Pez: Going into the New Year, what are your primary training goals?
Dario: I am currently spending time on the bike focusing on power and aerobic endurance. A lot of my hours are spent in what I call the medium endurance training zone, which is about 89-95% of my threshold heart rate. I also work on high torque, low HR climbing to build strength and climbing at higher rpm, but keeping the heart rate at least 10 beats under threshold, so I don’t sacrifice the volume I need. I am logging about 24-25 hours per week and will increase that over the course of the next couple months.
Aaron: Currently training anywhere from 20-30 hrs a week in Dec/Jan/Feb. Focusing the majority of my time on climbing and doing multiple days each week with repeats uphill. Usually 10-15’ efforts, some high cadence at threshold, some higher torque workouts both in and out of the saddle 10-15 min, and also just some tempo work. I am doing somewhat fewer hours on the bike than the past two winters, but with more intensity to try to improve my high end fitness; since most of the races are shorter in America I don’t need to do many 6hr rides.
Pez: Will you approach this year differently than past years and if so, how?
Dario: My 2008 season is completely different from last year when I did both the Giro and Tour. For me, it is the first time (in a long time) I have only one goal; usually I have had to peak twice during the season. The main focus will be the Tour de France and possibly the Vuelta, but the Vuelta will be secondary and it’s a long way off. My goal is to find form early (now), to make sure I have it, take a break, and then ramp up for the Tour using a lot of climbing and altitude training. After the Tour, I will evaluate my motivation and see how long my form holds, then make a determination about what to do in the second part of the season.
Aaron: For me, there is a major league difference from 2007; I will be coming back to America to race. My personal goals will be two-fold: Focus on winning and doing well in top races, while at the same time, helping my teammates on the Bissell Pro Cycling Team realize their goals. We have an excellent team, so I am happy to help out in any way, from riding on the front for a teammate or trying to get the sponsors some publicity by winning or being a major factor in the outcome. In cycling there has to be a balance between setting both personal and team goals. You can’t have one without the other. I also realize that becoming good takes time… years perhaps!
But, if I had to pick a priority of the two, it would be that we do well as a team. I will do this by bringing my experience from the past two years on the Pro Tour in Europe. I will definitely help some of the younger guys, as it wasn’t long ago that I was one of them. Funny how things change so quickly. I hope the level of fitness that I achieved from races like the Giro will benefit me back here in the States and allow be to be a consistent contender. And most important, you can’t forget to have fun. When you’re having fun doing whatever you do, it comes that much easier and it makes it a bit easier to deal with the inevitable ups and downs that this sport produces. So, if we have good team chemistry, we will be that much more successful. And, since I believe strongly in riding drug-free, I love riding for Bissell Vacuum Cleaners, where their motto is “We Mean Clean.”
Let’s try to summarize some of their key points:
• Aerobic Base. Road cycling is an aerobic sport and getting the proper amount of aerobic base work is vital. No major revelations here, they are both using the early season to re-build their aerobic engines by incorporating a lot of climbing in their training. It’s important they spend time in all aerobic training zones prior to beginning their race schedule or higher intensity workouts. Dario has not ruled out the possibility of having go through the process again after the Tour and rebuilding for the second part of the year, which may include the Vuelta. Cycling has such a long season and the stresses on the body can be extreme. Taking a major break and starting the process all over again is a very common occurrence.
• Now add some structure to the mix. Training is more an art than a science. There is always a balancing act going on in terms of what type of training to do at any given time, how much training, and when to move on to the next phase. They are both incorporating structure into their programs while trying not to sacrifice the volume needed to compete at their level. It is important to understand that professionals work on specific structure and just don’t go out and “log miles” for their base work. There has definitely been a trend towards a more focused type of training program. Riders have learned that it’s not just volume that constitutes base work. It’s working in specific zones during that base period that is more important.
• Change is inevitable. Different year, different situations and goals for both riders. They both understand where their fitness levels are right now and what their respective teams expect out of them during the year. Because of that, they have made adjustments to their training programs. Dario is still in Europe with a different type of schedule than he is used to, so he and his trainer need to structure the overall program differently. Aaron realizes the races in the US are not as long as the ones in Europe, so his program at this time can lean more towards higher intensity and a little less volume. I would place a bet that the last two years in Europe for Aaron will benefit him enormously here in the States. There is something positive about doing Grand Tours (2 Giro’s) that changes the level of a rider’s fitness. Look for Aaron to have a great year!
• Goals. One important observation about both of their goals for the year – they must balance team with personal goals and realize you cannot have one without the other. Each rider helps the team and each team helps the rider. Keep that in mind when you and your team discuss major goals for the year. Each rider must have a role at every event. From Aaron’s point of view, he has paid his dues for the team the last couple years and is hoping that it will benefit him and his team this season and in the future. Dario does the same year after year and is given the opportunity to perform well for himself on many occasions. I know he makes the most out of those opportunities.
It is always instructive and interesting to learn from the pros. They all started at the beginning and it’s no coincidence they have achieved their current levels. A lot of hard work, dedication, and smart training will get you there.
Ride safe, ride strong,
Bruce Hendler created AthletiCamps to provide cycling specific coaching and training to athletes and cyclists of all levels. Find out more at www.athleticamps.com and check out the AthletiCamps Blog.