MTB Front­lines

Sea­son Wrap and Train­ing for 2017

Pedal Magazine - - Contents - BY RAPHAEL GAGNé

In 2016, all eyes were on the Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil, and it had been my life­long goal to make it there! It was a dream come true to race my first Olympics, with all the hard work and the highs and lows in get­ting there. I was dis­ap­pointed with the end re­sult, tak­ing 40th on a day that I didn't feel at my best, but I was proud to race at the Olympics for Canada and to be part of such a suc­cess­ful team, with our MTB (moun­tain-bike) girls tak­ing amaz­ing third- and fourth-place fin­ishes.

My 2016 sea­son fea­tured a sec­ond place in the US Cup over­all as well as win­ning the USA Cycling Pro XCT Se­ries. My best World Cup re­sult was 12th place in Australia, which granted me my spot in Rio. It's been a great sea­son and I'm thank­ful for all the sup­port this year from my new team, Can­non­dale.

Now I'm hun­gry for much more in the fu­ture and I'm very mo­ti­vated to work to­ward Tokyo in four years. I en­joyed an ap­prox­i­mately two-month-long, well-de­served, needed re­cov­ery phase in the early fall, a lot longer than usual, in or­der to en­sure I be­gan the next sea­son on solid foot­ing. I still stayed ac­tive, rid­ing very easy or en­joy­ing some great hik­ing at a walk­ing pace – some­thing I'm not used to.

Then I slowly picked up train­ing and started racing cy­clocross, but this fall was much dif­fer­ent. I raced only for fun be­cause I gen­uinely love racing cy­clocross and be­cause I missed it. I didn't have the train­ing and strength in my legs to back up such a high-in­ten­sity dis­ci­pline, but I still en­joyed be­ing out there and racing to sixth at Na­tion­als as well as cap­tur­ing the Pro­vin­cial ti­tle. I had a fun fall, en­joy­ing more MTB rides, as well as lots of gravel rides on my cy­clocross bike, find­ing my­self ex­plor­ing the back­coun­try at home and a maze of fire-roads.

I will be trav­el­ing to three short train­ing camps this winter, as I like to keep them short and pro­duc­tive. It's the time of the year for some time at home and, most of all, to en­joy my cross-coun­try-ski­ing and fat­bike train­ing set-up. The first camp will be one week in Cuba be­gin­ning Dec. 10, com­plete with my girl­friend, base-mile fo­cus and four-hours-a-day low-in­ten­sity train­ing.

Then I'm off to Santa Mon­ica in Cal­i­for­nia on Dec. 27 with the Que­bec Pro­vin­cial team for two and a half weeks of road and MTB, base miles with lots of el­e­va­tion, good train­ing part­ners and friends and great times, plus keep­ing in touch with the younger up-and-com­ing ath­letes.

Mid-Jan­uary, I'm back home for a good month and will usu­ally be out cross-coun­try ski­ing three days a week, then three days a week on the bike, ei­ther on my fat­bike or on my rollers. Speak­ing about in­door bikes, my roller had 14 years on it, so it was time for a change. I'm up­grad­ing to a more fluid and re­al­is­tic roller this winter: I just or­dered my E-Mo­tion rollers from In­sid­eRide. It's still a three-roller sys­tem, but it has for­ward and back­ward bal­ance plus bumper fea­tures, so you can do easy rides as well as max­i­mal sprints out of the sad­dle. I've tried it out a few times at in­door bike cen­tres and loved it – it's pretty ad­dic­tive. I've wanted one for the past cou­ple of years and thought it was time to in­vest in my in­door-bike set-up. I've been us­ing a Stages pow­er­me­ter on my bikes for the past three years, so it al­lows me to use the rollers with pre­cise train­ing in­ten­sity.

For me, rollers are the best type of plat­form to im­prove your pedal­ing ef­fi­ciency and ve­loc­ity, some­thing many cy­clists, es­pe­cially moun­tain bik­ers could work on a lit­tle more. On the other hand, when I'm on the fat­bike, it's def­i­nitely sim­i­lar to the MTB in terms of lower cadence, higher torque and tech­ni­cal skills work. My fat­bike is set up like my MTB race bike – I even use a Lefty sus­pen­sion. It's re­ally easy to put in the hours on a fat­bike. It's such fun and al­ways challenging to pedal up the hills and main­tain con­trol on snowy, some­times icy de­scents.

A warn­ing about fat­bikes though – be­cause it's so much fun, it's easy to overdo it. You need to re­al­ize it's not de­signed for re­cov­ery or en­durance rides. The bike is heav­ier, the con­di­tions are slow and you'll al­ways find your­self torque'ing. If you are a se­ri­ous racer, you'll need to find a bal­ance be­tween the in­door bike for fitness/mea­sured train­ing and the fat­bike for the fun, tech­ni­cal train­ing.

I will likely race one weekend on the fat bike over the winter, around end of Jan­uary, and may try to de­fend my Que­bec Pro­vin­cial cham­pion ti­tle. The dis­ci­pline is grow­ing so much, lots of fat­bike cen­tres are open­ing up in my area and many fes­ti­vals or races are on the sched­ule. Fat bik­ing is pretty new to me, as I only took it up last Jan­uary. Key things nec­es­sary to have fun on a fat­bike are warm shoes and tires with very good trac­tion, so this winter I'm up­grad­ing to the Maxxis Min­ion FBF and FBR.

Last but not least, your hands will freeze if you don't have han­dle­bar mit­tens, so wear thin sum­mer gloves inside them to re­tain all the feel and con­trol in the cock­pit. It's my great­est up­grade –I've hooked up my Fat Caad to CE UNIK com­pak bar mit­tens and my hands are happy now.

My last camp will take me to Vic­to­ria, B.C. for two weeks with the Cana­dian Na­tional team at the end of Fe­bru­ary. It's great that we have the op­por­tu­nity to train to­gether as a team and to push our­selves. The end of this camp will fea­ture the start of the 2017 racing sea­son, with the first Canada Cup in Bear Moun­tain, B.C. on March 6. Happy winter.

Find a bal­ance be­tween in­door train­ing and ac­tiv­i­ties such as fat­bik­ing which re­mains pop­u­lar with more races and fes­ti­vals each year.

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