Win­ter Train­ing

Pro moun­tain and road cy­clists en­joy that most Cana­dian of sea­sons, win­ter. Some re­turn to their moun­tain-man roots. Oth­ers ski or snow­shoe. They all come back stronger in spring

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Dean Camp­bell

Fall had set­tled into b.c.’s Okana­gan Val­ley. The In­te­rior was swept with wild­fires ear­lier in the year, but rain fi­nally ar­rived and tem­per­a­tures dropped. Evan Guthrie was walk­ing across a moun­tain slope on a short hike from his cabin. He had left home be­fore the dawn, light­ing his way with a head­lamp for roughly 30 min­utes be­fore the sun came up. Wear­ing jeans and a plaid jacket, he was watch­ing the land around him for signs of move­ment. Aside from the wind in the trees and the light crunch of each foot­step, there was si­lence.

Guthrie was hunt­ing – deer mostly, some­times moose and the rare elk – as he does most days dur­ing the fall. It’s an im­por­tant time of year for the pro­fes­sional moun­tain biker with hard work that pre­pares him for the com­ing months, not just on the bike, but in all as­pects of his life. He har­vests food. He cuts, splits and stacks fire­wood. There’s main­te­nance on his cabin and his truck.

While many cy­clists head to warmer, gen­tler cli­mates to pre­pare for their next sea­son, some Cana­di­ans rec­og­nize just what they have at home, their cold, snowy home.

It of­fers a mix of sports for cross-train­ing, pro­vides a men­tal re­fresher and en­gages mus­cles that go un­tended in cy­cling-spe­cific work­outs. This land can make cy­clists more well-rounded ath­letes. Guthrie and other Cana­di­ans, such as Catharine Pen­drel, Evan Mc­neely and Svein Tuft, have em­braced op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­sented by the most Cana­dian of sea­sons, win­ter, and all that it has to of­fer.

“It’s a non-com­pe­ti­tion time of year. I’ve never re­ally taken much of an off-sea­son, like a full off-sea­son,” Guthrie said. “Some­times it’ll be a week where I do a lot less ex­er­cise than the rest of the year, but to me the fall sea­son is one of the best times. It’s a men­tal re­fresher time where I can stay true to my nor­mal be­ing and just be in­cred­i­bly busy and fill ev­ery sec­ond of ev­ery day.”

Most days start out with a hike up the moun­tain to hunt. Some­times, Guthrie will sit down in one place, but more of­ten than not, he’s hik­ing for three hours in a big loop be­fore re­turn­ing home. By mid-morn­ing, he’s out for a bike ride or work­ing out at the gym. In past years, Guthrie spent his after­noons and evenings in school, pre­par­ing for the days af­ter his pro­fes­sional rid­ing ca­reer comes to an end. For the first time as an adult, Guthrie isn’t in school full-time. Time no longer needed for stud­ies has been gob­bled up by other tasks.

In 2013, Guthrie and his fa­ther started work­ing on the cabin Guthrie now calls home. Fin­ished in 2015, the build­ing is out­fit­ted with a wood stove as the sole source of heat. That choice means a lot of work each fall pre­par­ing enough wood for win­ter. “I never mea­sure in cords,” said Guthrie. “Last year, luck­ily, I had lot more solid rounds that I’d put in over chopped wood so it just burned slower and longer. It was a long win­ter, so I used more wood than nor­mal. I try to make sure I have eight to 10 pickup-truck loads of fire­wood.”

Col­lect­ing and pre­par­ing fire­wood is a mat­ter of strik­ing when con­di­tions are right. The for­est fires that swept through the B.C. in­te­rior this past sum­mer forced a no-mo­tor ban in at-risk ar­eas. Guthrie and his fa­ther had to wait to be able to drive their trucks out to har­vest wood. Work­ing to­gether, they fell, bucked and cut trees into logs that they then stacked to dry out for a year – a process called sea­son­ing. Then they split and burn the wood.

“Col­lect­ing fire­wood is a great work­out,” said Guthrie. “We cut trees into 6' lengths and ei­ther dead­lift or carry them on our shoul­ders through the bush to the truck. Run­ning a chain­saw can also be tir­ing. Then comes cut­ting the wood into small pieces, chop­ping it and stack­ing it for win­ter use.”

All of this har­vest­ing work helps strengthen the core and up­per body, ar­eas that can of­ten get ne­glected in a sport where big legs and lungs are the top pri­or­i­ties. Lift­ing, turn­ing, car­ry­ing and split­ting wood helps shape mus­cles vi­tal for tech­ni­cal rid­ing skills. Last win­ter, Guthrie didn’t do as much strength train­ing, with ob­vi­ous re­sults. “My tech­ni­cal rid­ing this past year maybe wasn’t quite as strong,” said Guthrie. “I don’t think you should be feel­ing the up­per-body ef­fects on a cross coun­try race be­cause it’s not that de­mand­ing of those mus­cles, but I was feel­ing that some­times.”

The work in pre­par­ing fire­wood for win­ter isn’t some­thing Guthrie typ­i­cally quan­ti­fies or tracks as part of his work­out rou­tines, though he knows those hours of ef­fort bol­ster more for­mal train­ing ses­sions. “If you are bend­ing over and lean­ing over and stack­ing wood for an hour, you’re go­ing to get a bet­ter work­out than spend­ing 10 min­utes do­ing crunches in front of the TV and it’s go­ing to feel like a lot less ef­fort to do that,” said Guthrie.

When win­ter set­tles in, the work con­tin­ues. Guthrie clears the yard of snow by hand, even though an atv and plow would make faster work of things. Big snow­falls mean clear­ing the cabin roof of snow, a job that can only be done by hand. Beyond cy­cling on the trainer and weight train­ing, a mix of cross­coun­try and back­coun­try ski­ing pro­vide ways to en­joy the win­ter out­doors.

“It’s more about tak­ing ad­van­tage of your en­vi­ron­ment and mak­ing the most of it, be­cause yeah, you could ride the rollers for a steady, four-hour ride, but hon­estly, who wants to do a steady, four-hour ride on the rollers? No one,” said Guthrie, who of­ten joins Catharine Pen­drel and Keith Wil­son, pas­sion­ate nordic and back­coun­try skiers, for ses­sions in the snow.

“The first time we skied to­gether I drove out to Kam­loops to do a cou­ple of days with Catharine and Keith,” said Guthrie. “We were on skate skis and we went out and it was sup­posed to be an easy ski. Cather­ine and Keith were just

“It’s more about tak­ing ad­van­tage of your en­vi­ron­ment and mak­ing the most of it, be­cause yeah, you could ride the rollers for a steady, four-hour ride, but hon­estly, who wants to do a steady, four-hour ride on the rollers? No one.”

jib jab­ber­ing away in front of me and I was be­hind hoof­ing it, work­ing as hard as I could. I’m not go­ing to say I’m a good skier now, but back then I was straight up maxed out and they were do­ing their steady mel­low ski.

“It’s not as en­joy­able in the begin­ning be­cause it’s just so damn hard. We can all fake other sports for a cer­tain amount of time with our fit­ness, but it’s taken me 10 years of cross-coun­try ski­ing to get OK at it and not bend a pole ev­ery time I ski.”

The moun­tain-man life­style Guthrie has de­vel­oped was part of what in­spired the con­cept of “Camp Guthrie,” a seven-day train­ing ses­sion with friends and team­mates com­ing out to stack wood, ride bikes, go hik­ing and run­ning, and ex­pe­ri­ence a fun week of ath­leti­cism that is a bit beyond the norm. The first edi­tion was held in 2014, and in­cluded friends who worked in sea­sonal in­dus­tries dur­ing their win­ter down time. The group spent more than 20 hours out snow­shoe­ing, ski­ing and en­joy­ing the snow in the moun­tains. In the fall of 2016, Guthrie in­vited fel­low moun­tain bik­ers An­drew L’esper­ance, Ha­ley Smith and Cather­ine Fleury to join him for a week.

“We were all toss­ing the idea of go­ing to California or Moab or some­thing, do a week of rid­ing, and I didn’t re­ally want to go,” said Guthrie. “It was also prime hunt­ing sea­son, so I said, ‘You guys just want to save on rent and just come stay here and we’ll do a week of rid­ing?’ It was awe­some. We rode the same trail once in nine days and I took them on ev­ery­thing we had to of­fer here. It was a bike-ori­ented one for sure, but fun trail bikes, not just the XC death weapons.”

Guthrie isn’t the only rider to add va­ri­ety to his train­ing pro­gram. Marathon and stage-race vet­eran Cory Wal­lace spends his off-sea­son work­ing in the log­ging in­dus­try where daily tasks help build over­all strength and fit­ness. Guthrie’s for­mer Norco team­mate Evan Mc­neely spent much of the past win­ter at his home­base of Ot­tawa, cross­ing the Ot­tawa River to head into Gatineau Park for snow­shoe­ing and cross-coun­try ski­ing work­outs.

Mc­neely sees a lot of value in the men­tal re­ju­ve­na­tion that is pos­si­ble through stay­ing home dur­ing the off­sea­son. “I did a whole win­ter on the bike in Vic­to­ria,” said Mc­neely. “It’s nice and all, but it was three months of do­ing the same thing in the same city. By the end of that year, I was to­tally burnt out and didn’t want to race any­more be­cause I’d been go­ing for 12 months.

“This past win­ter, I wanted to ex­per­i­ment with XC ski­ing and other events to help keep things fresh. I was find­ing that I could make huge gains week af­ter week be­cause I was do­ing some­thing new and ex­cit­ing. Watch­ing that pro­gres­sion and growth was very mo­ti­vat­ing.”

A rider who is known for his moun­tain-man rep­u­ta­tion is Svein Tuft. He used take his dog Bear on moun­tain climb­ing trips into the B.C. back­coun­try by bike. The Lan­g­ley, B.C., na­tive grew up in a fam­ily that pri­or­i­tized time spent out­side. He learned to ski at age three. For the next 12 years, the fam­ily would load up in an RV to spend week­ends go­ing “full gas” – as he says – on cross­coun­try skis in the moun­tains. Dur­ing the sum­mer, the fam­ily would go out for big hikes in the moun­tains. These ac­tiv­i­ties in­stilled a love of ex­plor­ing the out­doors.

Tuft now lives in An­dorra and races for the Orica-scott Worldtour squad. At 40 years old, he is still a force to be reck­oned with in a time trial and serves as a rock-solid do­mes­tique. His abil­ity to con­tinue to per­form comes down to the va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties that make up his train­ing plan.

“I re­ally think that be­ing ver­sa­tile and strength­en­ing the rest of your body as a whole in­stead of fo­cus­ing on one thing re­ally helps avoid in­jury,” Tuft said. “In that whole process, it’s strength in bones and get­ting mus­cle mass in places that might not be so help­ful in road rac­ing, but when you crash, you come out OK: without a dis­lo­cated shoul­der or bro­ken col­lar­bone. I re­ally be­lieve that cy­cling is a great part of my life. I’ve had a great long ca­reer. I think it’s thanks to those other sports that laid the foun­da­tion.”

Through­out his ca­reer, Tuft has learned to bal­ance the needs of road-rac­ing fit­ness with the men­tal re­ju­ve­na­tion that comes from spend­ing time do­ing other ac­tiv­i­ties. One off-sea­son, he had spent so much time do­ing other things that he hadn’t hit the base mileage he needed. He ended up rid­ing from B.C. to his team’s California camp to get the dis­tance into his legs.

“I’ve made the mis­take in the past of only do­ing the fun stuff,” Tuft said. “You pay a re­ally heavy price at the first train­ing camp be­cause you’re go­ing out on those five or six hour rides, and you’re just in pain. You have to re­spect the way the sport is de­vel­op­ing all the time.”

On any given day now, Tuft will start off with the fun stuff, do­ing a back­coun­try ski tour in the morn­ing or head­ing out for a run. Then he’ll come home and do an trainer ses­sion to re­mind his body about the na­ture of road rac­ing and the spe­cific move­ments re­quired.

Hik­ing is one of Tuft’s sta­ple ac­tiv­i­ties. He’ll start in the fall by go­ing out for an hour or two and build­ing to three- or fourhours walks be­fore do­ing what he calls “some epic hikes.” The di­ver­sity of ter­rain and move­ment re­quired by hik­ing in the moun­tains has helped Tuft main­tain an all-over level of fit­ness that would be im­pos­si­ble to achieve by work­ing just on a bike.

“It’s re­ally con­trary to ev­ery­thing we do on a road bike,” said Tuft. “I think hik­ing is one of the best ac­tiv­i­ties for your pos­ture, and your hips and your back. It’s very dy­namic when you’re scram­bling up a moun­tain, us­ing your hands.”

Tuft’s time on two wheels also in­cludes tour­ing and moun­tain bik­ing. The course for the An­dorra cross coun­try World Cup is on the moun­tain just out­side his door. The Pyre­nean moun­tain passes are prime lo­ca­tions to push fit­ness on a tour­ing bike while si­mul­ta­ne­ously hit­ting key road

cy­cling work­outs and dis­con­nect­ing from the train­ing men­tal­ity. He’ll do an out­door road ride “for fun” when the weather is right. “Men­tally, you need to dis­con­nect from the day in and day out,” said Tuft. “You need to be able to hit that dis­con­nect button on the srm. I mean, that stuff is part of the job, but it’s just not healthy to do all the time. Road rac­ing can have a bit of a funny men­tal­ity. I like the moun­tain biker’s way of liv­ing a lot more. For me it’s about hav­ing that switch of men­tal­ity.” Once win­ter set­tles in on the moun­tains that line the Okana­gan Val­ley, Guthrie will con­tinue to head up the slopes from his cabin. He’ll leave be­hind his hunt­ing gear, and use back­coun­try skis to “earn turns” in the pow­der blan­ket­ing the area. “Back­coun­try ski­ing is quite mus­cu­lar and keeps you at that low en­durance zone,” said Guthrie. “It’s sim­i­lar to moun­tain bik­ing where you reap the ben­e­fits of work­ing hard on the way up by en­joy­ing the down­hill.”

You can also see the di­ver­sity in Guthrie’s train­ing in his rid­ing. Dur­ing the past year, he shifted his fo­cus from solely XC to rac­ing in the En­duro World Series and se­lect XC races of dif­fer­ent lengths. Head­ing into his sec­ond year as an in­de­pen­dent racer, he’s con­fi­dent that his ef­forts off the bike will help make him a more well­rounded ath­lete.

pho­tos Moun­tain biker Evan Guthrie gets into sea­sonal ac­tiv­i­ties around his cabin, such as pre­par­ing fire­wood for win­ter. It’s prac­ti­cal work that also has on-bike ben­e­fits. He’ll build core strength that will serve him on tech­ni­cal trails.

be­low

Scenes from the 2015 Camp Guthrie. Cy­clists joined Evan Guthrie at his cabin in the B.C. In­te­rior for snowy off-sea­son train­ing and fun.

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