training / racing / form / doping - when I am suspicious

Jun 16, 2009
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Difficult post to title, but I will try and make a better job of explaining my argument.

Having competed as an elite amateur in Europe, (and training / living like a pro) for some time I like to think that I have a reasonable understanding of training for top level cycling.

The main mentality I have seen among amateur (and many pro) riders is that you train hard before the season then you use early season races and some (limited) interval training to sharpen your form and speed. Then you are constantly working on the balance between racing / resting and light training (lots of recovery) to get the balance right to hold top form when needed and a good level the rest of the time. When you are riding poorly it often means you have used up a period of decent form, and need to rest and rebuild.

Generally many guys would like to race more, rest more and train less. For me there was nothing better than finishing a really tough classic each weekend, maybe a midweek crit, and a couple of light 2hr training runs in the week.

some professional riders, esp the some of the Top GC contenders seem to be completely different. They seem to be able to turn up at grand tours with only a handful of race days in their legs and win without looking like it was much bother at all. Beforehand they are "training" 8 hours a day.

I know that most top end amateurs would be terrified of turning up at a really tough race without as many hard racing days as possible in the legs, followed some good recovery. Training alone gets you fit and lays the foundations for "form" - but the superior efforts required in regular racing and the necessary quality rest thereafter develops your condition and gets the top end speed going.

The reason is pretty simple - following the wheels in a race, or attacking, reeling breaks back etc takes you so much deeper than training alone, and far more often. Riding a super hard crit, or a classic where you are really suffering but hanging on and finishing is absolutely priceless for honing the engine. Time and time again I have remarked to myself in races that on several occasions I have gone way deeper than I imagined myself being able to go, and that training would never come close to punishing me like that. It's psycholigical - racing yourself is easier than racing other riders. As getting fit is all about stress + recovery I am of the opinion that psycholigically and physically there is no better way to build form than riding races.

My personal experiences (and those of many guys I have raced with) suggest that too much training and too little racing makes you tired and slow - not sharp and fast.

For that reason I remain immensely suspicious of guys who turn up at the hardest races of the season with very few race miles in their legs, having "trained" really hard prior to the race. Especially if their trainer happens to be a physician, and they trained somewhere quite remote on their own.

Over the last decade I have seen way too many grand tour winners follow this pattern. Lance was notorious for it (reinterpreted as an advantage in preparing specifically for the tour), Rasmussen wouldn't even say where he was, and Contador seems to race less than anyone else.

As far as I'm concerned it is very suspicious.
 
Mar 19, 2009
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Mongol_Waaijer said:
Difficult post to title, but I will try and make a better job of explaining my argument.

Having competed as an elite amateur in Europe, (and training / living like a pro) for some time I like to think that I have a reasonable understanding of training for top level cycling.

The main mentality I have seen among amateur (and many pro) riders is that you train hard before the season then you use early season races and some (limited) interval training to sharpen your form and speed. Then you are constantly working on the balance between racing / resting and light training (lots of recovery) to get the balance right to hold top form when needed and a good level the rest of the time. When you are riding poorly it often means you have used up a period of decent form, and need to rest and rebuild.

Generally many guys would like to race more, rest more and train less. For me there was nothing better than finishing a really tough classic each weekend, maybe a midweek crit, and a couple of light 2hr training runs in the week.

some professional riders, esp the some of the Top GC contenders seem to be completely different. They seem to be able to turn up at grand tours with only a handful of race days in their legs and win without looking like it was much bother at all. Beforehand they are "training" 8 hours a day.

I know that most top end amateurs would be terrified of turning up at a really tough race without as many hard racing days as possible in the legs, followed some good recovery. Training alone gets you fit and lays the foundations for "form" - but the superior efforts required in regular racing and the necessary quality rest thereafter develops your condition and gets the top end speed going.

The reason is pretty simple - following the wheels in a race, or attacking, reeling breaks back etc takes you so much deeper than training alone, and far more often. Riding a super hard crit, or a classic where you are really suffering but hanging on and finishing is absolutely priceless for honing the engine. Time and time again I have remarked to myself in races that on several occasions I have gone way deeper than I imagined myself being able to go, and that training would never come close to punishing me like that. It's psycholigical - racing yourself is easier than racing other riders. As getting fit is all about stress + recovery I am of the opinion that psycholigically and physically there is no better way to build form than riding races.

My personal experiences (and those of many guys I have raced with) suggest that too much training and too little racing makes you tired and slow - not sharp and fast.

For that reason I remain immensely suspicious of guys who turn up at the hardest races of the season with very few race miles in their legs, having "trained" really hard prior to the race. Especially if their trainer happens to be a physician, and they trained somewhere quite remote on their own.

Over the last decade I have seen way too many grand tour winners follow this pattern. Lance was notorious for it (reinterpreted as an advantage in preparing specifically for the tour), Rasmussen wouldn't even say where he was, and Contador seems to race less than anyone else.

As far as I'm concerned it is very suspicious.
This is the truth... The less races that they do the less the need for autologous blood doping. If Lance did a race like LBL clean he'd be dropped by the leading pack and maybe the whole entire field... and thats embarassing. So he doesnt bother with them.

Ever wonder why did not bother with the olympics...? Nobody to help him dope there, no Disco... Lances FTP with a low crit is probably no better than 370 watts. Even with HGH, Synacthen depot, etc.
 
Jun 16, 2009
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Right on.

FTP is king, whether that be a punishing classic or a stage race.

FTP fluctuates such a small amount over the year that if you have the engine to win the Tour, you would be one of the strongest riders in classics like LBL, Amstel Gold too.

Those guys who are average / anonymous or absent in the spring who then turn up for the tour and drop everyone are obvious as a giraffe trying to get into a polar bears only golf club wearing dark glasses.
 
Jun 16, 2009
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another thing:

The idea that your form can vary from getting dropped / not riding in the classics to winning grand tours is pretty unrealistic as FTP varies so little among experienced cyclists.

fwiw I took 3 months completely off riding over the winter, did some running, and now went back to club racing 2 x a week and 1 x training and the numbers I am putting out right now are only 20 watts less than my best form last year.

So the idea that someone can go from an probable +/-370 in spring in a one day race to +/- 460 in the third week of a 3 week race in July without any artificial help is ridiculous. Especially if their last race prior to the tour was at the end of May!

It gets less surprising if these guys have doctors as trainers though.
 
Mar 17, 2009
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Mongol_Waaijer said:
I am of the opinion that psycholigically and physically there is no better way to build form than riding races.

My personal experiences (and those of many guys I have raced with) suggest that too much training and too little racing makes you tired and slow - not sharp and fast.

For that reason I remain immensely suspicious of guys who turn up at the hardest races of the season with very few race miles in their legs, having "trained" really hard prior to the race. Especially if their trainer happens to be a physician, and they trained somewhere quite remote on their own.

Lance was notorious for it
OK you are wrong about a couple of things.

You have to realize that some can go as hard in training as they can in races. Training with power has showed that this is the case with me, though of course there are the odd times when I "chicken out" and just can't manage it.

Lance was training super hard even though he was not racing. Racing is dangerous and crashing and breaking lets say a collarbone for instance (lol) is not ideal. A top pro will not be training if he thinks he will get better preperation from racing.

The body does not know the difference between hard racing or hard training if the intensity is the same.

You are correct that many (probably most) do not work as hard physically in training as they do in races as the competition drives them on, therefore those riders do not get the benefit from training that racing would give them.

I also very much agree with what BigBoat has posted too, but I am still correct with what I say.

Cheers
 
Jun 16, 2009
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"You have to realize that some can go as hard in training as they can in races"

I am not sure I really agree.

Racing = more kilometers at "race" speed

Training = fewer overall kilometers, with more of them at training speed. Sure if you have a powermeter you can match race efforts in intervals - but overall it is really difficult to match the intensity, although not impossible.

This debate could lead to silly - "my favourite rider is mentally really strong and can train harder than the others" etc etc yawn yawn.

The overall point I was making is that training alone will not get a rider from average mid pack form to Grand Tour winner in a couple of months. Such a rider should be racing frequently and huis clear superior talent should be shining through in all results, not just the big one.
 
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BigBoat said:
This is the truth... The less races that they do the less the need for autologous blood doping. If Lance did a race like LBL clean he'd be dropped by the leading pack and maybe the whole entire field... and thats embarassing. So he doesnt bother with them.

Ever wonder why did not bother with the olympics...? Nobody to help him dope there, no Disco... Lances FTP with a low crit is probably no better than 370 watts. Even with HGH, Synacthen depot, etc.
Not defending him in ANY way, but he only left out the Athens games when he was riding.
 
Mar 10, 2009
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I think I observed somehwat of an anomaly earlier this year.

Unfortunately, and I don't want to turn this into another Armstrong thread, he stated before/after the Tour Down Under, that he needed the race miles. The reason being was that 'training' at race speed was so much tougher compared to any training ride he could put out all by himself. He was in one breakaway, and he commented afterwards that his watt output in the breakaway was much higher than during training rides.

The anomaly is obvious, it comes, as you, Mongol_Waaijer, said, from the man who was known to barely compete before the Grand Tour, and was obviously prepared enough then - without much racing miles - to be competitive in the Tour.

But which Tour contenders are you hinting at? Cadel and the Schlecks did some spring classics, Cadel the Dauphine, Schlecks TdS, Menchov started in Murcia and ran the Giro, Contador was already there in Pais Vasco, Paris Nice, Algarve, Dauphine, Gesink did the spring classics and the Tirreno, Dauphine...

Do you think some of these programs contain too little racing miles, or come too close to the TdF?
 
Jun 16, 2009
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I had in mind:

Lance 99-2005 (so obvious it's painful)
Rasmussen 2007
Contador's on the beach to winning the giro story

Nowadays one of two things is going on:

1) The sport is cleaner, and the best guys in the TdF are also the best guys in Paris-Nice, TdeSuisse, Dauphine etc and not just jacking up for the Tour.

2) The best guys are "prepared" for most of the season.

Hearing Kohl's comments on the blood passport I am more worried about 2.
 
Apr 9, 2009
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Mongol_Waaijer said:
Right on.

FTP is king, whether that be a punishing classic or a stage race.

FTP fluctuates such a small amount over the year that if you have the engine to win the Tour, you would be one of the strongest riders in classics like LBL, Amstel Gold too.

Those guys who are average / anonymous or absent in the spring who then turn up for the tour and drop everyone are obvious as a giraffe trying to get into a polar bears only golf club wearing dark glasses.
I agree, FTP is king. However Mongol I would like to hear your and BigBoat's take on something new that I'm doing with my own training this year. I've raced for 7 years although I hardly raced at all the last 2 years because I was burned out. This year I'm racing again and what I have done is a lot more training than in the past and a lot less racing. In training I don't do ANY anaerobic work - I do nothing but work on my FTP with a lot of tempo riding and also time trial / FTP intervals when I'm fresh enough. Then I race or do a group hammerfest once a week at most and I get my anaerobic and V02 max work in the race. This keeps me fresh mentally and also since my FTP is much higher than in the past from all the work I do on it I'm getting better results than in the past. I guess everyone is different but I've discovered that my own body thrives on aerobic exercise but anything above threshold really fatigues me a lot so I have to limit that kind of work.
 
Mar 19, 2009
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Thoughtforfood said:
Not defending him in ANY way, but he only left out the Athens games when he was riding.
The epo test wasnt around until after 2000... After that who'd going to be at the Olympics to help Lance blood dope for the TT or RR.... Nobody there apart from the U.S. National squad. Ferrari wasnt there.
 
Mar 19, 2009
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Mongol_Waaijer said:
I had in mind:

Lance 99-2005 (so obvious it's painful)
Rasmussen 2007
Contador's on the beach to winning the giro story

Nowadays one of two things is going on:

1) The sport is cleaner, and the best guys in the TdF are also the best guys in Paris-Nice, TdeSuisse, Dauphine etc and not just jacking up for the Tour.

2) The best guys are "prepared" for most of the season.

Hearing Kohl's comments on the blood passport I am more worried about 2.
It same as before for the top teams. Lance will likely win the Tour this year and it will be due to blood doping. Maybe the entire top 50 are all doing this... Nobody would even keep up and finish the race totally clean with this "incredible pace" as Lemond put it; being set by 50 guys at 50% crit and up for the key stages.

Lance has likely slowly brought his crit up close to 50% with blood doping and "come in" to Monaco at 46% or above, peanuts to transfuse 3 units of packed red cells (about 750cc) in 15 minutes and jack to 54% after the pre race controls are over with. All he has to worry about after that is hemodiluting on IV saline, human albumin, or something similar to Pentaspan, hespan for the morning controls. There is really no risk with this as long as nobody catches him with hsi crit jacked.

Mongol_Waaijer said:
Right on.

FTP is king, whether that be a punishing classic or a stage race.

FTP fluctuates such a small amount over the year that if you have the engine to win the Tour, you would be one of the strongest riders in classics like LBL, Amstel Gold too.

.
Bingo... Lances undoped FTP in decent spring shape is probably 330-40 watts around the first races of the year...At his 75 kilos thats no better than 4.5 watts per kilo. He'd be quickly dropped in a European race with even some decent climbs longer than 10 minutes.... Fully doped its over 475 watts... As is the best doping program in the business with Astana. There are other 02 carriers and things that Ferrari's methodology revolves around.
 
May 1, 2009
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BigBoat said:
Bingo... Lances undoped FTP in decent spring shape is probably 330-40 watts around the first races of the year...At his 75 kilos thats no better than 4.5 watts per kilo. He'd be quickly dropped in a European race with even some decent climbs longer than 10 minutes.... Fully doped its over 475 watts... As is the best doping program in the business with Astana. There are other 02 carriers and things that Ferrari's methodology revolves around.
I follow and actually believe most things you post. But there is no way Lance's start of season FTP is 4.5 w/kg. That makes him mid-pack Cat 2 (in the US!!). I believe doping will turn a thoroughbred in to a racehorse, but not a mule.
 
Good original post Mongol. That was my experience racing (on a lower level!) and I think there's a lot of overall truth to what you wrote. I also encourage younger riders to race as much as possible, and get specific training on their weaknesses, and proper recover, between.

I'd like to leave Lance out of the discussion, but I do know that when Roberto Heras trained with Lance he said it was a lot like racing, and very challenging. Though we know what happened with Roberto (though he was in the majority I think we'll all agree), I have no reason to think he made this up to cover up anything.

Still, agree with pretty much all everyone said here.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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One thing I have found odd in recent years is that riders come back from injury, often after serious injuries and very long lay offs, and they are just killing it during their first race. It's like they were never injured at all.
 
Jun 3, 2009
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BigBoat said:
The epo test wasnt around until after 2000... After that who'd going to be at the Olympics to help Lance blood dope for the TT or RR.... Nobody there apart from the U.S. National squad. Ferrari wasnt there.
Again this is no way a defence but I thought they actually brought the EPO test in the 2000 olympics for the first time ever. Which LA did ride with Ullrich who won.
 

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