We've had cycling coach Lucas Wall of Develo Coaching on the blog this summer talking about Alexey Vermeulen and how to create race-winning training plans. But today, we wanted to boil down his top tips into a few easy to follow concepts! Want to learn more? Make sure you check out Part One here and his second full interview here!
While you don’t need to have an ultra-advanced training plan, having some sort of idea of what to do on a daily/weekly/monthly basis helps you work towards your cycling goals much more efficiently than simply “riding lots.” You can find plenty of free or inexpensive plans online, or work with a coach to build one that makes sense for your goal race. And on the note of races, have a few on the calendar that get you excited about training. While it’s fine to jump into the odd race or two if you’re not taking it super seriously, if you’re hoping to do well in races, you should be planning ahead so you’re trained, then rested and recovered in time for race day.
Why is Alexey so darn good at bikes? Lucas thinks it's partially because Alexey knows what doesn’t work for him, and changes his plan to account for that. When he was on the World Tour circuit, for instance, Lucas recalls helping him tweak the team’s general training plan in order to account for his personal preferences and recovery/training needs. Lucas adds that coming into races, there's some traditional training concepts that work really well for other people, but don’t work well for Alexey. So remember, while your friend might still do a high volume week before a big race, that doesn’t mean it’s the right idea for you!
Even if you don’t have a coach, it’s a good idea to have someone who you can talk through training with. This could be another rider, preferably one who’s a bit older and wiser (or just more experienced than you!). If you don’t have the ability to hire a coach on a monthly basis, consider paying one for an occasional consult to discuss your training plan.
As Lucas says—and it might come as a surprise given his results this season, like a 4th at Leadville and a win at BWR CA—Alexey is not the strongest physical athlete he's worked with. "I've worked with other riders who are stronger in terms of sprints, and watts per kilogram, and all those things. It's not just pure physical talent that makes him good,” he says. "Alexey pays attention and manages all the details. It shows up more now that he's racing as a privateer, but he’s always had that.” As Lucas explains, it’s important to be the CEO of your own cycling career.
Another secret to success? Don’t sit back and rest on your laurels when you start doing well. Even the top pros are out there working on their technical skills on the mountain bike: Just because you bunnyhopped a log once doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do it again. "I think one of the other features Alexey has is if he recognizes that he needs to learn something, then he he takes time and effort and figures out how to do that,” Lucas said. "He recognized really quickly with mountain biking that he would need to improve his technical skills. He put in a lot of time and effort and found skills coaches to work with. So he had already done the homework and didn't have to make the transition to gravel overnight.”
“Athletes need to enjoy the process,” says Lucas. "You spend so much time and energy and attention on biking, and you really have to enjoy it. I've worked with people who who want results and are willing to work really hard, but whether it's personality or the sport or circumstances or whatever it is, they're willing to do the work but I don't think they always enjoy the process. And you see that play out in their results over time.”