MTB Front­lines

Make the Most of Your Win­ter Train­ing – Then Head South

Pedal Magazine - - Contents - BY RAPHAEL GAGNÉ

Ire­ally en­joy win­ter, and, let’s just say I was served this win­ter – we got a ton of snow in Que­bec and that was fan­tas­tic for an out­door en­thu­si­ast like me. I had a great win­ter of train­ing at home and on my cross-coun­try skis and fat­bike. For me, find­ing the right bal­ance be­tween my roller, my skis and my fat­bike is es­sen­tial to stay mo­ti­vated and make the most out of the win­ter and its train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. Still, as a Pro­fes­sional cy­clist, it’s im­por­tant to split up the win­ter and travel south for some qual­ity time on the sad­dle to op­ti­mize train­ing speci­ficity and get the hours in.

My first camp, one week in Cuba in mid-De­cem­ber, con­sisted of high vol­ume and low in­ten­sity on the road bike for an av­er­age of four hours a day. For me, it was the op­ti­mal train­ing en­vi­ron­ment – I like it warm, re­ally warm, and one can do a lot more than just bike four hours and sit in a ho­tel room surf­ing the Web af­ter that. One can go to the beach, visit, kite-surf, read y hablar un poco de span­ish con ami­gos. Get­ting the job done in a fun, low-stress en­vi­ron­ment is so amaz­ing. Get­ting next-level tan lines for the up­com­ing sea­son isn’t bad ei­ther, and my coconut and cane-juice diet was de­li­cious.

Af­ter spend­ing Christ­mas at home, in early Jan­uary I was off to Cal­i­for­nia with the Que­bec pro­vin­cial MTB team camp to the Santa Mon­ica Moun­tains for two weeks of road train­ing, great weather, amaz­ing road qual­ity and va­ri­ety, from the tar­mac along­side the Pa­cific Ocean to the nearly one-hour climb in the Moun­tains. I highly rec­om­mend this area – it’s my favourite road-bik­ing spot in North Amer­ica, plus it has great MTB op­tions. It was a great camp, com­plete with my two solid se­nior team­mates and good friends Léan­dre Bouchard and Alexan­dre Vialle.

I’ve al­ways been tight with the up-and-com­ing younger gen­er­a­tion of cy­clists from the Que­bec team, and it was a great op­por­tu­nity to get to know each other bet­ter and to per­haps in­spire them on and off the bike. Léan­dre and I did an Olympic pre­sen­ta­tion/in­ter­view, which was quite fun and in­ter­ac­tive! We an­swered a gazil­lion ques­tions and were happy to have the chance to share our story. The Que­bec pro­vin­cial team has helped me so much over the course of my ca­reer, from train­ing to rac­ing, be­ing at those camps is a good way to give back, plus they’re still great, en­joy­able train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for me.

Fat­bike fever has re­ally picked up in Eastern Canada, and there are many race op­por­tu­ni­ties in Que­bec, as well as fat­bike fes­ti­vals. In town, an im­pres­sive 500 mem­bers have been recorded at the largest fat­bike cen­tre – I’m lucky to have ac­cess to such well-main­tained home­town trails. For that, I have to thank cross-coun­try ski/ fat-bike/MTB cen­tre Sen­tiers du Moulin in Lac Beau­port. Its sup­port is amaz­ing, and where I first be­gan moun­tain bik­ing. There, I took part in three fat­bike races, which were good train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and, most of all, a whole lot fun. Peo­ple now be­lieve the fat­bike is a big deal for me be­cause I won those three events, how­ever I still con­sider my­self a moun­tain-bike spe­cial­ist.

At the end of Fe­bru­ary, we had our an­nual two-week Cana­dian Na­tional MTB team camp at Bear Moun­tain Re­sort in Vic­to­ria, B.C. We had a num­ber of very good ses­sions on trav­el­ing, re­cov­ery, tac­tics and strat­egy, men­tal prepa­ra­tion, nutri­tion and more. We also did many fun team-build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties on and off the bike. The train­ing was pri­mar­ily fo­cused on MTB en­durance base miles. The train­ing sched­ule was chal­leng­ing phys­i­cally and tech­ni­cally. We had a strong team, and it was great to push and learn from each other. My big­gest chal­lenge in Vic­to­ria was sur­viv­ing the hu­mid cold, as I’m not used to that, sur­pris­ing as that may be as I do a lot of cross-coun­try ski­ing and fat­bik­ing in the cold. I have no prob­lem with rac­ing in harsh, rainy cross-coun­try con­di­tions, though for train­ing I ad­mit I find it quite tough. The time spent with my Na­tional Team team­mates was amaz­ing on and off the bike – most are good friends and it’s a sec­ond fam­ily wher­ever we are in the world come race sea­son.

The end of the camp fea­tured the start of the race sea­son with the first Canada Cup in Bear Moun­tain on March 4. It was only a C-level race, as it was quite early and far from the April U.S. Cups, but it’s al­ways nice to get the legs go­ing and have a fit­ness check-up. That was also my first race with my new Can­non­dale-3 Rox Rac­ing team, and it was a fun, smooth tran­si­tion. I was happy to take the win for the team, and it was such an amaz­ing feel­ing to lead, know­ing that I had two strong team­mates in Derek Zand­stra and Kee­gan Swen­son in the chase group, ready to charge if I blew up. They ended up third and fourth, while team­mate Erin Huck also took third in women’s Elite, mean­ing a strong start to the sea­son for the team.

As I’m writ­ing this, I’m at the end of a solid pre-race MTB camp with Félix Bel­humeur at our Ari­zo­nian friend Ryan Geiger’s place in Flagstaff and Se­dona, get­ting in some al­ti­tude train­ing and money in the bank for the mid-sea­son, in which there will be two World Cups high in An­dorra and Switzer­land. The rid­ing has been amaz­ing, and now I’m head­ing into the Bonelli San Di­mas and Sea Ot­ter U.S. Cups.

En­joy the spring rid­ing and see you on the trails.

Early March at Bear Moun­tain in B.C. with my Na­tional Team team­mates who are like a sec­ond fam­ily.

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