because grant and Rob are both off celebrating Thanksgiving with their family. I’m here because I’m Canadian, and we celebrate the real Thanksgiving, which is back in October. That means today, I have no co-hosts, I have no guests.
Trevor Connor 00:32
I thankfully have nobody to make fun of me for the fact that I just said something about Canada. So they’re going to have to listen to this and just grit their teeth. But we are going to do something different. Today we are going to do a throwback pull something out of the archive that many of you our new listeners might not have ever heard. And this is an episode that I really enjoyed when we recorded. So I’d love to bring this back, particularly because we have some context for this one. So we are going back to Episode 53, which was a recording we did with Sep coos back in the summer of 2018. This was when SAP was still riding as a domestic racer in the US had just gotten a contract to go over to Europe. And we were catching them in the summer during that transition. As many of you know this summer. So summer 2023 Sep had a pretty phenomenal summer he was racing the Tour de France, as the chief lieutenant for the ultimate winner of the race. But for most of the Tour de France Set was sitting in the top 10. Despite racing for somebody else, it was only on the I believe the second last day where he got caught up in a crash and loss of a lot of time and dropped out of the top 10. But showing that potential, he went to the Volta and won the overall in a very dramatic fashion with his own teammates racing against him. So Seth has proved he is one of the best riders out there. So I think it’s really interesting to go back five years before separate raced in Europe to see what was this guy like? Could we see this potential in him. And let me tell you the fall before Chris and I had written an article was set on climbing and we had truly seen that potential in him. We had a time trial in November of a famous climb here in Boulder called Flagstaff. It set real really didn’t want to do it. He kept saying I’m not in shape. I don’t want people to see my power numbers from this because it’s going to make me look bad. And then we time traveled up Flagstaff and Sep got the second fastest time ever up that climb. And for any of you who know Boulder, you look at the top 10 And any of the big climbs here. And it’s all famous people. So to get second, particularly in November, and we had snow on the road. That’s unbelievable. So Chris, and I looked at that and went, Okay, there’s really something to this guy. So we wanted to dig in to you know, what is he like? What is his motivation. And what I found most fascinating in this episode is we’ve talked a lot in the show about athletes who are externally motivated and internally motivated. So externally motivated athletes are those athletes who it’s all about the win. It’s all about beating other people, they don’t care that much. If they enjoy it, they don’t care that much about the process. They just want to win. And obviously I’m telling you the extremes. On the other extreme, that pure internally motivated athlete, winning doesn’t really do it for them. It’s all about the process is all about going out and executing their intervals as effectively as possible. It’s about in that team meeting, they’re given a job and then they show up to the race. And it’s about executing the job of that day. And what we saw in this interview was SEP is he’s pretty extreme. On that internally motivated side, when we are asking about trying to win, do you want to go over and win the Tour de France? He was kinda, yeah, that doesn’t really matter to me. My team manager wants me to do something, and I’m gonna go and do that. And you could certainly sense in him. It was a I’m gonna go and execute or die. You know, there is a aggressiveness. There’s certainly a strong motivation and him, but it was about the process. It was about doing the job that was given to him. You watch a lot of movies and the stereotype in the movies about that successful athlete is the externally motivated athlete. But sure enough, there’s been plenty of very successful athletes who are very externally motivated, just watch that documentary of Michael Jordan. But you can also see that there are athletes who are very internally motivated, who can be just as successful. So that’s what I was fascinated by. That’s what I really enjoyed seeing about Sep. So let’s go back five years and see that athlete before he went over to Europe and started winning Grand Tours. Ah, November, the errors Chris, the leaves are falling, and I get to take a break from riding my bike, now’s a great time of year to rest and reflect on the past season, visit fast talk labs and take a look at our pathways on recovery and data analysis. These two in depth guides can help you get the most from your offseason, see more fast talk labs.com/pathways.
Chris Case 05:25
It’s been a rapid transition that you’ve made between collegiate racing pretty quickly to the top of the domestic racing field. And then pretty quickly after that, jumping straight into the world tour. So we want to sit down, we want to discuss all of that we wanted to discuss how your training has changed, what things you need to work on the mental aspects of that transition, the tricks that you’ve maybe employed, the things you’ve quickly realized that you need to work on all of that. Why don’t you start by giving us a sense of how long you’ve actually been writing? Just that rapid progression that you’ve made?
Sepp Kuss 06:07
Yeah, I mean, writing in general, since I was, you know, very young, but you know, never at a really serious level, like, like, a lot of juniors or even younger kids are these days, but uh, yeah, I mean, I think, seriously racing. I started in 2013, where I was fully focused on at the time mountain biking online. And then yeah, 2015 did a couple of road races to supplement the the mountain biking I believe.
Chris Case 06:39
I laughed. I laughed. Sorry to interrupt. I laugh because you’re that’s three years ago. And now you’re in the world tour.
Sepp Kuss 06:45
Yeah, yeah. So I you just spoke about the the collegiate scene and I think my first race on a road bike was in the Denver City Park for collegiate race. Yeah. Yes. Like I had never written in the, in the drops so much. And I started the first 20 minutes or 30 minutes, I was only in the hoods. And then one of my teammates was like, sup, you need to get on the drops. And then you can corner and then you can be arrow. Yeah, do all these things that I just never really never thought about. But
Chris Case 07:18
right. And that was probably literally three years ago. Yeah. Because that was probably in the spring. Yeah. Of 2015. And here we are 20 2018. And you’ve gone from not knowing to really ride in the drops in a crit to racing against the world’s best riders. Right. So that’s a great way to encapsulate your rapid progression and sport.
Trevor Connor 07:41
Yeah, I’m still getting over the fact that your first road race was a race that I did after I had retired from racing full time. And I did it five years before. My last time,
Chris Case 07:56
throwback. Yeah. Well, is there something you can share with us about how those transitions have taken place? Let’s take the first one from mountain bike, collegiate mountain biker to being a member of a rally and stepping up. You did? The Colorado classic last year I remember. So that’s in itself a pretty big transition of a rapid progression. Can you walk us through how that went?
Sepp Kuss 08:27
Yeah, for me in the especially in the early stages, it was all pretty, pretty natural, and just going with what I thought was most appealing or fun at the time. So I mean, for me, riding my road bike was always something that I would supplement my mountain biking with. So it’s not like I was a total stranger to riding my road bike, but I would never really do any races on it. So. And I thought, yeah, I like watching road bike races, and it seems cool. And it seems a lot different than than mountain biking, and certainly a lot different than than mountain biking is now and in the more modern form. So nothing to lose by trying. And at that time. I think the big catalyst for making that choice was I was just kind of not really burnt out on mountain biking, but I was I just felt like I was stalling. You know, I wasn’t really getting results to write home about it at World Cups or anything. And yeah, I just wanted to see what I was capable of, because I felt like I could didn’t really have any more room to grow or maybe not even more potential on the mountain bike. So I thought yeah, there’s absolutely nothing to lose by trying out road racing.
Trevor Connor 09:41
That’s fair. You’re 16 You’ve been at it a long time exploring new avenues in life.
Chris Case 09:47
Can you give us a sense of what your training was like when you were a collegiate mountain biker?
Sepp Kuss 09:52
Yeah, when I was collegiate I was. I would pretty much just go on a couple over the You can Yeah, just as long as I could ride, basically and do as many clients as I could do until I was dead, and then I would go home and go back to the cafeteria and stuff my face have a couple Cokes. And
Chris Case 10:13
so basically, not a lot of thought went into it. It was right. As much as I couldn’t have fun with it. Yeah,
Sepp Kuss 10:18
it was definitely the more train harder, not smarter. I mean, it was really fun at the time, and I don’t think I paid any price for it. Or, you know, I didn’t stunt any development or anything. I think it was just,
Chris Case 10:33
it’s probably what would it keeps you fresh to like, you don’t want a lot of structure, perhaps when you’re progressing that quickly through the sport or just getting into it. Yeah, I assume you weren’t using a power meter much or looking at that data? No, at that time? No,
Sepp Kuss 10:50
I think I had a power meter. Starting in 2014. Okay, yeah. Before that. I just go on Epic mountain bike rides are just all fun and feel. Yeah, just fun in that. Yeah. I never really thought much of it. And I was never like, oh, I need to make this choice in this trip. It was just yeah, whatever.
Chris Case 11:10
You probably at that time, didn’t think that you were going to become a professional cyclist either. No,
Sepp Kuss 11:15
definitely not. I thought, yeah, just, I mean, I obviously loved riding my bike. But I’d never thought that I would be post college that I would be doing this for a living or anything like that. I just thought, yeah, do it to the best of my ability. But never was I never had a plan for myself. Like, I have to do x and y to be a world tour by the year 2000. Whatever. So right? Never never had that idea.
Trevor Connor 11:41
So you transition from mountain biking to collegiate. So you start to include your roadside. What was like for you when you started doing your first NRC? So I’ve seen a lot of guys who are racing locally, and then they go to an NRC for the first time. And it’s a bit of a Yeah, a shell shock reaction. What was it like for you?
Sepp Kuss 11:59
Yeah, I think 2015 The only NRC raise I did was healer. And I was on amateur team at the time. team out of Utah inner mountain live well. And yeah, did he lie? And I thought, Yeah, I’m pretty good at climbing. I think like, I can do the the Strava K ones and Boulder. I’m probably all right. And then off, man, I just got totally shattered at that race. So it was it was pretty fun. I thought, Man, I guess I’ll never make it as a road racer. Hilarious. It’s just like, I can’t I can’t climb with the top 30 guys in this race. But I, you know, I wasn’t like crushed because of it. I just thought well, and these guys are really fast. And then but yeah, I think that just shows how much in roadracing how much of it is experience and knowing how to raise rather than just putting your head down and going hard, which you see a lot. Because in your view, you see people or you’re raised with people that are that actually know how to raise? It’s not that they mean they do but nobody’s Head and Shoulders physiologically above. Everybody else.
Chris Case 13:10
That’s right. You’re all humans. Yes. The intelligence sometimes. Yeah, sometimes
Sepp Kuss 13:14
experience and the ability to do a lot of different things. But yes, so
Trevor Connor 13:19
I was gonna answer that first time. Akela. Was it there just that much stronger? Or was it much as much experience knowing where to be at the right time? And yeah,
Sepp Kuss 13:29
I think for me, it was a lot of it was experienced, because I was just using so much energy when I didn’t need to. And then by the time the claims came, I was completely empty. And I think it was a bit of that and bit of just physically maturing and you
Chris Case 13:46
were 21 at the time. 2020
Sepp Kuss 13:48
or 21. Yeah, so my sophomore year of college.
Trevor Connor 13:55
So how to progress from there? It was, it was at the point where you said, I want to try to make a go with this, or did you just
Sepp Kuss 14:00
Yeah, I mean, even even though I did in 2015, and I think I did, I only did he law and cascade. And I didn’t really have like any big results or anything that indicated that I could do while there. But even then I was much more intrigued by the racing than I was with the mountain bike racing. So I said, Well, now now this is the new project to be good at that road racing. And so then yeah, 2016 I said, Okay, I’m not gonna make any more I’ll just focus on this and my best shot
Chris Case 14:34
in you use the word project, do you? This might take us down are off on a tangent. But do you consider this like an experiment? I know you in the past, you haven’t had a coach and we’ve talked about that our year. I assume that you use that word, because you’re always learning you’re always sort of tweaking things and trying to progress.
Sepp Kuss 14:57
I think it’d be silly to say that racing The World Tour is like a project for me, because it’s like I can’t, you know, there’s not much room. Right, you know, for, for error or for saying, Yeah, I don’t feel like doing it, you know? Yeah, it’s, yeah, that’s probably the pinnacle of what I could do. So I think that’s pretty exciting. But
Trevor Connor 15:17
well, so taking a step back, you said you didn’t really have any results in 2015 that said anything, but this now became your project? Yeah. What were the steps in that project? How did you say I’m gonna go from what it was in 2015, to a guy who’s winning these races? Was there a methodology to it? Or was it just
Chris Case 15:37
right, right? Yeah.
Sepp Kuss 15:38
I think most of it was just the mindset, really, because when I was mountain biking, I just, I didn’t have that like winning mindset, because I knew like, Oh, I’m starting fifth row in this race. It’s not feasible for me to get a top 10. I mean, you know, there, there are guys that do that. And they’re incredible writers, but I was being honest with myself. And I said, That’s not, not for me. So I think when I, when I fully, at least mentally when I fully went to the road, I said, Okay, this is a sport where you don’t always have to be the freak of nature or whatever to win the race. And, you know, there’s a lot of things that go into actually getting the results. So I said, Well, it’s, it’s not just black and white. So there’s a lot of things that I could improve on. And then the racing was so exciting to me. So I said, Well, I have so much room to improve in the positioning and tactics, that that was a big, big aspect of it, not just the, the the physical side, because I don’t think my training changed too much, really.
Trevor Connor 16:43
So how did you figure it out? You didn’t have a coach to teach you this stuff. Were you talking to people that just go to races? And yeah, I’m talking to
Sepp Kuss 16:50
people and yeah, I mean, there’s so many people in Boulder that that have, you know, good information. Yeah, just the technique of not just riding the race, but of like, pedaling being smooth on the bike, all those things that. Yeah, but I think still a lot of people don’t fully notice or understanding themselves. And it’s hard to say what exactly clicked, but I really do think it’s just the mentality. My I think my body I was suited more towards the road racing, but mentally, I was just more fresh for road cycling.
Trevor Connor 17:26
Fair enough, so there was never that shellshock of, Oh, my God, I’m out of my league.
Sepp Kuss 17:30
I mean, now there is Yeah. Okay. We’ll get to that.
Chris Case 17:35
We’re, we’re anxiously awaiting your answers on that. Yeah.
Trevor Connor 17:39
But certainly, so in the in the domestic scene, you never had that it was just more this is something that I want to do. You were excited. And
Sepp Kuss 17:46
yeah, I mean, there’s so much that you can look into and like nowadays, you can look up any pro on Strava. And 60% of them have their power number, you can say, Oh, that’s a cool interval. Like, my try that today or that things like that, or you see the numbers they do and races and you say, Okay, well, I that might be attainable for me with certain amount of training and things like that. So yeah, I think nowadays, there’s so much that’s transparent. Like for me, a guy who likes to study on that sort of thing. It seemed more realistic.
Trevor Connor 18:20
Your mindset fascinates me, because they’re you and this is full complement. We kind of suspected this beforehand that we talked about how you progress, then you just kind of were very methodical about it and said, Okay, I’m here, I want to get here. And I’m gonna figure out how to do that. You just found your ways of doing it. And doesn’t sound like certainly at the domestic scene. there was ever a doubt of, Can I do this? It was just, let’s, let’s figure it out. I think back to a race I did a long time ago. So this is before your time to the big race. Back in the old days was toward a tuna. And I went with this composite squad and we had two guys on it. One guy who he was a really good regional rider where he was from, he was winning a lot of races and they the idea was all team was going to work for him. And then there was this kid on the team. He was 19 he was at his first big race. And it was fascinating watching because the guy who was the really good regional rider, he was used to just I can just break away right away from the fields and win the races whatever. He tried this in an NRC he was out there for 10 minutes to feel caught. dropped them. Yeah. And at the hotel that night, he just said I’m never doing an NRC again. Never did. Yeah, never never left where he was from. The kid was out of his league. He was struggling. He was having a tough time. barely made it through the race, but completely different response. He just went, I want to figure this out. This is the coolest thing in the world. Like I am definitely not good enough for this right now. But boy, I want to get there and he ended up going pro. Oh, that’s awesome. Yeah. And so it was kind of I had a feeling you were more like he As even if you’ve struggled, it was just not going to figure this out.
Sepp Kuss 20:03
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Like, I mean, this year, I’m in a totally different situation and even further out of my comfort zone, but thank you, even if you’re just getting your head kicked in all the time, it’s for me, it’s, it’s demoralizing, but it’s, you know, you have to start somewhere. And some guys, they’re, they’re Neo pro year. They’re like, Bernal, he’s winning almost winning World races. So, but I think those guys are the exception and being realistic with myself. It’s, you know, I have to start at a at a lower level or expectations. And, yeah, I think if you immediately say all, this isn’t for me, it’s not in my, in my wheelhouse. Never again, then already losing, but I
Chris Case 20:47
think it says something about ego, too, you know, like a regional rider that doesn’t NRC and gets his butt kicked, says I’m never doing one again, because he probably wants to win regional races, because he wants that feeling of winning the 19 year old that says, you know, I want to figure this out and turns Pro and with you said, it’s like, I want to figure this out. Because ego isn’t a barrier for you to progress and you are willing to get your head kicked in to hopefully one day, figure it out. And whatever that means for you. You’re never going to win the Tour de France, right? No. And you’re accepted. You accept that, but but a result here or there is that’s what keeps you going.
Trevor Connor 21:27
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Well, that story that I just telling you, I tell that to athletes, somewhat regularly. And I use that story as as explaining why failure is important, simply because it’s exactly that there was an ego thing, the regional rider, he did not like to fail, he did not like to lose. And when he competed at a level where he necessarily was going to lose for a while. He said no, I want to go back to where I can win. Where the the kid had progressed much further and called him a kid. I’m not giving you the name, because I’ve know you’ve heard of him and you’re gonna go Wait, he was you think he’s a kid?
Chris Case 22:04
Trevor Connor 22:05
Not a kid any? Well, you know, you were brought Britten’s teammate. Yeah. I mean, Rob, and I were training out of the same center when he was just starting out. Yeah, that’s awesome. What I’m interested in asking you and what this kid was willing to accept is if you really want to hit higher levels, failure is a big part of the game. And it seems like that just doesn’t bug you at all.
Sepp Kuss 22:26
No, not too much. I mean, I think I’m pretty, pretty optimistic, not like delusionally optimistic. Yeah, there’s, there’s definitely people that are I think, delusionally optimistic that
Chris Case 22:37
that’s kind of read I guess, but no, no. Especially
Sepp Kuss 22:41
in cycling. You know, when when it’s so accessible to be like a pro, you know, there’s people that are just forcing it too much, you know, but for me, I’m just pretty, pretty optimistic. And I, I know, I know what my limitations are. But you know, you guys, surprise yourself.
Chris Case 23:02
Let’s jump into that a little bit. You have had several DNF this year? Yeah. You’re You’re stepped into the big leagues. Yeah. You’ve been in the breakaway. I strive to be onkey. You had some some highs and some probably more lows, though. Yeah. And you’ve had your head kicked in as, as you’ve said, How do you cope with that? It’s
Sepp Kuss 23:24
hard to say because it’s for for those races, like, for example, like Basque Country, I’ve never done anything. That’s all that hard. And I’ve never done that race before. Even so it’s I don’t know what to go off of, for a lot of those races. You know, like, I don’t know if, what, what kind of improvement I can shoot for like next year or in the next month? Because I don’t know what, you know, it’s completely foreign. Trained to me, you know. So
Trevor Connor 23:51
what was do you say, it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done? What was different compared to like a cascade or even a Tour of California,
Sepp Kuss 23:58
for Basque country is just, yeah, harder all day. And, like, for me, I felt like I was like, maybe probably was like one of the heavier guys. So if you get dropped on a, on a climb, there’s literally no one to get dropped with.
Chris Case 24:14
Can you can you take us through one of the stages, like, just give us give us the dirty, despairing tale of sep at the tour of the Basque Country?
Sepp Kuss 24:24
Yeah, I think, see, the first stage was, it was hard, but it was normal. But the second stage is, I mean, all the gaps are still pretty close on GC. So it was probably like a two hour fight for the breakaway. And we started just on a standard coastal road kind of headwind. And then we got to the top of the climb, it was still beautiful weather and then all of a sudden the clouds came in and it just started raining mysteriously on this super fast descent. So then the group split, I think right at the bottom of the descent, and somehow I was in the first part of it, just recovering moves and everything like that I ended up being but half of our team was in the second one half it was we’re in the first so and then from there after the big split, we went into this crazy Road, road of 1000 turns or something.
Chris Case 25:14
Sounds great racing, right?
Sepp Kuss 25:16
Every every turn full sprint, every straightaway as I was one position one visit, you know, I just tried to hang on and then I went back. Last we’ll go hang on, I think. And then, at that point I was I was completely completely dead. And then then we go up the first actual climb, well categorize, climb, which is steep go path. Yeah, so then I’m still last wheel just coming out of these little, you know, nasty corner, flat, uphill, kind of road. And then yeah, and then I got dropped from the first group, I think I’m just in no man’s land, like I couldn’t, I just stayed with the first group. And then I saw, I’m just kind of there, trying to save energy, but not really. And then the second group catches me. And then we still have to come back to the first group. So then I’m pulling again, with with my teammates that are back there to get up to Primos. Again, in the first group, and then right, when we make contact, then then we’re writing the front again. And which I’m happy to do because I’d rather do my work and be dead last by 30 minutes, then just survive and write
Chris Case 26:26
you feel like, you have a purpose. Yeah, yeah. That that probably helps mentally. Yeah, definitely.
Sepp Kuss 26:33
And then after that, I think after 30 minutes of pulling, then we started this really heinous climb in the middle of the race. I think it was like 12 15% for it seemed like it was 10k. But it’s probably only 2k. And then got dropped on that. And then I think I there, maybe three guys with me, it just shows the level of that race, though, like no one really write that. But for me, that was that was the limit, you know, and then for the next I think, 50k, it was just us in the cars, you know, trying to get back. And then right when I get back, I think I’ll take some bottles, you know, you know, be a good, good teammate. And then, and then rise, I take the bottles started. Another I think just kept three climb, but at that time, you know, felt like it kept one climb to me and I have like, five bottles on me and I think I can make it to the top. Step, just get rid of the bottles, you’re not gonna make it out of the sky. Get rid of the bottles again. Blindly think get to the group over the top, and I think okay, now now I just have to survive. Okay, there’s nothing more I can do. And that was stage. One step forward. Two steps backwards. Yeah. But yeah.
Trevor Connor 27:45
So what was your feeling after that? Did you? Did you just go back and go, What did I get myself? Or were you excited? Or
Sepp Kuss 27:52
I was pretty excited when I finished. And then I get on the bus and everyone looks at me. Oh, so
Chris Case 27:59
we didn’t kill the Americans.
Sepp Kuss 28:01
Okay, good. But yeah, after that stage, I actually felt a lot better. Physically, I think, for some reason, I just was improving from then on, but I mean, it’s still really hard. Right? Every stage was. Yeah.
Trevor Connor 28:15
So here’s the question I have for you. And I have a definite bias. In terms of the answer for this question. Yeah, but I’m interested in your response. Do you think any amount of training could have prepared you for that race? Or do you feel you need to do races at that level before you can actually do races at that level?
Sepp Kuss 28:35
Yeah, I think in my case, I think this is my opinion, but I personally think I could have trained a lot more leading into that race because it was I think, a couple of days before we did a one day race fall to Lindbergh and and before that I was just feeling really really bad and training and just I was supposed to do a power test I couldn’t even do the power test. I mean, there’s I got five minutes in and couldn’t even hold anything worth
Trevor Connor 29:03
worth while only what do you and I do? Yeah.
Chris Case 29:06
Sepp Kuss 29:08
Watts more than what you guys are machines. Yeah. So I think I think mentally for me it’s it’s harder for me to be in a good mental place if I know that I’m not like at my best physically leading into a race for I mean, for me, it’s just in general it’s an adjustment of being with like, you know, team team trainers and everything not not in a bad way. It’s just you know, I’m used to having being very autonomous and for me, I don’t need people like checking in to see how I’m doing training I just do the work and confident in what I do and then usually works out but yeah, before that race, I was in a bad place physically and I think maybe mentally to it just because I knew that it was gonna be a hard race like I’m not anywhere near my best shape and even in my best shape, it would still be a you know, really hard race. To get through so,
Trevor Connor 30:00
so it wasn’t a shock to the system of oh my god, I had no idea it was gonna be this hard. It was just more. You’re aware you’re going in not firing on all cylinders. Yeah,
Sepp Kuss 30:09
yeah. And yeah, I mean, personally, I have lower expectations. And then when I started improving later in the race, it was probably a better better sign. But yeah, going into it. I was just ready to
Chris Case 30:23
do you, you know, you going back to your story about the tour of the healer, the first time you did that you think, you know, I can climb and you go there and you get crushed. Yeah, now stepped up. So then you you go to the tour of the Basque Country. And a similar thing sort of to that tour, the healing experience happens to you get your head kicked in is really hard. You’re like, holy crap. So where do you go from here? How do you get to the point where next year or two years from now at the tour the Basque Country, you’re not fighting to hang on to the just the, with your fingertips to the back of the group. You’re contesting. You’re contending or you’re just able to do more work. And it’s just a more pleasant experience.
Sepp Kuss 31:14
Yeah. So you’re asking, What do you think I need to do? Or yeah,
Chris Case 31:17
I mean, you maybe didn’t have an exact roadmap of how you went from getting your butt kicked at the turn of the healer to where you are now. But you made it there. And I would assume that you want to have better experiences the next time you do a tour of the Basque Country. So do you have a plan in your mind of how you get there? Yeah,
Sepp Kuss 31:39
that’s a good thing to bring up with the with Hilo, because yeah, it was a similar feeling like, Oh, I think I’m okay. But I just did this race. And I’m, you know, not not okay. So it’s the same thing with Yeah, those crazy climbing World Tour races where you think, yeah, we’ll get like top 20 on one stage. And but yeah, so I think, yeah, I think it’s the same thing, though. Just just doing it once. is better than just going into it for the first time? So I think, yeah, for one, one time of the back, I think, yeah, there’s no reason that just from an experience standpoint, that it won’t be 10 times better than that. You know, maybe that’s optimistic. But I but just in my observations of how I’ve progressed in road races, a lot of it is just so much experience for me, and then been if I’m in a similar physical shape. I’m a lot better the second time around once I write down a race or experience in certain situations. So that
Trevor Connor 32:41
was certainly what I was getting out with my bias. I’m a big believer that we rise or lower to the level of the competition. Yeah, you just kind of naturally start to understand, here’s the level that’s expected of me. And we’re actually somewhat it’s difficult for us to really exceed that level. So you need to kind of get hit by that higher level and go Oh, my God. Yeah. And then reset your expectations in your head of what’s normal. Yeah,
Sepp Kuss 33:05
yeah, definitely. Yeah. Yeah, I think my usually, if I’m going to raise my expectations are usually pretty, pretty accurate. So it’s not like I get super, super frustrated, you know, after race, I can move on. Pretty quick, which is I, for me, it’s a strength because, you know, there’s always, always another day, always another race. And it’s not the end of the world, you know, but yeah, I think where we’re at maybe some guys struggle, especially in their first years, not that I’ve been through it yet, or anything. But if you just dig yourself in a mental hold, and you’re never going to have different expectations, or you’re always have expectations that are too high, and then you’re You’re never satisfied or
Trevor Connor 33:47
you are a true optimist. So the big question, I want to ask you, and please take your time with this. You know, one thing you’ve demonstrated, as you’ve been somebody who’s able to jump up a level, get kicked around a little bit and stay centered, stay focused, and figure it out and learn to be successful at that next level. And it’s kind of exciting to have you in here while you’re in the process of that right now. But certainly everybody in I’m going to say most of our listeners here at some point or another are going to take on a race that’s going to be above any the level they’re used to, and they’re going to have to confront being a little out of their league. What advice do you have for the listeners for dealing with those situations?
Sepp Kuss 34:28
That’s a good question. Yeah, I mean, I guess the first first bullet point in that would be just know that if you’ve done the preparation and you’ve obviously earned that through just being like starting in this race, you know, whether whether it’s because you’re in that category of your cat two and you just upgraded and now you’re going to cat to race or, or you’re, you know, you’re a pro and you’re in a pro race, you’ve obviously earned that so it’s not like you shouldn’t be there. So that’s, you know, the first Mental roadblock and then just know that when it’s when it’s really hard and you think, Oh man, I might let go this is really this is really hard. It’s hard for everybody else you know, that’s, I think that’s what you notice in Europe. It’s like when it’s hard every everyone’s suffering but they’re also really get it suffering. And some guys are good at hiding it too. So it’s, you think, oh man like, this is this is mentally and physically really hard, but you just have to, you just have to hang on and sometimes you just don’t have a choice but to hang on. At least a few. That’s what you think of in your head think now there’s no, no option I need to hang on to this group. And what does
Chris Case 35:39
it mean to be really good at suffering? I think people out there don’t you know that that’s a bit vague. Do you use any particular strategy to help you cope with the pain, the suffering in the is it a mental thing? Is it uh, do you have a mantra? Do you play a play a specific song in your head? Is there anything like that? Or is it just true germination?
Sepp Kuss 36:05
No, Montreux? But I think just from experience, like when you let go, and you have like, go for, what, 10 seconds or five minutes, you think, oh, man, you know, you’re it’s almost a worse feeling than hanging on and, and being in that other dark place. So you always, at least for me, I think back to that, I think it’s worse when when you not give up. But when you can’t go anymore. And in regret, the mental outweighs the the physical of it. And
Trevor Connor 36:37
I work with athletes who struggle with that one of the things I have them do is when they line up on the start line, they have to finish the race. The reason being when they get to that point where they’re really hurting, and let go, it’s usually with the idea. Well, I’ll just pull out of the race. Yeah, all you have to do is have one race where you sit there behind chasing behind the field by yourself for an hour with everybody on the sideline going way to go. To just kind of go, I’m never doing that again. I will go to that other dark place. And hang on. Yep. So I don’t have to be behind the field.
Sepp Kuss 37:12
Yeah, yeah. Because yeah, then you always, you know, when you’re when you’re decompress from the race or whatever, you always look back and think, yeah, I probably could have probably could have just dug a little deeper. Yeah, I won’t. I won’t let it happen next time. It takes a while to, to know that. But I think that’s what I I think of it’s just the disappointing yourself. So
Chris Case 37:33
guilt or regret or whatever. Yeah. Yeah. So
Trevor Connor 37:37
continuing with that question. Let’s take that cat to this guy’s you have a rider. They’ve just upgraded to Cat two, they’ve gone into a race and they just got kicked around, dropped out of the group finished way back? What do they do then? What what do you do to get yourself back on course? Do you reevaluate your training? Is it just mental and tell yourself eventually I’m going to figure it out? Or how do you keep yourself from getting demoralized and is
Sepp Kuss 38:03
definitely helpful to evaluate. But I don’t think it’s necessarily good to evaluate the whole whole training, because a lot of it is just just trust. Yeah, sometimes it’s just just the luck thing, or you know, and there’s so many so many factors and road races, like you got killed in this crit, but these three guys were it was their Peak Peak event of the year and and for you, it was your your build up or whatever. And now there’s, there’s so many people in the race and so many different outcomes that you can’t just be set on that end result because there’s so many so many be variables that are out of control, you know, so if you did your best I don’t see why you can’t go into the next race and think okay, well, maybe the whatever variables there are, are going to work in my favor. Maybe. Maybe I’m good at cross winds. And you know, the next race has crossed wins, maybe then those guys that beat me in this race will be behind her. Let’s keep in
Trevor Connor 39:00
perspective. Yeah, that is a bad race. So I suck and I should quit.
Sepp Kuss 39:06
Yeah, yeah, I know, you should never get to take it personally, I don’t think
Background Noise 39:13
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Chris Case 39:44
We have this sort of unique opportunity because last November, all three of us sitting here working on this science of climbing project and it’s November you go out and do a time trial up fly except mountain in Boulder, which is sort of famous climb, everybody uses it to test their form. You’re wearing lots of clothes, it’s 30 degrees Fahrenheit out it was cold that day. And you set time that until yesterday, or was was second on the list. Lachlan went up there on air and vestiges was worthy. Yeah. And now we’re talking to you, and it’s well into your first season on the world tour. It brings up a number of questions in my mind. At the time, you said, oh, you know, I’m not. I’m not going too fast. Now for being in November, I’m not overtraining. Because I’m getting ready for the World Tour. I’m not, I’m not doing anything differently than I would otherwise. And Trevor and I are like, Well, no, if I were him, I’d be like, Man, I’m stepping up, I’ve got a maybe do a little bit more. Looking back on that time. Did you do too much? Were you over? Did you come in a little bit over not overcooked, but with a little bit too much in you?
Sepp Kuss 41:02
It’s hard to say because comparing it to like, 2016, I was training a lot more at that time into that, you know, and I was, yeah, maybe comparing 2016, the beginning of 2017, November 2017. I was in much better shape 2016 At that time, but you can’t really compare, like, I guess I was so used to taking, like, four months off the bike for ski season, you know, and then start riding again in May, and then, you know, start skiing again, when when the snow falls. So, so now it’s like, oh, I’m, I, I’m a cyclist. Like, I like to ride my bike. If I if I take like four weeks off completely, or just running or whatever, then I come back, and I have like knee injuries and all this stuff. So I just prefer to ride more in the offseason. But uh, yeah, so this season was pretty. That’s a pretty relaxed relative to seasons before in terms of writing or training during the offseason. But yeah, I don’t know, I think, maybe a bit more rest, just knowing how hard the races are in the spring and just being a little a little fresher. But
Chris Case 42:14
you’re saying that that is what you did? Or that what you will be doing next year? Or both?
Sepp Kuss 42:23
I was kind of like half in half out? Because I said, Oh, yeah, it’s maybe good to have a bit more rest. But at the same time, you know, I want to not just be surviving in the spring races. So maybe I should, you know, really, really go all in now and then. And then take a good break milled season, but which is usually worked for me. But yeah, maybe I underestimated the the amount of rest that you need, leading into a huge season and more races and everything. Because I think in the past, at least on the US scene. I was Yeah, training a lot more a lot more intensity. Yeah, just just more in general. And maybe maybe training at a higher level in terms of numbers that I was putting up in training, but but I wasn’t racing nearly as much as I am now. So So
Trevor Connor 43:15
now you’re getting more of it through racing.
Sepp Kuss 43:18
Yeah, I think I mean, yeah, that the group had is still
Trevor Connor 43:25
not that big a time.
Chris Case 43:28
I’m curious also to know if I don’t think you’re adamantly opposed to having a coach. You didn’t have a coach when we were working with you in November. I assume that they’re the lotto NL yumbo has some coaches that you’re working with? Do you think that have you reassessed whether you need a personal coach to work with you to get you to the next level to be able to compete more in these races that you’re now dealing?
Sepp Kuss 43:58
Yeah, I think just from the team standpoint, yeah, you definitely need coaches that are internal just to make sure everyone’s doing the work and because it’s it’s very formulaic, you’re not in a bad way it’s just they have this certain race where they need these riders to be ready and this rider to be the leader. So I think for them, it makes it easier to manage everybody from a coaching standpoint, so I can totally understand that but I think for me, like I mentioned earlier, at least mentally i i work better just do my own thing that I think something I can improve on is like leaving comments on my you know, my training files because I think well if if it weren’t good I don’t have anything anything to say if if something goes bad you’ll you’ll hear from me but usually it’s pretty pretty even keel terms of what I what I have to say but but obviously communication is is really important. But yeah, it’s it’s hard to say if I would be better in this in this Like world’s worst situation, if I would be better at doing my own thing or or with a more managed? Yes,
Chris Case 45:07
Trevor, I think you probably have some some things to say. I
Trevor Connor 45:13
really don’t know, I’m quite interested. I mean, as, as we’ve talked about every athlete is different and some really neat guidance. Everything I’ve seen of you, you’re not somebody who just trains haphazardly or randomly, you’re very thoughtful about it. And, you know, my guess is if we looked at your your training routine, we’d say that’s, that’s very structured, that’s well coached. And you figure that out on your own. And you also have to be comfortable with your training. And every time we talk about this with you, I kind of hear in your voice this, I like my freedom. I like to be making my own choices. And you don’t like the idea of somebody coming in and telling you what you should be doing every day. Yeah,
Sepp Kuss 45:51
it’s not that I don’t like the idea. But if, for example, if I have a, a general training day, then I think, oh, what should I do? And then I and then a lot of the times, I’ll just end up doing something stupid, like, writing 270 watts for you know, whatever, and then is not really going to do too much for you. But yeah.
Trevor Connor 46:16
Sepp Kuss 46:19
For me, that’s, that’s hard. But it’s, yeah. Yeah, it for me. If it’s if it’s open ended with, with someone telling you that it’s open ended, then I’ll always strive to do something. Yeah, maybe stupid. Yeah. Something that you look back on two days later and say, Oh, I shouldn’t have done that. That’s why I’m tired today. But before it was more more methodical, because I had just this plan. Right? And yeah, now it’s a it’s a different plan, because you have different roles. And, you know, you may not know if you’re gonna be subbing in for a race that weekend, or something like that. So it’s just different, different training philosophies, which, which is not not a bad thing, just just just figuring it out. Yeah.
Trevor Connor 47:08
So the question I’m interested in asking you is, you obviously figured out a very good training routine to make yourself very successful in the North American circuit. So you’re now just now getting over to Europe. You’ve talked to us about Basque country and what some of these races are like, now that you’re getting a sense for it over there. What elements would you change about your training? Is there anything you look back and say that was good for North American style racing, but boy, I need to do it differently now?
Sepp Kuss 47:38
Yeah, it’s interesting, because like I said, the team has a general coaching philosophy is so you can say, Oh, look, look at primo is we’re doing similar training, but he’s already won two World Tour races this year. Right. You know, so obviously, it’s really good training. So yeah, I can take confidence in that. But I think, for the North American stuff, I guess I was training in a way that was where I could win win the race, you know, it was all about making that, like a winning acceleration or being able to attack Yeah, being able to attack or being able to clear the lactate, when, when it’s, you know, a kilometer to go. And now it’s different roles. So maybe, yeah, more low, low threshold training. And yeah, just to make it through the longer races, and in the US, it’s really high power at the end, but everything preceding that is not.
Trevor Connor 48:35
So it’s really us is really working that high intensity, or can that yeah, power reserves much more about? You need to hang on for five hours?
Sepp Kuss 48:44
Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Yeah, you need to be extremely, extremely efficient. Yeah, to be able to produce that 20 minute power that you did in the US after writing 150 Watts, but you need to do that in Europe after writing a lot more than 150. It’s
Chris Case 49:02
also I mean, you’re hinting at the fact or not even hinting, but saying it has a lot to do with the role that you play. It used to be when you’re on rally, you are going for stage wins. Yeah. Now your bottle guy, huh? So your role is completely different. You don’t necessarily need to function in the same way your training has has evolved because of that. Yeah, yeah.
Sepp Kuss 49:27
I agree with that.
Trevor Connor 49:28
So for the guys over in Europe who are trying to win, is it Are they training similar to the guys trying to win in the US or is it still different?
Sepp Kuss 49:38
I yeah, I think they train a lot easier than guys in the US. Really? Oh, yeah. I mean, that’s, that’s my, yeah. Not not easier. Just just different.
Chris Case 49:48
Is it more intelligent?
Trevor Connor 49:52
A lot more low intensity?
Sepp Kuss 49:53
Yeah, I’d say that. Yeah. One more.
Chris Case 49:56
Try. Hard Days are really hard in the easy day. is a really easy? Yeah, yeah, it’s more polarized. Yeah,
Sepp Kuss 50:04
just a lot more a lot more mild, you know, just just a lot more just riding I guess. At least that’s what I’ve noticed in my own training too. It’s a lot of just just riding. Just riding. Alright, no secret that no secret formula is just are there
Chris Case 50:22
numbers attached to those those easy rides? Are they just like, go easy? Or do they say Stabilo?
Sepp Kuss 50:27
Yeah, for me, it’s ride less than 210 watts. Yeah, just ride. Okay.
Trevor Connor 50:34
So 210 watts. So we’ve measured when he was just coming off of a break SEPs threshold power at right about 330. I’m guessing you’re significantly higher than that now. So you’re when when you’re saying 210 Watts, we’re probably talking 60 65% of your threshold power.
Chris Case 50:54
About that, too.
Sepp Kuss 50:57
I can’t do that.
Chris Case 50:59
Two thirds. Yeah. Yeah.
Sepp Kuss 51:04
Yeah. Okay. Pretty easy. Yeah.
Chris Case 51:06
And let’s disregard your results. Let’s throw that. I mean, it’s hard to deal but throw out all the other things that have to do with bike racing. Yeah. How do you actually feel physically? Do you feel stronger than you’ve ever been? No,
Sepp Kuss 51:21
no, no. But yeah, it’s just such a different situation. You know, like, if I if I compare it to a lactate test I did. After California last year to now it would be probably much better last year. But yeah, I think there’s yeah, there’s so much going into that, you know, the fact that I’ve already done probably like three fourths of the race days that I did last year and all the rest that’s associated with that and heavier than I was last year, just for whatever reason, you know, just just think things like that.
Trevor Connor 51:56
Joe Dombroski, one of the leaders of EF education first Drapac, presented by Cannondale was the 2015 winner of the tour of Utah. This year, Dombroski and the EF education squad were what a SEPs top rivals for the yellow jersey are the second to last day the Queen stage of the Tour EF education took control before the finishing Snowbird climate relentlessly attacks at trying to take the jersey off his back. When dobrowski Attack separate with them quickly wielding the group down to just a few riders. It ultimately set dropped all of them and went on to win a second or three stages in a row. We bring this up because we recorded an interview with Dombroski, about his training for our episode and polarized training. But unfortunately, didn’t have the space for it. Thankfully, we hung on to the interview knowing we’d be able to use it in a future episode. So now we have this incredible opportunity to compare the training of two of the biggest contenders at this year’s Tour of Utah without offering any opinion. Let’s hear what Dombrowski has to say about his training since 2015.
Chris Case 52:57
Do you take a polarized approach to your training? I
Joe Dombrowski 53:03
would say that for me, it depends on the time of year, the last few years, I’ve in the winter gone to actually a really low volume, highly anaerobic focus. If, for example, in December a week, I might only do 14 to 16 hours on the bike in a week. But which for you is Mo, which for Yeah, for a world tour rider that would be a pretty light week. Yep. So I’ve gotten to this sort of winter plan of doing these low volume weeks where maybe I’ll have one and a half to two hours a day and then one long ride per week. And but with that I’ve been doing typically three days in the gym per week, mostly focusing on major compound movements. So squatting deadlifting I used to leg press, and then the rest is more like sort of core stability type type work. And then on the bike, a lot of focus on maximal efforts from five seconds to two minutes. And also this year actually I did quite a bit of riding probably twice a week on fixed gear, which you know, I didn’t have a power meter on it, I just go by heart rate, but it’s similar in that you know, if you go do a a ride on rolling hilly terrain on a fixed gear, you’re going to be stomping up some climbs at 600 Watts and then you’re gonna be spinning at 130 RPM downhill sometimes. So you have a lot of variability in cadence, but also power. And then later in the year, you know, now sort of getting into this like pre Giro first grand tour of the year time period. As I go more to more sustained efforts, a lot more volume. And I, this is the third winter, I’ve done this and I started it. When the winter after the 2015 season, Jonathan Vaughters, who’s obviously our team manager, started writing my training plans. And we, we did this focus, you know, on this really anaerobic stuff, mostly because I’m already so I do well with, you know, these longer efforts at altitude, really steady state stuff. But often the, you know, the hardest part of the race for me is just jumping out of corners, or coming into the bottom of climbs, that sort of stuff. And the first year, so 2016, it worked really well. 2017, we started throwing a lot of this, like, fat Max, like steady state type efforts in in the winter as well. So it’d be like, you know, maybe two day blocks with like an anaerobic focus. And in the second day, we built up to even like, it was a bit crazy, but like, I would do like a six hour ride with three times 90 minutes, like 320 watts. And it didn’t work at all, like I was, I was, I just, really, most of the year, I didn’t ride very well. And I probably trained a bit too hard in the winter. And I don’t know if I really, I mean, there were times that I was like kind of close to where I knew where I knew I can be. But it wasn’t a great year. And this year, this winter, we went back to Canada, anaerobic focus over the winter, but stayed away from that sort of middle. If you just I guess, middle power, if you want to call it that. And now, I’ve gotten into, you know, I’ve been at altitude, been doing more longer sustained efforts. So I guess, to go back to your question, there are times of the year where there’s really polarized training in the sense that this winter, I’d go out and do maybe two hours in the morning, and ride it 200 Watts, and then do a one minute maximal efforts, and then in the evening, go to the gym and be squatting in the gym, like five by five, sort of reps. Whereas now that we’re getting closer to my big objectives for the year, we kind of get away from that. And personally, I found that that sort of model works well, for me, kind of developing that real peak power. And then as we get more into the season, adding in more volume, and sometimes I come into the season, a bit maybe undercooked, you know, like some of the races in February or March, you haven’t really done much volume yet. And in maybe it’s not all quite there, but I feel like that model works pretty well for me.
Chris Case 58:16
How have you and Jonathan arrived at this point? Is he is he reading journal articles? Is he picking up things from other coaches? Or is he Are you and he working together to sort of experiment with things a little bit because you know what? You’re good at, you know, some of your weaknesses, and you’re trying to just bring everything up to the next level?
Joe Dombrowski 58:42
Yeah, I mean, I think he’s well informed. But also some of it is, you know, there’s value to experience as a, as a rider. You know, I think you can, for example, you could go to school, and learn all about training and physiology and really have the, you know, academic side of it down. But I think there’s a lot of value to having raised at a high level and you have that experience. So I think it’s a bit of that, and there is probably some degree of experimentation, because you don’t always know how someone is going to respond individually to to a given type of training, right. But at the same time, you know, from my end, while obviously sometimes mistakes are going to be made, you have to be a little bit careful about that. Because, you know, this is this is my career, and you can’t, you can’t afford to make it a big experiment. So, I think too, you have to kind of keep your wits about you and sort of you know not I wouldn’t drift too far off
Trevor Connor 1:00:00
There’s more to be the top pro than just trading. Let’s get back to setup and talk about nutrition and living in Europe.
Chris Case 1:00:07
This often comes up when people go to Europe, particularly in cyclocross riders that might go over for a brief period of time. And they struggle with the lack of familiarity with everything from the surroundings, but particularly to their food. And all of that. Is that has that been a struggle at all finding the things that you perform best on in terms of your nutrition?
Sepp Kuss 1:00:34
Not too bad. I mean, I think in the US, you have just a lot of variety. So you can either eat absolute garbage or you can read, you know, really, really good food. So, but that’s on you to you can walk into King Soopers or whatever. And you have you take the blue pill or the red, you know? Yeah. Yeah. Give a G rated. But yeah, in Europe, I think, yeah, you’re definitely limited. But I literally eat anything. So I don’t, I’m not picky at all. But I do really like to eat. Yeah, for me in Europe, I say, Oh, that’s a cool food I’ve never seen before the nice cured meat. I don’t know if it’s good or bad for me, but I want to try it. So then yeah, there’s much more experimentation, where in the US, it’s like, okay, I’ll get some rice for dinner and some, some meat and, and I’m happy with that. But over there, it’s so it’s this fun, fun topping to write.
Chris Case 1:01:32
I think I think one thing too, and correct me if I’m wrong. But you’re living in adventure right now a little bit too, which is, which is sort of envelops everything that we’re talking about this is you’re a kid. If I do say so myself. You’re a kid living in Europe with another kid Nielson palace. Yeah, as a roommate, living in Europe, racing bikes, and it’s an adventure and you’re trying this, and you’re trying that, and you’re going to Basque country, and you just describe this heinous story of a stage. And Trevor asked, and how did you feel after that? And you’re like, Well, I was pretty exciting. That, you know, this is, I mean, the other part of this big story is that you’re living a dream. Yeah, definitely.
Sepp Kuss 1:02:13
I mean, it goes, it goes both ways. Because you have to embrace everything that you are, you know, take everything in that you can when you’re on this journey, but at the same time, you’re, you know, it is a job and you have to be you have to be good. It’s here, you know, you gotta you got to show up on the race and know that you’ve rested, properly eat and properly trained properly, because there’s no margin for for that kind of stuff. Like where it would be on the US, you think I can have Taco Bell before the before the credit, you know, it’s not gonna hurt me, but you can’t over there. You can’t have Taco Bell before the time trial at someone else. It’s just not gonna it’s just not the same margin. So yeah, I think that’s been an interesting challenge for me, because pretty easygoing, I think, I function best when I’m not worried about all the little, like, when I’m on the bike, I’m very focused, and I do what I need to do. But off the bike I can be maybe not not as focused as I as I should be. But for me, it’s finding a balance, because if I went totally monk mode, I would I burn out, I would not be a happy, happy camper. And the other on the other side, if I, if I’m drinking beer and eating chips every day, it’s probably not the ideal situation for me or anybody else.
Chris Case 1:03:33
might not last very long, either. Yeah,
Sepp Kuss 1:03:36
yeah. So yeah, just just two extremes. And I’ve never been at at any one of those extremes, I think I’ve had a really good good balance. And that’s, I think I credit that a lot to how I’ve been able to progress like I did, is because nothing was ever super forced. I
Chris Case 1:03:55
think it goes back to your point to it wasn’t even a point it was a statement about how you just carry yourself, which is setting reasonable and not delusional expectations of yourself. And that means sometimes setting your ego aside, just understanding the situation, considering all the other players, the course, whether it suits you where you are, in your season, taking all that information in, whether it’s literally writing, you know, like doing going through a checklist or just having this innate sense, like you probably do at this point, and setting a reasonable expectation. And therefore, if you go into a race and you get your butt kicked, and you’ve got your expectations really high, you can get yourself into trouble that way.
Sepp Kuss 1:04:40
Yeah, definitely. And, and I don’t think the expectations should ever be like, like a number or anything like like last year when I was like before tour of Utah, I said, Okay, I mean, I’m in good shape for Utah is coming up. I think I can do well, but I never said oh yeah, I’m going to I need to get top 10 or top three or what Ever, because then then it’s just one more thing that’s like nagging at you mentally if you don’t accomplish that thing, which is just that, just a number. So yeah, for me, it’s just the the process goals like, now for me, it’s like, contribute to the chasing or get to this point in the in the race instead of this point where you got dropped earlier like, let’s let’s make it to 2k to go instead of 10k to go. And and then if you set those reasonable processes for yourself, then then it’s a lot easier than saying nationals is coming up top three or bust. You know, that doesn’t doesn’t help you
Trevor Connor 1:05:42
see, you’re focusing on the execution. Yeah, yeah, definitely. Which I think is a great thing. Because yeah, when you’re standing on the start line, there is nothing you can do to control whether you cross line first or not. And people have a hard time understanding you can race the perfect race and get a flat tire. Yeah, 10 miles from the finish and are going to finish that last. But you do control things like how do I have prepared? Do I come into the race? Am I going to ride at the front of the field? How am I going to approach this client? And sounds like those are the things you really focus on? And if you do it all right, and the form is there, that the result might be a win? But that’s not the focus? Yeah,
Sepp Kuss 1:06:17
yeah, it’s not the focus. And I mean, it sucks to not get the result, because that’s what you you want. In the end, that’s what everybody wants is to is to win or get their best number in the end. But it’s, it’s hard to let go of that. I guess, like you said, it’s, there’s just, there’s just so much going on, you just have to respect that, you know,
Chris Case 1:06:38
I think it also turns to focus towards yourself. And you, you can’t you can focus on yourself, you can’t worry about the other people that might show up. Because if you say I’m going to get fifth, or I’m going to get first but then other writers that are better than you show up, then that’s just, you can only you can you have to focus on yourself at some point. Yeah,
Trevor Connor 1:07:00
yeah. Just do your best performance and let the chips land where they land. Yeah, definitely.
Sepp Kuss 1:07:05
And like, for me being a new, new Pro, like, you know, I’ve talked to other guys and they say yes, it’s, you know, everybody is on a different different pathway. Now, there’s like, there’s the slow burners, that they’re not really anywhere in the races and then and then finally something clicks and then they start to do well or, and then and then there’s also people that are immediately good and I don’t it only gets good to to compare yourself to people that are on different trajectories because everyone’s everyone’s so different. And then if you’re comparing you say, Oh, well, he got he was top 10 And all these races in his first year and I’m not then I
Chris Case 1:07:48
would imagine that in your team specifically. That’s a good point to make about your team specifically because you’ve got this guy Primos Rutledge, who’s in some case and in some people’s minds, it seems like he’s come out of nowhere he’s his ski jumper and he has been riding bikes a lot and he’s just crushing it so if you compare yourself to him you’re gonna probably get demoralized because he’s just got that talent. He’s things are clicking, it’s working for him. Is that something you talk about on that team specifically? Because he’s he’s got that talent and it’s clicking Yeah,
Sepp Kuss 1:08:23
I think for primo is like every Yeah, everybody knows that he’s just a freak of nature but but yeah, he did it like if you look but he did have to go through the ranks, you know, writing for Continental team and he tells us stories about like his first team time trial. He didn’t know that you you could not take polls you know, so he just would ruin himself polls and then get dropped and it makes him a good time to tell us now I guess. Yeah. But everybody’s starts from from somewhere and yeah, he’s a super humble guy and has a lot of humility to and yeah, it’s interesting to hear his stories about stupid things he’s done in races or Yeah, it’s interesting to see the the humility that that those top writers have it’s pretty cool to be part of that
Trevor Connor 1:09:11
is so definitely sounds like in the races you aren’t so you said you aren’t really focused on a result it’s much more focusing on the process focusing on your performance at the time does that carry after the race? Do you spend a lot of time saying man I didn’t do well in that race or did really well in this race or is it just okay that race is done now let’s get back to the the process of training and getting ready for the next race.
Sepp Kuss 1:09:36
Yeah, for me I just tried not to really dwell on it too much you know, if it weren’t well then yeah, it’s so awesome and that’s good good fuel for the for the fire and I can carry you through the whole year. You know, one one result can really improve your your confidence. But yeah, I think it’s for me, it’s it’s just easier if I just start focusing on the on the next thing because yeah, so you had three batteries, if you’re only thinking or reviewing and reviewing the batteries isn’t, there’s just more in your head saying, oh, that’s that’s bad, or you have to you have to get so much better. How is it possible then, then you’re just, yeah, stalling yourself. I think what
Trevor Connor 1:10:19
I love about this is I mean, you watch movies, and whenever they show you somebody who’s very successful and a champion, they tend to like to show this image of somebody who always has to win. And if they don’t win, they’re kicking in the walls and, and at home dwelling about it. And that’s, here you are somebody who’s progress, amazingly fast, gotten to the highest level, extraordinarily fast, and you are so process oriented, you really look at it as just, there’s going to be a whole lot of races, and we’re gonna go, well, some are gonna go badly. And I’m just going to focus on what I need to be doing next, and what I need to be doing next and continuing to progress my level, and it’s much more level headed and you don’t get caught up in any particular race. Yeah,
Sepp Kuss 1:11:01
yeah, I definitely think the races are races and yeah, there’s, there’s only so much you can do. For me, the most stress I have is in, in the training because that’s, that’s what I can control. The race is you, you can only control so much. So if if I’m in a in a mental rut or something, it’s usually something that’s like, oh, I don’t feel good and training or, Oh, that’s not where I should be kind of thing. So that that for me personally, that’s harder to break out of, because like you said, it’s, it’s it’s processes, and in training, the process is all on you. But in the race, it’s multiple things, you can adapt better.
Trevor Connor 1:11:41
Would you say your perspective, your approach is an outlier, or you find that to the way most of the guys on your team approach it?
Sepp Kuss 1:11:50
Yeah, it’s hard to say because you don’t always see into the mental side of some guys. Yeah. And UCS like, especially when guys are so good. You know, you think Oh, it’s all? Nothing. Nothing’s hard for them. Because they’re just machine. Yeah, yeah, there’s just, yeah, there’s definitely a lot of guys on my team that, at least, like from the outside, dude, think all that. Like you said, That guy’s got to be super anal. And yeah, just never happy or never. Yeah, never pleased with the last result always shooting for the next thing. But I think a lot of those guys are pretty easygoing, because they know what what they can do and what they can’t do. Right?
Chris Case 1:12:33
You used to, in your short time on the domestic scene scene in North America have a chance of winning, you don’t really have that chance right now. So you’re a worker, you’re domestic, but it seems like for a guy like you, that’s perfect, you’re perfectly willing to do that work, play that role, have that purpose, do as much as you can, and be satisfied with sort of that work ethic at the end of the day.
Sepp Kuss 1:12:59
Yeah, that’s true. But I think ultimately, you need to get the results, because that’s what it’s all based on. In the end, it’s the confirming whatever they see in you, whether that’s being the the lead out guy or being the last man in the mountains, or being the guy that wins the race, like you, you need to get the result in the end. So I think, yeah, maybe it’s a it’s a different mental switch, like this year, for me just, you know, working and having a pretty, pretty low pressure environment, you know, just as long as I do the work that they tell me to do in the meeting, then it’s okay. But
Chris Case 1:13:36
yeah, Could you could you take us inside what it’s like on on your team, before a race and how how it’s all sort of spelled out who’s who’s doing what, yeah,
Sepp Kuss 1:13:46
the weeks before the race, we have a general plan and general expectations for for each rider. So with our schedules to we know, like, Okay, I have this race in August, and looks like I’ll be the helper for this race. So that’s, that’s pretty clear. And everything’s very, very clear, which is nice. You know, there’s not much ambiguity about Yeah, which is, which is good, especially if you’re there to do a good job as you know, exactly what’s expected of you. Um, so yeah, we have that general idea going into it. And then before each stage, we kind of just go over that again. And then yeah, say, All right, you guys are covering the moves in the beginning and and then maybe two guys will, you know, ride on the front or, or be the first like workers to sacrifice themselves and then on the race, it’s really not too overly specific because they know that you can’t plan because I’ve been in I’ve been involved. I’ve been in meetings where, where it’s so specific that you think, okay, like I guess that’s how we’re gonna do and I don’t know if it’s gonna work, but it’s we’re gonna do it and then Yeah, when if it’s so specific like that it usually doesn’t ever pan out like that and you can’t plan for situations. And if it’s if everybody just knows, I think all you need to do is know what your role is. You can focus on yourself because everyone, everyone’s smart enough to figure it out in the heat of the moment. And we
Trevor Connor 1:15:18
did a whole episode on that have rolls not a plan because plans go out the window on the start line. Yeah, I think the only place you can if you have a stage where you have like three category one climbs and it finishes with an HC climb, you can be pretty confident how that stage is gonna play out. Yeah, beyond that. You just never know. Yeah,
Sepp Kuss 1:15:37
I don’t think we’ve ever had a super formulaic plan. Now
Chris Case 1:15:41
that you’ve had your eyes opened to this world to this world tour. But what are what do you think you’re capable of? We don’t have to put a number on it.
Sepp Kuss 1:15:54
For me, I’m I’m more motivated for not like Grand Tours or anything, necessarily. I mean, it’d be awesome to raise some but I think like one day races, like Lombardi or something would be would be cool to perform at but I’m in terms of what I’m capable of. I I think it’s really fun to be like a really good support writer. I think that’s, that’s motivating for me. And I know some guys that’s not motivating. But for me, I It’s cool to be part of like a team, team effort and winning winning contribution. And I think that would be cool for me to do. But yeah, for individual goals. I think just Yeah, that’s cool. One day races. Lombardia strive to be honest, you’d be cool. The races that are fun to watch, I think are the races that I would like to do well. But yeah, it’s hard to say exactly where how far I can go or because because there’s people that have a vision of what you’re going to become and then there’s you and I’m the only one that can do anything happen. Yeah, but you can’t worry about what other people are like, Oh, climber. He’s He’s good at long climbs. Oh, he’s good at short climb you saw on you to do it.
Trevor Connor 1:17:09
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Chris Case 1:17:52
Okay, step so we got you on the clock for one minute your, your takeaway for the listeners out there, your your tips, top three, top five tips on how to step up to that next level.
Sepp Kuss 1:18:05
First of all, would be just setting realistic process oriented expectations. If you want to call on that expectations for yourself. If you don’t shoot too high, don’t shoot too low. You’re going to be pleased with with how you do so long as you you do everything in your in your power to to get the 100 percenter. Yeah, yeah, we have it all out there, whatever, whatever that means. And the second would be, you know, just keeping keeping perspective. There’s there’s always another day, always another race. Try not to dwell on things. I mean, analyze what went wrong, what went well, but don’t, don’t dwell too long. And always look forward and positively to whatever’s coming next.
Trevor Connor 1:18:51
I’ll add one really quick addition to to your second tip there, which is I like to tell my athletes whenever they’re going to a race that they’re getting a little stressed about, write down what your next race is. Just to have that remind yourself that this is not the end of the world. No matter how this goes. There’s a race after this helps to keep the perspective.
Chris Case 1:19:13
I think another one eye is patience. Step doesn’t need patience, because he went from not knowing how to raise the credit in Denver three years ago to racing the tour of the Basque Country so he didn’t really need that much patience, but sometimes it just takes a lot it takes longer than maybe you want it to to click having patience is a great asset.
Trevor Connor 1:19:37
I went from not knowing how to raise a crit in Denver to in 15 years doing a podcast
Sepp Kuss 1:19:46
Trevor Connor 1:19:50
That was another episode of Fast Talk. Subscribe to Fast Talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast. Be sure to leave us a rating and a review. Your thoughts and opinions expressed in Fast Tall are those of the individual. As always, we love your feedback. Join the conversation at forums.fasttalklabs.com or tweeted us with @fasttalklabs. Head to fasttalklabs.com to get access to our dirt sports knowledge base, Coach continuing education, as well as our in person remote athletes services for Sepp Kuss, and Chris Case, I’m Trevor Connor. Thanks for listening!