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Winter training at the Cycling Center
 
By Celine Tytgadt
Date: 1/31/2003
Winter training at the Cycling Center
 
As I am writing this article

As I am writing this article, it is snowing outside.  I am on the train and my mind takes me to the cyclists who are training in this same weather in order to lay the foundations for there season of racing.  Well, not everyone is training in bad weather, some go to Qatar, Langkwani or Australia for example to escape from the horrible winterss.  Still, everyone needs to train - rain or shine - because results don’t come like that.  It takes a lot of effort, endurance and courage to go training in winter.

But training is not just simply going on a ride and doing some miles without any goals, you need to be very specific how you train and the members of the ABC-Aitos team (~Cycling Center) can surely let us in on that.   The Daily Peloton spoke with 4 riders who where part of the team last season as well.  This year, in contradiction to last year, they have received a training schedule from Bernard Moerman (manager of ABC-Aitos, in cooperation with Dr. Dag van Elslande en coach Corey Hart).

DP: The only thing I have been hearing from Bernard from the moment I met him, is that you need “miles, miles, miles, restdays and more miles” in order to prepare for races.  In contrary to what many other coaches are announcing – power and short-intensity training rides – he persists in “miles, miles, miles”.  What is your opinion on this?

Jed: Personally, I think you need kilometres, kilometres, kilometres. But you also need testing, coaching, and experience.

Matt: I’m a big believer in the “big miles” training plan.  The UCSD program I was a part of the years before is basically that, and its resulted in some really amazing riders.  As far as I’m concerned, we didn’t do enough of that during the season.  For me, it improves my recovery and helps keep weight off. 

Pete: The races are no less than 120km long and can last up to five hours.  It is important that you can push the pedals for that long.  However, we do not ignore power and speed work.

Ben: Miles Miles Miles!!!

Bernard also said that pretty much every rider who comes in Europe for the first time is not prepared.  The reason being that they mostly don’t know what to prepare for.  What is your idea about that?

Jed: Damn Skippy. It takes 3 months to figure out what you’re doing, 3 months to try the new things you learned, and a winter to stew on all the opportunities you wasted. Hopefully this will be a completely different year for me.

Matt: In my opinion, bike racing is bike racing: you have to be strong, fast, and smart, or you’ll get smoked.  I had the best form of the season when I got there, so physically, I was ok.  I’d been doing really hard racing here, not NRC, but pretty good regional racing.  The European races, especially kermesses, were different in that the players are different, and there are lots of guys who can win any given day.  There isn’t much “pack filler.”  Just knowing how to race there was the hard part for me.

Pete: It’s hard to convey in words how hard the racing is.  It really is something that you need to experience.

Ben: He’s correct.  We just didnt know how hard and long these races really were going to be.  Some guys came over for their first time somewhat prepared, but nobody was ready to throw down with the big boys.

Can you remember how long it took you last year to be able to actually race instead of trying to follow the others and how long until you were really at your peak?

Jed: In May I felt I was riding well. I had a lot of problems in June and July. I realized how much I had gained in late August when I was riding horrible and still racing ok. I got my butt kicked, got faster, got fatter, crashed, got sick. As Ben Sharp said to me, “Well it looks like you had a typical Belgian experience.”

Matt: I was at peak fitness about two weeks after I came over, and this lasted for about the first month.  I had a huge base when I got there, but was well-rested, too.  I had my best results fairly soon after I arrived.  Like I said, though, it took quite some time to be able to understand and read the races properly.

Pete: After a couple of months of suffering, hanging on and watching what was going on, I became able to make some moves of my own.  First with Kermesses, then in July and August I was able to pull off some top ten results in UCI races.

Ben: It took me until July until I was doing more than just hanging on.  And I’d say I hit my peak sometime in August.  I got to Belgium March 2nd.

According to the test at the end of the 2002 season and the overall individual results of the season, the team-doctor Dag van Elslande made the general guide-lines for you to follow and then the coach filled in your program. Where are the differences with the preparations you had the years before?

Jed: More kilometres, more specified training regimes, and more off the bike exercises to promote stability and strength. And absolutely no cyclocross.

Matt: Our coach cut back the volume I was used to.  Here, I’d picked the races I wanted to focus on,  and trained through the rest.  I’d managed about 25-30 hours a week and that really worked for me.  In Europe, we had to do a lot of races and so you can’t train so much because you need to recover, so we did shorter and more intense training during the season.  I feel like I missed the longer weeks, though.

Pete: Last year I did way more miles and races than I ever did before.  That is partly because it was the first time I raced full-time.

Ben: Not enough training.  And not enough variation in my training.  Now, we ride tons of hours and each day has a different objective.  We are never just going out there and riding at the same tempo all day, it varies.  But still, the biggest difference would have to be the huge increase in volume.

Where did you prepare in the winter and why?  What did you focus on?

Jed: Niceville, Florida and Athens, Georgia. After the “summer” in Belgium, I really needed a true summer, so Florida was great all fall. Athens is a great little town with a great cycling history and community. The mountains are close by and the roads out of town are fantastic. It reminds me of the Flemish Ardennes. I have mostly focused on building aerobic conditioning.

Matt: I stayed in San Diego.  I was finishing up my masters degree at UCSD in the fall and teaching to make money for this year.  Once that was over in December, I’ve just been trying to improve my endurance and strength, which are big parts of the program.

Pete: This year Ben and I will have spent most of the winter in California and Pheonix.  Our focus has been long hours in the saddle and power endurance.

Ben: I lived in Boulder this fall until Christmas time.  That is where I went to college and that is where all of my friends still live.  So it was good to be “home”.  I got in some good training in November and December.  The weather was sunny, but cold.  So, after X-mas, my team-mate and friend Pete came out to Colorado.  We drove out to California together.  The winter training here is awesome!!!  The weather ranges from 65 to 75 degrees and the terrain is spectacular!!!  And we’ve been getting in the miles.

Are you already feeling the difference?

Jed: Yes.

Matt: Yes, I’ve definitely improved over last year, though I’m having some problems handling the volume I need to because I didn’t ride much in October and November because I was so busy.  I think it will work out fine, though.  Its still early.

Pete: Yes,  I able to do a five hour ride and push the entire time.

Ben: Yes, I feel stronger than ever entering this season.

You guys need to send your trainings results regularly to the team-coach and team-doctor. Together with Bernard they follow all this very accurately.  It looks pretty professional, but doesn’t it also look a bit like big brother?  Did you find that easy to live with?

Jed: I love training! I hire Corey to make sure I don’t train too much, otherwise I have a tendency to ride myself into the ground. I am happy to share with Bernard, Dr. Dag and Corey everything I do. They only want to help me and they can only do that with honesty. Until you are victorious, who else will see all the hard work that is done to get there? I could never thank them enough for all the concern they show me.

Matt: I think it’s appropriate to our team’s focus on development.  I have friends on pro teams, and basically their directors don’t care how they get fit, so long as they can do their job.  For our team its different.  It is a bit of a stress for me, as sometimes following the plan to a “T” makes for boring, grinding training, but it makes you strong, too.  Overall, the Doc and Bernard understand that we live in different areas and that you-know-what happens, so sometimes we won’t follow the plan exactly. 

Pete: Sure, if you want this to be your profession, you need to treat it like a job and if your doing your work it should fine that your boss checks what you have done.

Ben: It is not like that at all.  I think he makes it sound a bit like Big Brother, but really he just wants to see what we are doing.  He wants to be involved and a part of our development that’s all.

You’re almost heading back to Belgium, and that means 2 things: Bernard wanted you back and you chose to come back a second time.  Are you satisfied with the progress you made with the CC program last year?

Jed: Yes, I was satisfied with my progress but also disappointed with the number of mistakes I made. It would be a tragedy to not give it a go with a better realization of what the experience is really like.

Matt: I was satisfied to have gotten the experience I got, but I was disappointed with my results.  I came over in very good form after a good season in California, but I made a lot of stupid mistakes while I had that form.  Later, as fatigue started to build, I gradually lost form and couldn’t take advantage of the experience I’d gained up to that point.  This year I’m looking forward to having both.

Pete: Yes, I would say that last year was a success.  I had better results than expected and was happy that I was able to be very consistent throughout the entire year.   

Ben: Yes, I am very satisfied.  The program at Bernard’s caters well to the individual.  Some riders came to Europe more prepared than others, but they all received equal attention and were all givin personalized training/racing programs to follow.  This allowed every one of us (including myself) to reach new levels of fitness and racing ablitlity.  I personally did not expect such gains in just one season, but I was surprised.  And now I’m psyched up to return this 2003 season with much higher aspirations

Do you think this year will be harder as you will need to be more result-driven?  How do you think you will handle this?

Jed: No. Confidence is the hardest part for me. I am much more confident than last year and know what my strengths are, and where I want to race well.

Matt: I think it will be easier for me, personally, to accept that we’re there to get results.  Once you decide that, that you’re going to really race, and everybody’s got a role, there’s a greater focus and seriousness, and I like that.  I’m willing to kill myself for my teammates, so if we have someone going for the win, then I’m all for that.  Likewise, if my teammates are backing me up, I’m going to race harder and smarter than I might if I were there just trying to finish or just gain experience.  I’m excited about more focus on results.

Pete: This year will be more result driven. However, I would prefer chasing results over struggling to survive even though it could become very fustrating if the results don’t come.

Ben: It will be both harder in some ways, and easier in others.  Harder because we will be focusing more on results.  That means we need to be up front, we need to keep our heads in the game.  That is pressure.  On the other hand, it will be easier as because we know what to expect.  We will be prepared and simply finishing races will no longer be an issue allowing us to take more chances and more risks in order to win races.

Now, if we go back to last year, you’ve done a lot of races of the level of Housatonic and Univest and that you were racing lots of times against Div 3 and Div 2 teams, this looks pretty professional racing.  How did you handle that?

Jed: I found the higher the level of the race, the easier it was to do my job. For instance, we did a 1.5 race in Austria and I made the front group. Everyone took their pulls, they did not yell at you when you sat out to eat, and we ended up putting 12.5 minutes on the field. It felt very easy to work there, much easier than having a bunch of kermesse superstars yelling at you non-stop. Besides, it seems that every amateur over 25 still racing in Belgium WAS a pro, so there really is no difference in abilities.

Matt: We hung on for dear life as long as we could in the races where we were up against the real pro teams.  They have unbelievable horsepower, but we kept our heads up and went out and raced as hard as we could and hoped for the best.  The really big races (UCI 1.5) were extremely fast, though.

Pete: Bernard is right; we do races every week at that level.  It is hard but it also gives us many opportunities to do well.  Racing is serious business in Europe; the competition is tough; I even had a chance to do a UCI 1.3 with the National team which included most of the big division 1 Teams.

Ben: Not too well at first.  To put it lightly, I got my ass kicked.  But I adapted, I got stronger, and soon I was able to hang with some of these guys.  Racing such an elite level really put things into perspective.  I know exactly how good “Good” really is, and I know how far I am from being good.  Its a motivator.

When you look at the CC website you see 'home away from home', live-in coach, team-doctor on call, lots of high-level UCI-races, close co-operation with the U23 team... a lot of riders in the US would be jealous with all this support, could you tell us a bit about it, is it really as good as it sounds?

Jed: It is better than what I can find in the US. That is why I am involved. I can give this level of devotion and still be unpaid for only a brief period of time. I decided I would rather try it at the top than pretend I am something better and never leave home. At least this way if I return to US racing, I know the forest from the trees.

Matt: The racing is as good as it gets, that’s the best part for me.  That’s the part I think about in the last hour of long training rides when I just want to be on the couch.  It’s what makes it all worth it.  Yes, we have access to a doctor and a coach, but for me, these are secondary to the opportunity to do the kind of racing we did.  Also, we paid to be there, it isn’t as though we were over there for free. 

Pete: It is really good, Bernard and Ann are amazing, they care about us tremendously.  The racing is great and we have all the tools to get through the season.  But it doesn’t make it easy.  The racing is so hard that you need all of these things in order race over there. 

Ben: Well, it is what he says it is.  All of those things are true... and yes, the racing is phenominal.  But, like Bernard mentions, it is like a home away from home.  We all get used to the daily grind and it becomes “normal man” to quote Bernard.  Not that we lose grip with the fact that we are extremely privalaged to be there and that we are, in a sense, living a cyclist’s dream.  We know, and we are appreciative of that.  All I’m saying is that its still a lot of hard work and it can still take its toll just like anywhere else.

What was the biggest shock for you concerning living in Europe, what was hardest to get used to (if you ever did)?

  Jed: The hardest part was living with other Americans. Ha, ha. Before going over I had lived alone for 2 years and getting used to roomates again was really tough. It was hard for me in the summer when there was so much down time between races. You can’t really go out and see Europe because you  have to rest, but I am going to do more this summer to be out and a part of European life.

Matt: I loved living in Europe, and I don’t know if there were any real shocks.  If anything living with ten other guys and dealing with their personalities might have been hardest for me, as I’d basically lived with one other roommate for a few years.  Obviously that will always be hard, though.

Pete: I actually found it very easy to adapt.  Everyone in the house spoke english and just about everyone in Belgium speaks English very well.  I did notice that after a while I would “tune out” if people around me were talking in another language; the same for TV commercials and radio djs.

Ben: I really didnt find it too hard to adapt to the European lifestyle.  In fact, I prefer it over American living.  Europe is more socially oriented and is much richer in culture than the US.  However, there still are a few things that take some getting used to.  For instance, the power outlets are completely different, so none of your (American) appliances work over there.  Nobody accepts credit cards.  And sometimes the streets smell like urine.  But whatever, I love it!

To end on a funny note: last year, one of the guys said once that the riders should start collecting Berrnard’s quotes.  Could you give us some of those?

Jed: “Here, we will find your true limits.” and “Touristicals”

Matt: Bernard’s English is far better than I speak any other language, so I’m not going to poke too much fun, but there’s a few things with grammatical errors that end up being kinda funny, like “I’m not mad on you, man!”  Bernard’s a pretty funny guy a lot of the time and has a really good sense of humor, and he says some pretty hilarious stuff. 

Pete: I am not mad on you”, “Ja, ja, ja” and “You will suffer like a beaten dog”

Ben: “Sure MAN, soon we will be trainingScamp.  Now we are halfway January and normally we are getting strong. I am ready to suffer like a beaten dog.”


Every month, we will publish an article about the CC with interviews from different riders, as well as the coach, the doctor and Bernard himself.  Stay tuned and don't forget the diaries!

 
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