Pro Cyclists Talk Early-Season Training

Burke: As far as my training model from year to year, it's ever changing and evolving from season to season. 2009 will be my 12th year as a professional and I'll be 36 in March. So far, I've found that getting older is more about preserving and maintaining strong motivation than anything else. In fact, I feel I continue to grow stronger physically as well as mentally and I'm looking forward to a few more years yet!

That being said, I approach my training with a strong emphasis on keeping things fresh and trying new things, as well as relying on the tried and true principles I have found to work for myself. Above all, I aim to keep things fun, because I have always found I perform best when I'm happy and enjoying myself.

Let's Summarize

? In regards to an early-season peak, I think it's important to start planning a peak two to three months in advance and train accordingly. If you wait until January, it may be too late to peak for a February race. That is why Dario mentioned the early-season classics that take place in March and April as a possibility for his early-season peak.

Another factor is how fit you were at the end of the previous season and how well you were able to train during the fall. For example, Burke knew that he wanted to do well in February back in the fall, so he designed his program with that information in mind.

? Another important point to assess is, in general, how long it takes to achieve a satisfactory level of racing fitness. As athletes, you train and race year after year gaining experience and fitness that builds upon itself. Early in your career, you see more gains, where later in your career, fewer gains. This is especially true when you consider time constraints and competition level.

The question then arises when you begin your program: how long it takes you to get prepared to race and how do you know you are at that level? One way we do it at Athleticamps is to utilize a consistent testing protocol.

Dario also does that at the Mapei center with its director, Dr. Sassi. If you have test results, you can compare year over year results from previous seasons. This comes in very handy for knowing how long and what type of training will get you to the level you need to be at to compete successfully.

? Burke identifies an incredibly simple but important point concerning training when he talks about training with Jeff Louder. To be successful in cycling, you must be single-minded and do what's right for you. That includes choosing the right training partners that complement you best and allow you to excel in your program.

Cycling is unique; it's unlike something like golf where you can play or practice with a 5 handicap if you are a 15 handicap. Cycling presents a unique challenge in that if you find the right partner or small group, you can immensely benefit from having them around. But if you choose the wrong group, either one that is at a lower fitness level or just the opposite, too high a fitness level, training may not be as effective.

? I absolutely love the fact that after 12 years of racing, Burke still looks for different training routines. Dario is correct that there are no major changes or revolutionary training methods being discovered. It's all about finding what works best for you given your physiology, psychology, goals, age, etc. Nonetheless, varying your training regimen to keep it interesting is important.

It's all about hard work and knowing where you're going in the sport. That is why training is more of an art versus a science. Books and fixed training programs are limited in the amount they help athletes. Serious athletes need good resources and coaches to help them. Burke utilizes Dr. Testa, Dario utilizes Dr. Sassi. Two of the best in the world.

Bruce Hendler created AthletiCamps to provide cycling-specific coaching and training to athletes and cyclists of all levels. Find out more at and check out the AthletiCamps Blog.

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