PezCycling News - What's Cool In Road Cycling : Toolbox: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Toolbox: Looking Back, Looking Forward
The Pez Toolbox has over 400 entries logged since its inception in 2002. From the first article, Bruce Ketchum’s Physiology of Warming Up on June 18, 2002, to last week’s piece on the Bike Racing as Jazz Music, it is an impressive archive and well worth a review from time to time as you look for insight and advice on how to be a more complete cyclist. I just went through the entire list looking for articles that caught my attention, or ones I felt conveyed particularly important topics and information. The following is a short summary of some of my favorites arranged by topic…

By Matt McNamara

The process of coming up with relevant, accurate and, hopefully, well-written articles is sometimes arduous. It’s not that there aren’t enough interesting topics, it’s that I want to write well about something important in a way that isn’t “been there, done that.” After my last article on Pedaling Dynamics, I was looking for my next topic while battling a wicked cold that has seen one day of riding in the last fifteen. As I ran through a list of interesting topics that have been floating around my brain for a few months (more on that later) I thought I’d see what sorts of articles we’ve done particularly well over the last eight years to try and jump start my creativity. In the archives I found a vault of good information and a topic in and of itself.

The list below is meant to be my idea of a personal reference section for aspiring athletes. The criteria for inclusion is that the article be as relevant today as it was when written; that the science, or theory behind it still stand up to scrutiny, and that it read well.

Sports Psychology
All competition begins in the mind. The role of sports psychology is not new, but the refinements to its application and the understanding of its importance is a continually evolving field. Pez is lucky to have the insights of Marvin Zauderer to help us navigate what would otherwise seem a barrage of research summaries, anecdotal evidence, or suggestions from friends. Josh Horowitz has also tackled some sports psychology with aplomb here in the past.

My favorite articles on the topic thus far are Marvin’s Handling Stress from October 30, 2007, Assessing Your Mental Fitness from October 13, 2008, and Part 1 and Parts 2 of the “Train Your Mind” series. Each offers a solid reference point to help you better understand and prepare for the psychological demands of racing.

Similarly, Josh has written about The Seven Day Mental Detox , which I found to be pretty useful. I also enjoyed his “Cycling Etiquette” Part 1 and Part 2. Not strictly sports psychology, but they are an entertaining way to take a mental break!

Skills and Tactics
Once you have your head straight it’s critical that you keep your bike straight, or at least upright. Back in January of 2008, Josh Horowitz wrote a nifty little piece on bike handling, Drill That Skill offered a set of skills and drills that every racer should do for at least an hour every month. These fundamentals are often overlooked as riders advance in categories, but they shouldn’t be.

Once you are ready to race it’s a good idea to preview the course. In May of last year Bruce Hendler wrote a good summary of Pre Riding The Race Course that helps you know what to look for prior to the start of the race. Essential reading before your next race

Exercise Physiology
Knowing the physiology is a fundamental start to improving your training, but it’s easy to overwhelm oneself due to vastness of the topic and its complexity. There have been numerous articles written on the Toolbox that address a variety of different elements of physiology. For me it seems most logical to take the information in a progression.

Dr. Stephen Cheung’s article from March 26, 2003 What Is Lactate Threshold is a good starting point. It is short, to the point, and provides a simple overview of the essential elements behind using a lactate threshold based approach to training*. There are even a couple of cool graphs and a reference to donuts! What’s not to like?

Inline with knowing the physiology of performance is knowing the markers of over-training. Bruce Hendlers’ article on Overtraining has a nice interview with Dr. Aldo Sassi of the Mapei Centre in Italy. It’s a very engaging read.

Training Advice
Once you have some of the foundations of physiology under your belt it’s time to apply them to your training. I’ve been repeatedly impressed with the research and insight that the Toolbox contributors bring to dispensing training advice. All of these guys have years of experience with applying the physiology of training to the real world, and it shows in the way they explain and de-mystify complex topics.

For the June 2, 2009 Toolbox I wrote an article on The Training Week that looks at ways a busy racer can arrange their training. I guess it struck a chord with people as it’s been used by USA Cycling, and a half dozen other sites on training and racing.

Frank Overton wrote a really nice article on the power training demands of Criterium Racing. Crit Racing: Watts Up looks at the power demands of a criterium and offers some salient advice on how to do better. Since crits dominate the American landscape, it’s well worth the two-minute time needed to read it.

Dr. Stephen Cheung also wrote a succinct piece on the fine art of Tapering back in October of 2007 that summarized research by some of the leaders in the field. The following August I wrote a slightly more in depth look at the topic called Optimal Tapering Strategies. I’m sure there is still more to be said on the topic as well.

The articles listed above are but a few of the great resources available to you, the loyal PezCyclingNews reader. The Toolbox group works hard each week to create interesting and informative articles meant to both fill up that five minute break during the day, and give you food for thought on how to be better at this most engaging of activities. I chose articles that followed a development arc and might serve as a starting point in you training library, but there are hundreds of others on equally engaging topics. Want to learn more about nutrition, biomechanics, hydration, racing, or training? Easy, just enter some keywords in the “Search” box at the top of any page and you’ll be on your way. Easy access to this sort of information is what makes the internet an undeniable wonder of the world.

Oh yea. You may have noticed a little * next to Dr. Stephen Cheung’s article on Lacate Threshold; that’s my topic for next time and I promise it will change your way of thinking about lactic acid and its role in your performance! Hope you tune in…

About Matt McNamara: Matt is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach with over 20 years of racing, coaching and team management experience. This spring he is continuing his Performance Webinar Series that explores a variety of ways to improve your racing and training. Archived versions of these webinars can be found at He is the founder and president of Sterling Sports Group, a performance coaching company located in Northern California. Learn more by visiting his website at


Pez Comments

Related Stories