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Tips To Crush Battenkill (And Other Gravel Grinders)

So you want to enter a gravel grinder event like Tour of the Battenkill, but you're worried that you don't have the skills necessary to compete?  Maybe you want to turn down that dirt road that you've passed a hundred times on your rides but you're nervous about staying upright on the gravel?  Or perhaps your goal is to tackle some tough, unpaved backroad climbs like those in the Vermont Green Mountains to prove how tough you are?

You're not alone.  Gravel grinder events have witnessed a meteoric rise in popularity in the past few years.  They have even spawned a completely distinct line of bikes and equipment.  The best equipment in the world won't help you if you don't know how to train for a gravel grinder, though.  I'll show you what you need to succeed.

Gravel Grinder Success Is In The Preparation

Many people think that success in a gravel grinder race or event like Battenkill comes on race day.  In fact, you can lose an event or miss a target goal by not prepping yourself for success along the way.  Whether you're nervous about riding on dirt roads or how to handle your nutritional requirements, I've got a few tips to help set your mind at ease and prepare you for the worst dirt roads you can imagine.

Click through the jump and pick up 6 tips to get you gravel grinding with the confidence of an off-road veteran.

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Coaching Q&A (Podcast #28)

Training PlansHave you ever heard of the phrase “if you have a question, ask it.  Someone else probably has the same question but is afraid to ask it?”  Over my time in practice and coaching athletes, I've found this to be true time and time again.  Cyclists both young and old, new and seasoned, racer and group rider come to me with many of the same questions, each one looking for an answer as to why they are having trouble with something and how they can advance their fitness.  In most cases, it's simple changes to their program that can produce stellar results.

In today's podcast, I'll go over a couple of questions and concepts that I've been seeing a lot lately.  These are all things that you average cyclist needs to know in order to become a faster, stronger rider.  I'll shed some light on:

  • Do you need a power meter to train effectively?
  • Who benefits from training with power?
  • How many “A” races are too many?
  • What pitfalls are there in planning a season?
  • Why do my legs “get heavy and lose their ability to push?”
  • What can I address to take my fitness to the next level?

If you like what you hear, go over to the Tailwind Coaching Podcast on iTunes and rate it 5 stars.  Don't forget to post any questions to the Tailwind Coaching Facebook page.

And don't forget: BATTENKILL registration is November 15th at 7PM.  You can get my new, revised and improved 20 week Battenkill Training Plan in my store, and be well on your way to the podium.  Remember to save 10% with the coupon code in this week's podcast.

Tour of the Battenkill 2013 Race Report (Podcast #12)

Spring ridingTour of the Battenkill is one of my favorite races: it has all the hallmarks of the northern European classics: pave, short, steep climbs, big crowds and throngs of exuberant racers.

Having raced Battenkill in 2011 and finished 33rd with massive, horrible muscle cramps, I was determined to head back to Cambridge NY and have another go at the 64 miles of hell and dirt.  Saturday was the 9th running of the Tour of the Battenkill, and featured about 3500 racers between the pro/am day and the Gran Fondo.

In today's podcast, I'll detail my Battenkill weekend, from Friday through race day, what went right and what went wrong.

ANNOUNCEMENT: You still have 5 days to download my “Berg Buster” HIT workout for free.  Just use the code “classicsgift” and that $10 workout becomes free!

Remember to review the Tailwind Coaching Podcast on iTunes!

Race Day Preparation (Podcast #11)

Warming up on the trainer“Do it right on race day” is a lesson that every racer should live by and one that should be drilled into their head.  Race performance begins in the days before when you start to get everything ready to roll.  In fact, poor race day prep can actually set you up for a poor performance even before the first pedal is turned in anger.

We'll discuss proper race day preparation as well as preparation in the days prior.  Some topics we'll cover include:

  • Loading your gear and prepping your bike
  • Eating prior to your race
  • Arrival time and warmup time
  • Warming up on the trainer
  • Proper dress

As always, comments and questions are welcome.

As a reminder, my “Berg Buster” is still available (until April 21st) for FREE with the code “classicsgift”.

For those of you racing Battenkill, I'll see you there.  Good luck, stay safe!

Peak Performance Concepts (Podcast #10)

Annotated performance management chartWith spring racing in full force, many people are hitting the peak phase of their periodized training plans.  Periodized training is a method by which an athlete structures their training towards certain goals, and it consists of a long term, full year picture (macrocycle), smaller blocks of training and recovery (mesocycles, typically 4 weeks long) and the single week's worth of training and recovery (microcycle).

Within this concept of periodized training, the ultimate goal of a training block, which I like to refer to as a super-mesocycle (basically a group of 3 or 4 mesocyles bundled together) is a peak performance, usually for an “A” category race.  The question most athletes ask is “What exactly is peak performance and how do I get there?”  After an event, people often ask me “Why was my performance so poor?  Did I not train enough?”

I'd like to suggest that peak performance is not really driven by what happens during the “build phases” of your training plan, and is not really driven by the amount of training you've done (to some extent anyway.)  You can be one of the fittest riders in the group, but a poor quality “peak” phase can destroy an otherwise strong and fit athlete.

On today's podcast, we'll learn what the significance of the “peak” phase is and how we transition from the build phase into a peak performance, including:

  • The peaking model
  • Building form vs. fitness
  • Peak week intensity, frequency and duration
  • The importance of “painkillers” in relation to peak performance
  • Should you rest the day before an “A” race?

As a reminder, you can get a FREE “Berg Buster” HIT workout by using the code “classicsgift” through April 21st.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Remember to head over to iTunes and leave a review if you enjoyed the podcast.