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Training Tuesdays from Apex Coaching

Training Tuesdays kick off now.  Start your countdown to Clif Bar CrossVegas with training tips from coach Grant Holicky.  Every Tuesday between now and race day on  September 20, we’ll present fresh ideas, work out and tips to get you ready.

 

Week 4 - A Power Analysis for Cyclocross 

I spent spent some time this week looking at power files from races over this season.I've had a couple athletes ask me how to read the data from a cyclocross race. This is not the easiest endeavor for acouple of reasons.

1. Power output in cross is big spikes over very very short periods of time. Dependent upon the power meter and the actual head unit, some of this data may not be recorded and maybe lost.

2.Power data does not take into account the run or barrier sections.

3. Heart rate data is also misleading because of the limited nature of recovery and therefore little or no drop in HR occurs during a race.

I intend to go through several of these over the course of the next couple of months and see if I can shed some light and enhance the uses for power data in cross.

The nature of cyclocross is that we will have sections in every course where we are at 0 for a power number. Whether that be in turns, at the start, on down hills and on run sections, we find our power andcadence at 0. A key to racing is how quickly and how efficiently we can get the power back up and be accelerating out of these 0 power sections.

There are a couple keys here.
1. Gear selection. Be sure to enter the corner in the appropriate gear to be able to accelerate out of it. Smaller gears with high cadence allow for more torque and subsequently a quicker acceleration to top speed.

2. How long a rider pedals entering into a corner or technical sections and how soonthey are on the pedals coming out of it.

3. How aggressively a rider attacks the exit of a feature to get up to speed quickly.Screenshot 1
On this first go through I have decided to focus on how to use the data to show riders where there is room for improvement.

 

Here are two power files from the Feedback Cup here in Colorado last season. A little background on Feedback Cup. The course isvery twisty, turny and features short drops followed by intense short hill efforts. In many ways it resembles a Short track MTB course in its technical natureand punchy style. It was a 65 degree day and it had been very very dry in Colorado.


The two power files are from athletes I coach. The first is from a rider in the male pro field. A very good technical rider with a background in MTB. The second file is from afemale rider in the pro field. Sh is a strong power rider without a strong technicalbackground.  He finished 3rd on the day and she won the race.

While the power numbers themselves are interesting and a good deal can be derived from the files in terms 

of fitness and overall strength, we are going to focus on a more specific feature of 'cross and onethat is applicable to all courses, Especially CrossVegas.  Acceleration.

 

Taking a look at the two files a couple things jump out. You can click on the pictures for larger images. Take a look at the power spikes in the top file. 

Screenshot 2These spikes are out of the ordinary when it comes to the rest of the race.The rider is jumping hard on the pedals out of features in order to get up to speed very quickly and the power spikes are representative of that. In the second file, there are spikes in power out of features but they are less pronounced and more in line with the rest of the race.


Another interesting thing is at the bottom of the power range. In the top file the 0 power periods are short with a sharp rise in power out of them. This creates a V shape at the 0 power places. The rider is quickly on the gas out of features and their power is rising abruptly. Looking at thebottom file, the 0 power sections form a U shape instead of a Vshape. This rider is spending more time at 0 power and is taking longer to raise thepower out of these features.


Take a look at your own power files from races and focus in on the 0 power sections. Isthe file showing that V shape or the U shape. If you see lots of U's, focus on gearselection entering the corners so thatyou can accelerate with high cadence out of thefeatures and leave your competition in the dust.

 

Week 3  - Getting the Power

Inherently we all know that Cyclocross is about power. The explosiveness of the hole shot, slogging through the thick mud, attacking up short, intense climbs and the velcro like grass of CrossVegas. Where the confusing part comes in is where that power comes from and how to create it. We at APEX look to develop power early and all through the season. As we talked about a few weeks ago, Nueromuscular economy helps facilitate power and once we've started working on the pedal stroke, we layer the top end on it. 
 
 
How do we develop power. One of the simplest ways is to sprint. True, full gas, tongue wagging sprints all throughout the season are a great way to drive the top end wattage higher and higher. A quick note before we get into defining those workouts though. Remember wattage is a combination of Power and Cadence. High cadence on the sprints will produce higher watts and higher torque. Both of which will create higher speed and explosiveness. 
 
 
How do we do it? I suggest adding a sprint day and a Nueromuscular day to your week. The sprint day works well as the day before your hard intervals. Always move from higher intensity to lower intensity in your multi day blocked sessions, so sprint works well the day before LT or tempo work. We progress through several types of sprint work during the weeks of a training block. Here is an example of a three week progression 
 
 

Sanne VP Sprint

Week 1: Big Gear and start sprints. 
Do 6-8 sprints. 
The odd numbered sprints will be starting from a stop or a very slow roll. On a flat choose the big ring in the front and the 12-14 in the back. The goal is to start the sprint with a great deal of resistance. Work the bike like a track rider out of the start and crank the cadence up at full effort until you are over the gear and at a cadence of 90-100. On the even numbered ones, self select the gear and perform a CX start. Take big rest in between. 
 
Week 2: Sprint in LT hold. 
One of the challenges in cycling is to recover after hard efforts while still at high effort. It's not a comfortable feeling. On these efforts we start with an all out 15 sec sprint. Thiscan be from a roll or from a CX style start. After the 15 sec effort, settle in at your Threshold for 60-90 sec. Perform 6-8 efforts. 
 
Week 3: Race winning sprints. 
In the final week of the progression we move to race winning sprints. Again 6-8 total efforts with big rest in between. For these, start with 60-90 sec of LT riding and then jump into a full gas 15 second sprint. Keep the gearing low and the cadence high and remember to post up at the end. 
 
 
It is never too early in the season to work sprinting and top end power. This power with serve all through the Cyclocross season. Especially in the sticky grass and short, steep hills in Las Vegas.

 

Week 3 - 4th of July and American Cyclocross

Happy 4th of July everyone. We typically talk training in these posts, but for American Independence Day I thought we'd spend a moment chatting about American cyclocross. JPow on Barrier

 

For years here in states I've seen Belgian flags flying at cx races as the states has struggled to find its our racing culture. The past few years has brought a change however and the US is creating its own culture of racing and community. Great venues and strong racers have the world paying attention and have our racers taking pride. With a tremendous crop of young talent moving through the U23 and Junior, this is only likely to expand.

CrossVegas has been a centerpiece for showing off American cyclocross and cyclocross racers for years now. It's introduced the world to the loud, raucous and very supportive fans. It's showcased our rising talent as a racing nation and become a can't miss stop for European racers and fans alike..

 

See you next Tuesday

 

Week 2 - Nuero-Muscular Training

 
I often hear coaches and athletes talk about the "years of base" that an athlete has acquired and point to that as the reason for their strength. However, I also listen to them complain about a loss of fitness that has occurred due to a 2 week layoff. I almost always have the same thought, which is it? Do you retain fitness from year to year or do you lose it quickly and if you do lose it, why do more experienced riders seem to get
Finish Line View
 back to form quicker?

The reality is athletes lose their fitness. A month layoff due to off season, illness or injury will result in a loss of fitness. However, the more efficient an athlete is at pedaling a bike the less that fitness loss will affect them. We call this nuero muscular economy. It refers to how well an athlete is at delivering the power they are producing to the bike and ultimately at creating speed. Economical athletes see better acceleration, highe
r wattage sp
rints, less degradation of power and ultimately, more success.
We at APEX focus specifically on this type of training throughout the cyclocross season and especially early in the season. Taking the time to do thesesessions can lead to big gains late in the season and will allow for quicker recovery and less loss of power during off times. 

Nuero-muscular economy can be worked on by focusing on a few types of workouts.
-- High end, high cadence sprints with big rest are a great place to start and also have the added benefit of helping in the cx starts and accelerations. Varying cadence efforts are also a great tool. Try 3 min efforts where your cadence alternates between high (100 rpm) and low (60 rpm) for 1 min increments while retaining constant power.
-- Single leg drills are another way to help increase economy in the pedal stroke.  Ride 30 sec with right leg only then into 30 sec with the left leg only keeping the cadence high.  Run through this 3-4 times and observe where the pedal stroke gets clunky and try and smooth that out. 

Try these workouts with consistency in the early weeks of your season. Increased nuero muscular capacity will translate to less loss of power and better acceleration and top end during your cross races and throughout your season. 
 
 
Week 1 - #CXNeverLeft 
 
Well hello Summer! The start of June means one thing to a cyclocross coach. Time to get it together. We are a mere 3 months from CrossVegas and the US World Cups and about 2 1/2 months from the start of most local schedules. In other words, it's Training Tuesdays with APEX Coaching time. From now until CrossVegas we will tackle a range of subjects, from skills and drills, to training and workouts. As the big day approaches we will even Grant image weblook at the racers and the course and help you be prepared to crush your USAC or Wheelers & Dealers race. If nothing else, we'll get you the info to impress your buddies with your knowledge while watching the live stream. 
 
My name is Grant Holicky . I am the lead cyclocross coach at APEX Coaching in Boulder, CO and I will be your host on these training Tuesdays as the big day approaches. I have raced the UCI race at CrossVegas on two occasions before surrendering to the Earth's incessant rotations and stepping back to the USAC and Wheelers & Dealers  aces in the past few years. I am the coach of a number of professional racers in the US and love everything CrossVegas. It is truly the best Wednesday of my year. 
 
We at APEX are thrilled to be a part of CrossVegas again in 2017. Check in every Tuesday as the big day approaches! 

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