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2011_BannerLogoR6VeloUK talks to Sean Yates who after 32 years in the sport at the highest level has stepped back to reality to help others realise their potential with Trainsharp coaching

Interview by Larry Hickmott | Photos from John Peirce (PhotoSport International. uk usa asia)

For cycling fans of the modern era, Sean Yates may well be remembered as the person in the team car at the Tour de France directing Team Sky and Bradley Wiggins to a victory in the Tour de France in 2012. That was, he admits, the pinnacle of his career as a director sportif, a British rider in a British team winning the biggest bike race in the world. But Sean achieved so much more than that during his 32 year career.

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Sean faces the media for Team Sky as a director sportif.  Photo: John Peirce (PhotoSport International. uk usa asia)

As Sean explained, the job of being a director sportif is a very different world to the one you and I live in. It is a massive change leaving the pro peloton and starting the second stage of his life. As well as the coaching at Trainsharp, he is also writing a book which if the few hours I had talking to him is anything to go by, it will be an enthralling read as he’s achieved so much in his career.

“It’s going to be called “It is all about the bike” which during my career it was” he explained.

Sean is one of those individuals who just loves riding his bike just like so many reading this will do. He recalled a conversation with his ex-wife who asked him one day is he going for a ride to which Sean simply replied “sweetheart, just assume I am going to go riding every day!”

 “sweetheart, just assume I am going to go riding every day!”

In having that love for riding the bike and smashing it as he sees fit, he is for sure ‘old school’ in so many ways but during his latter days as a rider, he has also seen how training to be successful like Brad Wiggins was in 2012 has changed so much. The partnership of Trainsharp’s head cycling coach Jon Sharples and Sean is one of opposites.

Jon has been fortunate enough to be part of Research study groups at the University of Brighton along with the likes of Peter Keen and other successful sport scientists, while Sean’s school was in the professional peloton and so they have very different skillsets. Sean cheekily described it as Jon being the brains behind the company and him the brawn!

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Jon Sharples and Sean Yates from Trainsharp coaching riders to help them fulfil their potential on the bike whatever their goals.

Because of that, the Trainsharp coaching business can offer so much more to their clients than just coaching. You can’t buy experience in life but you can work with someone who has lived that experience. Sean has seen first hand how the worlds best are coached whilst he himself was helping the very same riders get the most from races like Paris Nice, The Tour de France etc with his knowledge of tactics and more.

The interview with Sean took place at Trainsharp’s headquarters in the middle of the Kent countryside that screams at you to go cycling. On the walk in, I pass by some stables complete with their resident horses and I entered a series of offices that were typically high tec. Laptops with SRM files, emails from riders and spread-sheets whilst in another room, the hurt locker where the SRM power testing machine was sitting awaiting another victim.

After a quick tour of the offices I sat down with Sean who had made his own way in the sport long before the lottery was ever thought of and success by British riders was no where near as common as it is today. Not only did he wear the Yellow jersey in the Tour de France, but he also won stages in Grand Tours (France and Spain) and classic stage races as well as top tens in the monument that is Paris-Roubaix.

If that wasn’t enough, he’s been a director sportif for well over a decade and was there guiding Team Sky and Bradley Wiggins to that historic victory in the 2012 Tour de France. Sean knows what it takes to get results in low budget teams like the Linda McCartney pro team he was a DS in back in 2000 and 2001 and also in mega high pressure teams like Team Sky.

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Sean racing in Europe wearing the colours of British champion just like so many pros are doing these days. Photo: John Peirce (PhotoSport International. uk usa asia)

For those thinking Sean is new to coaching and Trainsharp, actually he’s not. He has just been rather distracted for a few years at Team Sky whilst at the same time having been part of Trainsharp since day one.

Having decided to leave the pro peloton, Sean is back living in the same world as you and I. Pre interview, we did the same as fans do all round the country, the World even; we talked cycling. Whether it was what it was like to ride a category 3-4 race or about the Wiggins/Froome tandem working towards their respective goals, Sean has a view on it all from having been there and done it.

The big difference is however, is that Sean has an insight into what makes these top riders tick that none of us do whilst also being able to see the mistakes being made by riders in a domestic race. After 32 years at the top, he is a veritable mine of information and it is easy to see just how tempting it is to have such a person as a coach, which of course you or I can.

I remember my teenage years when a rider who had ridden for TI Raleigh, Dave Watson, came to race in my local town in Australia. It was impossible not to ask questions and ‘mine’ him for any little gems he could come up with to help us youngsters improve. Almost 40 years on and here I was talking to someone who had far more experience than Dave and not only that, was keen to pass that on to aspiring champions.

With Trainsharp though you get more than just a rider’s tales of what he did to ride the Tour de France. On one hand, Sean can read a race like no other whilst also knowing in combination with Jon, what it takes a rider to get the best from themselves in training. It is some combination but what about Sean Yates the racer?

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A very young Sean Yates admires an early Eddy Merckx bike with the great man himself. Photo: John Peirce (PhotoSport International. uk usa asia)

Sean Yates – the years on a bike
Having just driven for five hours to get to the Trainsharp headquarters, I wasn’t just there to talking about why Sean had retired at the top of his profession. I wanted to be a little self-indulgent and talk to the rider who I had only ever read about in cycling magazines when I raced myself a long way away in Australia.

His success in races came despite being one of the ‘super’ domestiques of the time and his reign stretched over a long period. For me, the highlights were performances that made headlines in the press like his historic win in a Tour de France time trial for example which came in 1988 and then six years later in 1994, he donned the Yellow jersey that so few British riders have had the chance to do in the race’s 99 year history.

His win in the time trial came before tri-bars and was the fastest average speed for a time trial recorded up until that time. Talking about career highlights though, Sean explained how he’d been thinking of just that subject on a ride only the day before.

“The ones I really enjoyed on a personal level were the performances post pro career like the tandem competition records I did with Michael Hutchinson and the 12 hour with the late Zak Carr”.

“The ones I really enjoyed on a personal level were the performances post pro career like the tandem competition records I did with Michael Hutchinson and the 12 hour with the late Zak Carr”.

“Obviously, wearing the yellow jersey, everyone dreams of that and to get that for one day was a crowning glory so to speak on my career.”

“It was something I strived to do throughout my career but that day, it just happened. It was the longest stage of the Tour and the stars of the time didn’t want to give the jersey away and they tried to chase us but couldn’t bring us back.”

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Pre tri-bars, Sean Yates on a pretty radical bike way back in 1988 when he held the record for the fastest time trial in the Tour de France. Photo: John Peirce (PhotoSport International. uk usa asia)

Sean also wore the leader’s jersey in Paris-Nice which he says was another memorable moment in the career. It was in 1988 and an attack went in the feedzone and from that, a thirty man group went clear with all the favourites. Sean, ever the savvy one with tactics in racing, took advantage of the GC contenders watching each other.

“A lot of the riders who were going for stages were gone and the favourites knew somewhere down the road I’d lose time, so I was given some leeway” Sean explained. He won that stage (the first) by over two minutes solo and then held on to the jersey for a few days before the race went on to be won by another Sean, Sean Kelly, while Yates finished the race in 18th.

Sean has won stages in so many of the races that are household names like the Tour of Spain when he broke away with another Brit, Deno Davie, on the longest stage of the race. They attacked with 20k to go and never had more than 45 seconds on the bunch behind who were chasing flat out behind them and they hung on with Sean taking the stage with the bunch breathing down his neck.

More wins followed in races like Criterium Dauphine and the Midre Libre but one race that stands out is Paris-Roubaix where his best result was fifth. “I was suited to a race like that and that’s why I got results in it because I knew my style of riding could deal with the challenges of that race” he explained.

“It was about churning the big gear and being in the right place at the right time and being able to handle the bike.”

“In ’94 there were only 15 or 20 guys who could handle their bike properly on that day. If you went back further than 20th, the handling was horrible and the bike handling part of it was crucial because it was a bad edition. The highlight of that day was when I was chasing Tchmil and at one point I was second on the road and had dropped Fabio Baldato. Then Johan Museeuw came back and that was pretty surreal being on those sections with these riders and the huge crowds. I ended up being caught by the late Ballerini and others who took the minor places.”

1984_Yates_C_Montana_TdF_PhSport

How I do love this picture from John Peirce of a very young professional Sean Yates. Those of you old enough to remember, toe clips and straps, chrome bikes and more. Photo: John Peirce (PhotoSport International. uk usa asia)

Once the racing as a pro finished, Sean never stopped riding the bike and even competed in time trials and more in Britain. It was though as DS (director sportif) that he continued to make a name for himself. Starting at the bottom with the small British Linda McCartney pro team, Sean worked his way up to be the boss on the road with the top teams like Team Sky.

Asked what his job was as a DS, he explained “it was to make sure things went smoothly in the race and to a certain extent, outside the race although at Sky we had a lot of people who could organise the media and such like.”

It was Sean’s job to manage the tactics of the day, liaise with other teams, read the races and predict what would happen on specific types of stages. It was a very important role and while it wasn’t his legs that would win the race, his decisions could certainly influence whether his team won or lost on the day. By the time he found himself as a DS in Team Sky though he had a huge encyclopaedia of racing knowledge few can match and that just made the job easier despite the pressure for success.

“I have worked with a lot of guys who have been in contention for major wins and seen all these race situations where we’ve been under pressure and having that responsibility of guiding them during the races has given me the experience that stood me in good stead in last years Tour de France with Brad.”

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Sean full gas in a team time trial! Those at the Sussex CA Open 22.8 Hard Riders this weekend may seen this same race face!  Photo: John Peirce (PhotoSport International. uk usa asia). 

“I’ve been a rider, I knew all the riders and other director sportifs and I knew the race as well. We never really got put into difficulty (in the Tour de France) so I never had to pull things out of the bag to rescue the team’s aims. I certainly had 100 percent confidence in myself to deal with any situation which helped me relax.”

“It was like second nature to me and it’s not a simple formula as there are so many scenarios. Every day all day I was thinking, what if, what if, what if …”

Sean admits that in the 2012 Tour de France, the team never had the luck with Bradley they had the year before when he broke his collarbone. Like many, I remember well last year’s Tour when the top teams had their trains at the front of the speeding peloton trying to keep their riders out of trouble on the flat roads and the crashes in a very nervous group of riders.

“You can help minimise the bad luck by riding at the front” explained Sean “but you had to be careful as well because if you spent too much energy doing that, when the crunch comes, you won’t have it when you need it.”

“We were lucky as well in that we had a very strong team of riders that were all motivated and Brad is a supreme athlete but that first week is tough and we got through it with a combination of luck (limited bad luck) and that strong team.”

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Bill Nickson, who worked for Node4-Giodana last year (maybe this too?) and Sean Yates battling it out in a sprint for the National Champions jersey.  Photo: John Peirce (PhotoSport International. uk usa asia).

It was then that Sean started to talk about specific riders and things we rarely get to see or hear about even in this day and age of information overload on the TV and internet. “Riders like Christian Knees ride their heart and soul out for the team and Bradley appreciates that. For me, Christian Knees was my first choice in the team after Brad.”

“You need those guys to help Brad save every ounce of energy mentally and physically so that at the end of the stage when it’s time for Brad to deliver, he has that energy left. While Christian has won only one race or so in his career, you have to remember he’s not there to win a race. He’s there to ride in the wind for Brad in a calm and professional manner because he was the only guy big enough to give Brad maximum protection”.

Having been a rider like that himself, Sean can see the value in super domestiques like Christian but also the value of others. “We were lucky we had guys too like Mick Rogers and Bernie Eisel. You can throw ideas back and forth to guys like these because what I say is not always gospel as you need other input to come to the ultimate solution.”

Sean admits he wasn’t surprised at how Sky dominated the Tour de France in 2012 especially when they had so many big victories to their name like Wiggins wining Paris Nice, Tour of Romandy and the Critérium du Dauphiné for example and he says other teams were by the time the Tour rolled around, intimidated by Team Sky to a certain extent.

“The course ideally suited Brad with the time trials and not that many high mountains whilst Contador and others were missing so everything fell into place. That said, there is no such thing as an easy win in the Tour but it could not have gone any smoother.”

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Sean Yates racing the Milk Race. Young aspiring pros like he was in this picture can benefit from Sean’s experience at Trainsharp. Photo: John Peirce (PhotoSport International. uk usa asia). 

That win for him as a DS was special and whilst he admits there have been other races where he has been under more pressure in races from his team’s rivals, nothing can top winning the Tour with a British team and a British rider. So leaving Team Sky in 2012 was the right time to go and he now has new challenges and the winner in that are those riders who want to follow in his footsteps and become professional cyclists or just achieve personal goals that are just as important.

“I first became interested in the training of riders when I joined CSC and I saw riders doing exercises to help improve their performances. Doing things I never did as a rider when I started. That fired my imagination and I was looking at ways of how I could use these things in my own training.”

“I started coaching a few guys like Richard Preeble, Felix English and Tom Copeland in recent years and even then, I thought, one day I’ll have to stop being a DS and do something else.”

Unlike full time riders, the majority of racing cyclists or those doing sportives etc do have to work during the day so training time is limited and they have to get the most from what time they have available. That is where professional coaching comes into the equation.

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Sean has swapped the seat in a team car for one in an office and on the bike in 2013 and is loving it …  Photo: John Peirce (PhotoSport International. uk usa asia). 

Sean would also like to work with young up and coming stars like Doug Dewey (racing in France) who need more than just some-one telling them when to train and how hard. “I want to work with young riders and help them train and improve their lifestyle around their training and racing” he says. “That is an area I feel I can be really good at” Sean adds.

Talking about professionals and would be professionals, Sean describes training and racing as a more of a job than it was. “It was more happy go lucky in my day and more fun and a lot less pressure. Over the years, it’s become a lot more controlled with SRM’s producing files that coaches work with and there is no escape for the riders”

“It’s certainly not a party now which to a certain degree it was in my day.”

“The goal of cyclists wanting to better themselves” explains Sean “should be to be the best they can possibly be, ie; am I going to bed early enough, am I eating right, am I training hard, am I training too hard, is my bike clean, etc etc. They need to see the bigger picture and why they need to buy into what they are being asked to do in order to fulfil their potential. That’s part of the job now; without riders buying into it and taking ownership of the task, it’s not going to work.”

Sean admits one of his strengths is in working with individuals and knowing how much they can cope with in their training they are being given which is such an important part of the training equation. The former Yellow jersey in the Tour has also kept racing and had some fun recently racing a category 3-4 race at Hillingdon. That he said was a bit of fun but still something he learned from.

“I did that for fun as my brother was there (Conall Yates) and my son was going to. I still enjoy the racing so thought why not? I could see guys who couldn’t go round corners or ride efficiently and had no real objective. In coaching, those are things I can work on with riders.”

The goal is to help riders fulfil their dreams he says. “I remember how passionate I was when I started riding and looked up to guys like Eddie Adkins and Alf Engers (both legends!). It has changed so much since I started riding and I feel I can bring some experience to the table.”

Experience indeed! Not only has Sean been a successful rider but also a successful director sportif and now the next challenge is to be just as successful as a coach within the Trainsharp ‘centre of excellence” whilst continuing to ride his bike because as Sean points out, nowadays he doesn’t have to train but simply ride his bike… because the bottom line is that is what he loves doing….

Our thanks to Sean for his time…

Rider Biography

1979 – 1980 – 10mile British competition record holder.
1980 – 1st 25 Mile National Champion
1980 – 1st National Pursuit Champion
1980 – 6th Moscow Olympics – Individual pursuit
1980 – 5th Moscow Olympics – Team Pursuit
1981 – Best Amateur ACBB France. 15 wins including the GP France TT.
1980 -1996 – Professional. Peugot – Fagor – 7-11 Motorola.
Yellow Jersey holder in the TDF,
1st Tour of Belgium, GP Eddy Merkx, British Road Race Championships. USA Nat championships – Philadelphia.

Stage wins:

TDF
Tour of Spain
Dauphine
Midi Libre
4Days of Dunkerque
Tour Du pont
Milk Race
Tour of Belgium
Tour de L’Oise
Circuit le Sarthe
Tour of Holland
Paris Nice
Paris Roubaix – 5th, 8th ,11th,14th.

1997 – 1st National 50mile Champion
2000 – 1st World Masters Pursuit Champion
2003 – 2nd World Masters Road Race Championships
2005 – 12 hour Tandem Record Holder ( with the late Zak Carr) 303miles
2006 – 3rd National 50mile Championships
2006 – 25 mile Tandem Competitioon Record holder ( with Michael Hutchinson) 43mins 34secs
2011 – 6th National 12 hour Championships. 282miles.
2012 – TDF – SKY/Wiggins 1st
2011 + 2012 – Dauphine – SKY/Wiggins 1st
2012 – tour de Romandie – SKY/Wiggins 1st
2012 – Volta Algarve – SKY/Porte 1st
2012 – Paris Nice – SKY Wiggins 1st
2012 – Bayern Rundfarht – SKY/Rogers – 1st

dg3Article by Velo Veritas – read original here.

It was back in the spring when we last spoke to Douglas Dewey; he’d just won Gent-Staden, the first big race on the Belgian amateur calendar.

Since then he’s ridden a very varied programme, including stage races in France and Belgium, hard fought kermises, a silver medal in the British Elite TT Championships and bronze in the British Pursuit Championship.

We thought we’d better do an end of season ‘catch up’ with the versatile Englishman.

Were you happy with how 2012 went, Douglas?

“Yeah, pretty happy, I had a very good start to the season, tailed off but ended the year well – and I learned a lot about stage racing over the year.”

Winning Gent-Staden was a great start.

“I was obviously flying but didn’t realise how strongly I was riding.

“When I look back, I think I was close to having over trained.

“But as far as the start of the season goes, you can’t get better than a win – perfect!”

Did you get any offers due to that result?

“The team was really, really happy and a lot of Belgian guys took notice – I could see that I was getting watched a lot more in races, after that.

“But it was at the start of the year and it’s a long time ago, now . . .”

Tell us about your 2012 palmares.

“I rode a lot of tours; three of them in a three week spell – Tour des Deux-Sevres, Vlaams Brabant, le Tour de Franche Comte and Tour de la Manche.

“I made for a tough July, but I came out of them very strong, once I’d recovered.

“I think that was one of the reasons I had a good end to the year.

“It was just a shame that we did no more after that – I’m looking forward to more stage racing in 2013.”

[Here’s a selection of Douglas’s results in 2012, Editor.]

2nd: British Time Trial Championships
3rd: British Pursuit Championship
40th: Wervik Elite 1.12 Interclub
5th: Merelbeke Statie 1.12B (Elite/1/2)
4th: Deerlijk 1.12B (Elite/1/2)
12th: G.C. Ronde van Vlaams Brabant (Elite 2.12)
4th: Ronde van Vlaams Brabant, TT stage.
3rd: G.C. Tour des Deux-Sevres:
5th: Tour des Deux-Sevres TT stage
1st: Kruishoutem 1.12B (Elite/1/2)
3rd: Koekelare 1.12B (Elite/1/2)
66th: Kattekoers (Deinze-Ieper) UCI 1.2
3rd: St. Maria-Lierde 1.12B (Elite/1/2)
1st: Gent Staden UCI 1.12A (Elite/U23)

Are you with Terra for 2013?

“No, I’ve got a new French team for next year sorted – Hennebont Cyclisme in the Morbihan region of Britanny.

“I went over and saw the manager on Sunday and arranged it all – it’s good to have something concrete.

“France suits me better; the racing is a wee bit more relaxed – it’s just mad in Belgium!

Did you come across much ‘monkeydom’ about contracts and the like, in Belgium?

“A little bit, promises are made and then they fall short – but I think that much of it’s said with good intentions . . .”

The National Elite TT was a good ride – silver.

“I was really happy with that one – but I was rubbish in the 25 champs, eighth or ninth.

“My form was good for the TT champs though; I was on a nice bike, checked the course out beforehand and rode to my SRM’s.

“I perhaps paced it slightly wrong, but it was nice to get the silver behind Alex Dowsett.”

And third in the pursuit.

“Ironically, my time position was higher; up to third from fourth – but my time was slower with 4:35 to 4:33 last year.

“But it was good to win the bronze medal ride off after losing it last year.”

You obviously have potential on the track.

“I’ve ridden the track championships for the last few years and it’s good to have something to focus on for the year end – but the pursuit is a very specific event and I find it hard to make a sudden change.

“I tend to get carried away with the road and I think to prepare properly, you’d need to devote a couple of months to it.”

Any stirrings from British Cycling?

“Unfortunately not, I’m off their radar – they have their own guys, their own programme.

“It’s disappointing because I’m competing at as high a level as their guys are.”

And you’ve just done a big block of training in Tenerife?

“It was partly to see friends out there – but it’s an awesome place to train with the mountains and the scenery.

“The climbs are two hours long – really good training and part of my build up.

“I’m not a big turbo fan, they’re hard on the head, I’d much rather be out on the road.”

What’s your take on the Lance debacle?

“Disappointing but not surprising.

“At that level, riders are paid millions; it’s not the same sport as the level I’m at.

“It was professional sport during that era and the drugs were part of that scene.

“But it’s disappointing because when I started, Lance was the man. But it’s good that it’s all out in the open – the UCI has to be stricter though.

“And I think that the drugs testing should be done by an independent body.

“I wasn’t tested when I won Gent-Staden but I was tested twice at kermises – when I finished second and third.

“But there is a lot of testing done in Belgium.”

What do you want out of 2013?

“I suppose I have to start proving I can make it.

“I gave myself two years – 2012 and 2013 – to get there.

“This year was good because I learned a lot through riding a big variety of races.

“In 2013 I’d like to ride more tours, particularly ones which have a time trial – I’d love to win a Tour overall.

“It’s hard to be specific about goals until I have my programme – but I know that to the Pro Tour teams; ‘wins are what matters!’”

2011_BannerLogoR6The Power of Training – Trainsharp Interview with Velo UK

Riders not only look like the pros they aspire to be but are also training like the pros with the help of professional training aids like the SRM Power Cranks

Larry Hickmott writes… It’s still January and so many of you will still be in training mode as the racing season on the road doesn’t start for around a month, longer for some riders. Prior to Xmas, VeloUK spoke to many riders from classic winners to track world champions to those at the top of their game in time trialling and they all talk about using a Power measuring device on their bike in their training programmes. I had to investigate!

2012_ChrisFroome_Watson_TTTwo examples of such interviews were with Magnus Backstedt and Matt Bottrill.

A valued sponsor of VeloUK is Trainsharp, sponsors of the Ingear racing team and distributors of SRM Power Cranks, which for me, was the first piece of equipment on a bike I saw that measured a rider’s power. But what is power? I turned to Jon at Trainsharp to provide some answers.

“It is the force you can produce at the pedals over the time it takes you to travel over one revolution” says Jon. “Or Power= Force x distance and time!”

I knew I shouldn’t have asked!

We’re talking sports science here and I won’t even pretend to understand it but Jon also understands the need to put things into plain English and so adds, “Press harder (force) and move it quicker (speed)!”

As my friend the meerkat would say, ‘simples!’

Chris Froome looks down at the SRM box during a Time Trial. Photo Graham Watson.

Having worked with the GB team for so many years (a decade or so), I got used to seeing the SRM cranks on their bikes, road and track, and sports analysts taking the data boxes and downloading the data to a computer to show the rider the data belonged to. The SRM power crank is still used by GB today but the power cranks are also available to the general public who want to make the most of their training.

2008_SRM_Box01The distributors of SRM cranks in Britain is TrainSharp, a UK based cycle coaching company set up by Jon Sharples and in partnership with Sean Yates. Together, they make a formidable coaching team. VeloUK asked Jon why is ‘Power’ such a useful benchmark to train by?

Jon started by explaining that the winter is an ideal time to really make the training count when the body is no longer drained by the efforts of racing and training. “Making the most of the winter months for effective training is vital for success next season” Jon says.

When talking to Jon about the importance of winter training, he spoke of it being a period when ‘cellular changes’ need to be made, something that isn’t done so much during the summer when the body is fatigued with the continuous cycle of racing and training. But what did he mean by ‘cellular changes’ I asked?

“Training the body so you have more power for the same heart” he replied. “The changes are made in the body through differing types of training and using zones or energy systems wisely” Jon explained. “Most riders are over training in the winter and under training in the summer.”

It was all getting to a point when I understood why they call it ‘sports science’ and just how technical it can be and also why many riders invest in coaches, as I did when racing, to understand the science before presenting them with the training programme in plain English.

As anyone who has followed cycling for a while will have seen, the use of power in training has had a significant impact on the professional circuit, not just for riders but the teams and coaches within those teams.

The SRM power cranks on the bike of Alex Dowsett during the TT Champs in 2011.

It is commonplace on the web now to see riders at training camps on rigs with power measuring devices, quite probably an SRM device, where the team’s coaches see where their riders are at with their training before sending them off with power devices on their bikes and setting a programme for them to train at certain zones based on a measurement of power; watts.

2012_SRM_Box“Training with power is more reliable than using your heart rate, which is susceptible to many variables especially in the winter months when the air temperature is cold” Jon told VeloUK.

“Because the body is cold, it is harder to raise the heart rate so it is easy to over train in the winter. The SRM powermeter is a scientific tool that accurately tracks power and these precise measurements mean that you are able to train for your highest functional threshold power (FTP), and don’t over train.”

Suddenly I was starting to lose Jon… what’s ‘functional threshold power’ I had to ask?

“There are a few terms used by training providers such as critical points, turn over points, ‘sweet spots,’ Lactate Threshold, and Function thresholds.. all very confusing and contradictory” Jon explained.

“It’s generally agreed that your ‘Functional Threshold Power’ is the maximal power output you can “sustain” for the duration of one hour.”

“It’s NOT your “average” power. As average will not be the same as ‘sustained’. There are quite a few ways to test for ‘Functional Threshold Power’ but for the novice, the most effective way is to ride for 20 minutes as hard as you can – this gives for slightly more accurate results or you could do a one hour test (a 25 mile/40k TT) and get pretty much 100% accurate results from that.”

Julia Shaw also spotted using SRM power cranks at the British TT champs.

“On this 20 minute ride (or a 10 mile TT), after downloading, take your average power figure for the timed interval and you’ve got 105% of your functional threshold. It’s not as accurate as performing a full hour test, but it’s definitely less stressful, easier to fit in to a busy schedule, and for the level of training we undertake, this will be good enough – if you are wanting to accurately pin point any personal landmarks, it will be best to take a fitness test with a cycle coach.”

“Being a competitive bike rider means raising your FTP should be your first goal. Being more efficient at making use of our overall fitness ensures you will improve at a faster rate. Training for the highest FTP is what is going to out-perform others when it counts, not the maximal power output. You may have a 1300 watt gallop but if you’ve only got a 220 watt FTP, will you even finish with the bunch to contest the sprint?”

“Although 99% of races are won with a sprint, it won’t necessarily be the strongest sprinter in the race that takes first place. After a well planned winter and a new FTP at 280w (and not 220w) you’ll have a much better chance of being around to contest any finish.”

“Functional threshold power gives you a benchmark to creating your future training zones.”

Australian sprinter Shane Perkins with an SRM box under the saddle. The GB riders do the same as do other nations.

An investment in being a more competitive bike rider…
Unlike a decade ago, training with an SRM power meter is now an investment all competitive riders can make. In my day, only 15 years ago (seems like yesterday), it was the Polar heart rate monitor which was the in thing for training and I remember my coach setting my training zones based on heart rate.

With the introduction of the power meter, that coaching tool soon became the benchmark for coaches and whereas many years ago, it was the device only used by pros and national teams like GB, nowadays it’s commonplace for power measuring devices to be used by riders at all levels. Quite a few of the bikes in the TT Champs had powermeters on them.

2011_MichaelHutchinsonSo whereas 15 years ago I would have been set an interval at a set heart rate for a set time, now riders can perform intervals at an exact wattage for a set time. The real time data from the SRM power meter allows you to immediately analyse your power output, giving you a benchmark to create or adjust your training plan.

Such data says Jon, is accessible enough to be used by you or with the guidance of a cycling coach and they too are an ever popular aid by riders trying to make the most of fulfilling their potential. A recent chat with a new coaching company who already had a large group of clients shows the ambition there is out there from riders of all ages to be better riders.

No hiding with a coach and a powermetre
One thing I quickly learned during my racing days under the guidance of a coach was that there was no hiding place and with a powermetre, the coach has even more of an idea of just how well your training session went.

“Your coach will see from your SRM data if you performed your training session correctly, how this affected your power and if you kept within your power thresholds” says Jon. He goes on to say “using a power meter allows you to pace your efforts, as it gives you a threshold you need to stay beneath to protect you from exhaustion.”

I think it is safe to say that powermetres such as the SRM’s are a valuable tool for riders wanting to get more from their training. Far too many pros and other riders are using them for the SRM not to be a great aid for helping a rider/coach get the most from a training session. I still had questions though which I put to Jon.

Like, how much of a groupset needs to change to install an SRM system? “You get a complete new chain-set (both crank arms and chainrings etc) and I fit them free. They are fairly simple to fit but I can show the customer around them and answer all the questions on how they work as well as how to read and understand the software.”

Having trained so much with a heart rate monitor, I asked Jon how would a person’s training differ if they went over to using an SRM system? “Training with power is the new heart rate monitor if you like” he says.

“Heart rate training has a limitation of time lag. This lag maybe seen when you are performing short intervals or climbing a hill. The heart rate can take several seconds or minutes to ‘catch up’ and will also remain elevated for some time afterwards. So you can see why interval training doesn’t really begin until you hit the target intensity and heart rate isn’t as effective with today’s training methods.”

“Heart rates can be directly related to the power you generate but there might be days when you’re heart rate is telling you to slow down – heart rates are very variable on a daily basis. They can be influenced by many things such as excitement, dehydration, stress, sleep quality, or even the air temperature.”

“It’s common that in the winter, riders will work very hard to drive the heart rates into the zone (almost over training) and then in the summer when the temp is warm the rider will back off as heart rates are very lively.”

“The power cranks though allow a rider to measuring and record your fitness level in real-time and track your development over time. They help you to train in your correct training zones with the aid of the most accurate power, cadence and heart rate measurement.”

“They also let a rider collect race data which they can use to better focus their efforts in training as well pacing themselves in time trials with power or heart rate limits.

Not having used an SRM System, I asked Jon finally what data an SRM provides for a rider? “The SRM Training system saves and provides you with the following values on the power meter – Power/heart rate/cadence/speed/riding time/riding distance/ temperature/energy consumption/ average and maximum values/ un-limited number of training intervals/ training times in any training zones plus you get multiple ways to analyse the riding time using the SRM software which comes with all units and is free to download.”

Michael Hutchinson riding for Ingear, a team sponsored by Trainsharp.

“The SRM Training System measures all the data needed to organize your training and to analyse your race efforts. The SRM measures the applied torque and cadence at the most direct point of application – the crankset. This gives you the benefit of reliable power data. In addition, the SRM also measures heartrate, speed/distance, energy, altitude and temperature.”

So there you have it. An introduction to the use of power cranks. Looking though my galleries of pictures, I see more and more riders using them (some used here) and for those looking to be a better bike rider, a faster bike rider, perhaps the SRM is just the thing you need to focus the mind on your training and use it more effectively. Thanks to Jon at Trainsharp for his inside knowledge!

2011_BannerLogoR6Velo UK Interview: Doug Dewey Heading for France

In new colours in 2013, Doug Dewey, coached by Jon at Trainsharp, is heading for France to try and get a place on a pro team there. The British Time Trial Championship Silver medallist who was in winning form at least twice in 2012 for his team in Belgium, will be heading south after a successful season but hungry to step up and get noticed by the movers and shakers in the pro teams.

He has, at least in the UK, one UCI team keeping an eye on his success both on the road and track where he has been on the podium in the Pursuit. Despite his repeated success on the road and track, the Under 23 rider has not been approached by the GB Academy for rides in major events which is disappointing for Doug but like many who have made it outside the ‘system’, he just gets on with it.

dg1Asked what his highlight in 2012 was, Doug replies “I had a couple of highlights: coming third in Le Tour des Deux Sevres felt like a big career step for me because it proved I could really be competitive in stage races.”

“Getting second at the National Time Trial was another great moment as it showed I could compete at the senior level after stepping up from the Espoirs last year.” So why swap teams after a good year abroad? Doug explained “I did a lot of racing in France last season and I enjoyed the more relaxed style of racing as opposed to the non-stop battle that is Flandrian racing!”

“France suits me more and I aim to focus on stage racing in particular, of which there are more in France. Doug is based near Farnham with his sister during the winter which he says is a really relaxed set-up. He’s another who is also keen to get out of Britain to train when possible even though he says most of the hard graft is done in Surrey.dg2

“I went over to Tenerife for ten days for a little training camp” he says explaining how he went there to see friends but took full advantage of the mountains instead of destroying his ‘head’ having to use the turbo back home, as so many have had to do in the rain or ice periods we’ve experienced.

Doug is one of quite a few young riders who have gone abroad to get noticed. It works for many but when asked if he had considered a British UCI team, he replied “I had various thoughts about my options, but I wanted to be fully committed for another season and see what I could do. I felt that being abroad with Hennebont Cyclisme would allow me to pursue the racing targets that I have for the year which include trying to win a stage race.”

Talking about his training in January, Doug says “With the help Jon from TrainSharp I am competing in a twenty minute test on Monday (today!) from which all my training will be based. I’m beginning to factor in threshold training now that the pre-season is here so that I’m ready to jump straight into the racing, as the season is creeping up on me!”

Doug adds that his season starts quite soon and he’ll be heading to France in mid to late February and his racing will begin soon after.

Our thanks to Doug for getting in touch and answering the questions we sent him… Good luck Doug for the future.

David Millar secured a sensational Commonwealth Games gold medal for Scotland in the men’s time-trial in Delhi. The 33-year-old, who won road race bronze also, clocked 47 minutes 18.66 seconds to win gold on the 40-kilometre course.

Millar said: ‘It’s been a big goal all year – probably the biggest actually – so to achieve it feels great. It’s the first chance I’ve ever had to ride for Scotland, so it was quite emotional on the podium. ‘When you’re so focused on the event you forget why you do it, and why it’s so important to you.”

millar2

If there is one British bike racer I think will win one of cycling’s Classics, other than Mark Cavendish of course who’s already done it with Milan-San Remo, it’s Thomas. I also believe Bradley Wiggins has the ability to win one too, but whether he will is a whole different and much more complicated question. Actually, now I think about it, Adam Blythe can win one, and there could be more….., but we’re talking about Thomas for the moment.

In Cycling Weekly’s story Geraint talks about his second place on the Roubaix stage of this year’s Tour de France. He takes us through the battle to win and talks about the emotions of the fight and the occasion. He also talks about taking part in the 2010 Tour of Flanders. It was his first time and he loved it.

He’ll do it again in 2011, but will focus on the track for 2012 Olympics, where Thomas is already an Olympic champion in the team pursuit. A London medal is so important to everyone who’s come through the British Cycling system in recent years that it’s worth putting everything else on hold to win one.

ostmetricimageThen watch. Some time between 2013 and 2020 Geraint Thomas will win the Tour of Flanders. You heard it here first folks!

Speed for free with Osymetric Chainrings

Thomas uses O,Symmetric chainrings on all his bikes, just like Wiggins. They look strange but are in keeping with Team Sky’s marginal gains way of doing cycling. Basically Sky ask why do the same thing if something new, even if, in Thomas’s words, “it looks a bit freaky,” is better than the old way?

geraintFor years chainrings have been round, so a constant diameter, but the forces that turn them aren’t constant. At the top and bottom of every pedal revolution your legs put hardly any power into the pedals, whereas from just past the top to near the bottom they put in almost all the power they can for each revolution. Wouldn’t it be great then if we could pedal a higher gear in the power phase to make the most of it, and a lower one in the low power phase to get it out of the way quickly?

That’s what O,Symmetric chainrings do. I’ve been using them recently and they seem to flick your leg through the top and bottom phase of your pedalling, like someone is pushing your foot.

In the book I’m writing, Cyclosportive, I talk a lot about speed for free. Speed for free is something every competitive cyclist should think about. It’s not rocket science, it’s just making the most of downhills, keeping aero when you are riding on your own, sheltering behind others to keep out of the wind, picking the right line through corners, and lots of other little things. Things that can add up to minutes off your time in a cyclosportive event or a long race. O,symmetric chainrings definitely fit the philosophy of speed for free.

Our Coaching plans.