Make Your Own Way

News & Results

04/26/2005| 0 comments
by Chris Carmichael

Make Your Own Way

This article is being written at 35000 feet, somewhere between Santa Barbara, California and Colorado Springs, Colorado.

This article is being written at 35000 feet, somewhere between Santa Barbara , California and Colorado Springs , Colorado. It?s the middle of Camp Season for me, a period when I have the pleasure of connecting with amateur and novice cyclists from all over the world. This annual juxtaposition of dealing with elite-level professional cyclists and amateur cycling enthusiasts puts the subject of training into perspective, and helps remind me of the unique demands faced by those who make their living off the bike.

 

While Roadcycling.com does an exceptional job covering the world of professional cycling, it is important to realize that emulating our cycling heroes may not be the best path to our individual goals in the sport.

 

Relax Your Aero Position

Having spent days and nights in wind tunnels and poring over data gathered in testing, I can tell you myriad ways that aerodynamics can impact performance. Yet, the biggest lesson I?ve learned from the process is that a cyclist?s ability to produce power trumps aerodynamic advantage. A rider?s optimal time trial position is almost never the one with the lowest drag numbers because it?s too extreme to allow for a high power output during the full length of a real-life cycling event.

 

What constitutes an optimal aerodynamic position for the cycling enthusiast or amateur racer is quite different from that of a professional. The pros have plenty of time to adapt to a low body position or one that places the arms close together. Comfort is less of an issue for the professional because discomfort in the pursuit of performance is part of the job description.

 

For amateur cyclists who focus primarily on road events and compete in fewer than five time trial events per season, significant differences between a normal road cycling position and a time trial position are more likely to lead to decreased power output than increased performance due to great aerodynamics. Positions that feature very low handlebars often hinder power production for amateur cyclists because the resulting hip angle is too cramped. You look cool on the bike, but you?d be faster with your elbows and trunk up higher because it opens your hip angle and allows for better power production.

 

The trade off between aerodynamics and power becomes even more pronounced as the length of the time trial increases. Even in Lance Armstrong?s case, there are subtle differences between his time trial positions for long events (roughly 60 minutes) and short events (prologues), and additional adjustments are made for technical and non-technical courses.

 

Take Advantage of Limited Time

The traditional professional cyclist?s program includes a relatively long and gradual progression from steady, aerobic conditioning to long, sustained interval work. A few months before goal events, some mid-level racing is integrated, and then the program ramps up hard and fast for a high peak. That progression works great, if you have a lot of time to spend on your bike. When you?re fortunate to squeeze eight hours of training into a week, that traditional progression is too slow.

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