Setting Specific Expectations

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Setting Specific Expectations

Special Blog Post by ALP Athlete Andrea Buttine

Last Sunday I raced the Superior Morgul Road Race for the fourth time in my cycling career. It was cold. The sun was obscured by a thick layer of clouds. I hadn’t brought the right clothing for the race (Accuweather.com should reconsider its name). While the weather was a downer, the truly bone-chilling, nerve-wracking element of the race was knowing I would have to ascend “The Wall” five times. The Wall is a mile-long hill that reaches 18% at its steepest point and is one of my least favorite stretches of pavement in Colorado.

 In the past, I have repeatedly gotten dropped on the steepest part of The Wall and then had to time trial (sometimes for a mile or more) back onto whichever group I was with. I would burn a match trying to get up the damn hill, only to have to burn another to get back to the group, all the while praying nobody decided to attack once I finally slipped back into the draft. I might have done this a few times throughout the race. That’s a lot of matches.

Climbing the Wall for the final time

Climbing the Wall for the final time

 At the start of Sunday’s race, I decided I did not want to be in the chasing position at any point during the race. I wanted to be in control of my efforts as much as possible; there would be no time trialing behind the group, only time trialing in front of it. When I started to get dropped on the steep part of The Wall on lap 3, I reminded myself of my deal with myself, HHTFUd (hastily hardened), and joined the breakaway ahead of me. When the climber girls began to distance me in the same spot on lap 4, I reiterated no time trialing! in my head and made contact relatively quickly. I did spend some time time trialing later in the race, but it was off the front of the breakaway. I came as close to winning as I ever have and despite finishing off the podium, I honored my goal and felt good about my race.

 I remember reading somewhere that the Danes are some of the happiest people on earth, and that is because they set their expectations low. When your expectations are low, you are pleasantly surprised by positive outcomes. I do not necessarily set my expectations low when it comes to racing, but recently I have tried to choose specific expectations for each race. (I suppose Alison Powers has been trying to get me to do this for a couple years now, but catching on later is better than never, right?) In some of my other races this season, my specific goals have included: to move to the front of the pack when I wanted to, to keep my average watts at FTP for most of the TT, etc. In one race I set the expectation that I would keep on charging after giving a lead-out in the final sprint. I did not live up to this goal and found myself feeling pretty depressed after the race.

 The takeaway: when you set an explicit expectation for your race and work hard to make good on it, you feel successful at the end of your race and you likely see your name higher up on the results list. Winning is neat and I like to win (who doesn’t?). I will keep setting specific expectations for myself and hopefully be pleasantly surprised a few more times this season.

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Confidence = Fun

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Confidence = Fun

By Alison Powers

When I was 14 years old, I started mountain bike racing. With very little fear, and no sense of self preservation, I crashed- a lot. I loved to ride my bike, loved to get my legs burning and heart pumping, and I was a little bit competitive. But, I had absolutely no skills. Eventually the speed, the trail, rocks, or water crossings would catch up to me and I'd fall off my bike. Being a teenager, crashing didn't seem to faze me. I'd huck ledges (broken tail bone), bomb descents without brakes (punctured abdomen), and push the speed at which I would start to be afraid (broken ribs). 

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Despite racing bikes, and getting some descent results, I had had very little skills training and, other than go hard and go fast, I really didn't have any idea what I was supposed to do on my bike. I never thought about body position or weight distribution. I knew I needed to look ahead, but I didn't really understand what that entailed. I assumed descending on a bike was the same as on skis- wrong (different weight distribution). My crash to ride ratio was at least 1:1 if not 2:1. 

Fast forward into my early 30's. Fear and self preservation have entered my mind and I no longer enjoy mountain biking. I'm afraid to crash. I'm afraid to get hurt. Every time I rode my mountain bike, I'd come to a technical section, lose my confidence, get afraid, have to dismount and walk, and then get frustrated at myself for not being braver, better, etc. It was not an enjoyable experience. 

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I finally decided it was time to do something about my lack of skills. Plus, if I had aspirations to properly coach mountain bike riders and racers, then I'd better be able to walk the walk.  In came skills practice. I asked friends who were coaches to help me, I took skills clinics, I practiced on my own, built my own skills props, and diligently learned, practiced, and executed basic mountain bike skills. The ones that helped me most, and that I, in return teach are- body position, attack position, weight distribution, vision (how to look ahead), and cornering. 

Now, nearing 40, I am a better rider than I have ever been, and I have the most fun I've ever had on a mountain bike. My crash to ride ratio has improved immensely. I won't be winning any enduros (I think I'm actually slower as my sense of self preservation gets a stronger hold on me), or hucking big air, but when it comes to riding new trails or old ones with hard sections, I look forward to the technical aspects. I like the challenge and enjoy testing my skills. 

Good skills and knowledge lead to confidence. Confidence leads to enjoyment. 

Join me Tuesday June 4th, 5:30pm at Tin Shed Sports for a free mountain bike skills clinic. This is a 3 part (free) series in learning to ride your mountain bike with more skill and confidence. We'll work on all the things that have helped me become a better rider and in turn, you'll become better as well. 

Mountain biking can be fun and with fewer crashes.

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Race Winning Intervals

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Race Winning Intervals

By ALP Coach Alison Powers

Looking for a workout that will help you win a bike race? Look no further than Race Winning Intervals. These intervals will help you attack to get off the front of the race, then be able to stay on the gas to stay away, and finally, sprint for the win.

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After a good warm-up you will do 4 intervals of 3:40min. Each interval consists of a 10 sec sprint (the initial attack to create separation from the group), 20 more seconds of really hammering in zone 6 (to create the gap between you and the group, then you settle in zone 5 VO2 for 3min. This is how you maintain the gap that you just created between you and the group. The interval ends with a 10sec sprint as you sprint to the finish line.

You can vary these intervals by changing up the length and intensity of the “settle in” part (i.e. go hard, then settle at Zone 4 lactate threshold for 9min, then sprint for the win).

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Here is an actual race winning interval- my 2014 US Pro Road Race win. This is 16min long and you can see the initial attack to create separation. This was a technical downtown circuit so there were a lot of corners and small hills; that’s what all the coasting followed by hard efforts to get up to speed, stay on the gas, and stay away are. I also tried to surge up each little hill to maintain speed and then “recover” once my speed was up on the downhills. Half way through was a steep little climb that required more effort/watts than my finish effort (which made it feel like I was doing two RWI’s back to back).

Train yourself to go hard, keep going hard, and then dig deep to sprint at the end. You’ll be pleased with the rewards.

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Criterium Racing 101: What We'll Teach

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Criterium Racing 101: What We'll Teach

Tomorrow, Saturday the 27th, is our second annual women’s Criterium Clinic at Specialized Boulder. Everything is lined up and ready (registration closes this evening, so if you want to join us, you’d better get on the list).

Topics that we will cover and teach;

  • Group riding skills- being able to ride in a group, follow wheels, find and stay in the draft, and hold position are very important in criterium racing. We’ll talk about protecting your “box”, practice riding closely to each other, how to move up the pack, where to look, etc.

  • Cornering- Criterium courses are small loops with multiple corners. Being able to corner with speed means you can save energy, hold position, and have a better chance at winning. We’ll work on body position, “fighting the forces”, leaning the bike, and vision.

  • Sprinting- Sprinting is much more than being born with fast twitch muscles. It’s a skill. Without this skill, you will not have criterium racing success. Sprinting comes in the form of attacks, following wheels, going for primes (we’ll teach you what a prime is), and the finish sprint.

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Our skill blocks will be followed by a short class room discussion that will include preparing for a criterium (training and warm-up), race tactics (attacking, team work, racing to your strengths), the last lap (how to win the race), and the rules (the pit, mechanicals, categories).

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We’ll finish the clinic with a few mock races to put into practice the skills and topics we used. Riding in a group, cornering at speed, sprinting, the pit, etc. It’ll be a jammed pack 3 hrs that will (hopefully) leave you more confident and excited to race.

If you plan to join us, please register, and arrive by 9:55am so you can check in, get a coffee, bathroom, and we can start promptly at 10am.

See you tomorrow!

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 7 Tips to Becoming a Better Climber

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7 Tips to Becoming a Better Climber

By Coach Alison Powers

Climbing. People think it’s this magical thing that only lucky or skinny people can do.  This is a misnomer. Anyone can climb. Anyone who likes to ride a bike, can ride up a hill.

            Yes, riding up a hill is harder than riding on the flats due to fighting gravity. Fighting gravity requires more effort, more leg strength, more fitness, and more stamina- both mental and physical. However, there are a few things you can do and techniques you can learn to make climbing feel easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable. 

1) Climb- as silly as it sounds, it’s true- the more you climb, the better you get at it. You’ll learn to relax when climbing, your legs will get stronger, and your fitness will improve.

2) Learn to climb out of the saddle- being able to climb both seated and standing gives you a chance to change positions, use different muscles, and it breaks up the climb. Often times, people stay seated for the duration of the climb. They think that if they stand it will make them more tired. This is true if you accelerate when you stand. Any time you accelerate, you will make yourself more tired. The secret to standing and pedaling is shifting into 1 (or 2) harder gear(s) before standing. This way, once standing, you maintain constant speed and are able to use your body weight to push down the pedals.

3) Change positions- This idea not only applies to climbing in and out of the saddle, but also to hand positions. Our road bikes have three different hand locations (hoods, tops, drops), use them. You don’t have to stay still when climbing.

4) Change cadence- just like standing when climbing, being able to push both a big gear and spin a small gear helps climbs go by more quickly. The idea is to change up what you are doing to recruit different muscles and/or energy systems throughout the duration of the climb.

5) Pacing- the longer the climb, the more aware of your pacing you will need to be. The goal when tackling a climb should be to start a little conservatively, so you can continue to climb strongly and finish strong. Avoid starting too hard, and then slowing down and becoming more and more tired as the climb goes on.

6) Be Ok with being uncomfortable- climbing is harder than riding on the flats due to fighting gravity. Fighting gravity requires more effort, more leg strength, more fitness, and more stamina- both mental and physical. This means it’s going to be hard, and it’s going to be uncomfortable and that’s ok. It’s OK for your legs to hurt a little bit and it’s OK to be breathing hard.

7) Practice- Here is a workout you can do on your next training ride that will help you learn to climb at different speeds, standing, sitting, and accelerating.

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The Importance of Race Weight

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The Importance of Race Weight

This week's blog post is a throw back to one of our more popular posts. As the season draws near (or, in this case, it’s here), should you be focused on pounds, watts, both? 

Power to weight ratio. Watts per Kilogram. Race weight. Three different ways to say it, one simple meaning; however much you weigh, you must have the strength and fitness (power) to move that weight. The theory simply states the less you weigh, and the more power you have, the faster of a bike rider you will be.

Does this mean we all need to go on a diet and get as lean and as small as possible in order to be a fast bike rider? No. Well, it depends. It depends on what your goals are. It depends on what type of bike riding and/or racing you do. It depends on what type of bike rider you are and what body type you have.

Power to weight really comes into play when you are fighting gravity- i.e. climbing. The more body weight you have, the more you have to fight gravity and the stronger you need to be. For example, if I am riding uphill along side fellow ALP Coach Paddy, who weights 25-30 pounds less than I do, I would be riding along at ~250watts while she is “only” riding at ~215watts. Now imagine if I lost those 30 pounds but kept my power. I would fly up the hill. However, there is a good chance, that in losing those 30 pounds, more than half of those pounds would be muscle mass and thus, I would lose power and not be nearly as strong, as powerful, and as fast on the flats.

In determining your ideal race weight, first evaluate your goals. What kind of riding and racing will you be doing and what is the terrain of those rides/races? If your answer is long sustained climbing, rides/races with big and or steep climbing, then perhaps, in addition to gaining fitness and power, it’s time to look over your diet and training to see where you can shed some pounds. On the flip side, if the answer is flatter and/or rolling terrain, sprinting and/or sprint finishes, or a moderate amount of climbing, then focus on a good clean diet, but mostly, focus on getting as fit and as powerful as possible. Plus, there’s a good chance that while getting as fit and as powerful as possible, you lose a few unwanted pounds anyway.

In all honesty, I think too much emphasis is put on the power to weight ratio. At the end of the day, the person with the most determination, never-give-up, suffer like a mo-fo attitude will beat the person with better power to weight ratio who can’t suffer and gives up easily. We all want to be lean mean fighting machines. Some will be leaner than others and some will be meaner than others. Focus on your goals, your training, your diet, your mental toughness and fortitude, and success will come—weighing 150 pounds or 125 pounds.

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Join our ALP Cycles Coaching Family. 4 Coaches and 3 Coaching levels to choose from. We ride with our athletes, spend quality time with each athlete (in person, on the phone, over email), and really take the care needed to develop each person into the best cyclist they can be. 

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What I didn't know then....we'll teach now- Criterium Clinic

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What I didn't know then....we'll teach now- Criterium Clinic

By ALP Coach Alison Powers

My first roadie race was in 2005 in New Hampshire. It was a Criterium, and other than watching the Tour de France on TV, I had never seen a road bike race. I knew nothing about racing a criterium and I made many mistakes that day. On April 27th, my fellow ALP Cycles Coaching coaches and I will be coaching a criterium clinic from Specialized Boulder. We are going to teach the things I didn't know 14 years ago in New Hampshire. 

4 things I didn't know about Criterium racing.... we'll teach in 3 weeks. 

1) Tactics. I had no idea about race tactics in a criterium or really any race at all. I had a fair amount of mountain bike racing in my past and I just usually rode away from the field on the uphills and hoped to not get caught on the downhills. That tactic didn't work in this criterium. I rode on the front of the race for the entire race, pulling the rest of the Cat 3/4 field around and around. 40min later, with 200 meters to go, everyone- EVERYONE- sprinted past me to the finish line.  In this year’s clinic, we will teach you different ways to win bike races based on the course and your own strengths and weaknesses.

2) How to ride in a group, especially around corners- Part of the reason why I rode on the front of the race, that day in New Hampshire, is because I was afraid to be near any other riders. And, going around a corner in a pack of riders, forget about it. That made me really nervous.  Riding in and navigating through a group of riders is a skill. We’ll teach that skill.

Last year’s criterium clinic had almost 50 women

Last year’s criterium clinic had almost 50 women

2) Sprinting- I was a typical ride-by-myself-hammering-at-all-times kind of rider. I never changed pace, I never got out of the saddle, and I had never sprinted on my road bike. Sprinting is so much more than fast twitch muscles. It’s about body position, muscle recruitment, gearing, timing, and positioning.

4) Cornering- I did not know that my "normal" cornering skill and ability was faster and more confident than most other rider's abilities. 14 years ago, I slowed down to wait for the group to catch back up with me after each corner (I did not know about attacking, or breaking away, or finishing solo). Fast cornering, on any terrain, is about confidence. You must have confidence in your body position, where you are looking, what your bike/tires can do, and most of all, be able to relax and go through the corner with speed. We’ll teach you how to find that confidence, ability, and speed.

After coaching and teaching for 10 years, I now know that my mistakes above are common "unknowns" for many bike racers- both new and experienced. Come join Jennifer, Patricia, Brie, and me April 27th for 3 hrs of criterium racing 101 learning, practicing, training, and becoming more confident and faster. It's only $50 and the proceeds go to ALP Cycles Racing to pay entry fees for team races. Pre registration is required and up to 5 upgrade are points available. Register here

In 2013, I won the Criterium National Championship out of a 2-person breakaway

In 2013, I won the Criterium National Championship out of a 2-person breakaway

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Spring Training Camp

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Spring Training Camp

For the past 3 years, ALP Cycles Racing has had Spring training camp in Grand Junction, Colorado. Each year, the riders and our ALP coaches look forward to logging long miles with teammates in the sunshine. Each year, it has proven to be so much more than a training camp. This year, was no different with a daily exercise of flexibility.

Somewhere in there are 5 bikes, 3 coaches, and 2 riders.

Somewhere in there are 5 bikes, 3 coaches, and 2 riders.

This past weekend was year 3 of our Spring Training Camp. Split between 2 houses, we had 18 riders and 3 coaches. Routes, complete with daily skills and drills, were planned. Road bike, mountain bike, team work, Bobo bars, NBS Hydration, and food. We were ready!

Day 1’s plan was to arrive mid day, quickly kit up, and do a lap of the Colorado Monument. 10min into our ride, the skies opened up, and temperature dropped. We changed the route, practiced double pacelines in the rain, and arrived back home 90min later half frozen. It was a good learning lesson in how to deal with the cold rain (vaseline, embro, clothing, fenders), and how to ride as a team in the rain. Not one person complained. It was a day of HTFU’ing as a team.

Each night, we ate dinner as a team. Everyone would go to one of the houses and share cooking and dish duty. We ate appetizers/dinner/dessert, talked bike racing, learned about each teammate, and really bonded as a team. Our coach lead topics included, the 7 Guiding Principles of bike racing and how to apply them in races, cornering and line selection, and climbing how-to.

Foundation Training as a team

Foundation Training as a team

We woke up to 35 degrees and rain on Day 2. Not ones to sit around and do nothing, each house did a core workout, talked about power meters and head units (Garmin, Wahoo, etc), and patiently (sort of) waited for the rain to clear. When it did, we had a great ride working on rotating pacelines, attacking with a teammate, chasing as a team, and getting more 3 hours in our legs.



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Day 3 would be our only sunshine day and we were ready to make the most of it. We finally were able to ride the Monument. While doing so, everyone worked on climbing while in and out of the saddle, and on the back side, descending and cornering. Back at home base, we split into 2 groups. 1- more roadie ride time, and 2- mountain bike ride. This is our first year having an official mountain bike team so this was a big deal. Our first mountain bike ride as a team.

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Day 4, Sunday, brought more rain and cold. We made the decision to pack up and head back to the Front Range for our final day of riding; race simulation practice. Breaking into small teams, we did team pursuit style racing. We then did 2 4-lap mock crit races. With 3 coaches everyone got great feedback and learning (and tired legs).

While we did not log long miles with teammates in the sunshine, we did log long miles with teammates in variable conditions and at varying times of the day. This lesson and training in being able to be flexible and roll with the punches is very important in bike racing. There are many things you can not control in bike racing but having the ability to stay positive, be prepared, and get the most out of each day is how champions are made.

Here’s to a great 2019 race season!

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The Art of Being Prepared

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The Art of Being Prepared

By ALP Coach Alison Powers

The art of being prepared comes down to one simple thing—no surprises on race day.

Preparing for race day is more than training and recovery.  Success on race day requires precise preparation. These means the things you can control should be dialed in, ready, and give you confidence to have the best performance possible.

“Fail to prepare and prepare to fail”—famous quote by someone who inspires people to get their shit together.

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Preparation begins the weeks leading into the race.  Do your homework and learn things such as- what is the length of the course, what are the fitness and skills demands of the course/race, when do I need to register for the race, who will be my competition, winning times from previous years, average weather temperature for that time of year, etc. Once you know this basic information, talk it over with your coach, and come up with a plan for success.

Preparation continues the week of the race.  During this time, make sure your equipment is dialed in. Bike is clean and in good working condition- same with tires, cleats, suspension, etc.  Missing the winning breakaway because you couldn’t get it in the big chain ring is not a good excuse for a bad race.

The day before the race is where little things you do to prepare can make big differences.  These include, pre riding the course, checking who’s pre-registered so you know your competition, eating and hydrating well, preparing your race bag (clothing, shoes, helmet, extra clothing, recovery drink, etc) and day of and race food and resting and sleeping.

SnowyMountain Photo

SnowyMountain Photo

Preparation continues the day of the race. Most successful racers have a well-tested pre-race routine and they stick to it. Dialing in your own pre-race routine will ensure that you arrive at the start line feeling calm and ready. This pre-race routine includes things like; having a schedule for when to eat breakfast, when to pack the car, drive to the race, pick up race numbers, and pre-ride the course. This will help ensure you don’t forget items at home and you’re ready for everything.  This routine also includes food, drink, bathroom, etc. The goal is to know exactly what to eat, when to eat it, when to pee, and when and how much to drink.

The goal of all this preparation is to give you the best possible chance to have a successful race.  During the race, you must put this preparation into place. Have a pre-race plan and stick to it as best as possible (or have a plan B and/or C incase plan A didn’t work). Make sure to eat and drink according to plan, and trust that all the hard work you have put in will pay off.  

Finally, your preparation continues post-race. After cooling down, make sure to have a change of clothes, post-race nutrition (food and/or recovery drink), and give some thought as to what went well and what you can improve upon so come next race, you are better prepared for success.

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How to approach Stage Racing.   Study hard, Relax harder

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How to approach Stage Racing. Study hard, Relax harder

by ALP Cycles Coach Brianna Walle

It is officially the start of “Stage Racing “season and riders are priming their legs and lungs for the first set of performance(s). All the off-season training and preparation will be displayed as athletes anxiously await in the final countdown before “game time”. There are two aspects behind preparation for a Stage Race: the physical time and energy and the mental aspects.  Physically, you’ve done your homework training and tapering for the event, but how does one cope with the anxiety and stress behind the mental preparation?  Below are some of my personal tips on how to mentally get zoned in and equally zoned out for optimal performance.

Mental preparation: studying the courses

2016 North Star Grand Prix : Cannon Falls Road Race Notes

2016 North Star Grand Prix : Cannon Falls Road Race Notes

  • Once available, skim through the race bible, making a mental “map” of the general flow and rhythm or the race. 

  • For me, it was helpful to draw a “map” of the stage and include visual cues to help digest the week ahead. 

  • If a race bible isn’t available yet, use the previous year (s) bible as a guide.  Make mental notes of adjustments to the courses and take in any “word of mouth” changes as well.

  • Take each stage one day at a time. Similar to chapters in a book, each with an individual theme with characteristics.

  • Note your strengths as a rider on particular days and hone in on those skills. Example: if one day is a “power climb” type of day, write “strength- power climbing!”. 

  • Note challenges or struggles to keep in mind ie: longer hilltop climb finish days and historically going out too hard in the first half of the climb- include a cue such as “ride within, know thy zones” or a cue to remind yourself of your steady “pace” on that climb. 

  • Maybe it’s even helpful to write “ride your guts out” or “beer on top!”. It is really anything motivating or distracting if the climb is daunting. (rider preference;-)) Point is to use your strengths and know your weaknesses.

  • “Maps” are especially helpful for Time-Trials. In my race career, I would draw out the race profile, with my own personal cues and notes to help me visualize the course. I would include my own notes from doing a course recon on the actual course. Basically, notes to help me pace my race.

2016 USA Cycling Nationals Time Trial: 4th place

2016 USA Cycling Nationals Time Trial: 4th place

2016 Gatineau Grand Prix Time Trial

2016 Gatineau Grand Prix Time Trial

Mental preparation: riding the courses

  • Once the theoretical studying of the courses has been completed, go out and ride the courses. We’re all visual learners- fill the gaps.

  • Take additional notes once you’re on course. I would bring my phone, sometime take videos or pictures of parts of the course and write notes in my phone or voice messages. Basically take in all and everything that you can.

  • Focus on lines (especially for TT’s), wind patterns, obstacles on the course and note areas where you think there may be break-away opportunities. In TT’s, I would note places on the course to go a specific zone or exertion, making notes of a physical cue ie: a BBQ stand on course

  • If you are not able to preview the race courses in person, use Google Maps (street view!) to virtually explore the course. Any preview is better than none.

  • Doing a recon will reduce your anxiety on race day

Mental Preparation: RELAXING HARD and good distractions

  • It’s super easy to get fixated on the racing- teammates are talking about it outside of “team meeting” timeframes, you’ve got a nervous roommate, etc…it’s equally as important to relax and let your mind flow onto other topics. Otherwise it could be detrimental to your race performance.

  • It’s ok to be focused, but it’s also important to sprinkle in the fun to keep you balanced- this keeps the anxiety levels lower and reduces “performance pressure”

  •  I would always make sure that in the days leading into racing, I had time carved out for : pedicures, coffee, a nice lunch, etc. this is especially good to do with teammates to cultivate team-chemistry and enjoy some fun before it’s game time.

  • REST HARD between the Stages- feet up, take in your nutrition and watch a funny comedy, for example. Play cards, read, etc.

  • The day/evening before the next stage, briefly (10-15 mins) read through your “notes” and re-familiarize yourself with the day ahead.  This can help alleviate the race day jitters…then, put your feet up, do something fun and later something relaxing before bed.  Ie: bath or shower, meditate, read, some stretching, etc.

Remember, you’ve done your homework. Now it’s time to shine! Re-evaluate and revise your race goals daily, be flexible and most importantly HAVE FUN! If you have FUN, you actually go FASTER, and this is a FACT.

What isn’t to love about a Cinnamon roll the size of your FACE!

What isn’t to love about a Cinnamon roll the size of your FACE!

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