Tuft Enough

Push­ing Your­self to the Limit

Pedal Magazine - - Out in Front - BY SVEIN TUFT

With­out sound­ing too much like a crusty old guy, I’d like to say a few words about the next gen­er­a­tion and how

Pro cy­cling is evolv­ing. In many ways for the bet­ter, I be­lieve, but there are some things get­ting left be­hind. Very im­por­tant things.

This off-sea­son, I’ve taken on some coach­ing projects, try­ing to help a few young guys who want to make it to the next step. It has been a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to say the least. The thing that strikes me the most is the amount of in­for­ma­tion these guys have at their fin­ger­tips. Ev­ery­thing is TSS, FTP and Strava records. Don’t get me wrong – all of this stuff has its place and has helped many peo­ple out, but I feel we are los­ing touch with re­al­ity. The In­ter­net pro­vides instant gratification, and I feel that this is what is making it very dif­fi­cult for young rid­ers to suc­ceed. They want re­sults and a Pro con­tract now. They’ve beat so-and-so on Strava and now they are ready for the big leagues.

I try to stress that num­bers, lab tests and Strava records don’t nec­es­sar­ily ap­ply to WorldTour bike rac­ing. It’s nice to have the abil­ity to push big power, but quite often that isn’t the only piece of the puz­zle. There’s no by­pass­ing years of hard work and ded­i­ca­tion no mat­ter how tal­ented you are. There are very few ge­netic anom­alies out there, and even the Peter Sa­gans of the sport still have their strug­gles de­spite how easy they make it look some­times.

When I started, we had a Speedo and a heartrate mon­i­tor. As ar­chaic as this sounds, I loved those days. The train­ing was so straight­for­ward. Just go out and ride hard for five to six hours, and if your body held up, you started making adap­ta­tions. This might sound very sim­plis­tic and old school, but I still be­lieve that if you have the drive to make it in Pro­fes­sional sport, there is no per­fect magic recipe. It’s about push­ing your­self to the limit and get­ting up to do it again the next day. I’ve no­ticed peo­ple don’t want to hear this. They want to hear about a crazy in­ter­val that is go­ing to pro­pel them to win­ning stage races all of a sud­den or some spe­cial sup­ple­ment that will give them huge gains. Na­ture doesn’t work like this. Na­ture is about adapt­ing over time, and what we are do­ing in these En­durance sports is far from nat­u­ral, so the adap­ta­tion will take a lot of time.

The other is­sue I’m see­ing is the mas­sive con­nec­tion to so­cial me­dia. Peo­ple can no longer be con­tent with just go­ing out on a great ride and smash­ing it. It has to be pub­lished to the en­tire world. I un­der­stand that it is fun to share with friends, but I feel it has be­come an ob­ses­sion. It is an ad­dic­tion, show­ing your ef­forts to the world. This re­minds me of rid­ers who are the world’s greatest train­ers, but when it comes to race time, you won­der, “What hap­pened?” The rea­son we work this hard is to per­form in races. This, I be­lieve, is some­thing that’s been for­got­ten by many young rid­ers. You have to pick your bat­tles when com­pet­ing at such a high level. You only have so much en­ergy to ex­pend. You choose – best trainer or race win­ner?

Then there are the coaches. Nowa­days, it seems they must have some amaz­ing sell­ing point, some­thing to keep them em­ployed by the ath­letes. A magic recipe to take them to the next level. It seems the trick now is to make the ath­letes so de­pen­dent on coaches that the ath­letes al­most lose all ac­count­abil­ity. This is a dangerous prece­dent. I’ve seen ath­letes bounce from coach to coach, blam­ing their per­for­mance on them. The ath­letes aren’t re­spon­si­ble for their per­for­mances – that’s on the shoul­ders of their gu­rus.

For me, coach­ing is a day-to-day af­fair. I want the ath­letes to un­der­stand their own bodies first. Per­son­ally, I need a coach’s feed­back daily before we can dis­cuss the next day’s train­ing. I can’t give some­one a month-long spread­sheet and tell one to for­mu­late a train­ing plan. Real life is not like this. In a per­fect world, the month-long ap­proach looks great, but life can throw span­ners in the works, and this is where we need to be flex­i­ble and set aside the anx­i­ety associated with not com­plet­ing the task.

Na­ture is the long game, and, first, you have to love what you are do­ing be­cause plan­ning to make a living off of Pro­fes­sional sport is a very bad busi­ness model. I be­lieve we are in an in­for­ma­tion-over­load era and that, in the fu­ture, ev­ery­thing will come full cir­cle again. Peo­ple will be­gin seek­ing out the less-com­pli­cated ap­proach. This is what I hope for the up­com­ing gen­er­a­tion, as I can’t see the cur­rent model be­ing sus­tain­able for many. I hope to share more of my ideas on this sub­ject in the fu­ture. Un­til next time, happy rid­ing.

Keep things sim­ple, be pa­tient and re­main

ac­count­able.

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