I remember in 2010 I rode the National 25 and Michael Hutchinson beat me by two and a half minutes. I thought I’d trained harder than ever. That was the turning point. I started looking at skinsuits, positions on the bike… but the biggest thing was coaching and bringing the full package together.
That year I started working with Simon Smart at Drag2Zero and also with my coach Bob Tobin. Simon was looking at skinsuit design; Bob helped me understand the science of how to train. I was really limited at that time and had only eight hours a week, so I had to be really smart. I think people saw that I was training eight hours a week but winning Nationals and breaking records. If I trained smart and looked at aerodynamics I was going to go quicker.
My first wind tunnel test I was over .2 but by the time I finished I was down to .75. so that’s 30 watts. So I’ve got significantly less power now but my CdA out on the road now is in the .6s.
2. Don’t just get a fast position – get a sustainable position.
I worked on Victor Campanaerts’ hour record in 2019 and I’ve just been in Belgium working with Lotto Soudal ready for the 2020 season. A lot of what I do is working with them to get them to hold their fastest position. It’s great that you can take someone to the tunnel or the track and get them a low CdA but ultimately they need to train the body to adapt to it, and that comes from doing drills in training.
The first step is the bike fit. Head and shoulder position are so important and each athlete needs a different angle of pole to narrow the shoulder and drop the head. We custom make a lot of parts, including armrests and integrated poles, which will help you to hold your fastest position. If you can sustain that position you’re going to get quicker times.
3. Work on your pedalling efficiency
What everyone is going to be talking about is pedalling efficiency. Wattbike has a feature called PES – pedalling effectiveness score. This is to show you how to use your muscles in the best way possible to help you to go faster, climb better, improve your endurance. The Polar View is a visual representation of this – it looks like peanut and it changes shape according to how you apply force around the pedal stroke. You need a good left/right balance, you’ve got to use the muscles in your lower leg properly and you need optimal mechanical efficiency to improve the total force turning the pedals. If you have a coach who can help you understand how to change it, you’ll learn to adapt your pedalling technique and you’ll go faster.
A lot of people are as aero as they can get and it’s taken a few years. But I think from now it’s going to be training and efficiency that you’ve got to work on. If everyone’s got the CdA, what do you do? Get more efficient.
4. Get your pacing right
As well as doing the aero testing with Lotto Soudal, I work on their pacing strategies. We can put an athlete’s the power number, aerodynamics, course profile and race day weather conditions into software like Best Bike Split and it will create a ‘power cheat sheet’ that tells you exactly how many watts you need to produce on each section of the course to get your best possible time.
If you’ve got the athlete’s data you know how fast they can go. We were able to predict Thomas de Gendt’s time within seven seconds that he rode in the Tour de France time trial.
It takes a special athlete to say OK, I’m going to control it on the hills at this point but using this sort of technology you can know for sure that you’re going to be faster overall if you do.
MyWindsock is another app that we use to model performances on courses and predict athlete’s times. For athletes to get quicker they’ve got to understand wind direction, how to utilise that position and power throughout the duration of the event.
5. Go tubeless and wider
In 2014 when I broke the 25 and 50 competition records I know I was giving away about 14 watts in just tyres. Now we’re seeing tubeless tyres with much lower rolling resistance, and the wider rims that they’re sitting on are aerodynamically much faster than the older, narrow ones. If I’d had them in 2014 my times would have significantly improved.
I think the next innovation is for specific wheels and tyres to be developed around the frameset.
6. Look for the small gains and join them together
Say you change a Look Keo pedal to a Speedplay pedal, that’s two or three watts. Wattshop do an adaptor that lets the cleat sit right on the shoe, lowering the stack height by 3mm. You can probably save five or 10 watts right there. You can also research the fastest overshoes.
All these little bits are all going to make you quicker. How I won the Nationals was not by being the most powerful but by being the smartest. You’re always trying to find the next small gain and there are so many out there that you and your coach can identify to make you faster.
If you’d like to learn more about the cycling coaches and coaching packages we have available at Matt Bottrill Performance Coaching, please get in touch via the ‘Contact Us’ button below and a member of our team will be more than happy to help.