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1. Put on your safety equipment. Don’t forget your helmet and gloves. Some items people often forget and don’t view as safety items are also your sun glasses/protective eye-wear, and sun screen.
2. Get in shape and stay in shape year round. Stopping and starting will often lead to injury as we get older. The best way is to at least lightly exercise year round. Also to keep a “gym” day on your calendar (again more important as we age). I like to do 30-40 minutes of resistance specific to cycling, and then a yoga class.
3. Warm up and then stretch before you start. YES in that order. Make sure you spend at least 10 minutes in a good warm up before any ride and or training. Then spend a few minutes to stretch out. Never stretch a totally cold muscle group.
4. Use proper form while riding and lifting. As a fitness professional & cycling coach, there is nothing worse for me then to be in a gym and watching a person almost hurt themselves with bad form. Plus it builds “ugly” muscles. Also when out on the road to see bowed and pigeon toed cyclist, or a rider with a horribly bad bike fit. All of those things can lead to injury.
5. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. In cycling and in any sport it is important to stay hydrated at least 30-60 grams per hour and drink between 600-1200 mL/H of a drink containing Carbohydrates and Na (sodium). Consider sodium supplements if your perspiration levels are high or in hot/humid environments. Most sports drinks meet this requirement but need to be “watered down” because of the sugar content. It is important to maintain proper hydration levels before, during, and after all exercise. This will help us maintain fluid loss, keep our heart rates lower, and maintain plasma levels. Also this helps us prevent heat stroke, exhaustion, stress, or illnesses.
6. Cross train in the “off season”. During transition periods and “off season” make sure to experience other sports and activities. Use those different muscle groups.
7. Do not over train or overdo your abilities. Stay within your limits and know your boundaries. I know this is hard to say to an endurance athlete, because our whole sport is focused on pushing ourselves further, harder, and longer. We just need to learn the differences between good pains and bad pain.
Kevin Lee- Lead Pack Cycling
Recently I put together a group ride promoted as a C-B pace and with no dropping of riders. We take it easy and try to keep a steady, but low pace that people of all fitness levels can keep. This is all part of training I explain to the group. We ride “slow & low” so that later we can ride fast for cash and the guys/gals who don’t like this slow pace, should do their own thing. So from the start I lead the group nice and steady at maybe 18mph on a super flat road. I see a gent in the back is having a hard time so I slow it down a bit more. It didn’t bother me; that was what the training was for the day. Then it starts. One knuckle head takes off. We hit a tiny bit of traffic and two knuckle heads go for the bike path at a vigorous speed. I finally get the other riders across the light and I ask one guy, on my wheel, if he wants to “do” a ¼ mile with me. I told him I guarantee we will pass them. Sure enough he stays on my wheel at 32 miles per hour and we caught up way before that quarter mile. So I slowed the “group” back to the nice low steady pace and it stays calm for the most part, until a hill near the end that just invites knuckle heads to break rank. Sure enough there goes one and I chilled with him on the hill talked as he huffed and puffed and then I said “I need to wait for the group I’m leading.” Sure enough after a bit of a descent, there he was waiting at the traffic. By now we reach the flat parts of the ride again it’s all together. This same dude pulls up in front of me after I set the nice low pace and start inching up the pace to eventually 26 mph for a good stretch. I decided to pass him at 30+ mph and not even look back until I got to the end of the road. So I swung real wide so he couldn’t catch a wheel and cranked it into 53/11 for a few revolutions and dusted them all for a mile or two. By then I thought the “group” had the gotten the point and understood what the purpose of the ride is. So again I set my slow and low pace and pulled us to the last hill before the shop. Yep you guessed it, and their off. I thought thanks for ruining a good training ride. I thought thanks for making this man suffer in the back who later told me he’s 61 years old and been up since 5am. I could hear him saying in his head, “I thought this was an easy paced ride”.
Maybe I need to take a different approach as a group leader. Let them do their thing and if they want to ride super fast all the time, let them burn themselves out, but just not with me. The people who are serious about chilling out will come and the folks who want to hammer every ride won’t. The problem is that I don’t want a hard ride on most Wednesdays. Maybe that type of training can’t happen with a group? I know that is wrong, because I’ve been on team rides with 15 guys way faster these guys and we all stayed in zone 1-2 the entire way. No one wants to ride a pace line anymore! Lets keep a nice steady pace line. A leader will set the pace early on and everyone will respect it and just train. So yes I get it. Some people just want to go. They don’t race on the weekends or have some super grand fondo each month. I totally get it! Everyone goes to that group ride that is known as the fastest ride in town. What I don’t understand is why wouldn’t a person want to be at their best for those occasions? The number one questions I get, as a coach, is how do I become faster and when I tell people ride slow more, eat better food, have an interval day of training and a tempo/hard day, ride slow some more, and finally have a day (30-45 minutes) in the gym build strength off the bike (during the season), oh and ride slow some more; people look at me with this crazy look of boredom. You mean take it easy to be faster. I fail to mention there is a little bit more to it then that (I am a coach running a business), but the biggest thing is too many guys ride hard all the time and show up to every group ride. Early on in my cycling I noticed that most of the really fast guys weren’t at every group ride every week. They might show up to one or two key ones a week, but most of the time these guys were riding alone and they weren’t hammering out some ridiculous pace either.
A good buddy of mine that just so happens to own Depaula bikes, run Depaula racing, and has raced at a pro level before, said to me just the other day. “All these people think I ride hard all the time, the majority of my riding is as slow as slow can get, a little child could pass most of the time”. I got what he was saying and totally agree, but can this be done in a group setting and still have a bunch of happy “hammer heads”?
Kevin Lee- The Lead Pack Cycling Group
After reading a recent article about USA cycling and it’s “black eye”, I thought I should follow up with an article of my own expressing a positive side of what I feel we, African American’s, should do about this problem. The article is sub-titled USA Cycling hates black people Growing up in a mainly conservative Deep South suburb of Atlanta, through the late 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s, racial unfairness and discrimination was all over the place and still is in some cases. Whether it is in our face, undercover, or unknown, it is there. Even within the church there was and still is a version of what I affectionately call undercover racism. So to see and feel it in my sport of cycling it wasn’t anything new under the sun. The article brought up many very current points about Rahsaan Bahati’s recent suspension from some very key lucrative races in the south east, speed week which is currently going on. Bahati reminded us of when he was fined for throwing his glasses in frustration after being blatantly crashed out of a race, on a social media site. Watch the video and you decide. Now he is accused of doing what this guy did to him. All I can say if you’ve spent two seconds watching the way he rides, he is not that kind of rider. I can say that I have personally witnessed other riders in the pro peloton blame him or his team, Bahati Foundation, for wrecks that neither him nor his team were anywhere near. Watch this video from the 2010 speed week race in Sandy Springs Georgia. Well yep, you guessed it as I was standing there I heard a rider from a different team say its “those Bahati guys again, they’ve done this all speed week.” Keep in mind this is several weeks after his fine for the sun glasses incident. Well that wasn’t so shocking to me, but what is how the official didn’t even blink an eye as he started to look for the Bahati member “that caused this”. Then another rider came up and said it wasn’t Bahati foundation and he was sorry for mishap, it was all just racing and a crossed wheel. There has been other occasions that same week in 2010 when all I heard was Bahati did this and Bahati foundation that. To me it sounded like a bunch of babies crying about not getting points and winning.
Well in my opinion if this is what can be expected then we know that is what is to be expected. As the Bible says, if a man wants to take your cloak, give him your other garment, and if he wants to walk a mile, go with him two. In other words I feel we need to just let them be them and we will be better than that. As a whole I believe black cyclist need to support each other in what they do. We need to build up the young guys into strong roles in the USA cycling development program. We need to support each other’s shops, coaching, and teams. We should empower each other by sponsoring teams, starting clubs, coaching and mentoring potential riders to grow the sport as a whole. I also believe that we can all get along within the unfair program that USA cycling is. Jackie Robinson did it in major league baseball, Marshall Taylor did it in cycling, and Arthur Ashe broke barriers on the pro tennis tour. More importantly we need to teach these young women and men how to handle the unfairness that they will face. For instance I was relegated to the back of the peloton in an important road race for something I didn’t do. I simply told the official I will be back at the front for the sprint, and that he was being unfair. Oh, and I did call out a rider for doing what he said I did as he was looking at the infraction and I asked him if he was breaking the rule too. All I got was a smile and a keep it up and you’ll be kicked out of the race. In the end I finished fourth. Sure I wanted to be first, but I just graciously congratulated the winner and the podium spots that I missed out on by a fraction of a second. Sure I felt bad, but in the end of the day God kept me rubber side down and got me all the way back to the front of a big field of riders within the last 5 miles.
I think that USA cycling needs to develop a raw talent development search in inner city camps. Sure they have camps, but this is for kids that are already in the sport. This is for kids that parents can afford to get them into probably the most expensive sport I’ve ever been involved in. As a certified coach and racer for several years now, I wrote a letter asking if USA cycling had any budget for raw talent searches such as that. I asked if they had coaches willing to work with a program like that and would they be willing to look into it for the future… No response. I write Jock Boyer who started the Rwandan team and the program invites the idea of having folks come out to develop riders. I think of newer national teams like Rwanda where some of the first members are now on some of the first UCI teams representing Africa, simply by being found on operating bike cabs. Until USA cycling is willing to look at development in a true non-profit form and make cycling a sport accessible to everyone, we will never reach the heights of the speed of the development of cyclist from the other countries. In an extremely short period of time look at their program, their budget, and what they have accomplished. Now look at USA cycling, their budget, their program, and where it is as compared to the time it has been about. If they used an approach of finding the best talent period, it may see a speedy progression world ranked riders, which equates to money. I think that even if it is a super small budget, USA cycling should spend time seeding the kids that would never get a chance to experience road cycling, mountain bike racing, and track cycling. Even if it only produces mediocre cyclist, it has grown the sport to an audience that have forgotten about or omitted.
In the in end I don’t really think USA cycling “hates” black people. I do believe that there is still some inequality in the sport directed towards minorities and females. I know that individuals within the governing body do have a hatred for minorities, whether it is up front or undercover. Finally I would like for them to release the findings of how they came to the findings that Mr. Bahati should be suspended. I would like to know what the standards that they use are. I would like to know the entire process of how a rider is fined or suspended and what constitutes what. If in the end, if it is left up to a few people sitting in Colorado Springs taking word of mouth testimony from the people that pay them (sponsors, teams, corrupt/bias officials, and event promoters), then I question their creditability to truly govern our sport fairly in a way that progresses it.
The criterium bike race is one of the most exciting formats of bike racing. I believe American crit races are unique and can really help any bike racer with bike racing skills. Although they do race “crits” in Europe, they are more of a race for points. Crits aren’t for the faint at heart and some courses can be just a bit dangerous, if not raced properly. The speeds are fast, the cornering can be tight, and the racing is shoulder to shoulder. The format is good for spectators to watch, because it is a closed course and the peloton passes by several times. American crits have races within the race, called primes. Prime laps are a way for the promoter to make the race a bit more interesting, and to add to the drama on the road. Criterium racing has its own set of dynamics that can be, but not always, the same as in a point A to point B road racing.
The dynamics of a crit race widely vary from course to course and with different categories of racing. In general, I believe the lower category races use less team strategies and in some cases may have no strategy at all, except for get to the finish first. What I do find in those races, are that skills are learned, racers get fit, and sometimes you take your lumps so to speak. For instance in the first crit I ever raced, the official rang the bell, I went off the front. I stayed up there for a few laps and quickly found myself barely hanging on. It was a tough 15th place finish after the 30 minute race, but my eyes were so wide open with all that had just happened. It didn’t take long to figure out how to win races at a cat 4/5 level. The races only got faster and longer as I moved up through the ranks. In cat 3 races I began to see team strategies being used effectively. The fitness level was a bit higher, but mainly everyone was a whole lot smarter. The only other races I have experienced are cat 2/3 combined, and pro 1, 2, 3 combined. For me, on some days it was hang on for dear life, and other days I was holding my own in those races. Some of the tactics used amazed me, and I really felt that if a road race is compared to a chess match, then crit racing is like playing Chinese checkers with one hand and chess with your other hand. The good news is once your fitness level is up to par, and your cycling cognitive ability is on the same level as the other race teams, it becomes a just play the game mentality.
A crit race starts with your preparation, as all other races truly do. You want to warm up before most any crit race. A designed warm-up based on the course and time spent racing is ideal. If you are racing alone, it can be a blessing or it can be a nightmare. If you’re unknown to the normal riders in that peloton, you may be able to poker face your abilities and either break away or sit in unnoticed until the sprint. Breaking away is maybe the hardest way to win any bike race. In some cases it works if a medium sized group, of 6 or 7 riders, gets away on a course with tight corners. I also suggest, no demand you race from the front of the race! It is so hard to race bikes in that back of the group alone. This can be a bit easier to do on a big “wide open” course, but you still need to have fitness to move “freely” throughout the group. In other words, enough so that it doesn’t take all your energy to get to the front. Racing in the front of any type of race helps prevent getting caught behind wrecks, or stuck behind a “half wheel” riding racer with less fitness. Another thing to keep in mind is to race your own race. Only talk to teammates, and don’t listen to anyone that isn’t a teammate. Sometimes even just talking to another rider will let them know where you are physically and mentally. My approach is to keep my mouth shut, as one of my first coaches told me so elegantly.
If you are racing with your team it is imperative to use your numbers to win the race. When you have numbers, you can send riders on “fake attacks” or half heartened one. Sometimes those stick because no one really took it serious until it was too late. You can counter attack. Once breaks are caught and after a hard effort send one of your teammates off immediately before the peloton recovers. Know that if you feel the group slowing as you catch the break, it’s time to jump. If it is in the late laps of a race you may catch the group napping. You can move the entire team to the front, and pop a team mate off the front. This is sort of blocking, which is illegal, but hard to prove if done right. You can move your team to the front towards the end of a race and start a lead out train for the sprint. My only real suggestion is to ride together and to race as a team when you have numbers to do it with. These few scenarios happen in the blink of an eye. Split second decisions are made and really are only subconsciously thought about, because on the highest levels they have been practiced. This type of racing becomes second nature. It’s like playing a video game that you know well, but the board is constantly changing. Your physical fitness allows you to play the game how you want to. Your fitness allows you to make moves at your leisure.
Some last minute crit skills to practice are judging speed through corners and determining if you can pedal through them or not. Try bump drills with a friend or team mate. Practice riding in close proximity to other racers. Practice proper race lines around a course. Know when to make good safe maneuvers. Know when to let other racers work for you. If you have a local practice crit that all the racers go to, use that as real race practice. Test different methods of getting you or a team mate to the line first.
Lead Pack Cycling
Most road riders and racers have just finished an important part of training, if not the most important part of training. Couple this with a period entitled with the same name but has some distinctly different characteristics. At the end of your season you moved into a brief transitioning phase and into a first base period. The first base period equated to miles or time on the bike at low intensity, and maybe some brief spurts of some short efforts. Now that winter is nearly halfway over and racing is really just around the corner. It’s time to move on to second base.
In the past many riders just thought of base riding as one big project and really didn’t specify what they were doing each month of the period. It has now been proven that a slow progression of the elements that are included in base, better prepare you for the vigorous road season. While in base one, you may ride 65% endurance workouts, 25% force workouts, 10% speed skills, and cross trained; base two cuts endurance by as much as 10-15%. Speed skills stay the same and your muscular endurance becomes a factor, along with more force workouts, percentage wise. So, hello tempo riding! I mean weren’t you so tired of seeing that same power or heart rate zone for all that time. You can also start to build up your form for sprinting. You still want to avoid the winter warrior bike race, I mean ride that have riders that are in such good condition in January that they could win the tour, but by the time July rolls around and they couldn’t win a stroller race.
Here are a couple of good ways to quantify your first base period into the second phase of training base. First, your long ride day might include a few sprint efforts. You will still want to climb in the saddle still, but you might do a couple repeat efforts at the end of a workout. Over the next month I would increase that number of repeats. If you start with 2, maybe the next week is 3, and two weeks later your total is 4. In that 6 week period you’ve built up to a repeat training day. This in turn takes you into a final third base period or a period of total commitment to being race ready, but not necessarily in “peak” condition.
With all of this being said a good coach just plans all of the geeky physiology stuff for you. He or she sets the progressions for you as your results show improvements and as the specified physiological periods call for. They hold you accountable for those long boring days and help make those days interesting with a drill or two that will slowly progress you to the next period of your training.
As I woke up, on a chilly morning in Atlanta Georgia, I started second guessing all the cycling gear that was put out for the training ride. Do I want tights or leg warmers? Are the short finger gloves going to be okay? What type of base do I put on? As I kept on looking at the weather forecast hour by hour, and all my gear, I knew what my body would need to keep me warm for the ride. Here are a few tips to help you guys get through this process.
If you overdress than you get way too hot and you don’t have fun. If you don’t have enough and something is cold, than you don’t have fun. So here it is, start with a base layer. Some good base layers are Under Armor and if you want to save a buck, Starter from Walmart. Keep in mind that if the mercury is going to rise throughout the ride, you want to be able to shed clothes without stopping. The short sleeve version will do if it is only moderately cold and the temperature is going to rise during the ride. So a short sleeve jersey, bibs/shorts, and maybe arm warmers will complete what you need for that day.
So let’s say it is a bit chillier and the temperature is going to rise. You have a few options. You will need to add knee warmers and a vest. The vest will keep your core warm and the tights will take care of your legs. You may also want to add woolen socks at that point. You can still take off a vest, arm warmers, and knee warmers. You may also put on the long finger gloves (bring the short ones in your pocket), a hat to keep you head warm from the vents in your helmet, and shoe covers to keep the toes warm.
Finally, if it is just super cold and it won’t get warmer all day. This is cut and dry. You need tights, knee warmers. Woolen socks, plastic over your feet to protect your toes from the wind cutting through the shoes, and shoe covers. Bib tights or tights, and“under armor” base pants under them. An “under armor” base shirt, long sleeve jersey, cycling jacket, are all imperative. Your gloves can be thicker at that point. You also need to protect your ears and head. They make several products to do that with.
So this all can be a bit expensive, but know that if you’re cold you won’t enjoy the sport and you may stop riding for the winter. Then when spring comes, all your buddies are stronger and faster, and you’re just fat. Know that your body is different than your buddy’s. He may not need knee warmers on a certain day, and you do. I hope this will help you be able to make decisions on your purchases for cold weather cycling.
Lead Pack Cycling Head Coach
First things first, there isn’t an easy way to race a crit. The dynamics are completely different than a road race. Sure many of the same tactics apply, but the attacks come often. I compare a good criterium to chess. While a road race is a chess match, a crit is like playing chess master on the hardest level. The numbers game is played; you can divide the race into segments where you do or do not use specific moves. I would like to give a few pointers I have picked up on and studied from various sources over the years.
First rule of thumb starts before the whistle is even blown. Warm up on a stationary trainer. You may be able to get away without warming up as a cat 4, but I can’t see it happening as you go beyond cat 3. Get to the line early. You want to have good position before the race starts. Unless you are a pro tour racer then starting from the back isn’t the best idea. You want to practice clipping in on the fly. You may say I know how to clip in and out, but when in a crit the speed you need to do it is amplified.
So now we are under way and here is where it is hard to coach exactly what to do. You start running into, if this happens in this minute and if this guy does this, then you do that. So we will start with riding solo or without a team. Your best option when riding solo is to sit in the pack for most all of the race. Then hope and pray it stays together and sprint at the end. Maybe sit in the race until 30-40 minutes have passed and then go with the “late” break. I should it is not easy to break away in any race and stay away for 30 minutes. You need to judge how many laps you can go all out, and how long you will need to pull up before another hard effort. If you know the race should stay together, than sit in and go for the win.
Now your team is with you! What do you do now? First, a team meeting should be held. I know a good plan is better than anything and it really equates to your team’s fitness. If you have a full “squad” of guys/gals, and all of you are in top form then send folks after all the breaks. Be represented in everything, that tactic tells the other teams that you mean business. Save your guy that you want to win for the last 20 minute segment of the race. If your team misses a late break or is out matched in a break, still move to the front and wait to see how the break pans out. You can block and pretend at this point. As soon as guys start to go around you, send someone on their wheel. Remember the odds may change in the break at that point. There is nothing worse than to have a guy in the break and then getting caught sleeping on a big move by a strong team. Let’s say that the break is getting reeled in; be at the front to attack as soon as the break is pulled in. Ah ha, you thought we were done, but no, we have another one. Eventually, someone might give up and let your team control the race. The last 5 last are a no holds bar, slug out, drag out, war. The team should be organized and packed in together near the front. No riders should be sitting in the middle of the pack waiting. A certain number of riders are assigned to reel in any late breaks that may go up the road, or to create your own late break, if that is the plan. If your team has numbers, then a little train can be set up on opposite side of the road as the last turn. Let’s say it ends in a right hand turn to a sprint, than set up more left. Each rider needs to pull for the predetermined, specified amount of time. 1 lap, 2 laps, 5k, or whatever, just know how it is set up and really should be practiced millions of times over. All of that should predetermined or at least talked about. All that really is being said here is to not get the team trapped in the last corner and have numbers at the front to pull your guy to the line. That all riders sacrifice a bit from time to time, no one rider can just do whatever, and everyone must be on the same page of the same book.
Head Coach –The Lead Pack Cycling Group