Rubber on the Road
Let's summarize some key points:
You Are What You Train For
Burke making the statement "you are what you train for" is very important. He has taken an approach that he can overcome certain weaknesses through hard work. Too often we hear riders—both new and experienced—stereotype themselves as a certain type of rider before even giving themselves a chance of working hard and improving their weaknesses.
Make no mistake about it, every rider will excel in certain areas and struggle in others. It's important not to box yourself into a classification without giving yourself a chance of improving.
Different Kinds of Climbs
Both riders focus on different types of climbs for different events. For Chechu, climbing the longer climbs in preparation for the Grand Tours not only prepares him for those races, but also gives him the opportunity to work on his aerobic capacity. It's much easier to train the aerobic engine in the hills.
In the hills, it's easier to control the intensity, where you usually find yourself "holding back" versus on flatter terrain where it's more about having to push harder to reach the intensity you are trying to improve (e.g. lactate threshold). The obvious message here is they train on the types of hills related to their goals.
Power to Weight
Does it surprise us that the weight issue and losing that extra kilo or two is important to a climber? They want to shave any additional ounces off the bike and themselves for good reason. Improving the weight to strength ratio through healthy weight loss and increased power is always a good thing and cannot be over-emphasized.
How much weight to lose? That's a challenging question because there is a fine line to optimal performance and "going over the edge." Some things you can recognize or do to find that balance:
- Have a nutritional analysis done by a qualified sports nutritionist that can examine your food intake and help you determine how to optimize your diet for weight loss and health.
- How often do you get sick? Cyclists put an enormous amount of stress on their bodies with training, work and home life. Staying healthy is so important and if you are getting sick a lot, losing too much weight can be a red flag to review as a possible contribution to your ill health.
- How is your recovery from harder efforts? As you lose that extra kilo or two, make sure you notice whether you are able to recover adequately from hard efforts and races.
Toolbox has addressed this issue many times. Finding the optimal cadence for climbing is no easy task and takes a lot of work. One thing for certain is that good climbers work on increasing their cadences during training.
A "relatively" higher cadence on longer steady climbs will help emphasize your aerobic engine. Remember, you just don't start to climb with a higher cadence; you must train the body to adapt to a higher cadence.
Because of the nature of climbing and it being slower and less dependent on drafting, riders can really work on developing a climbing tempo or rhythm. One simple tip is to literally count in your mind "1-2-3-4" and repeat as you perform your efforts.
Climbing is probably one of the most widely desired improvements amongst bike racers. The obvious thing here is in order to climb better, you must climb. And while additional climbing early in the season may take some speed out of your legs. Never fear though, as you improve and begin to add other elements to your program, that leg speed will come right back.