Pushing Yourself to the Limit
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