Welcome Elite Coach Bryan McKinney!

Why and when did you start cycling?

I started cycling after I finished university, my dad had purchased a new bike on the cycle 2 work scheme which looked kinda cool. I also needed to lose weight from time spent partying at university so I took to the bike. Cycling has been in our family for years, I just never took to it and played a load of other sports. My dad was Northern Ireland Road Race Champion so when I started I had all the support you could wish for.

Why did you become a cycling coach?

I had aspirations to become a full-time professional cyclist once I got myself a coach and progressed to Cat 1 in a few years. Unfortunately, I had a few issues with my lower back and a numb leg. This I couldn’t shake and it put me off the bike. I said to my coach at the time that when I finished the bike I wanted to coach, I had a science background and loved to learn about all the metrics and get into the detail of all things training, nutrition and tactics.

I had learned a lot from my coach and when off the bike I really went into everything I could find regarding sports performance and the methodology of training principles. I love working with people and enjoy helping them on their journey to reach their goals, I get a lot out of that.

What is your coaching focus?

My focus is on the individual, I want to learn as much about their life as possible and test their metrics before embarking on a plan. It’s important to know as much as possible when starting with a new athlete so that you can gauge where to start their plan. We always want to have progressive overload with any plan and starting too hard or with too much volume will be counterproductive in the long term.

I have a focus on the Long Term Athlete Development of the individual, these things take time and need to be carried out in a particular way to get the best results from each unique person. 

I work with all the metrics and charts known to man, however, I put a great amount of emphasis on the input from the athlete. We can train the machine but we also need to work with the person driving the machine so I like to get as much information from them as I can. The coach-athlete relationship is super important to me.

What is your favorite food?

This is an ever-evolving answer, it really does change quite a bit. I wouldn’t have a favorite food per se, as it depends on how I feel or the time of year.

If I had to say one thing…I love Burritos.

Aside from cycling, What do you do in your spare time?

I’ve recently had a son that is keeping me busy and has given me a new perspective on life as well as on training with a family. I am starting to learn how to swim better with the goal of completing an Ironman. I coach triathletes and have never completed one so I feel like I should give that a go.

My partner Jen and I love to go on walks with our Dog Eva. We travel about in our camper van and go sailing with some friends when we have the time. We spend a lot of time at the beach or in the forest and up mountains. I also love to do DIY, anything wood or metal I like working with and currently I’m building a new metal frame master bed. I’ve also gotten into sewing which is a bit random but it’s good fun to make some new clothes out of old ones

The Maximum and the Minimum.   A contrast in focus between training and racing.

I have written many times about the relationship between training and racing, training for the demands of the event, conserving energy in your races, optimizing your training volume and how to use your powermeter effectively in racing.   All of these articles have focused on improving in one way or the other, and that’s because that’s the name of the game, right?  No one wants to stagnate or heaven forbid, get worse!  So, when one of my clients, James Kramer, made the observation that his first races of the year were so different than all of his hard training done this past winter, I was curious to what he meant.  Of course, I had him training specifically for his first races, tracking his CTL ramp rate, making sure he was on target for his first peak of the season and definitely giving him plenty of hard workouts.  James explained, “Hunter, that race was easy. I mean, I am not even really tired after it. My training has been much harder than the racing so far and I even feel like I am losing fitness going to these races because they aren’t that hard.” Of course, this is music to my ears as his coach and I know when an athlete tells me this, he’s going to be on the podium soon enough.  This also means he adhered to my coaching/training philosophy of training harder than the competition, doing ‘intervals to exhaustion’ and pushing himself to the max fairly regularly. James expanded on this first comment and said, “In races, it’s all about conservation, holding back, saving yourself for the right move or final sprint and that’s very different than in training, where you have me killing myself in nearly every interval and there are hard rides after hard rides every week.”   This great insight and awareness is something that many of us reach when we begin racing and winning.

What it means to do the Minimum to Win.

It is this incredible contrast between doing every interval and every workout to your personal maximum, exhausting yourself daily in order to improve, but in racing making sure you are smart and expending effort only when you need to so that you can win. I remember a particular pro racer back in my old pro days in the mid-90’s and this guy was a ‘horse’,  I mean, he would attack you until you gave up or he would just grind your legs into little stumps with his hard pulls in the breakaway.  Often times, he attacked so many times or rode so hard in the breakaway that he dropped himself and would say afterwards, “wow, you guys are so strong.. you just dropped me..”.  We definitely weren’t going to tell him that he was riding too hard or attacking too much!  It really came down to the fact that he thought the only honorable way to win a bike race was to be solo off the front and just prove to everyone that he was the strongest(he should have quit road cycling and taken up Mt. Biking!).   Naturally, his tactics didn’t work well, as there is this thing in bike racing called the ‘peloton’ and its collective energy can run down just about any single racer if they want to.  Unfortunately for him, he never got it through his thick skull that you had to be strong and smart to win bike races and it really is “chess on wheels”.   He didn’t know how to conserve, how to save his energy, how to race with the minimum needed effort in order to be a winner and that prevented him from ever living up to his potential.

How does this relate to training with power? 

Well, let’s take my client, James.   James is sharp, he listens to his coach, he does the hard work, has a racing strategy for each race and then he watches the race unfold listening to his intuition while at the same time making sure he checks back in periodically with his overall strategy for the race.  He won’t make a move unless it’s a real threat for the win and then when he’s in the move, he’s racing smart so that he doesn’t expend any more energy than necessary.  He’s learned a lot of these things from his past bike racing career when he was in his 20’s, and he’s also recently learned a lot from training and racing with a power meter.    Let’s examine a recent race win from an early season race so you can learn from his correct execution and smart racing and begin to understand how the minimum can make the difference between winning and being pack filler.

In this race, James spent much of the race conserving his energy as he knew it was likely that it would come down to a field sprint, which he could win, but he did make a few hard attacks to see if he could initiate a breakaway, since he also knew that he could win this way as well.   In figure 1, we see the overall power graph for the race itself which shows just how variable his power was over the race, but also how much time he spent below his threshold power.   I have added two gridlines in here in order to give some perspective to the graph, the lower gridline is at his FTP power- 345 watts and the upper gridline is at 700 watts where he had to do much of his surges in order to stay near the front of the race.  The race had two distinct hard sections in it when he had to push himself close to his FTP.  The first one occurred about 12 minutes into the race when he attacked and attempted a breakaway and then the 2nd hard effort was in the last 5 minutes when he had to jockey for position, maintain that position and prepare for the sprint.  The rest of the time was really pretty easy for him as evidenced by his heart rate barely going over 160bpm for much of the race.

In figure 2, we see the cadence distribution chart from the race itself which shows how much time he spent pedaling in different cadence ranges along with how much time he spent not pedaling.   James spent over 22% of the race not pedaling and even in a short race like this one, that can make a difference.  Conservation of energy is definitely critical here as it is in any race.

“The sprint before the sprint”

Examining the two minutes of the race leading up to the finish in Figure 3, we see that the old bike racing saying, “the sprint before the sprint” proved accurate and was critical to his positioning so he could sprint for the win.  We see that he did 4 fairly hard sprints in those last  2 minutes and his average wattage was 444watts, which is nearly 100 watts over his threshold power, but clearly sustainable for a short period of time.  Those sprints were not very hard for him as he can do over 1300watts for 5 seconds, and these just barely cracked 1000 watts for 2-4 seconds, however they do have the ability to pre-fatigue those sprinting muscles which means that quick recovery from sprints, along with doing sprint repeats in training is critical to success.  Notice that between the sprints, James didn’t pedal much and was doing everything he could to recover for the next sprint and truly minimizing his effort.

Training at your Maximum

For racing, doing the minimum needed to win is one of your key goals in every race, since you want to conserve energy and only use it when you need to and want to for the most effective effort.  Let’s look at the maximum of training now, so that we can see the stark contrast between a race and a tough ‘kitchen sink’ workout.

James did this ‘kitchen sink’ workout leading up to his first peak of the season and I really like prescribing these kind of workouts, as they simulate closely the different demands of racing, fatigue the cardiovascular and muscular system and also help to get the athlete to learn just how fatigued they can be and still go hard.  A ‘kitchen sink’ workout is so called as it contains a bit of all the training levels, from easy endurance riding to hard threshold intervals to some short sprints and tough tempo near the end.   In Figure 4, you’ll see that James did (4) x 12 minutes at his FTP, some hard sprints afterwards, fast pedaling drills, 2 minute anaerobic capacity efforts and then finished off with 45minutes at sweet-spot(88-93% of his FTP).   This workout resulted in a Training Stress Score of 333 points, was over five hours long and had a normalized power at 274 watts, which means it was the equivalent of a solid tempo ride for over 5 hours.  Clearly, this is not an easy workout and one that you undertake without building up to it.   When executed well, you should come home pretty spent with muscles twitching from the effort and ready for a nap!   When going for maximum exhaustion in a workout such as this, it’s important that you hydrate and feed yourself correctly, otherwise you won’t have a chance in completing it properly and if you do start to get some muscle cramps near the end don’t allow them to go into full blown ‘lock-ups’ as that damages muscle tissue and takes a long time to repair.  Sure, this is way harder than anything James would do in a race and way harder than anything you might do in a race, but that is the purpose.  If you really want your FTP to improve, then you have to do some incredibly difficult five hour rides, which bring you to near exhaustion.  These kinds of efforts make you stronger, help you to improve throughout all your training levels and give you a maximum return on training investment.   They are not workouts that you should do every weekend, but doing them every couple of weeks would be great in order to continue to push up your fitness level.    

Maximize Everything

Maximizing your training really means maximizing it in every aspect that you can think of, so making sure you are doing the intervals correctly and completely, maximizing the time you have to train, maximizing your effort itself so that you are digging deep enough even though you are tired and doing your best.  The best that you give to your workouts should be your maximum.  Ask yourself after your intervals at threshold, “Did I do my best?”, “Did I push as hard as I could?” and then analyze your power files to see if those wattage goals for each sprint, each anaerobic capacity interval, each sweet-spot push were done in the correct wattages as well.   Many of your training rides won’t be like the ‘kitchen sink’ workout, but you’ll still need to crush it on those short, but intense 1-2 hour rides and push those intervals to the maximum.  In my book, “Training and Racing with a power meter”, there is a section on doing ‘intervals to exhaustion’ and that is one of the ‘maximums’ that you should strive to do at least once a week.    The contrast between your training and racing is often times completely at opposite ends of the spectrum and this is important for you to realize and understand.  When you race and finish the race can you say to yourself, “Wow, that was easier than my training”?  If so, then you know you are ready to win.  Strive to push yourself to the max in most of your workouts, strive to achieve more in your cycling and in your life, as when you maximize your training and learn to do this, you can take these same principles to your daily life.

Hunter Allen is a is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the coauthor of “Triathlon Training With Power”, “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” and “Cutting-Edge Cycling,” co-developer of TrainingPeaks’ WKO software, and CEO and founder of Peaks Coaching Group. He and his coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes.

Data isn’t just data.

James Gleick in his new book, “The Information” says that the basis of the universe isn’t matter or energy. It’s data.  This is quite a profound and magical statement when you begin to think about it and how we interact with data changes our lives. It changes our cycling lives and our life in general from your iPhone to your connection to the internet and knowledge from all parts of the world.  Data is just strings of bits, but whether or not it contains information, depends on what you do with the data and how you learn to interpret it.  Interpreting data into useful information is a key skill that we all need to improve in all facets of our lives. The more information that we have, the more we can understand the role it plays in our lives and how we can become better cyclists and citizens in the world around us.

Using a power meter is one of the main ways that you can collect data in your cycling training and racing. A power meter can collect the data, but you have to turn that data into information that can be interpreted and used to make changes in your cycling.  Your power meter collects this data at one second samples and it can be up seven different channels of data like speed, cadence, elevation, torque and even GPS.  The key is that we turn that data into information and that is done through software analysis in a program like TrainingPeaks WKO+ and also education in articles and books so that you can understand this data and information. In this world of cycling in which you are immersed and inside this amazing magazine full of information, we need to discuss the different categories of data.  Each category can give us some insight into a part of our cycling that we can improve or just learn about for a better experience down the road.  Of course using a power meter on your bike is really our only meaningful data capture device we currently have available in our world. A meaningful data capture device to me means that it has the ability to help you make changes in your training; it gives me the information I need to decide whether or not one of my athletes should do a workout or not, or do 8 hill repeats or 12 hill repeats, or whether they should train their threshold power or their anaerobic capacity and this information makes my job more precise and efficient.

There are seven main categories of data:

1-Point related data, you look at the power or cadence or HR at specific moment in the ride.   This can help to determine if the interval or exercise was executed correctly. This is the simplest of the data you are capturing and here you are drilling down to the minutiae so that you can determine if you held just enough watts for the required period of time.  I look at point related daily with my clients’ files, and this is something that I learn many things from how many watts an athlete cracked out for the interval to whether or not they paced themselves correctly and even if they created the watts correctly using the right balance of force and cadence

2-Warning system Data. Data can be used as an early warning system. This data is comprised of many, many smaller data sets and we need to look at this data over a longer period of time.  Unfortunately, in order for this warning system to ring the warning bells, you need a large data set of your rest days, your hard days, your races and all your rides no matter how easy or hard they are.  This is a critical part of the warning system and if you are missing data because you didn’t use your power meter in a race or because it had to be sent back for repairs then you really compromise the integrity of the warning system.  My warning bells can tell me if a client is doing too much training too quickly and overtraining could occur.  Another warning could be that you might see a drop in your threshold power suddenly and unexpectedly.  While out on a ride doing intervals you could use your power meter to tell you when to stop doing intervals, as your power has decreased below optimal in creating the right training stress.

3-Detector Data.  Data can be a detector.   When you cracked out your best 20 minutes, how fresh were you?  When you blew on the big climb, what happened in the 5 minutes before it? 10 minutes before it? In post analysis of your data, you can use your data to better understand your failures and your successes.  When you succeeded, what exactly did you do in order to succeed and when you failed, why did that happen?   Was it the 10th hill that crushed you or was it the violent attacks up the 10th hill that crushed you?

4-Instanteous Data. Data can give you instant feedback.  During a workout, you continually watch your powermeter to stay within required limits for optimal training. This is where your power meter can help you in pacing.   Cycling is a sport of pacing, and you must pace yourself in a breakaway, in a long road race, in a short criterium and in a century ride or gran fondo.  Pace your effort on the hills and pace yourself with your nutrition and hydration as well.  These are all key fundamentals to your success as a cyclist and one of the beauties of using a power meter: the data is instantaneous.  You push down on the pedals, and you see the number on the screen instantly.   There is no lag time, there is nothing to wait for or download later, it’s right there and it happens immediately.

5- Investigative Data. Data can help you be a detective.  If a problem occurs, then that’s when you can use the data to help you detect the problems. Sometimes you have to dig deeper into the issue surrounding a success or failure and reviewing the data maybe the way you discover the true underlying cause of your performance.    I spend a lot of time being a detective when I analyze an athlete’s data, asking myself questions like: “How many times did he have to attack and how many watts were in each attack before he was able to get away?” or “As this athlete fatigues, does she choose a bigger gear because they have more natural strength than endurance or do they just not have enough muscular endurance to begin with?”

6- Explanation Data.  Data can explain why you are faster or slower.  You have to understand what information the data is trying to tell you. You have to translate it.  Like James Gleick said, “Data is only a string of bits and has nothing to do with information. The information comes from understanding and that is our job to understand it.”   Why were your watts lower than yesterday?  Is it because you are tired and couldn’t physically produce the watts?  Was it because you tried to test up a steep climb and you are better as a flat time trialist?  Was it because you had your arch-nemesis to chase therefore you were pushing harder than ever to beat them?   This type of data is similar to the data you get from investigative data, but explanation data provides a quicker insight into the information you need.

7-Incorrect data or biased Data- This is worse than no data at all.  Sometimes you can correct for incorrect data from your past experiences. Other times you have to throw it away. Incorrect data is easy to identify in most cases, but biased data is much harder to discern.  Fortunately, our power meters are not biased (I hope!) and therefore we rarely have to consider biased data, but often our data can be incorrect and that can pose many problems in analysis.

The data is always clear as a bell to see, but it’s not clear whether or not it explains the problem.

You must first prepare the data in order to identify the problem and this is what turns data into information.    To achieve the right interpretation of the data, you need experience and a gift for joining the dots together in one picture or just good computer software…..  I do believe that you need to have a personal connection to the data and understand this information first for yourself and then you can understand it for others.  I have seen too many coaches trying to coach athletes with a power meter, but they have never used a power meter themselves, so have no understanding of what 300 watts feels like to them or what 1000watts feels like.   This data, this information that we capture on a power meter has the unique aspect in that we can associate it with a feeling and learn that sometimes our feelings are incongruent with the data and other times feels exactly how it appears.

The experience and a basic knowledge of riding and racing a bicycle are essential. You are creating a harmony between man and machine.   You are looking to optimize what your body is telling you about how it feels and what the data is telling you about how you feel.   Relying solely on the data is dangerous and doesn’t tell the whole picture, but the information we gather from the different categories of data can help us to improve as cyclists and citizens of this world of data.

Hunter Allen is a is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the coauthor of “Triathlon Training With Power”, “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” and “Cutting-Edge Cycling,” co-developer of TrainingPeaks’ WKO software, and CEO and founder of Peaks Coaching Group. He and his coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes.

The Classics ~ Paris-Roubaix

Paris-Roubaix is another incredibly epic race just a week after Flanders and this pro in the world tour cracked out a HUGE amount of work with 6175kiloJoules in this 6-hour 12-minute race, and averaged 323 watts normalized, which makes this his second hardest race for the year behind Flanders.   One distinct difference is that in P-R, he was on the GAS for the entire race and examining Figure 2, shows that he spent very little time resting and relaxing in the peloton. 

Paris-Roubaix has no equal in its demands and while most of us will never get a chance to race in P-R, we can learn a bit from his file. What strikes me as most interesting is that despite being on the gas from the start, he still was able to put out over 370 watts after 4 hours of racing, which means that his muscular endurance is highly trained.  Muscular endurance is something that all of us can use and means you can contract and relax your muscles at a relatively high force for a long period of time without fatiguing.  Normally if muscular endurance is an issue, then you’ll get cramps in the race or event you are doing especially if the majority of the race has been harder than expected.    How do you improve your muscular endurance?  Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this, and you just have to commit to longer and harder rides than you have done in the past.  Length will challenge your muscular endurance, but without intensity, it will not be specific enough to help you come race day, so make sure that in your longer rides this winter and spring, you add in plenty of sweet-spot, threshold and even big gear intervals into the mix so you can prepare for those hard events in 2022.

Hunter Allen is a is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the coauthor of “Triathlon Training With Power”, “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” and “Cutting-Edge Cycling,” co-developer of TrainingPeaks’ WKO software, and CEO and founder of Peaks Coaching Group. He and his coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes.

PCG Texas Fall Power Camp Recap

In late 2021, PCG Texas hosted the first ever PCG Texas Fall Power Camp in Leakey Texas.  (Leakey is pronounced LAKE – E).  Leakey is a tiny town in the Texas hill country west of San Antonio.  It’s a hidden gem for cycling.  (Please don’t tell anyone else.)

PCG Texas is a group of cyclists coached by Elite Coach Rickey Wray Wilson and Associate Coach Keith Nelson in the Fort Worth, Texas area.  This group does their own weekly group rides, they also like to join local charity or organized rides like the MS-150 with Health’s Angels MS Cycling Team and The Hotter Than Hell 100.

PCG Texas Fall Power Camp was headquartered this past year at the Frio Pecan Farm. This is a working pecan farm with over 1000 pecan trees (11 different varieties), it has the crystal-clear Frio River running through it, and deer roam freely on the farm.  It is so amazingly dark and quite at night! The farm also boasts amazing cabin style accommodations, some with their own pool! Check out Frio Pecan Farm!

Rickey and Keith led the camp, they were supported by Eddie Holsopple from Eddie’s Bike Fit, while HC Gordon served as the official camp SAG driver.  HC has years of experience supporting the Fort Worth Bicycle Association with annual rides in Leakey, and he has an incredible knack for being in the right spot when you need him.

On Sunday, the camp early birds did a fun ~25-mile ride from Leakey up the 2-mile 7+% grade toward Camp Wood. Then, the camp officially started with a warm-up ride to rid our bodies of the hours of driving to the Texas Hill country.

Each day presentations were on such topics as: 

  • Training with Power
  • Training zones and testing protocols
  • Basic Bicycle Maintenance
  • Bike Fitting Basics
  • Creating an Annual Training Plan
  • Riding as a group
  • Basic cycling handling skills
  • Planning and Training to do your best at your races, rallies, or Gran Fondo

Around 250 miles of cycling were on the agenda for the week, with over 13,000 feet of climbing and campers each accumulated over 1,000 Training Stress Score (TSS) points!  Each day was capped with yoga, bike maintenance, and social hour followed by dinner by a local chef, Robin Waltrip. Of course, no Texas event would be complete without Texas Barbecue which was catered by Canyon BBQ on Wednesday night and Texas pecan pie (after all we are at Frio Pecan Farm). It was absolutely incredible having catered breakfast, lunch, and dinner ready in our open-air pavilion every day.

Phil Henslee led the campers through yoga after each day while Will Jiron was Mr. Versatility as bike mechanic, on the road assistant and general fun leader.  Casey Gordon provided on the road assistance and added spice to the riding of the speedsters. 

Day 1: Skills, Drills, and FTP testing!

After a short skills drill session, the campers went out for their FTP test.  This is an out and back course.  Following some fast-pedaling intervals and the 5-minute burn-off, the groups started their FTP.  Some of the faster campers flew right past HC at the turn around point.  The return trip was a whole lot better than the FTP test!

Day 2: 1 Minute & 5 Minute Testing

Day 2 was a blast, leaving Leakey and heading to Utopia and a much-needed rest stop at Postal Brews.  We had to be careful not to linger too long because of the pending climbs at the end of the course.  Those climbs are so much fun because the descent carries you back to Leakey where a cold one awaits.

Day 3: Thrill Ride

Day 3 is a reverse of Day 2 which means there’s a screaming descent into Utopia and the rest stop at Postal Brews. Crazy Casey hit 60 mph on the descent (not recommended by the PCG Texas coaches!). We could linger a little longer at Postal Brews because the more-gentle course awaited us, and the Day 4 Queen stage loomed large.

Day 4: Queen Stage

Queen stage featured two options either a 96-mile route with a departure from Leakey to Camp Wood or a shortened version 70-mile route departing from Camp Wood.  Both routes provide scenic beauty and exhilarating rollers along the Nueces River and ended along Monday’s FTP course. The end of Day 4 featured “awards” night where the prime rib feast was followed by Texas pecan pie and ice cream. (We burned a lot of calories!) For Awards Night, the coaches recognized the campers for their spirit and determination. 

Day 5: Cool-Down Ride

Sadly, the Friday departing cool-down ride was cancelled due to weather.

PCG Texas inaugural camp was so good that campers were requesting the 2022 date and plans are under development for camp in late September. Special thanks to UCAN for fueling the camp, Eddie Holsapple of Eddie’s Bike Fit, Will Jiron, Phil Henslee, Casey Gordon and of course our professional SAG driver extraordinaire HC Gordon who has an amazing instinct to be just around the curve when you need him!

What defines you as a coach, and how do you approach coaching your athletes? ~ Coach Rickey Wray Wilson

When Joe Bidlow, our PCG social media manager, asked me to write a bio article and talk a little about how PCG Texas came about, I was not sure as to the best approach. We talked about what he was looking for, and I liked his suggestions, so here we go. He asked, “What defines you as a coach, and how do you approach coaching your athletes?”


I thought about that, and the first thing that came to mind, is that I am one of the most “senior” coaches for PCG, along with Gordy Paulson, PCG Master Coach. Note that I said “senior,” and not “seniority,” although Gordy certainly has both, given his many years with PCG. Turning 70 next year, I have many years of life experiences behind me, and many, many miles of cycling. God willing, I hope to have many more of both! 


Teaching, mentoring and helping others to improve, has always been my passion. I truly take as much pride and pleasure in what those that I teach accomplish, as much as my own accomplishments. All the way back to my Boy Scout days, as I obtained my Eagle Scout rank, I was working on becoming qualified to teach a wide range of merit badge skills. As part of the Boy Scout Voyageur Canoe Training Program, I became a certified instructor, so that I could teach others canoeing and camping survival skills, including even the Cooking Merit Badge. My main requirement with the campers as far as meal preparation was, if we could both hold down his cooking, he passed! Not everybody did the first time!       


I was not always an athlete, nor a cyclist. In fact, far from it! Up until the mid-1980’s, when Mary Kay and I moved to Seattle, I had not exercised, nor rode a bike, since Freshman high school football. In fact, for many years, with the railroad, as a 24/7 front line operations manager, I was a heavy smoker, consuming at least a pack a day or more, and struggled with weight management.  While living in Seattle, we started cycling with department store bikes, then got into mountain biking in its infancy, with two of the original bright yellow Cannondale mountain bikes. By then, I had quit smoking, and Mary Kay and I enjoyed many weekends of cycling and cross-country skiing, and had even started kayaking, when the railroad moved me back to Fort Worth.   


Mountain biking was not a big thing, yet, here in Texas and so we got into road cycling, and not being content to just ride my bike, I met three women, Clare Rietman, Debbie Breaud, and Diane Owens, who introduced me to ultramarathon, endurance cycling. Which led to two successful Race Across America (RAAM) finishes, the first of which, was on a tandem with Clare. In 1995, after my second solo RAAM, I was burnt out on cycling and focusing on my career, unfortunately, gaining almost 100 pounds during that time. By 2003, I realized that my obesity would kill me early, and I always felt lousy. So, I returned to recreational cycling, then Master’s road racing, and now the latest, gravel bike riding and racing, dropping all that weight, and then some, in the process.    


Being a numbers geek, I adopted power training early on, purchased Hunter’s first edition of “Training and Racing with A Power Meter” I attended many training camps, and hired a coach, Gord Fraser, a retired pro, who coached me for several years, as we both learned the intricacies of the training software, WKO. In 2011, I met Hunter Allen at a PCG/Quarq power training camp, and wow, I realized just how much I had to learn from the master of power training, himself, and I still have so much to learn. One of the many reasons, I became a coach for Hunter and Peaks Coaching Group, after my retirement from a 40-year career in railroad management.  


Before I joined PCG, I worked at a local cycling virtual training studio. It was there that I met a group of cyclists the comprises the Health’s Angels MS cycling team. I joined PCG right before the studio closed and many of these cyclists transitioned to become Peaks Coaching Group athletes. Over the next few years, we frequently rode and socialized together. More to come on those cyclists.


That was just a glimpse of my almost 70 years of life’s experiences and I hope provides a look into what defines me as a coach, my passion for teaching, and a broad empathy for what life throws at each one of us. Numbers wise, I am an average athlete, no super high FTP (w/kg) and my FRC (anaerobic capacity) is on the low side. Or, as Hunter said one time many years ago, at a camp, “you don’t got no sprint, we need to work on that!” Which we did, but I will never be a sprinter. On the other hand, fortunately, I do have a very high Stamina, and can just ride my bike forever below FTP.      


To close, my life and career experiences have provided me with a deep understanding of athletes who are seeking a reasonable work/life balance. Having been extremely overweight and a heavy smoker, I have a deep, personal, understanding of the additional challenges that unhealthy habits have upon your quest for improved fitness. 


What is next? I have the pleasure of mentoring our newest PCG Associate Coach Keith Nelson and working together we developed a unique local coaching program, the PCG Texas Team plan that Keith is leading. The PCG Texas Team plan, balances the use of Hunter’s structured programs along with personalized coaching by Keith. We are also pleased to announce that we are hosting our second, Fall Texas Hill Country Power Road Camp, in September, in Leakey, Texas.


Hope you can join us in Texas in September, for some of the finest cycling Texas Hill Country has to offer! All meals prepared onsite by a professional chef in an open-air pavilion, with lovely housing available. 

The Classics ~ Tour of Flanders

They are the races that define champions.  They require grit, determination, iron will and high wattages… for a long time.  All of the classics feature some defining type of terrain or environment that make the race even harder than normal.  Roubaix has the cobbles, Flanders has the steep hills that go up old farm paths, Milan-San Remo has the Poggio climbs after 6 hours of racing and even here in the states, Battenkill has gravel roads and narrow bridges, and Copperopolis has ridiculous globs of pavement packed on top of old pavement one shovel full at a time.  Cold weather, brutal crosswinds, dirt in your eyes, mud that coat your rims preventing any sort of predictable braking, massive wheel eating potholes and horrible so-called roads that contribute to the muscle pain which strikes fear in every racer. The intimate knowledge that the unpreventable, undeniable, unavoidable muscle twinge will turn into pedal debilitating cramps and end your race is the feeling that every classic rider fears.  The last sip in your water bottle, the sound of ‘pssssst’ of your tire going flat when a critical attack occurs at the front, the unexpected crosswind that has never occurred on this particular section of road before, the flat and gel-less back pockets in your jersey when all you need is just one more packet of miracle calories all define the experience.   When one by one your teammates fall by the wayside, from punctures, bonks, lack of watts, cramps and crashes and you alone are the last man left standing, it’s then that you want the confidence to know you have done your homework.  You have pushed through the rain and cold, you have gone farther on less water, you have done more morning rides without food than anyone out there, you have suffered more on the indoor trainer in the basement staring at the blank wall dreaming about this moment and finally the realization that all those movies you play in your head are now your reality.  These are the characteristics of the spring classics winners, the top finishers and in the races that define the man, it can make a career and at the very least make a season, but it can also crush the spirit of the hardest and toughest of the hard men over time.  Once cracked, the hard man endures over and over, but eventually those cracks form into gaps that can’t be closed and eventually turn into looks of consolation from faces of the fans on the side of the road that tell you that you aren’t getting back on and your day for winning is over.  This is a classic and just as they define the man that does battle in them, it is critical to define the physiological demands of those classics so I can tell you at the bare minimum what makes the difference between the winners and the losers in the classics.  What are the physical requirements of the winners and what are the demands of each race from a training perspective?   Are those demands similar in some way to other races?  If you know what is coming and how many hills you’ll have to do, can you use this knowledge to hyper focus your training?   Can you learn something about those races that give you an edge this spring in your own backyard classics?

The ridiculously complicated demands of a “classic” race need to be defined to understand the determining factors of success and by analyzing the power files from them, we can gain some insights to apply in our own training and races in the next couple of months, but know that smart training alone does not make a hard man…  

Let’s examine two files from racers in the classics last year, one file is George Hincapie’s fine 6th place finish in Tour of Flanders and another is a first place finish from a Masters 40+ racer in the Tour of Battenkill.  Both of these racers know what it takes from a physical and mental perspective and have won many races which contain all the elements needed to define the classics man. Let’s look at Tour of Flanders first as it is one of the most insanely difficult races in the world.  The first thing that is apparent from George’s power file is that the first two and half hours were pretty darn easy, so easy for George that he only averaged 64% of his threshold power, which is at the lower end of his endurance zone.  Of course, this was on purpose as well, since cycling is a sport of energy conservation and George as the protected leader of the BMC team on the day had only to ride in the peloton, stay out of the wind, and suck wheels as best as he could.   These two and half hours are an important fat burning zone for George to take advantage of and one characteristic of Pro Tour riders is their ability to burn fat at a relatively high intensity and for a longer time than other cyclists.   George’s body, with over 17 years of pro racing adaptations accumulated in it, has mastered this economical fuel strategy.   It’s one that you can master as well, without necessarily having to race your bike for 17 years at the Pro Tour level.  A simple thing you can do in training is to go out on your longer training rides before you eat breakfast.   Take plenty of food with you, including a good source of protein (Turkey & Cheese sandwich will do) and then at the hour and half mark start eating and continue on your workout.  Repeat this workout until you can get to two and half hours before eating or feeling hungry and then you’ll have begun the process of teaching your body to burn more fat as fuel.   It’s important that you don’t ride too intensely in those hours before eating, so keep your intensity in your endurance zone (56-75% of FTP).

With the first two and half hours out of the way, then next highlight of a classic is just the sheer energy required to complete it and finish well.  Flanders is a 6-hour race and in those 6 hours, George burned 6123 kiloJoules, which is roughly equivalent to 6700 kiloCalories and that is a lot of food!  It’s a lot of food to eat afterward in order to recover, but it also means he ate a ton of food on the bike during the race as well and that’s not just gels and bars as he needed to do have plenty of protein as well to balance his blood sugar.   The ability to shovel down mass quantities of food during a hard race is critical for a classics rider and digesting that food is also critical to keep the energy levels high, so make sure that you have a solid nutritional strategy for a hard race.  Foods you can eat quickly, packages that you can open with your teeth and sometimes hold in your teeth during an attack, along with something substantial that will ‘stick to your ribs’ and keep you going for an endurance effort that lasts longer than your normal 2–3-hour race. 

Besides the fact that George’s normalized power for the 6 hours+ was a superhuman 342 watts, what is unique about many classics is that the ‘make or break’ time usually is determined via some key characteristic of the course itself which requires an outlay of wattage that you must be prepared to create.   For the Tour of Flanders this begins after 4 hours of racing and when the peloton begins hitting the famed hills in the Flanders region and then George cracks out an hour at a normalized power of 404watts, so the ability to ride at your FTP, above it and just below it for quite a while is something you’ll want to plan for in your own classics races this spring.  The knowledge that you are going to have to kill it for a certain period of time and that is not going to win you the race, but if you don’t kill it, then you will for certain lose the race, is knowledge and a commitment that you must clearly understand and be ready for.  This effort puts you in a winning position but doesn’t win you the race and preparing for to do that is something you can train.   One workout that I would suggest is built around this philosophy and “pre-fatigues” you then requires you absolutely crush it for that ‘make or break’ time followed by just heinous effort in the final 45 minutes is below:

“The Powerful Classic”

20 minute warm-up

4 x 1 minute fast pedals.

Ride at your endurance/tempo (56-90% of FTP) for two hours making sure that you get in a hilly ride or if you live in a flat area, do a ton of little 20-30 second bursts simulating speed changes in fast and slower cadences. 

At the end of this two hours, then do 6 x 2 minutes- FLAT OUT- on a flatish road. WITH FULL recovery- so about 4 minutes at endurance pace.

Then do 6 x 30 seconds- with a hard SPRINT at the start- FULL recovery- about 3 minutes

Then cruise for 20minutes easy. Then do

6 x small ring sprints- 75m– Start from 10mph– 39:16, 39:17 only and wind it out- 135rpm+

6 x big ring sprints–250m-Start from 18mph- 53:16, 53;15, 53:14- Wind it out.

Now, ride at your Sweet Spot (88-93% of FTP) to the 10-12-15 minute hill for the serious work…

Kill it up, and riding on the edge of your limit (100-105% of FTP) up the hill – DO 5 repeats.

REST for 10 minutes between.

Ride at your endurance pace (56-75% of FTP) for 30 minutes and stop at a store for your favorite caffeinated energy go juice and some light food (preferably with a little protein in it).

Now, the work begins…..ride at your sweet-spot for the next 45 minutes, pacing yourself just over threshold on the climbs and digging a deeper and deeper hole in which to push yourself into at the end of the ride.  

Recovery shake and mass quantities of food after the ride is necessary.  Stretching is super important too.

While the Tour of Flanders isn’t a race that most of us will ever get to do, the lessons from this Uber Classic can be applied to our own backyard classics such as the Tour of the Battenkill.  This classic road race has everything that makes a classic, a “Classic” including the “classic experience”: same punishing gravel roads, tough weather conditions, leg burning steep hills all combined with tough, nasty, hard as nails riders. The ‘classic experience’ is so desired that the pre-registration sold out within a few hours and it has become one of the largest one day races in the USA, including eight separate fields of Category 4 racers!  Let’s examine two key features of this classic so that you can prepare for any race this spring.  In contrast to the Tour of Flanders in Europe, shorter classics in the US are built for us working stiffs and typically start with a quick pace and then speed up!   In our masters winning file, we see that the first 5 minutes or so are done at warm-up pace, but then the pace goes through the roof and culminates with a hard two minute hill done at maximum power.   The wattage in the first 30 minutes is stochastic or highly variable and contributes to the intensity of the event, as our masters’ rider averaging 327 watts normalized, while his average power is only 244, indicating that there is plenty of time resting and not pedaling followed by hard bursts (attacks) of high power.  The variable nature of the race is something that you will have to prepare for and the ability to change speeds is paramount in spring classics.   Changing your pedaling speed isn’t the only thing that is necessary to do, but it’s also key to be able to ride near your threshold power and then do multiple hard bursts of watts in your anaerobic capacity zone (121-150%) all the while recovering to your threshold.  So, in reality there are two things you need to train for: 1) rapid and seemingly random cadence changes and 2) pushing your cardiovascular system to its threshold and then demanding short bursts of power with high force on the pedals.

The ‘make or break’ point comes in every race and knowing where it occurs is knowledge that can be hard won and that point on the course can be the same place every year.  In the amateur Battenkill races, that point is near the finish as all of the pretenders have been eliminated and the winners begin to emerge from the front group.   In the final 20 minutes there is a tough climb that has a bit of stair step nature to it, but is generally uphill for six and half minutes and this is the location of the final battle.   The hammer goes down here with our masters’ rider attacking at the bottom with a vicious 420 watt+ effort for a minute and then riding at 108% of his threshold for next five and half minutes to escape the front runners and then solo to the line.   This “race winning” effort is something that I have seen over and over in hundreds of race winning files and you should incorporate it into your training program this month and throughout your training.   Here it is and plan on doing at least 5-8 of them in each session:

Each interval begins with a 30 second sprint(15second out of the saddle) with and you must average 200% of your Threshold wattage in these first 30seconds with a peak of at least 300% (If you are using a cyclo-computer, try to reach at least 28-30mph and hold for 30seconds). Then ride for 3minutes and really hammer at 100-110% of your Threshold wattage(or the best speed you think you could maintain for an hour), and then finish with an out-of- the-saddle 10 second burst after the three minutes is over and try to reach 200% of your threshold wattage again, or 28-30mph. Rest for 5-6minutes between each.

The classics are unique here and abroad and using our power meters and data collection devices, we can better understand just how freaking hard they are and whether or not we even want to train for these evil mothers.  Once the commitment is made though, you have some serious training to do and the great thing about that is that you get to ride your bike more!  So get out there and go for a training ride!

Hunter Allen is a is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the coauthor of “Triathlon Training With Power”, “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” and “Cutting-Edge Cycling,” co-developer of TrainingPeaks’ WKO software, and CEO and founder of Peaks Coaching Group. He and his coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes.

Four Workouts to Make You Faster.

Spring is here! The first races of the season are always a little tougher, simply because you haven’t gotten into the race rhythm yet.  Spring races are always fun, challenging, and aggressive.  All the cyclists who pushed themselves throughout the winter are eager to show off the hard work and hard-won fitness.  If you are one of those few, spring races are lots of fun and filled with success.  If you’re a little behind on your fitness or planning on peaking in the summer, then spring races are a little tougher to handle. 

The spring has always been my favorite time for training, because I get to start doing some of the things I’m actually good at and really enjoy about riding.  Those of you following a training plan have probably been working on endurance (Level 2), sweet spot (sub-threshold), threshold (Level 4), and training your weaknesses.  Most of you are going to be doing a variety of races over the next couple of months. Most of them won’t be “A” races, but you still want to do well in each one, so you’re preparing for long, hilly road races; windy, wet time trials; and maybe an early season crit.  You may even be doing them all in one weekend in a stage race.  

In order to train for these random abuses, you need all your training zones ready to be worked.  Now is the time to start putting it all together, focusing on your strengths, and practicing your sprints.  This month’s article is full of workouts for you, to make sure you’re performing at your best.  These workouts will help you keep the sword sharpened, or maybe just get it sharp in the first place so you’re competitive.

These four workouts will make you faster and help you ride with more endurance and overall fitness:

1. Hill work: doing hills of various lengths with a sprint at the top of one section to simulate an uphill finish.

2. Time trial: get used to FTP in the aero position, working on form and getting the back, hips, and hamstrings accustomed to being aero while working.

3. Kitchen sink: putting it all together and ending with sprints.

4. Team ride: with faster people, learning to suffer and be economical.

For hill work it’s important to be able to sustain your power through the hill and on different length hills.  On shorter and steeper hills, the highest absolute power you produce (500w, 650w, 700w, etc.) will be most important.  The longer the hill, the more your power-to-weight (watts-per-kilogram) ratio becomes a part of the equation, and the higher your w/kg is, the better you excel on the climbs.  Keeping this in mind, let’s focus on shorter hills in this workout, as you’ll excel in longer hills as the result of specific FTP work.

Hill Repeat Workout

Warm-up: It’s important to get in a solid warm-up before your hill repeats, so if possible, ride for 30 minutes to an hour before you get to your favorite hill.  The hill should be approximately 1 minute long; a little shorter or longer is fine, but nothing over 2 minutes, since that will become too aerobic.  One trick I’ve found helpful for these is a visualization while doing the efforts: in your mind’s eye, picture yourself attacking out of the peloton on the hill and winning the KOM points at the top of the hill with your final sprint.

Main Set: Do 10 repeats total (build to 20) of a 1-minute hill.  (If you don’t have a hill suitable and want to do it on a longer hill, no problem; just make a landmark at about the one-minute distance so you have a goal for each effort.)  Glance at your power meter three or four times on the way up to make sure you’re between 130% and 175% of your FTP, with a goal of averaging around 140%.  If you have incredible anaerobic capacity, your numbers might be higher.  You know you’re doing it right when your legs start to burn after 20 seconds and you have to suffer like crazy to keep the wattage up.  Hammer all the way, then get out of the saddle and sprint in the last 30 meters.

Completely BLOW at the crest of the hill or at the 1-minute mark. REST plenty (3-4 minutes) between each one.  As you get more and more tired toward the last repeats, you’ll have to lengthen your recoveries, which is perfectly acceptable.  After you’ve completed all the repeats, ride home at your tempo and sweet spot paces to get in some solid aerobic work.

Cool-down: 10-15 minutes easy riding.

When you get home, your job becomes recovery and analysis of your hills with your downloaded power meter data.  What you’re looking for is how much and how quickly you fatigued from effort to effort.  Figure 1 below is a comparison of ten hill repeats.  This athlete’s wattage drops from 437 to 418 by the tenth one, which is only a 5% drop in power.  What this means is that he could have done more efforts.  When you have a 10% drop in power, that’s when it’s time to go home and call it a day.  Have a look at your data and find your power drop; that will help you determine how many intervals to do in the next session.

The next workout you should incorporate into your training regime is the “Time Trial Sim.”  This simulation of a time trial is a great opportunity to work on your Vo2 max energy system and get comfortable in that TT position while at full gas, while also building your confidence in time trials.  If you have a TT bike, use it, but if you don’t, it’s fine to go Eddy Merckx style.  The goal is to put you into a simulated time trial so you can learn how to focus, develop a rhythm, and push your wattage in the Vo2 Max zone(106-120% of FTP).

Time Trial Sim Workout

Warm-up: This is another workout for which your warm-up is important; riding at least 30 minutes is highly recommended.  Within the last 10 minutes of your warm-up, complete

(5) 1-minute fast pedaling efforts with your cadence over 110rpm and rest for 1 minute between each at 80rpm.  Don’t worry about your wattage; keep the watts relatively low and focus on the cadence.

Main Set: Get psyched and ready for some time trial efforts!  Do 6 x 6 minutes, starting out hard with your wattage at 120% of FTP for the first minute, dropping your watts to 110% of FTP for the next 4 minutes, and in the final minute pushing your wattage back to 120% of FTP and finishing strong.  Rest for 6 minutes between each effort.  The beauty of these efforts is that they are miniature time trials, designed to contain the same emotions, intensity, and focus that a longer time trial would have.  Make sure to do these at a “self-selected” cadence, which is whatever cadence feels best to you.  Really focus on using your gluteal muscles and staying as low as possible with the upper body.  The best time trialists work on their flexibility; if you can’t touch your toes easily, you need to start stretching!  Finish the ride with 20 minutes of tempo at 80-90% of FTP.

Cool-down: 15 minutes at your endurance pace (56-75% of FTP).

Remember, the more you practice something, the better you’ll get at it.  To become a good time trialist, you’ll need to do a bunch of time trial sims.  When you analyze your power file, look for how your power dropped over the intervals, but you’ll also want to learn how well you adhered to your pacing strategy.  Learning to time trial well is accomplished by proper pacing strategy and adherence to that strategy.

The “Kitchen Sink” is my absolute favorite workout and great for everyone.  All your energy systems are worked, you get to go for a big ride, and you come home with that wonderful feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that only cyclists know.  The goal of this workout is to address all the different energy systems needed for successful racing.  I also want you to come home fatigued and tired, having pushed yourself a little harder and farther than before.

Kitchen Sink Workout

Warm-up: 30 minutes at endurance pace (56-76% of your FTP).

Main set: After you’re warmed up, do 2 x 20 minutes at or just a hair below threshold (93-100% of FTP).  It’s hard, and you’ll have to push to maintain it.  Rest for 10 minutes between each at endurance pace.  Next, ride at your endurance pace for 30 minutes and then do 6 sprints, 3 in the small ring for 75m (starting from a slow speed and spinning the gear at 140rpm by the end of the sprint) and 3 in the big ring for 250m (starting from 20mph and getting the 53:13 turning over, but resisting the desire to go into your hardest gear).  Ride at endurance pace for 5 minutes between each.

After completing your sprints, cruise for 30 minutes at endurance pace and then do 5 hill repeats of various hills and lengths along your route, each at your Vo2 max pace (110-120% of FTP), with good solid rests at endurance pace for 5-10 minutes between each.  Again, these are done along the way in the ride.  If you don’t have any hills, it’s fine to do these as attacks into the wind or pretending you’re attacking on the flats.  

Your final hard effort is another 30 minutes at endurance pace.  While riding at endurance pace, add in some bursts (little 8-second ones) every 5 minutes or so to simulate the constant movement of a peloton.

Stop at a store with an hour to go and get your favorite caffeinated, sugary drink.  You’ll want a little boost before the final push home.  Finish with 45 minutes of sweet spot (88-93% of FTP) on the ride home.  Push it and try to ramp up your pace as you get closer and closer to home.  You should finish tired, but feeling satisfied.

Cool-down: 5-10 minutes with a recovery drink and STRETCHING.

When you analyze your power file after this workout, the first thing you should look for is your training stress score.  Did you score over 280 TSS?  If not, you didn’t go long enough.  If you’re closer to the 300-320 TSS range, announce it on Facebook and I’ll “like” it. J In all seriousness, the goal is to create some big stress, so a solid TSS will confirm that.  

The second thing to look at is your normalized power for the last 45 minutes.  This will give you another confirmation of your endurance.  If you were struggling way below your sweet spot and had nothing left, you know where you need to spend some more time.  If you were solidly in your sweet spot, mission accomplished.

Group Rides

Your final mission this spring is to do some group riding.  Group rides can be great opportunities to get in some guaranteed intensity when you don’t feel like training or when you’re too fatigued to push yourself but still have more to give.  When you do these group rides, approach them with two different mentalities and strategies.  For one of the rides, attack with reckless abandon.  Don’t attack so much that you get dropped, of course, but come close!  Your attitude should be one of pushing yourself to the limit and really digging deep in order to just get in the work. 

The next time you do the group ride, do the exact opposite and try to be as absolutely economical as possible.  That means sitting in, riding on wheels, NOT pedaling, saving energy, staying out of the wind and away from the front (until the split comes), and making sure when you do have to ride hard you can easily make the move.  Group rides are perfect places for you to learn economy through energy conservation. 

When you analyze your power file after your ride, it’s important to count exactly how many attacks you were able to do before nearly getting dropped.  Look at the time each attack lasted and memorize the wattages you averaged in the attacks for later use in races.  For the “conservation” group ride, look at your cadence distribution chart and see how much time you spent not pedaling, because that is a great indicator of your ability to conserve energy.

These four workouts each address different areas of fitness that are needed for those spring races.  You might be really challenged by them and therefore get a great boost of fitness from the accomplishment of each.  If you’re already super fit and peaking for the spring races, these workouts will only help you more to push yourself to the next level and ensure success.  Plan these into your weekly schedule.  You might even do all four of them in the same week, but I wouldn’t recommend it every week.  Another plan might be to do the hill repeats two times in one week if you know you really need help improving your anaerobic capacity.  Use your best judgment and make sure to give each of them your best.  When you crack that 300 TSS for the Kitchen Sink workout, send me a message or tag us on Facebook or Instagram, and I’ll be sure to “like” it!

Hunter Allen is a is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the coauthor of “Triathlon Training With Power”, “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” and “Cutting-Edge Cycling,” co-developer of TrainingPeaks’ WKO software, and CEO and founder of Peaks Coaching Group. He and his coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes.

A Powerful Foundation of Fitness

I know you have spent a lot of time this winter on the indoor trainer doing workouts watching videos of everything from Rambo to “real-life” cycling videos like the ErgVideos.  These are great tools to increase your fitness in the winter, go to the next level and also to maintain your hard-won fitness from last season. It’s always a battle in the winter with cross-training exercises, cold weather (for most of us!), indoor riding and just how much intensity to do indoors and outdoors on the good days.  I prescribe a lot of tempo and “sweet-spot” work in the off-season in order to limit the upper intensities. If you ride at the higher levels in the winter, you risk peaking too soon and creating a lull in your fitness in March, right when most of the racing starts in the US.   To prevent this from happening, it is important to continue this building of your power foundation.

“Base Training” vs. “Power Foundation”

I really don’t like the phrase, “Base Training” because it produces images of long, slow distance training where your watts are at 60% of your threshold and you just putter along in your ride.   Too many athletes and coaches believe that an athlete has to do “Base training” first and before any other type of training can be started.  Now, I’ll concede that if you are a Pro cyclist and training for a huge season in Europe in 2014, then yes, you should be doing some serious “Base training”.  Riding your bike for 4-6 hours a day at endurance pace will help continue to develop your aerobic system and also prevent you from peaking in January.   But, everyone else?  Forget it.   We don’t have the time to put in 4-6 hours a day at a slow pace, stopping at coffee shops along the way and enjoying the sights. 

For most of us, we have only 1-2 hours a day to train and we have to make the most of those hours, optimizing our training for the highest ROI.  If we took those 1-2 hours a day and rode at endurance pace, then what would really happen?   We would lose fitness and get slower. For most of us, riding that slow will not be challenging enough to create any training stress and therefore adaptation (improved fitness).  There is a relationship between time and intensity that must be respected and when you ride at lower intensities, then you need to ride longer in order to create enough stress for adaptation.  Therefore, I like to call what most of do in the winter and early spring, your “Power Foundation”.  This is the type of riding that contains more tempo and sweet-spot work, essentially more intensity (but not too much!) than riding around at endurance pace.  Building your power foundation, I believe, is critical for the coming season in improving your FTP, and also preparing for the entire season of racing, so that you are consistent throughout the year.   In the late winter/early spring, you should be finishing the power foundation phase and transitioning from indoor riding to outdoor riding.  This signals the time in which you need to solidify your winter fitness, especially if you have risen up a level (!) and begin adding in more and more work at your threshold and a little above.

Let’s Start with Your Sweet-Spot.

Before beginning to ride right at your FTP for extended periods of time (longer than 10minutes) I would recommend you do some final work at your sweet-spot (88-93% of FTP) and then move onto work right at your FTP and above.    This is one of my favorite workouts that I use for many of my athletes regularly in February and March.

Sweet-Spot with Bursts

Warm-up:

15minute warm-up with (1) 3-minute effort at 90% of your FTP, then 5minutes easy,

Main Set: Nail it at 88-93% of your FTP for 60 minutes, with 20 bursts (every 3 minutes!) to 120% of FTP, hold for 15 seconds, and return to previous pace (88-93% of FTP)

EASY 10 minutes riding at endurance pace 56-75% of FTP

Then do 30 minutes at 88-93% of FTP and this time do big gear intervals- every two minutes.  Slow down to 12mph, put your chain in the 53:13, stay seated and then use strength to explode on that gear and push it hard for 30seconds or if you reach 90rpm, stop when you reach one of those criteria first and return to 88-93% of FTP.

In order to start transitioning into race fitness, finish with 5 hard sprints – Start in your 53:16 from 20mph and sprint for 250 meters each, 4-5 minutes rest between each.

Cool Down: 10 minutes easy spinning at less than 56% of your FTP.

To remind you of the Coggan power training levels, see figure 1.

Incorporating FTP Workouts

During February and March, along with continuing to ride at sweet spot, you need to begin incorporating riding right at your functional threshold power and also doing some forays above it to prepare for the higher intensities of racing.  I recommend at least one day a week of training specifically at your FTP and then one day in which you incorporate shorter intensity as well.  I like to incorporate the shorter intensity on the weekend when you are doing a longer ride, by including it in the first two hours and then using the last hour or two to focus on your overall aerobic endurance through tempo and sweet-spot work.

The one focused day of threshold work needs to be highly focused and designed to just address your FTP and nothing more.  This allows you to dig deep into the “well of courage” and push yourself for maximum training effect.  I recommend doing this workout for improving your FTP.

FTP “Well of courage”

Warm-Up: 20 minutes-endurance pace 56-75% of FTP

MS: 5 x 1minute fast pedal over 120 RPM to get legs opened up with 1 minute rest between each. Ride at 10 minutes easy at 56-75% of FTP after those warm-ups. Now, dig in the well of courage and do (4) x12 minutes at or just above FTP- so 100-108% of FTP – Nail these and push in the last minute up to 110% of FTP!  Do NOT kill it in the first 2 minutes though, so start out and ramp up to your 100-108% of FTP.  REST for 5minutes between each.

After completing the (4) x 12 FTP intervals, ride for 20-30 minutes endurance pace (56-75% of FTP).Finish with one more 12 minutes at FTP interval to completely bury yourself!  Make sure you push it hard and do your best completing a total of 60minutes at FTP for the day!

Cool Down: 10 minutes at least than 56% of FTP

Don’t Forget to Have Fun!

On your weekends, make sure you are getting in at least one day of group riding as this is fun and it will also help to develop your race fitness with short, hard bursts and simulated attacks.  I recommend to my clients to do a group for an hour or two and then go longer afterward if they can.   This really makes a difference in your endurance and stamina for the upcoming season.   On the other day during the weekend, it would be great to work on your shorter, more intense efforts.  I recommend this workout:

Weekend: “A bite of it all”

Warm Up: 15minutes at 56-75% of FTP.

Main-Set: Do (3) x 1 minute fast pedaling. Then do (4) sprints- BIG RING –Put your chain in the 53:15 and start from 22mph. Only do two gear shifts in these sprints to 14, then to 13. Rest for 3-4 minutes between each and get psyched for the next sprint!

After you finish your sprints then do (2) x 12 minutes JUST BELOW threshold- so about 88-93% of FTP watts in order to get in a little more sweet-spot/FTP work. Do your best to hold it there!   Rest for 5minutes between each.

Now, finish the workout with 4 x 2 minutes on a flat section of road. 2 minutes ON, 2 minutes OFF. Do your best to hold 130-140% of FTP on the effort.  Lastly, ride at endurance pace for 20 minutes (56-75% of FTP)

CD: 5 minutes (<56% of FTP)

Training this early spring should be focused around making sure you have the overall power foundation developed and then building your threshold power on top of that.  It’s critical that as you get closer and closer to race season, that you begin incorporating shorter, more intense intervals that stress your anaerobic capacity (30sec-2min efforts) and neuromuscular power (5-15 sec.).  The transition from winter to spring training is more important than most riders think as the demands of racing are very specific you must be prepared for them along with prepared for the entire season.   One important final note to discuss is the importance of entering the race season with your “battery” 100% charged. This means that you should make sure you rest between hard workouts and keep yourself relatively fresh.  Digging a hole in this transitory time can be a recipe for disaster. I recommend taking a rest/easy day after every 3 hard days of training, as this will guarantee that you are well rested for the next block of training and are not getting fatigued.

The phrase, “Power Foundation” is how I prefer to talk about winter and pre-season training as it doesn’t conjure up those dreaded thoughts of LSD training, and more focuses one on the ‘power’ side of the equation, since your goal is to increase your power at threshold this season.  Overall aerobic fitness improvement is always something that we all want to accomplish every season as more fitness=more fitness and you will be riding faster than previously.    These workouts are for riders that don’t have 4-6 hours to ride each day and will keep your fitness higher throughout the winter than normal, but that means you don’t have that far to go in order to peak for your key event in the spring.  Give these workouts a shot and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with your new higher threshold this spring!

Hunter Allen is a is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the coauthor of “Triathlon Training With Power”, “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” and “Cutting-Edge Cycling,” co-developer of TrainingPeaks’ WKO software, and CEO and founder of Peaks Coaching Group. He and his coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes.

The Hardest 10 Minutes

By: Hunter Allen

Early Spring racing.  The hardest 10 minutes.   The “decision maker”.

Every race has a hard section.  The section that separates the men from the boys.  The place where the winners make their move, and the final selection is determined.  It’s that harrowing place of pain and suffering that decides who really wants to win. Some races have multiple decision making sections that force you to dig deep, push to your utter limit with every fiber in your body.  This is also the same place that you wish that you had chosen bowling as your sport.   It’s a common theme in every bike race, whether it’s a short criterium or a long road race.  There is always a “decision maker”.  Sometimes it is terrain dependent, sometimes its weather related, other times its created by a team or even a single strong racer.   Let’s increase your advantage in making the split during the “decision maker”.  

Critical to your success in these early spring races are:  1) Anticipating where in the course the ‘decision maker’ could occur based on terrain, weather, and racing tactics.  2) Recognizing the ‘decision maker’ in the race.  “This is IT!”  3)  Making sure you have the right fitness and enough fitness to make the selection.  4) Mentally dealing with this intense level of suffering through the critical 10 minutes.  

Our first race analysis is from one of the best road races in the East Coast, The Tour of the Battenkill (TOB).  This race has a number of very difficult terrain features which is why it has become so popular and one of the best races in the USA.  With many gravel sections, steep hills, and wind-blown exposed roads, there is always the possibility for multiple decision making areas.  When racing on a difficult course, a racer must be attentive at all times, as it can be difficult to predict exactly where the decision makers will occur.   In the past year’s category 3 race, there were two distinctive areas that became the decision making points.  While an experienced racer or coach could (and should) pre-ride the course to discover these areas, it’s not always possible, so relying on previous race outcomes can be helpful.   In the TOB race, there is always a narrow covered bridge crossing followed by a series of hard hills with gravel sections intermixed that wreak havoc on the peloton.   So, for certain, this will be a critical section just based on the past history of the race and the course.   In figure 1, using the new TrainingPeaks WKO+ version 4.0 software to analyze the data, that first section was nearly 9 minutes long and a watts per kilogram ratio needed to make the front group, was 4.7.   Knowing the power values needed to make the selection is a huge advantage and in this case demonstrates the stiffness of the competition.   As with many road races, there can be an early selection to determine who has enough fitness (high enough FTP) to make the leading group, and then a later selection to whittle down the competition that determines who has enough endurance and fitness after a certain amount of fatigue in the legs has accumulated.   In this case, for a category 3 race, that second decision maker came after two hours of racing, during a slightly uphill, gravel, crosswind section lasting for nearly 8 minutes.  Again, with proper recon of the route and some past knowledge of racing, this section was obvious that it fit the “decision maker” mold well.   It came after 2/3’s of the race was over, it was slightly uphill so power to weight ratio was important, the gravel road made bike handling and confidence a factor, and the wind created a single file line through the section not allowing any of the weaker riders to hold onto the wheel in front of them.   For the rider in figure 1, he had to maintain 3.8 w/kg to maintain the lead group of 8 riders, which was whittled down from 30 riders that entered this decision-making section.

In our second case study, we see a similar “decision maker” in a road race ending with a hill climb albeit and in a slightly different pattern. This race was part of a 10 day stage race with this critical decision making stage coming on stage 7.  Basically, the strategy was straight forward as the stage finished on an hour and 40 minutes climb(!) and all the climbers that were contending for the win, were sitting in the peloton to wait for the climb.  Like most races ending with a climb, the ability to maintain a high watts per kilogram ratio is usually the simple recipe for success.  However, what’s often forgotten is that within the need for a high FTP, the best climbers must withstand attacks for short periods of time over their FTP’s and recover back to FTP.   In figure 2, it’s easy to see the three hard attacks that were responded to by this rider in order to stay in the group.  Each of these attacks were between two and three minutes long, with the hardest at 6.46 w/kg.    While these attacks did not last the typical 10 minutes, combined they are roughly  “the” decision making 10minutes in summation and the deciding factor of the top 6 riders in the race and the rest.   Of course, this is assuming rider has the ability to still stay with the top climbers in between the attacks and then afterward, which is no easy feat mind you!   For this athlete, maintenance of the needed high FTP was within his ability and he was “on the ropes” for just those three hard sections.  Analyzing this case study, helps to see the “decision maker” in a little different light and it also will help with training for future races.  Defining the demands of the event allows you to train to those demands, and this series of attacks on the climb is a perfect example that could easily be trained with a series of intervals.   A workout to simulate this race would be:  Ride just below your FTP for 5-10 minutes and then do a 3 minute attack with watts at 200% of FTP for the first 10 seconds and then ride at 110-115% of FTP for 3minutes.  At the end of 3 minutes, recover back to FTP for 2 minutes and repeat another attack.   Repeat this for 3 or more intervals.

For our third case study, we have the winning attack made by Antonio Garnero in the Brazilian Pro Championships in 2014. This race was over a 9km circuit and 22 laps total, so all the racers had multiple chances to assess the course and predict where the winning move might come from on the course.  Antonio made his move on the 17th lap of the race near the top of the short hill with 3 successive attacks to get away with only 2 other riders.  Once away, Antonio stayed at the front of the now 3-person breakaway for 10minutes to create the separation needed to win.   This hard 10minutes was after 3.5 hours of racing and was 5.6w/kg in effort, so without a doubt an extraordinary effort.    In order to shed his 2 other breakaway companions, he only had to attack them with 3km to go and he easily finished in a solo victory.   This example is one in which the strongest rider “created” the decision making 10minutes and had the luxury of deciding where and when those 10 minutes would be.  As a very experienced rider that was at the peak of his form, he knew that he had to create that decision making 10minutes and was confident enough to be able to do it all on his own.  If you were racing with him, you only needed to know that he was the strongest rider in the race and then “mark” him in the closing laps, and of course be able to follow him!    The lesson here is that when you are one of the strongest in the peloton, you have the luxury to be the decision maker, but that doesn’t mean it always works, and it’s still critical that you are aware of the other riders and the terrain around you to make the best attack and commit to a very hard 10 minutes of 100% effort.

Every race has a decision making 10minutes where the final selection if not the winner is decided.  Criteriums, circuit races, hill climbs and sometimes even time trials all contain this 10minute suffer fest.   Recognizing when this 10minutes might occur and then when it is occurring in a race is the mark of an experienced winner, although it doesn’t make it easier.  You are going to suffer and dig deep. Knowing that it generally will only last for 10minutes though, does make the effort more accomplishable however, similar to knowing a section of road so well, that you know you can hang on for dear life because the terrain dictates that everyone ease up just around the next bend.   Most of the decision making points in a race come when three or more characteristics are present.   One, there must be some sort of difficult terrain and/or weather feature.  Two, it will occur after at least 2/3rds of the race is over when most of the peloton is already fatigued.  Three, the strongest rider decides it is time to go.  Four, after the race has been at a high intensity for a relatively long time and shorter attacks start occurring from riders.  Training to the demands of these “decision makers” can be a definite advantage for any racer and should revolve around 8 to 10 minute intervals at your FTP and with hard efforts (110-115% of FTP) at the beginning or within the interval.  

Hunter Allen is a is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach and former professional cyclist. He is the coauthor of “Triathlon Training With Power”, “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” and “Cutting-Edge Cycling,” co-developer of TrainingPeaks’ WKO software, and CEO and founder of Peaks Coaching Group. He and his coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes.