Rubens is the current national Swiss time trial champion and has worn the yellow jersey in the 2002 Tour de France. Vlad has finished 11th in the Tour and won stage 9 in 2008. He won the Tour of Portugal in 2005, and has numerous professional accomplishments. Both are looking forward to having good seasons and are super friendly and outgoing.
Pez: As we go into the new 2010 season, what types of things are you doing to prepare for the long and very difficult season? Are you changing any of your preparation?
RB: Normally the season in Europe or Italy starts at the beginning of February. As usual I start training on the bike about two months before. In the first month I do free body exercises, swimming, and a little bit of running as well. Then I will increase the number of hours on the bike. I arrive in January prepared to do 6-hour training rides. Normally on the bike I concentrate on 3 important factors: force, rhythm, and endurance. Force is to develop power; rhythm is to have a good spinning frequency and endurance is to have a good capacity for long distances. Of course, balancing everything with specific structure is the trick that we focus on.
VE: For me, from a training standpoint, I am pretty much doing the same things I have done in the past, as they have been successful for me. The season is long and hard and I must separate myself by not “getting too serious” too early. It’s funny, you see me on our rides only eating simple food like bananas and small sandwiches. The reason I do that is I will be eating “race food” for about 8 straight months! We also talked about massage. Pretty much all race season, I am on a table getting massages, before a race, after a race. With a schedule that includes 80+ races, I need a break right now, so the timing of getting serious is important and that point usually happens at the team presentation and training camp. During this part of the year, I still train, but more as a prep for the more difficult training.
Pez: How do you define success for yourself this upcoming season? Do you have individual goals, team goals? How do you as an experienced athlete measure your success?
RB: First of all it is important to arrive at the races well in form. Then my goals are absolutely the Swiss championships and the Giro d’ Italia. The team goals are important (maybe you have to help one of your team mates in the general classification of a stage race.) I can say that the team goals are focused around all the races in Italy. Surely my individual goals are to win as many races as possible, concentrating on the time trials and on the breakaway stages. I think that first of all you have to be happy about what you have done in the race and before the race, then the results are secondary.
VE: I think for me, it’s about improving on results from the past, as knowing my previous accomplishments allows me to set realistic and attainable goals for improvement. Of course, team goals are very important, but as individual riders, we must look for our opportunities and a good director will help guide an individual’s effort that blends with team goals. But first and foremost, we are professionals and we must respect the team. Being a professional on the same team for a couple years, we already know the big goals for the year, mainly the Tour, which I am very excited about after having bad luck in 2009.
Training is changing at all levels. Both Rubens and Vlad stated many times that training is changing at their level of the sport or at least for them. Gone are endless miles of volume and substituted is some form of monitored structure. Professionals cannot sacrifice volume, but they are now balancing that volume with structure. Adding this element can allow them to track progress (just like amateurs), and give training some meaning along with motivation to improve.
The workouts. When you ask these guys what types of workouts they do, it’s basically no different than anything most amateurs do. It’s just that they do the workouts with more hours and of course, higher wattages. In other words, there is no “secret” workout for the pros, just because they are pros. It’s about understanding your goals and most importantly, their environment while developing a program that allows them to succeed.
Picking races (and goals) you can excel at. At the level of the sport these guys are competing, they choose goals that suit their riding style. It’s taken them years and years to fine tune this aspect of their career. As a coach, this is an important topic to discuss with amateurs. We try not to stereotype riders to specific styles of races, but try to focus on overall fitness level, especially when starting out in the sport. Most of the time, good fitness can overcome the statements of “I cannot climb” or “I cannot time trial.” Successful riders at the local and regional level compete and do well in all types of race environment.
Training prepares you to race. I think one of the most important lessons we can learn from Rubens and Vlad is that their training prepares them to race. If they have not prepared the body to race, then the season could be a disaster. If you race too early (and try to race often) and are not physically or mentally prepared, it can have a negative impact on your season. From a physical perspective, early stress will fatigue you enough that your body may not recover. From a mental perspective, not doing well doesn’t really help morale. A lot of new (and experienced) racers compete way too early and we see this all the time. They wonder why they don’t improve and a lot of them leave the sport quicker than they got into it. Rule of thumb: the longer it takes to get fit, by following a good training program, the longer you stay fit.
Again, thanks to Rubens and Vlad for their help in this article. I think the major take-home messages here are pretty obvious. First, make sure you are prepared to race before you race. A good solid training program with specific goals is key to any successful season. Two, there are no special workouts. You have to define your goals and track your progress throughout your training and racing.
Ride safe, ride strong
Bruce Hendler is a USA Cycling Coach and owner of AthletiCamps in Northern California. For the past 9 years, he and his experienced team have helped athletes of all levels achieve their goals in the great sport of bike racing thru cycling training camps, cycling coaching and performance testing. To contact AthletiCamps, visit their website at www.athleticamps.com or follow them on Twitter.