Friday, December 19, 2008

Training Partners

I find having a regular training partner(s) with similar goals as myself extremely helpful.  It provides everyone with motivation in our downtimes and pushes each other harder when needed.  It also forces that accountability to be at your meeting place so you don't miss that 5am ride.  It's also a bonus if your training partner has different strengths so you can push each other on your weaknesses.    Everyone is different with what works for them with a training partner, but you need to have similar goals, time schedules, attitude, ability,etc.   It's not something that you can force but when it works, it works.  It'll help you ride more consistently and for longer.  Plus you'll always have that mate to blame a flat tire on when you're partner asks you why you're home 2hrs late!

A great workout for training speed is for you and your training partner to take turns doing 5 x 2-minute pulls near lactate threshold. This is not only a hard effort for the person on the front but also makes for short recovery at a high pace for the person in the draft. The total work effort for each of you is 20 minutes. This speed-endurance workout should be done when you are relatively fresh in order to get maximum results. If you do this when fatigued you can't get the power high enough or maintain the heart rate needed to simulate a race effort.  Try to do on Tuesday after having Monday as a rest day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Clean Chain Makes Everything Better

Thank you to Michal Krodkiewski for this tip on a good technique to clean your chain properly.  I use a Wipperman link myself and it's the most convenient way to remove your chain when cleaning.  Remember, a clean chain = 5 watts!

The best way I have found to maintain a clean chain and drivetrain is fitting a removable Wipperman link to the chain . I find removing the chain is much more effective than cleaning it on the bike, and it also gives you better access to the rear derailleur, jockey wheels etc to clean and lube. The best degreaser I've found (aside from the very expensive Pedro's stuff etc) is Citro Clean from Coles or Safeway; about $7 for a 700ml bottle.

Take off rear wheel and remove chain. Wipe down the chain with a rag (spray rag lightly with Citro Clean) to remove surface gunk and place in an old 1.25L soft drink bottle. Pour in degreaser (about + 100ml) and shake well . Remove chain (either cut bottle or use coathanger/old spoke to fish out) , rinse and wipe down and then inspect the links to make sure they're all clean etc. If required, give the chain another quick spray of Citro Clean. Put b ack on the bike. Put rear wheel back on. It's then best to allow the chain to dry for a bit, then lubricate each link while spinning crank by hand.

While the back wheel is off it is good to remove and clean the cassette if required. Babywipes do a really good job of this, or if really dirty a quick pre-spray with citro-clean helps.

Wipperman links are re-useable (ie you can demount and re-mount the chain as often as you like), whereas other similar products such as SRAM Powerlinks are single use (ie, once put on, you can't take them off without breaking. The link comes in 2 parts. Take care to put them in a safe place when removing from chain as they can be easy to lose. It is a good policy to install a new Wipperman link each time you install a new chain as these will stretch similarly to a conventional link. Also note that they are directional, and the 'arrow' should be pointing up when the link is at the bottom of the chainline.  Available in both Campy and Shimano 10s compatibility.

Slight warning, the citro clean can fade some paints such as the decals on Ksyrium SL wheels, so limit its use to the drivetrain.

Monday, December 15, 2008

More on Crosswinds

I recently wrote a post about crosswinds and I'm going to do it again today.  It's seems like it's been a major theme of much of my past couple of races.

I did this race in rural Australia called Scotty's race.  It's race for the Scott People's foundation where Scott was tragically killed while training a couple years ago.  It brings out  some of the best riders in Australia to pay their respects to the family and in memory of Scott. 

As somber as the minute of silence was before the flag dropped, the race got off to a  blistering 55km/hr pace as soon as the neutral vehicle pulled off.   The crosswinds had 200 riders in the gutter for about a km back down the road.  Once again, many people seemed to think that it would be easier riding single file and bridging gaps than it would be doing turns in the echelon up front.  Easier said than done as it was a dog-fight just to get a place in the echelon that used only half the road!

I was fortunate to have my place up at the front, but what surprised me is that no other echelons formed directly behind us.  This of course would require a little bit of communication between riders who wanted to do this which wasn't easily possible at 55km/hr in the mayhem behind.  However, you can see the pros doing this here (in the front group):

Instead the peloton looked like this (without the hill and with a lot more riders in the gutter):
So, next time you caught in the gutter and you don't want to be in the back part of the race when it gets smashed to pieces, I suggest that you have a game plan together with your teammates or other riders you're close with and start your own echelon directly behind the front one that is causing all the trouble in the back. It's much easier and you get far more rest rolling turns in an echelon than being strung out in the gutter hanging on for dear life.  If you're strong enough to be in the gutter and not dropping wheels, you're more than strong enough to be up at the front in an echelon.
I hope I don't feel the need to write another post that have the tags "crosswinds", "gutter" and "echelon" in it for a long long time...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tubular Hint

It constantly amazes me how many people out there will trust some kid at a bikeshop to glue their tubulars on for them (or Singles as they call them here in Aus).   It's not that hard once you get your technique down.  Given how important of a job this is, there's a lot of trust you're putting into whoever is doing this for you.  Maybe I'm overly cautious, but I want to know 100% that it's done right and enough glue has been used.  If you've never seen someone roll a tubular at 50k/hr, you should imagine it.   There's lots of articles out there on how to glue on tubulars so I won't go through it now (maybe in the future).

One tip that most people won't tell you about tubular installation is about the valve extenders.   When you put a metal valve extender onto a metal presta valve it won't be an airtight seal.  This means that when you pump it up, you'll sometimes have to pump like mad to put more air in than is leaking out of the valve extender.  The way to fix this is by wrapping a small piece of plumbers tape around the presta valve threads before screwing the extender on (before gluing the tire onto the rim).  This will seal the air leak and make for easy pumping.  Also make sure that the presta valve is screwed all the way out and tightened so that it doesn't slowly screw back in while it's inside the valve extender.   If this happens, you'll have no choice but to take the tire off. 

Now, I'm going out for a ride to enjoy the new Zipp 404's that I just bought!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Racing Sponsorship Wanted!

This post is for all you young guns out there wanting to get sponsored by a big team or bike company. I’ve seen quite a few rider resumes come through in my day and 90% of them are all wrong . Many of these resumes contain a long list of race results, personal goals and photos. Most sponsors don’t really care about your results unless you’re Robbie McEwen or an upcoming superstar. Of course good results will tell your sponsors that you won’t embarrass them and make their product look completely pathetic, but what they’re looking for is you show that you’re in a position of influence to promote their brand and to be a good ambassador. Position your sponsorship resume on describing what you can do for them, not what you want from them. Talk about what you do to give back to the sport of cycling (i.e. involvement with your local club, if you do any coaching or mentoring, do you write any articles or race write-ups, etc). Definitely highlight your future goals and past results, but don’t place the emphasis of your content on them. Tell your potential sponsors how you can help them add value and image to their brand. Sponsorship money comes from the company’s marketing dollars and brand recognition is what’s all about. You need to market yourself as an actively involved person in the cycling/racing community and how you’ll be a good ambassador for the logo written on your jersey. Sure good results will get them recognized as a winning brand, but that’s not on the top of their list. Another good idea is to look at the team you’re sending your resume to and try to figure out where they’re lacking and how you would fit in. Do they lack climbers? Do they lack sprinters? Are these any of your strengths? If that’s the case, then put some emphasis on that point and tell them how you could help them as a team .

I’m sorry to say, many of these sponsors don’t really care much about you (from what I can tell, teams like Drapac-Porsche is one of the few philanthropists out there - and they do have excellent riders as well). You are just a vehicle for most sponsors to market their brand. That’s the whole business model that cycling is built upon. As long as you’re not embarrassing them, your results don’t matter all that much. There are a tonne of cyclist out there with good results. How will you separate yourself from the rest?

Last but not least, don’t expect a free ride. You might get some free kit, a bike, some costs covered, whatever. But, very rarely does that come with no strings attached. You’ll have to do promo events, bike shows, group rides with sponsors, etc. This is how the sponsors get their return on investment out of you. And why shouldn’t they?

Clean Chain = 5 watts!

On this mornings ride Brett Phelan gave me this great tip.  Have you seen this guy's chain?  You could brush your teeth with it!

We all spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars trying to save precious watts.  For example, when Zipp released their carbon wheels with golf balll dimples they claimed that it'll save you between 1 and 4 watts.  I wanted to go out and spend $3k on a pair right away!  We're such suckers for that cheap marketing ploy.  It might seem small, but all these 5 watt increases can add up to 50 watts in a hurry.  That's huge!  Of course the law of diminishing gains comes into affect costing you thousands of dollars. 

Here's a tip that won't cost you anything and will save you up to 5 watts.  Clean your chain!  A clean chain vs a filthy one can save you precious power through reducing the losses through the drivetrain with all that muck and grime sitting in there.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How Much Fitness Do You Loose When You Stop Training?

I first want to thank David Heatly from Cycling-Inform for posting this. A couple recent events in my life makes this topic very fitting. First, I just went on an amazing 2 week vacation in New Zealand with my wife. There were no bikes to speak of and that was the whole point. This was part of my rest and transition period going into 2009. I spent a total of 3 weeks completely off the bike fully expecting to loose heaps of fitness. I was okay with that because I felt that I needed the rest before burnout occurred. I got back from NZ, had a week of light riding and went right into the Tour of Bright - a small 3 stage tour with some BIG hills involved. To make a long story short, I ended up winning my category. I had no expectations going into this race because I thought I'd have 50% less fitness than I did a month ago. Apparently I had "fresh form " instead of "real form " (along with a lot of help from my teammates and some luck).

The second thing that made me think of posting this topic was because in the same race on Stage 1, a fellow competitor (Shane Miller ) was riding behind me on a wild 70-80km/hr windy decent and crashed. He was seriously injured and I really feel for him. He was in great form (probably would have won the overall race) and now he's going to be relegated to the couch and eventually a wind trainer for the next few weeks - months.

So the question is, how much fitness do you loose when you stop training? Read on to find out...

I came across a great article by Pete Pfitzinger on the effect of detraining and thought I'd pass along on his insights. I have kept much of the content intact but have adapted it slightly for cyclists.

Please answer the following question: When you take a break from training, your body starts to turn to mush: a) after a few months; b) after a few weeks; c) after a few days; or d) almost immediately. Most cyclists apparently believe the correct answer is (d), and that the fitness gains of years of cycling are in danger of quickly vanishing into thin air. This behavior is manifested in phenomena such as double workouts, and a propensity to exercise through such potentially life-threatening conditions as blizzards, electrical storms, and bronchitis.

The good news is that the rate at which detraining occurs is slower than you may think. In fact, most elements of your fitness go down at about the same rate at which they go up. Let’s take a look at the evidence concerning how long it takes physiological improvements to be lost and performance to go down the tubes when you are forced to stay off the road due to illness or injury, or (now here’s a novel concept) when you take a planned break from training.

A surprisingly large number of scientific studies have been conducted on detraining, and although not all results are in agreement, the evidence is reasonably consistent. The journals Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise and Sports Medicine recently published reviews of over 60 detraining studies, which provide insight into how quickly you can expect to lose your hard-won adaptations to training.

The list below summarizes some of the physiological adaptations that occur during a 2 to 4 week break from training. Your VO2 max will decrease by up to 10%, primarily due to a reduction in your blood volume. One of the adaptations to endurance exercise is an increase in blood volume, and when you stop training this adaptation is lost relatively quickly. When your blood volume decreases, less blood returns to your heart to be pumped with each heart beat. This means that your stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped per heart beat) decreases. Your heart rate must increase, therefore, in order for you to exercise at the same pace as before.

Other effects of detraining include a loss of flexibility, a decrease in your lactate threshold pace, and large reductions in your muscle glycogen concentration and aerobic enzyme activity. Interestingly, the fitter you are, the greater these losses tend to be.

Physiological effects of 2-4 weeks of detraining

  • VO2 max: down 4-10%
  • Blood volume: down 5-10%
  • Heart rate: up 5-10%
  • Stroke volume: down 6-12%
  • Flexibility: Decreases
  • Lactate threshold: Decreases
  • Muscle glycogen levels: down 20-30%
  • Aerobic enzyme activity: Decreases
  • Economy: Unchanged

What happens to your cycling performance?

Endurance performance tends to remain the same or actually improve after a few days without training. This is not surprising because when you are in hard training you are perpetually fatigued, so a short break allows your body to recover and adapt to your previous training. Between 1 and 2 weeks off from training, however, the benefits of recovery start to become outweighed by a loss in fitness. Although not many studies have measured loss of performance after several weeks of detraining (would you volunteer?), performance is likely to decrease by about 3-5% after 3 to 4 weeks of detraining.

How about if you just reduce your training?
If you cut back the volume of your training (i.e. how often you train or long your exercise, you can maintain your fitness level for a surprisingly long time. Studies have found that when either the frequency or duration of training are reduced (while the intensity of training is maintained) that aerobic conditioning is maintained for up to 15 weeks. When the intensity of training is reduced (while the volume of training is maintained), however, then aerobic fitness declines more quickly. If you must reduce your training volume, therefore, maintaining your training intensity is the key to maintaining your cycling performance. Similarly, if you are injured, you can maintain a reasonably high level of aerobic conditioning by cross-training hard several times per week. The closer that your cross-training activity simulates cycling, the more slowly you will lose your cycling fitness.

On the road again
When you start cycling again, you can expect your fitness level to go back up at about the same rate at which it went down. Of course, if you have been injured, the increase in your training will be dictated by the recovery of your injury. If you haven’t exercised for two weeks or more, during your first session back you will likely feel as though you have never exercised before. It just takes a couple of sessions for your various body parts to become reacquainted, and by your third session you should feel almost normal. After a week or so back on the road your blood volume will be increasing, and you will be regaining all of the other fitness factors that will allow you to regain your previous level of performance.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Catching the Swarm

Even though the the peloton is riding at a very steady speed, the distance between riders is constantly changing. There might not be much distance between riders from side to side, but slight changes in speed open up small gaps between riders. Through these gaps you can squeeze your way up through a tight bunch to make your way closer to the front.

Consistency and predictability are two keys to moving through a tight pack. You don’t want to make the riders around you nervous by manking any sudden or sketchy moves. Riding steadily and decisively also leaves no doubt about where you’re going. That means the riders around you can act accordingly. Many crashes in thepeloton happen because one rider moves and the rider behind him either didn’t expect it or didn’t know where that first rider was going.

Be careful not to move through a gap too aggressively. If you stomp on the pedals to move up one space you’ll end up hitting the brakes. This has a ripple effect behind you and makes it more difficult for those riders to stay at a consistent pace. It takes some practice to get it down, but once you figure out just how much power you need to move up without having to tap your brakes, you’ll be able to cruise up through the field without anyone even noticing it. Also see this post for a quick tip on how to let other riders know you're coming through.

Getting through a tight pack in the middle of a race is one thing but working your way to the front of a charging train of sprinters is another. Watch out for the "swarms " passing you on your left or right sides and jump in on them. Sprinters have great peripheral awareness and either see or sense riders coming up on their sides. This helps them decide whether to go left or right around the wheel ahead of them, but a lot is also up to a combination of luck and experience.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Throwing It In the Gutter

Depending on the mood of the peloton, sometimes races can be extremely negative. What I mean by "negative" is that every time someone attacks and attempts to create a break-away it gets chased it down. Sometimes thiscan be a very intentional team strategy for those who want the race to come down to a field sprint. Or it can also be a result of too many people in the peloton being nervous and excited where every time a rider goes up the road, someone tries to go with him and ends up dragging the whole pack up to that rider. If you have some nasty crosswinds at your disposal, there is one way to split up the group so that you can get rid of those riders just sitting on. Throw it in the gutter!

When the direction of the race turns into the crosswinds it's time to ramp up the pace with a few other willing riders. It can start off with four or five of you rolling some hard and steady turns up at the front of the pack. No need to "attack" or make any aggressive moves - all that's needed is a few of you sharing the work-load riding a hard and steady pace in an echelon. At first you should only use about half of the lane available to you so that too many people cannot get into that echelon . If you look back after a couple of minutes you'll see the rest of the peloton strung out single file all the way to the back. You'll be working hard in that echelon up front, but I guarantee you that the riders behind riding single-file in "the gutter" are riding much much harder trying to hold that wheel in-front. Sooner or later someone in the gutter will drop a wheel and a split in the field will occur. Keep riding hard in your echelon until a nice gap in the field is established. Very rarely will the bunch who have been dropped get organized enough for a successful chase to happen. Now, instead of 100 riders to contend with at the finish line, you only have a small group.

The result...

Tip: Where the course changes directions (i.e. a corner in the road) is when the race will head into the crosswinds. That may sound obvious, but pay close attention to the wind direction and where to course will turn. If you're too far back in the peloton whenthe group decides to " put it in the gutter" you'll never get up to the front to be a part of it. You'll be one of the poor riders holding on for dear life!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Cold Feet?

This post is more for my poor Canadian buddies who are trying to squeeze in that last bit of cycling before -30C hits. Here in Australia we're going through the opposite.

On those cold riding days there is a fine line between keeping warm and breaking a sweat. If you sweat and then stop, you get cold. I always had problems with getting cold and sweaty feet. I tried to solve this by buy simply wearing thicker socks and booties, but found that this did not work well. It just makes them sweat more.

A better alternative I found is using antiperspirant. Get some spray-on antiperspirant and put it on your bare feet, let dry, put socks on. Voila! No more foot sweat that causes the cold feet.

The best solution for stopping cold feet is of course moving to Australia!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Joke

If you ever want to win a major wheelrace, crit or even some roadraces where teams aren’t prevalent, you definitely need to be a good, strong cyclist. No doubt about that. However, there’s something else to it that you won’t find on any Google search or cycling rule book. You had better be in on "the Joke ". I’ll be gunned down if I talk anymore about it, but I’ll let you know that it happens at many major showcase events. Don’t know what "the joke " is? You might want to find out and get in on it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The 10hr Training Week For Real People

I generally advocate training principals around periodization, however I know many of you will feel that you don't have the time for it,  don't know how to implement it,  or will just never get around to doing it.  Fair enough.  This post is for those of you who want some structure behind your training but don't want to get too deep into it.

Ten hours of training per week is a magic number for most serious recreational riders. If you can train for 10 hours in a full week you will put to use much of your genetic potential. Who has the time for much else when you have a job, family, house, and real-life commitments anyway???  With 10 hours each week, you’ll have room in the training schedule for some quality work and also some easy riding for recovery and socializing.

What You Can Do:  Assuming that you work a normal 9-5 job on weekdays and have some time to ride on weekends.

Monday: Rest day. Stay off the bike at least one day a week to help recovery. You might want to keep blood circulating with some light upper-body weight training or an easy walk.

Tuesday: Ride 90 minutes. After a warm up, do 5 to 10 sprints, or a short training time trial, or short intervals at a heart rate around 90% of your max. Get some intensity into this workout.

Wednesday: Ride 2 hours with the emphasis on endurance. Heart rate shouldn’t go above about 85% of max.  TIP If you’re pressed for time, split 2 hours of training into a couple of rides. For instance, go hard for an hour in the morning, maybe on the trainer or on the commute to work. Then pedal easily after work or in the evening to promote recovery.

Thursday: Ride 90 minutes. Ideally this can be a group ride or training race in the evening.  Get some intensity in.

Friday: One hour coffee ride with friends. Finish up with a short weight training session.  Commuting to work is also a great way to get in this recovery ride. 

Saturday: Two hours with some hills in it. This should be a good quality ride to build the strength in the legs.  If you have a race tomorrow then make it an easier ride.   A short two hour ride leaves time for chores and family responsibilities

Sunday: Ride 2-3 hours. Race, do an endurance ride, or go out with a spirited group. This is the day to reap the benefits of your improved fitness.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tools On The Road

On our weekend ride it was wet and miserable and nearly everyone had troubles with flat tyres. This lead to a debate between everyone on who had the best and smartest emergency tookit set. You ask 10 different cyclists what they carry for tools on the road and you'll get 10 different answers. A few different points of view is always good and here is mine along with some suggestions from others.

1. spare tube. Don't leave home without it.

2. multi-tool. Don't leave home without it either.

3. tyre lever. Best to carry 2 just in case one breaks. Doesn't take much more room to do this.

4. $5 bill. This can come in handy for 2 things. Buying food in case of emergency bonk, or to fix a major tear in your tyre. See this post.

5. Patch Kit. Where there is one puncture, there are usually mutliples. This doesn't take up much room and one day far from home you'll be glad you have it.

5. CO2 Cartridge. These are great, but you have one shot to make it work. If you screw it up you'll be stranded. See points 6 & 7

6. Valve converter. This comes in handy when you're near a service station and either don't want to use your CO2, or if you've messed up the first try with your CO2.

7. Crowie made a great point about carrying a hand pump. Many people mess up the fitting of the tyre/tube when fixing it when in a rush. They also don't check properly for peices of glass or debris and end up with another puncture moments after they fix it. Using a CO2 cartridge is quick and easy which enables you to be in a rush. Using a hand pump that requires a lot of elbow grease will make you damn sure that the tube is fitted properly and all the debris is out of the tyre before you take 5 minutes to pump that thing up to 100psi.