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Quantifying Improvement (with or without a Power Meter)

Often times when people start training they expect to get faster, noticeably faster right away. I’m guilty of this, sometimes after a long ride I dream about how much faster I’ll be because of that. It doesn’t work like that though. Sure there are sometimes where you have a breakthrough moment, but for the most part improvements are slow and steady. If you don’t keep a good log you might not even immediately notice them. There other issue is how do you measure improvements? I have three methods of measuring improvement, ranked in terms of highest, to lowest accuracy:

  1. Power meter data, over time
  2. Speed on a bike trainer, over time
  3. Speed on the same steady climbing course, over time Continue reading Quantifying Improvement (with or without a Power Meter)

A mindset of improvement

Many cyclists suffer from an “attitude” problem. This problem is readily apparent at the end of any race. Listen to half the riders who didn’t win or weren’t in the top 10 and you will likely hear people talk about how someone took their wheel, they got chopped in the last corner, somebody wasn’t holding their line. These are all excuses. While they are occasionally valid they hold us back from success. These riders are not looking at the things which they did wrong rather the things that others may have done wrong.

All the things everyone else did are a part of racing. In every race you will enter someone will swerve from their line in a corner, people will block you, people will chop you in a corner. That happened to everyone else in your race. When these things happen you should not think about how much it sucks but how you can get back into position. When you reflect on your races look not at the things others did, but the things you can do to improve. Could you have moved up earlier? Should you have put a little bit more into the break? Should you have gone with the break? Did you start your sprint too late or too soon? All of these are great examples of things you should be thinking about when the race didn’t end as you had hoped (and even when it does!). Always a mindset of improvement, not blame.

Goals and Success

Often when we create our goals for a given cycling race we say that we want to win race a and b. But goals like these are ill-advised as they breed failure and disappointment. Winning a given race is dependent on so many variables that are out of your control, instead you need goals which are in your control OR which are attainable through general increased fitness. For instance, you might not be able to say I will win X race but you can say that you want to have an FTP of X or be Cat X. Furthermore, for most athletes every race should be a strive to win or to help a teammate win! Sometimes you know or I prefer suspect that isn’t attainable based on fitness levels, but you always try for it (and sometimes surprise yourself!). So while you are getting ready to start the off-season, evaluating your previous season and looking at next season remember to set attainable goals, so that you might have more success.

Nutrition: Before, During, and After

Cyclists are always searching for the light on the stumoch yet calorie dense pre-race meal, the perfect drink mix which is not to sweet but palatable, and recovery bars and drinks which rejuvinate us like only the fountain of youth can. Thousands of dollars goes into the marketing of such products to athletes everyday. Unfortunately it is hard to find hard 3rd party science on what is ideal. PezCycling recently posted a “Toolbox” article about just this (find the article here). In this article some general guidelines are layed out for nutrition, ones that I have found to be pretty accurate and there is independant labratory testing to verify works. Here is a summary of the guidelines:

  1. Pre-race: Wake up early (3 hours before) and fuel up a long time before you race. Approximately (4 cal/kg ) * hours raced of intake. Try to get a good balance of protein and carbs. Bananna’s closer to the race are great as well.
  2. During: Start eating and drinking before you are hungry, during the first hour. About 1.3 grams/kg of carbs and 10mL/kg of electrolyte filled sports drink every hour.
  3. After: Take in .25 g/kg of protein and 1.2 g/kg of carbs every hour after the race, natrually a large meal can count for two hours, but attempt to maintain this ratio with a variety of foods.

Naturally these are just guidelines, everyone is different, sweats at different rates and different difficulty races may require different intake strategies, but with these you may find a way to use your own favorite products on the road, and improve your ratios from here.

Contact in Bike Races

In my last couple of races I have heard a number of people cursing and yelling at each other because someone bumped their wheels, they touched handlebars or some other form of contact occurred. The nature of bike racing however is that contact will occur, the key is to be properly prepared for it. In a number of camps for juniors and u23 cyclists, people participate in bumping drills. Unfortunately these types of drill’s don’t occur in older age groups and as such many racers don’t know how to handle themselves in these situations. There are a number of ways which you can become more comfortable on the bike and in such situations. Continue reading Contact in Bike Races