What does a World Cup track rider profile look like?
Imagine being 41 years of age, no support from your cycling federation, no track or velodrome within your home country, being cut off in snow during winter months and working full time. Not unusual I am sure, but now imagine having all of this and doing your racing at Elite level with the best professionals in the world?
In 2019, a Latvian rider who this describes approached us for help with getting back to his best as a track rider. His goals were to improve his 4km individual pursuit, be more competitive in the points and scratch races , and as a secondary goal, do well in his National time trial championships.
Given the issues he faced, his times in the IP were not at world level and both rider and I felt this could be challenging!
The first thing we needed to do was understand where he was with the following issues
• What are the event demands?
• What is the riders physiology and where are his strengths/weaknesses?
• What is the riders bike position like and how aero is he?
• What does his pacing look like for the IP and time trials?
• How does he recover given multi event demands over the course of a track week, alongside his work day and training program?
Looking back over historic data, I was able to establish that at some points in the last 3 years his aerobic capacity had been at a good level, but had diminished in the time since. His anaerobic capacity alongside his FRC (or W if you use critical power) had also been good at points, just not when he needed to be at his best in competition and was down at around 12kj`s at the initial review. This is a very low number for someone with aspirations to ride at the level he was.
As FRC and FTP have an inverse relationship where one increases , the other can drop, this was going to be difficult improving both and a balance had to be found.
Track riders need a good anaerobic capacity, but the events are still aerobic and still require those longer rides at an endurance pace.
Whilst the rider was able to hold longer power at his `threshold`, his first lap standing start times were a good 2 seconds slower than we needed them to be and he never really got faster or slower from that point on. That top end needed a kick.
As we had several months to our target event, the European Championships, the first thing we did was to increase the hours on the bike with endurance riding, alongside a good period of working on the `FTP/threshold` and VO2. This would also coincide with the better summer weather and the National TT champs at the end of that period.
It was also an opportune moment for Matt Bottrill to review the riders position (UCI compliant) via zoom, make suggested equipment changes, and then to implement some drills for better adaption. This is crucial when you make these changes and we spent as much time as we could in position for the sessions on both TT and track bikes. Mock time trials on the road allowed some improvement and CDA began to come down.
We also started some strength and conditioning work with the rider initially starting with functional movement before working through progression to heavier weights/low reps and plyometrics.
The strategy worked, and come the National TT champs he had a great ride and finished on the podium in 3rd, but not too far away from that top step. A good start to the athletes year and goals.
Now time to think about the track.
From here we maintained the aerobic efforts and kept FTP on a stable footing as best we could and started to work on the anaerobic capacity and FRC.
This means a more polarised approach to training to reduce fatigue, but ensuring the top end efforts were done at the best power that we could. It also means an increase in carbs within his diet and eating at the right times to fuel the sessions.
In the IP, you need to use your ATP-PC systems from the standing start, glycolytic energy for that first 90 secs or so and then you start to operate mainly aerobically. No one system is used singularly and at various points all 3 are in play when riding this type of event.
This period meant lots of standing starts, short hard efforts, more vo2 efforts after hard starts, 30/30s, microburst efforts and so on. Regular testing would allow us to see development and if the plan was working.
It was really clear from the training reviews that I did daily that things were improving with maximum power improving alongside the repeatability of those efforts (really important in the bunch races!) . The only thing missing was the ability to do all of this on a track and so we had no idea how it would translate once he had to hold the lines. All of this was done in position on the track bike and at the target cadence that we had decided upon.
The European Championships arrived, we had a good taper and I was feeling confident that the riders performance would be improved. FRC had gone from that initial review of 12 and now sat at 26!
Armed with the schedule we had worked upon, sitting alongside his CDA a sub 4mins 30 was the target. This was some 20 secs better than the previous year, so optimistic, but I felt given the power, was realistic. Lack of track work was nagging me though!
I need not have worried, he nailed it. He hit the opening lap as per the schedule and eased into the race, matching the schedule as he went for a 4.29 finish. This was a Latvian National record that had stood since the 1990s and he had beaten it by 9 secs. Elated!
So what is the learning for you if you are looking to improve your track racing or any event for that matter.
• Have a process and strategy to understand where you fit alongside the event demands
• Work on your weakness at the right times and enhance your strengths
• Understand that it is possible to enhance your energy systems if you work hard enough and do the right things- do not hinder your progression by categorising yourself as a particular type of rider
• Review your off the bike activity
• Not having access to a track does not make things easy for you, but its not impossible
• Get a professional bike fit, more gains can be made here than a whole winters training. Free speed...
written by Simon Beldon. MBPC Coach. www.mattbottrillperformancecoaching.com